Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Powerful Video by Danish Broadcaster TV2: All That We Share

This is an amazing video. It demonstrates that despite some glaring differences, if we go below the surface and take the time to know others better, there are really many things that we all have in common with each other.

video uploaded by TV2Danmark

Monday, February 27, 2017

Crazy Oscars

I cannot believe it, the Oscars had a Steve Harvey moment! The award for Best Picture was incorrectly given first to La La Land before this major faux pas was chaotically addressed and the award was then given to the correct winner, Moonlight. The crazy thing was that this mistake was only made clear after all the speeches were completed. Wow. I am impressed at how positively La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz took it. You could sense he was really upset by this major flub and yet he had the maturity to say that he would be "really proud to hand this to my friends from Moonlight", referring to the trophy. And here you thought that the world had learned from that major Miss Universe blunder. Some people might just get fired for this major snafu.

Another gaffe happened in one of the most poignant moments of the show, the In Memoriam segment, which paid tribute to artists we've lost in the last year. The incomparable Sara Bareilles sang an emotionally stirring rendition of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now. However, as it turned out, a mistake was made when the photo of a living woman, Jan Chapman, was shown to represent Janet Patterson. Oh dear. Looks like more heads will roll.

On a more positive note, Meryl Streep was recognized for her 20th Oscar nomination in a humor-injected tribute (check out the twitter post and video below). After Jimmy Kimmel asked Meryl to stand up, she received a standing ovation from the star-studded audience. Amazing!

I am also really happy that Zootopia, which is quite possibly my second favorite animated film of all time, received the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.


While we are on the topic of animated films, I also really loved Kubo and the Two Strings so I am happy that this animated film from LAIKA has gotten its fair share of accolades, including the BAFTA award for Best Animated Film. Cool!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

New month, new games

I joined two game nights this month, and both times involved playing new games. I spent one Saturday with Denise, Zaza and Drew at Denise's house and I brought a few games with me, including Forbidden Desert and Lords of Waterdeep which I borrowed from my friend Myna. Forbidden Desert was created by the same maker of Pandemic and the premise of this cooperative game is that you are stranded in a desert and you need to find a Flying Machine to take your entire group to safety. The way that this game is designed makes it feel like you are actually trying to survive dehydration, being swept away by the sandstorm, and being buried under the sand. I think on average, players win only 1 out of 4 or 5 times playing Forbidden Desert and on this first attempt, we didn't win (we were close though). However, the mood and the vibe while playing this game makes it quite exciting. My friends actually said they want to play it again.

Forbidden Desert

I spent another Saturday playing with my other board gaming friends. The first new game I played that night was Roll For It. This is a quick and fun game and while luck plays a large part, there is also some strategizing involved because you need to make decisions based on probability and card layout. Another new game I played was Kodama. The objective of this game is to grow your tree by placing branch cards in clever arrangements to maximize your score per round and your Kodama card bonus at the end of each season. Finally, I played Through The Ages: A New Story of Civilization. I won't even go into trying to explain how to play this as it is really complex. However, it is very good. It did take us 5 1/2 hours to complete the game but if you have the time and the energy, I do recommend playing it. (Just make sure you read the instructions very well. Thankfully, we had the benefit of having an expert game master who is very knowledgeable and explains the game very well.

On a sadder note for gaming aficionados, DyceNDyne officially closed at the end of January. One of my friends is part of the DyceNDyne network and, as such, had access to the pre-sale. She shared the list of games being sold with us. I wanted to get both the good-condition Istanbul and the like-new Fresco but I was strapped for cash - I was still feeling the sting of the Christmas expenses due to credit card payments I've had to make LOL - so I ended up getting only one of them, Istanbul. (Once the pre-sale was over, I kinda regretted not getting the like-new Fresco). So while DyceNDyne isn't around anymore, I at least still have a piece of it with me.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February Hodgepodge

Wicked had another run in Manila, this time at the Theatre at Solaire. My nephew wanted to see it and I certainly didn't mind seeing it again so I decided to take him. As it turned out, the traffic that day was tremendously bad and we almost didn't make it. We were still stuck along Roxas Boulevard 30 minutes before our show was supposed to start and I was telling my nephew we wouldn't be able to eat anymore and we would need to run once we got there. Indeed, as soon as I parked at almost 8pm, we ran to the Theatre and thankfully, the doors hadn't been closed yet. A few minutes after we got settled in our seats, Wicked started. Whew! Even on this second viewing, it was still amazing and I still got goosebumps when Defying Gravity was being performed. (Side note: thankfully, during the break between Acts I and II, we stepped out of the theater really quickly and were the first in line to get sandwiches at the food bar outside the theater. By the time we paid for our order, there was a really long line behind us.)

We were almost late was because I came from Tagaytay that day. I left Tagaytay shortly before 1pm and it somehow took me 7 hours to drive home from Tagaytay, pick up my nephew, then drive to Solaire. Even after the show at 11pm, the traffic along Roxas Boulevard was still very bad. I ended up driving for about 9 hours the day. It was exhausting!

The reason I was in Tagaytay was because I attended the wedding of my friends Eman and Mia the night before and my friends and I decided to just stay in an airbnb place in Tagaytay after the wedding. Before heading back to Manila, my friends and I had lunch at Bag of Beans in Twin Lakes. I had never been to Twin Lakes before and it's a pretty cool complex to hang out in.

