Laptop Opus

Yesterday, I got myself a brand new full-featured laptop - the MSI CR410.

It wasn't really a purchase that was a long time coming, but what's interesting about it is the chain of events leading up to it.

First, my brother bought a ridiculously powerful laptop (4gb RAM, double core processor, NVIDIA graphics card). Same brother then asked for my help on how to use PowerPoint for a presentation he had to do to get a promotion at work. He eventually gets the job and was so grateful to me that he promised to let me use his laptop if I ever need to use its power for my needs.

Of course, that is, as long as he's not home or not using it.

Then, Beejay gave me a racket editing videos for his company's Christmas party. Naturally, I cashed in on the favor my brother owes me and had his laptop to myself just last weekend so I can work on it. I finished and delivered the project and got paid immediately. Then I gave the laptop back to my brother.

Last Friday was payday at the office, including our 13th month pay.

Then last Saturday, Beejay told me he had a few more videos that needs to get worked on. It's also a long three-day weekend, so I figured I'd have time to work on it.

Unfortunately, it's also a long three-day weekend for my brother despite that he works at a call center where their holidays are not usually synchronized with the local arrangements. He may filed a personal leave.

That left me with a bit of a problem.

Also yesterday, my netbook, which I've had for two and a half years, suddenly died.

So I was left with the following situation:
1. I have a requirement.
2. I don't have the equipment.
3. I don't even have a computer.
4. I have a bit of money.

What's a guy to do?!

I was saving up money to eventually buy a Mac, but evidently circumstances have forced me to forego that dream for a while.
Still given the influx of funding, I still only had enough to get me a netbook.
I went online and found that one of those eMachine netbooks could work for my short-term needs (ie, Beejay's project).
Then I headed to Greenhills where all the best deals are.
After less than an hour of searching, I came across the MSI CR410 at PC Gilmore.

I thought it was a long-term solution at the price of a short-term one.
It was probably priced the way it was because:
a. It used AMD processors, which are just fine for my needs.
b. It didn't come with an OS, which was okay because I had a genuine Windows XP installer.

The good people at PC Gilmore even gave it to me at a much lower rate.

This is my first full-featured laptop and I'm really happy with it. Aside from the specs, the brand is globally recognized and there is a local service center in case I run into trouble. Still getting used to the big keyboard. Eventually, I hope to upgrade to a 4gb RAM.

Amazing how things work sometimes. I never even encountered this particular model until I chanced upon it on a store window!
I guess it was just meant to be.
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Towers of Midnight: The Spoiler-FILLED Not-Review

This is where I get to rave and rage like a rabid fanboy. I will not hold out on spoilers. Be warned.

Towers of Midnight was the book that I needed to read to feel like the world of Wheel of Time is ready for the last battle to be chronicled in the 14th and final book, A Memory of Light.

I had less anticipation for it compared to The Gathering Storm maybe because there was a slightly less waiting time and I half-expected many of the plot threads and loose ends that would be tied up with this book. Still, Brandon Sanderson and Harriet Rigney managed to pull off surprises after surprises with every chapter.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Robert Jordan book without the long, drawn-out narrative. As a WOT fan, you learn to forgive that and just look past it and see the bigger picture. Even if many of what happened in TOM seemed predictable, it's really how they get there that makes up the most amazing parts of the story.

Some initial thoughts (SPOILERS GALORE):

- TOM should be retitled the Trakand-Damodred story. Not surprising given the absence of Elayne from TGS and Moiraine (She is a Damodred) since Fires of Heaven. Also great to hear from Galad and Gawyn after so long. Never thought I'd like Galad as a character until now.
- I still cannot bring myself to respect Elayne. Still ditsy. Feisty, but ditsy.
- Also, I was half-worried about Moiraine's return after having read through 90% of the book and it still hasn't happened.
- Galad and Berelain? Predicted.
- Danelle as Mesaana? Predicted.
- Graendal killing Asmodean? Predicted.
- Hopper's death didn't move me as much as Moiraine's and Verin's did. But the battle of Maredon was heartbreaking.
- Still no sign of Loial or the Ogier. They're probably lying in wait until the Last Battle.
- Also, Sanderson said there wouldn't be new characters in TOM. So Nakomi is somebody we already know.
- The ambush on the Whitecloaks, Perrin and Egwene's battle in the World of Dreams were much more epic than Mat's travails at the Tower of Ghenjei. The Aelfinn and Eelfinn were really scary though.
- Healing Asha'man madness and Power-wrought weapons. 'Nuff said.
- Rand, Perrin, and Mat are equal now:
    - Mah'alleinir = Callandor and Ashandarei.
    - Mat has one eye = Rand has one arm, Perrin has golden eyes
- I thought something was gonna happen when Elayne, Birgitte, Perrin, Mat, Galad, and Gawyn were all in Caemlyn. Of course, the Trolloc attack happened when all of them had gone to the Fields of Merrilor.

At the end of it all, we are only left with a few threads left to tie up (As far as I could count anyway):
- The Seanchan
- The Black Tower
- Demandred*
    *Adrian from the Wheel of Time Phils. mailing list already pointed out that he is not Mazrim Taim - Robert Jordan even said so!

    I know it's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1 week, but I had also just today lifted the embargo on Towers of Midnight-related discussion over at the Wheel of Time Phils. mailing list. So there.


Towers of Midnight: The Spoiler-Free Not-Review

As the title implies, this blog is not a review. This is a summary of my thoughts, experiences and feelings leading up to the release of this latest volume in my ever favorite Wheel of Time (WOT) series, as well as the immediate aftermath.

First of all, what is up with our local bookstores?
Last year, The Gathering Storm (TGS) was released earlier than the announced international release date. That left many people looking for the book on the said date. Apparently, as soon as they get their supply, the bookstores release it. So basically, everything is a matter of luck - if you happened to stumble upon a copy, good for you. Otherwise, sorry!

This year, Towers of Midnight (TOM) was released a week delayed than the release date. Apparently the distributor was late with the supplies. Anyway, because of what happened with TGS, I made reservations with Fully Booked for my friends and members of Wheel of Time Phils. to make sure we get our copies. Luckily, they got their supplies earlier than the other bookstores. Unfortunately, that was the night before I left for Pinatubo.

Having had my copy transferred from the Boni High Street branch to Gateway, I only picked up my copy last Wednesday, along with another book I've been eying.
I started reading as soon as I got home. Then I realized this is the first time since I graduated from college that something else was interfering with my reading a WOT book: Work.

Yep. When I got Crossroads of Twilight, Knife of Dreams and TGS, I had no job. So it was easy for me to breeze through them.

With TOM, I actually considered not reporting for work just so I can continue reading. I didn't even go to Geek Fight last Friday and delayed my appearance at Komik Kon last Saturday just so I can read. Well, there was that matter of my Grandma's birthday and drinking with the cousins last Friday night, which delayed my reading, but that's okay. I also didn't catch up on last week's shows until I was done.

Plus last weekend was when some of my other friends went to Boracay. I declined to go with them, though circumstances almost had me joining them at the last minute. That didn't happen and I'm glad because I would rather be reading TOM than going to the beach.

I finished it last Saturday night. Was it all worth it?
One big resounding yes.


Trek To Pinatubo

I guess my friend Gen summed it up pretty nicely in a couple of text messages:
  1. What possessed you to join (the trek to) Pinatubo?
  2. Just never figured you to be the outdoorsy nature-tripper type.
To cut this story short, I first heard of last weekend's trip through Simon who wanted to see the crater lake while he's on vacation here in the Philippine. At P2,275 per person, I thought "Why not?"
It would be a trip I can chalk up to experience and was also prime opportunity to shoot landscapes with my new camera.

Snacks for the trip. Yes, it comes with different flavors now.
Honestly I wasn't excited about this trip. A huge part of me felt it was just something I had to do.
Maybe because Pinatubo just wasn't a dream destination. Maybe because I'm not the "outdoorsy nature-tripper type."
Streams of sulfur!

Nevertheless, I was amazed by what I saw heading up to the crater more than the crater itself.
Surrounded by these magnificent monuments and threading on what was once a river valley now full of sediments, it felt just like those journeys that I read about in fantasy novels. Like a journey through remnants long forgotten by history. In reality, a well-remembered recent history.