Some time after that, I took my family to UP Town Center to celebrate my brother's birthday. The original plan was for us to eat in Shrimp Bucket - most of my family hadn't eaten there yet - but the place was full and there already was a waitlist so we moved to our favorite and standard restaurant here, Pinac.  After dinner, we decided to go around the mall since my nephew was looking to get headphones and my grandmother wanted to get a new blouse. I also swung by the supermarket - Mercado - to get Dolce Gusto capsules because my friend told me that Dolce Gusto is cheaper here than in most other places. As I was walking towards the coffee section, I passed by the wine section and I randomly decided to see if they carried my favorite cheap wine: Santa Carolina Premio. (Rustan's Supermarket used to carry it but I don't think they still do). As luck would have it, they did! Since I don't often go to UP Town Center, I decided to get a couple of bottles.

I also realized in that trip that a lot of changes have been made to UP Town Center since early 2016, with a lot of new shops and restos, I almost want to find another excuse to bring my family here again. And maybe then we can get a table in Shrimp Bucket without having to wait. :)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Movie-watching at home

I realized that I haven't been able to go to the movie theaters yet this year but I have managed to find time to catch up on a lot of the DVDs I have at home. My recent movie-watching at home has revolved around Academy award nominees, animated films, and young adult (or maybe even kiddie) thrillers. If I exclude the two Oscar nominees in this list, the movies I've seen recently all seem to be for kids or young people. I'm not sure whether that is some kind of indicator of my current state of mind...

Captain Phillips, which stars Tom Hanks, is tense and riveting, and the way it is filmed makes you feel like you are actually on a cargo ship being attacked by pirates. The fact that it is based on a true story makes me wonder what it must've been like to be under attack by pirates. The Martian was also a best picture nominee and I found it to be quite a unique and interesting movie. The premise is that Matt's character Mark Watney is presumed dead during a mission to Mars and as such, is left behind. To survive, he decides he has to "science the sh*t out of this" as he actually says in the film. While it is exhilarating and has its fair share of intense moments, I found it to be a relatively easy watch. It's a brilliant movie and I definitely recommend it.

Recently, I have felt that most animated films tend to be some of my favorites. That isn't the case with the recent set of animated movies I saw. The Peanuts Movie was pleasant enough to watch but it really caters to kids and not exactly to adults. Still, I'm quite happy that for a change, Charlie Brown has a bit of a happy ending in this. The 2015 version of The Little Prince got pretty good reviews online and I am such a big fan of the book so I had to watch it. Personally, though, I thought it didn't quite live up to the hype. This film actually takes place years after the book so it's not the exact same story. While it still showcases some of the most important messages that the book conveys, I thought that it lost some (or a lot?) of the magic of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry classic novel. I also finally got to see the 80's Disney film The Black Cauldron. While I was intrigued by the fact that this cartoon has a much darker tone compared to other Disney films, I thought that it was just okay. Maybe if I saw it back in the day as a kid, I would have enjoyed it more. For me, these three films were not great but were not bad either. The movie that I really didn't like, however was The Good Dinosaur. Considering that this is a Pixar film, I was very surprised at the fact that I absolutely didn't enjoy it. I think it's mainly because I didn't appreciate how the little boy in the film was portrayed like a dog. It just rubbed me completely the wrong way.

Goosebumps was the kiddie thriller I more or less expected it to be, with a group of kids working with mysterious author R.L. Stine (played by Jack Black) to battle monsters that have magically come out of the pages of Stine's Goosebumps children's books. I somehow thought that Krampus would have the same light approach but it was actually a lot darker than I expected. Krampus as I found out is like the demonic version of Santa Claus. I was surprised at how the story unfolded and how menacing the creatures in this film were.

I also got to see a couple of other movies that don't fit any of these three themes. One of them was Warcraft. Based on video game series, this film was not received well by critics but it did seem to get generally positive reviews from audiences. I actually quite enjoyed it. I also got to see The Banquet (released in other territories as Ye Yan or Legend of the Black Scorpion). It stars Zhang Ziyi and I thought it would enjoy it as much as Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, all of which stars her as well. Somehow, though, this film didn't meet my lofty expectations

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mika Reyes is Ms. Volleyball 2016

Wow, this really is Mika Reyes' time. In the last 12 months, she won the UAAP women's volleyball championship with DLSU on her graduating year, won another championship with F2 Logistics at the all-Filipino conference of the Philippine Superliga, played with the world's best during the FIVB Club Championships, and was named Philippine Superliga ambassador. Now, she has another feather on her cap as she is awarded Ms. Volleyball at the Philippine Sportswriters Association Awards.

In other news, Mika also surprised the Philippine volleyball world by signing with Petron. This move means she leaves the comfort of playing with her DLSU teammates and Coach Ramil to join Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Rhea Dimaculangan, Carmela Tunay, and Bang Pineda under the coaching of Shaq Delos Santos. While it's a move I didn't see coming, I hope that it's something that will allow her to grow even further as an athlete.

Congrats, Mika!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

RIP, Al Jarreau

Very sad news. Jazz and music legend Al Jarreau has passed away at the age of 76.

Al, who won 7 Grammy Awards during a career that spanned decades, is possibly known most for his song After All and for the Moonlighting Theme. While those songs showcased his the elegant silky side of his voice, it was his amazing ability to do vocal acrobatics that made me a fan. I had blogged previously about his live performance of Take Five that left me in utter awe and amazement after seeing it.

Al had actually retired from touring and he had to cancel the remainder of his shows in 2017. It is sad that just about a week after announcing his retirement from touring, he retired from this world.

Rest in peace, Al Jarreau! You will be missed.