Of course, this stretch of the trek was what Travel Factor failed to include in its itinerary. It took about a couple of hours of endless walking through uneven, wet, sandy, rocky and downright messy terrain. The metropolitan boy in me was crying havoc the entire time as our assigned tour guide was leagues ahead of us. I didn't even get to take photos as I had to keep up. Thankfully, there were other trekkers and the trail was easy enough to follow.
This was a riot!
Then we get to a certain spot where the trek up to the crater actually begins. That wasn't so bad. The trail up the mountain is also easily navigable. Simon and I did well without a tour guide.

The reward after all that effort is the spectacular view of the crater. The site of a once massive explosion is now a serene green lake. Honestly I found it underwhelming. Then we head down to the lake and I had to face my acrophobia only to find out the lake is not really friendly towards amateur swimmers like me. It goes down deep really quickly. Bummer.

Still made for some nice photos though.
We spent about a couple of hours at the crater before deciding to head back down and go home.

The way back had just me, our guide and Luna with her sprained ankle. The other trekkers had gone ahead upon hearing about a landslide that leveled one of the 4x4's that drove us there. Since I wasn't in so much of a hurry, I was able to snap photos of the "valley of the gods". Thankfully, there was enough afternoon sunlight to shoot the scenery, which to me looked like something out of a Peter Jackson movie.
I suppose this journey to the Pinatubo crater lake just proved the adage that the journey is more important than the destination. I'm not keen on going back but I hope to see more sights like these in the country.

Here is video I took of our trip. Please excuse the audio.


SHIELD Agent, Costume-made Uniform

Of the geeks, I'm probably the one who's the least bit interested in costuming. I'm very selective with the costumes I have so far worn. I declined the Star Trek uniform because I didn't like the fit.
I'd probably wear a costume that was lent or given to me, but I'm not the type to assemble or spend for it. Why?
a. For something I'd wear once, it takes too much effort (sewing, painting, etc.)
b. For something I'd wear once, it's costly especially since I'd have to defile the materials for the costume

The last time I actually assembled my own costume was in 2007.
Since then, I decided that by principle, any costume I'd put on should be:
a. Striking in its simplicity (Plus the fact I hardly ever wear a costume)
b. Made of clothes and accessories I can wear everyday

When I found out I'd be hosting this year's Marvel/DC hero-and-villain-themed Hard Rock Halloween party, I knew it was time to put on a costume again.It only hit me last Wednesday night what I wanted to do: A SHIELD agent.
It was unpredictable because:
a. It was neither hero nor villain but belonged in the universe
b. Not many people dress up as SHIELD agents
c. People anticipated that I'd go as a member of the Avengers

I thought of it Wednesday night and that's when I started foraging for the materials. I couldn't find what I needed at the mall, so I hit a nearby ukay-ukay and found the perfect shirt.
Then I decided I'd hit Divisoria Saturday morning because I bought a couple of belt packs there before that would be perfect for the waist. The rest just fell into place.

Here is a break down of the costume.

a. Black zip-up turtle neck shirt (P230) - It fit my neck, shoulders and chest just sexily but it was loose towards the waist, so it was problematic to tuck in.

b. Belt pack (P150) - It's actually a bit beige in color but it was closer to white than the gray one.

c. High-rise shoes (P650) - I stumbled upon this at one of the street vendors lining up Recto Ave. going to 168 Mall. There was one in pure white, which was perfect, except that the only pair they had was a size 9 (I'm a size 8). Looking back, I should've gotten that 'cause the one I got squeezed my toes painfully.

d. Two white belts (P80 each) and suspender (P80)- I found one street vendor selling these, though I only worked out how to make the legs and upper body straps when I got home.

e. Cargo jeans (P470) - I was just going to wear a pair of slacks but when I saw this from a street vendor, I thought it was perfect. It had a 29-inch waistline (I wear 30-inchers) but it fit me nicely, even with the shirt tucked in. I just had to rip out a couple of patches sewn into the pockets.

f. Two white leather armbands (P50 each) - I saw these at the mall and thought I can get it cheaper at Recto Ave. near where the schools are.

g. White cotton gloves (P29) - The first thing I saw when I was looking for materials at the mall but the last thing I bought after my trip to Divi.

h. Sticker paper (P35/10 sheets) and printing (P5) - For the SHIELD insignia. First I thought I'd print it on regular bond paper and use double-sided tape. The idea of using sticker paper instead dawned on me just a few hours before the event.

Total: P1,909. The best part is I can reuse and abuse everything. And I looked hella awesome!

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Me, the Trigger Happy Shutter Bug

As part of my overall rehabilitation, I finally took a more serious interest in photography again.
The thing is I've always loved taking pictures. I remember in high school, I was always the undeclared yet designated documentalist of parties and other events.
In college, I took great photos for our plates in photography class. Except my photos with my partner Krystal as my subject came out blurred while her photos of me came out great. That was our final plate and I got a 70+ and she got 90+. But all of those ideas and concepts -  including the ones she shot me with, were all mine! I was just under student-leader-related stress when we were shooting them.
Krystal took this photo. Concept: MINE!

Anyway, I wanted to get a DSLR but I realized I didn't want the bulk just yet plus I had other things I really wanted to spend that budget on. Besides, while I know my way around a camera, I'm still not a pro. So I settled for a semi-pro, training camera instead. A bridge or zoom camera, if you will.

My ideal model just had to meet the following criteria:
1. Must have a viewfinder
2. Must run on non-proprietary AA batteries
3. Must write to SD cards
The only models that fit were the Kodak Z981 (my first choice but I couldn't find anywhere in the country), the Fuji Fine Pix S1800 (which received some unfavorable reviews) and the GE X5 - my new baby!

The GE X5 might be touted as the poor man's DSLR and it would be very flattering. I got mine for only P9,878 and it already came with a couple of 2gb SD cards (KingCom didn't have one 4gb card) and a couple of recheargeable batteries with charger (They give out four pieces in other branches. Was I shortchanged here?)
I actually thought I was gonna have to spend further for these additional items so when I found out the package already comes with them, I knew that unit was mine. Oh, and it's also glorious in black! (I didn't really care for the white version).
Despite not having a detachable lens and hot shoe, its manual controls are very impressive. I can actually compose my shots with adjustments to the aperture, shutter speed, ISO and even exposure compensation! The DSLR-lite form factor is a major plus too!
Of course, the X5 prides itself for its 15x optical zoom and 5x digital zoom. I have yet to fully appreciate its immense zoom capabilities but it already makes for an interesting feature.
Very cute icons illustrating the X5's features

I've been having a lot fun with the X5 these past weeks. Mostly training my eyes to compose and getting the hang of photography again. I hardly ever shoot in automatic mode unless I actually mean for it to act like a basic point-and-shoot.

What's also great about my experience is that there is a local group of enthusiasts on Facebook.
 So we can chat about the camera and offer each other tips. I've given out a couple myself already.

Also, since my unit didn't come with its own carrying case, I've been looking around for one that isn't too expensive as most camera bags are wont to be because that would just defeat the purpose of getting the X5 at a steal. Thankfully, I dropped by Hidalgo today and discovered this from Fans Digital.

Its padded and fits the X5 just snugly. There are compartments for batteries and cards plus I can sling it over my shoulder or strap it to my belt. As luck would have it, it was also on sale: P420 from P840! Score two for me!
My mistake. I thought the 512mb was the 2gb one.
Someday I will be worthy of a DSLR. Right now, I just gotta go back to basics and evolve from there. May I just say that my skills and the camera both aren't too shabby either. Just check out these test photos I took these past few weeks!


Starting Over at 29

525,600 minutes.
How do you measure a year in the life?

Mine would be in ups, downs and reflections, I guess. Last year, I celebrated my birthday by leaving/losing my job mostly because I hated it. The reason why I left my previous advertising job for the one I had also just left was because I was entering my late 20s and I needed to explore what else was out there. I did not want to be trapped with no more options left for me. Plus: I thought I needed a job that would help me mature as a professional and offered me benefits and security. I thought a BPO was gonna give that to me.

The thing is: I was already trapped. I really had nothing else to show of my professional life but my advertising career. Mostly because I spent much of my mid-20s thinking about doing stuff but never got around to doing them. Then I remembered why. Sometime after turning 24 when nothing was working out, I stopped planning my life and just went with the flow.
The thing is when I stopped planning, I also stopped having goals. In college, I was a superstar because I knew who I wanted to be when I graduated. In the real world, I was a smoking, scattered brain mess!

When I realized this, I promised myself that the moment I get a steady income going, I was gonna start doing everything that I've always wanted to do:
1. Quit smoking so I can sing and dance again.
2. Learn to play the piano.
3. Draw again.
4. Write stories again.
5. Practice ice skating.
6. Swim more.
7. Learn to ride a bike.
8. Play billiards more.
9. Take up photography again.
10. Learn videography.

Then it hit me that I also wanted to do some of these things when I was much younger and that I lost a lot of my teenage years because I was angry, depressed and in limbo when I could've been more productive. I imagine if I had just focused back then, I would be in theater right now - one of the passions I left behind as I entered my 20s.

Fortunately, I was given a third chance this year. It may be too late to make a career out of them, but that doesn't matter now. With me back in advertising, I realized that maybe being a better professional does not mean working for a big corporation where the standard and therefore the challenge and subsequent reward are all really high. Maybe it's about being the best at what you do wherever you are. There is so much more in advertising that I have yet to explore and I do believe I'm on the right track at being the best if I just applied myself. I imagine that as soon as I can play keyboard better, I can compose my own jingle and sing it! As soon as I can draw better, I can provide artwork. Maybe shoot the photos and videos or maybe even choreograph! I just get excited thinking about the possibilities!

I don't know if I should regret that these realizations came to me at the tail-end of my 20s, but I guess it just means that there would be something more for me to look forward to. I mean, if I had everything, what else would be out there?
So I'm picking up the pieces and starting over. I have a lot of time to make up for and part of that is also catching up on games, movies, books and comics that I missed growing up, as well as taking better care of myself. Not only have I accomplished those in the last few months but I have also gotten started on a lot of items on the list (including quitting smoking). Now I can look forward to getting frustrated and angry, as well as appreciating the little victories along the way.

I'm in a much better place this year than where I was last year and even the years before not just because of my new job but because of my new "lease on life". Now I have something to live for and work on. Goals.

Right now, I'm working on figuring out if confidence and certainty leads to cynicism. I find that the more I know myself and assert my place in the world, the more I become impatient and judgmental with other people. I guess I've become more protective of my interests now.
No, I have an entire year to figure that matter out. For now, I just want to appreciate what I have.


All I Want for October

Not only am I celebrating my birthday next month (*shudders*), it also marks an entire decade of avenging.
Yup, it would be ten years since I picked up my very first issue of the Avengers comic and I never looked back.
Since then, my collection has grown by leaps and bounds to include various merchandise and collectibles.
So it would be very nice if I can add these items to my collection in commemoration of one avenging decade!

This book is supposed to come out later this month.
I hope Fully Booked or PowerBooks would carry it.
I got the 2006 edition of the DK guide at Fully Booked before.

Supposedly this came out earlier this year but I have not seen one ever.
I hope Toys R Us or Toy Kingdom would carry it.
Unfortunately, they don't carry a lot of the Squads.

Runners up because they aren't easy to find:

Yes, I'm kinda picky that way.
The 2nd edition with the gray cover and the Avengers logo prominent.

The listings I found for this item is hella expensive!
I'm also apprehensive about buying it online and having it go through customs.

With the animated series and the live action movie coming out, there is bound to be more merchandise.
For now, I shall contend myself with these items.
So if you guys spot any of these items in the wild, do let me know.
Or you can get them for me!

UPDATE (Nov. 15, 2010):
Well, whadayaknow?
Since writing this blog, I've manage to acquire half of the items on this list.
First, the Ultimate Character Guide last Wednesday.
Then just last weekend, the Collector's Edition Toy Set.
Yeay me!

UPDATE (No. 24, 2010):
And now I'm down to one last item on the list.
Just got my Superhero Squad Quinjet from Greenhills earlier today!

UPDATE (No. 12, 2011):
More than a year after putting this list together, I finally completed it!
copy of Avengers: Emperor Doom arrived today!


Lessons from Ice Skating

I first tried ice skating about a year ago and I thought it would be something I could actually work on getting good at. Something to practice on at least once a month. Well, that didn't happen. BUT since I had free time today, I thought I'd give a try again. So I did. For three or so hours. Alone. In that time, I've come to realize a few things about learning to skate and life, in general. Things I already live by but worth reminding me and my friends of anyhow.

1. Make the most out of an obstacle.
Gone are the P100++/hour rates. Now they charge P390 for unlimited use, which I did not budget for. Still, I thought that I'm already there and it looks like I wasn't gonna do it every month, but I may as well go as far as I can. So I did.

2. Set realistic goals.
I probably wasn't gonna spin, skate backwards or brake with flair but I can get used to the skates and the ice. For a beginner, that actually takes a while and by the time you're there, you only have a few minutes left to enjoy the experience (at least in the old rates).

3. If something is too tight or too loose, it probably is.
Don't be afraid to go back, make adjustments or ask for a replacement, if necessary.

4. You're off to a bad start if your skate is controlling you.
If you're not in control of your tool, then either you're doing something wrong or you have to go back and make adjustments.

5. Fall and get it over with.
The sooner you face that humuliation, the better. Takes out fear for the rest of the experience.

6. The music of life is varied.
Intersperse 30 Seconds to Mars with High School Musical if you have to to set the mood. It won't matter if they help you equally.

7. Striking the balance between trusting your abilities andtrusting in fate/faith is simple: keep your chest forward, bend your kness, glide and slide, then let your instinct take over. In short, do your tangible best but don't discount your instinct.

8. Falling is actually easier than staying balanced.
If you make a mistake, allowing yourself to fall is the coward's way out. Staying up, keeping balance and picking up from where you left off is actually more challenging. Hurts my thighs and ankles more than falling does my whole body.

9. If you had no choice but to fall, it's okay.
One, everyone else has fallen at one time or another. Two, when you're learning something new, everyone expects it of you. Don't sweat it. Figure out what you did wrong and go from there.

10. Quit while you're ahead.
After three hours, I thought it was time to move on. I've been skating for about two hours without falling (but still not flawless) and with control and direction, but my feet were getting tired. I've also gone as far as I can with the goals I set for myself. I thought I did good work for the day.

There is also a lesson that I should probably remind myself next time I go ice skating, which is probably gonna be in three or four months (since I don't have the time and money to do it monthly).
You were a dancer once. Rhythm and grace comes naturally to you. Use them. I actually did earlier. Helped me stay balanced when I made a mistake.

Oh, and multi-tasking while learning a new skill? Never a good idea.


Musicals Share

For the longest time, all Yul Brynner was to me was the imposing pharaoh Rameses in The Ten Commandments. He who inspired Holy Week fear.

That is, until I saw The King and I last weekend during a thon sponsored by my geek friends in an effort to educate me in the ways of classic musicals.
See, it started like this. Last December, Dante gave me an assignment to cover Feel Harmonic Encore at the Powerplant Mall for Playboy magazine. It was a Yuletide-themed mini-concert featuring veteran theater performers Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and Michael Williams, among others. I agreed to cover the event mainly because the cast of 9 Works Theatrical's Rent was also going to be there.

Since I already knew that I wasn't gonna be familiar with some of the songs they were gonna sing (there are tons of musicals out there after all), I set my phone to record audio. The plan was to transcribe the lyrics and google them later so I can name the performances for my article.

In the course of that process, I discovered that the reason why I'm not familiar with some of the songs they performed was because they were from popular classic musicals and that I HAVEN'T SEEN THEM! If I have seen them before, it's must've been a way, way back because both time and memory are fleeting.

We're talking songs like Something Good from The Sound of Music and We Kiss in Shadow from The King and I. I realized then that apart from these two productions, I also haven't haven't seen West Side Story, among other classics.

I mean, I grew up listening to the Disney soundtracks and doing straight plays and musicals in grade school and high school, but I was never exposed to these productions. I also did a few musical revues and workshops back in the day, but I never really knew where the songs came from. I admit my active promotion and following of musical theater is only a few years old.

Realizing these things became the angle to which I anchored my eventual article (please get your copy of last April's Playboy 2nd anniversary issue). A few friends sought to remedy this by organizing the thon.

We screened three movies last weekend: A Sound of Music, The King and I and West Side Story.
My general impression of the movies is that music, lyrics and dance back then are what CGI is now: padding. They serve to bloat up the movie and give audiences a spectacular experience seemingly without moving the narrative forward. All the dancing in West Side Story became unnecessary and distracting after a time.
I realize it was the norm at the time, but the movies tend to get really dragging. I don't know if I can bring myself to sit through three hours of each again. However, The King and I made it bearable because it had humor (Yul Brynner FTW) and it was more spectacular than the other two. The movie felt more like a theatrical performance (hello, soundstage!)
The songs were not as memorable as the other two though.
Speaking of songs, I took a lot of heat for saying "I don't like Sondheim" after snoozing through Repertory Phils.' production of Sweeney Todd last year. The OST of Into the Woods bore me as well. I do find the West Side Story songs far more memorable though than Sound or King. This is probably because compared to Sound, King, even Todd and Woods, the West Side Story songs were more contemporary than classical.

This makes sense for me because my taste for musicals hinges on those infused with pop, soul and rock (In the Heights, Spring Awakening, Aida, Wicked, Once on this Island, Hairspray, RENT!). I even like the Broadway versions of The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, but Beauty and the Beast is just hard to swallow.
The thing is I need my songs to pull me in and not push me away, which I'm afraid to say is how certain classic musicals and even the Phantom of the Opera make me feel. 

I guess that just makes me more Top 40 and less rhythm-and-blues.


These Are Just Some of My Favorite Things

While preparing for work this morning, my train of thought somehow led me to mentally list down my favorite everything.

And I noticed a pattern.
See if you can find it.

What I've come to realize is that they are all ensembles.
Even if Wheel of Time and Final Fantasy IV have primary characters, the stories played out with a large cast of protagonists.
I seem to like bands and soundtracks more than individual artists.

I guess my preferences suit my personality well.
I enjoy plurality.
I like options and the opportunity to try new things and combinations.
I like being able to try my hand at different skills, ultimately being a jack of all trades but a master of none.


'Cause Everything Is RENT!

Another long overdue blog.

That's me with three of my closest college friends - Krystal, Lyca and Gen. We got to see the very last show of the 2010 Manila run on Feb. 28.

This after about 4 years of professing undying love and devotion to Jonathan Larson's masterpiece.

My first real memory of Rent was sometime in early 2001 when I was doing theater and my group wanted to do 'Seasons of Love'. I borrowed someone's cassette copy of the soundtrack and listened to it once. I didn't know what the musical was about and I don't remember being fascinated then.
Then the movie version came out in 2005 and was released here early 2006 exclusively to Ayala malls. I remember finally being curious about the story and decided to watch it - sadly not in the cinema. Let's leave it at that.
I was hooked. Been a Rent-head since then.
I now have a copy of both the movie and original Broadway soundtracks. I've memorized all the songs and I'm just not getting sick of them even after all this time.

One of my goals in life was to one day watch the show live on Broadway but that was crushed when the show closed last September 2008.
Thankfully, Sony filmed the last show and released it on DVD. Thanks to Tobie, I also got to see that - but sadly not on DVD. Let's leave it at that.
So imagine my surprise late last year when Jon plurked about auditions for a new Rent production to be staged here by 9 Works Theatrical! I may not have had plans of auditioning, but it was exciting because it meant that a company is staging it and I was finally gonna see it live!

Last December, mere weeks after the cast was announced, Dante sent me on an assignment to cover Feel Harmonic Encore.Having followed 9 Works on Twitter & Facebook, I knew that the cast was gonna be there. So I went but I felt that their performance Seasons of Love and Finale B at the time was sorely lacking. I don't know. I just wasn't wowed.
The cast then went on to make an appearance on the now-defunct SOP. My friends who got to see them were a tad disappointed. Based on these and reviews from friends from within and without local theater, I knew I had to lower my expectations just a bit when I finally get to see it with the geeks and my college friends.
Speaking of the geeks, it turns out one of the the producers was Oneal's classmate in grade school (or was it high school? Can't remember).

Then I finally got to see it. It took all of my energies to refrain from singing along but I managed to lip sync at least. The moment Fred Lo as Mark Cohen began his dialog, part of me was already teary-eyed. I can't believe I was finally seeing it live. It was epic for me all the way through.

So now, I've experienced the original Broadway cast, the movie cast, the final cast and the Manila 2010 cast. I couldn't help myself. I just had to do this:

Angel Dumott Schunard
*This is actually Job's first role in professional theater. He did great.

Benjamin "Benny" Coffin III
*Rodney Hicks was Taye Diggs' understudy in the original production.
I first saw Noel Rayos on Atlantis' 'Hairspray' and 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee'.

Joanne Jefferson
*I thought Jenny Villegas lacked that spunk that made Joanne as a character stand out.

Mark Cohen
*Adam Kantor and Fred Lo have something in common: They were both still in college when they got the role -  Adam in Northwestern University and Fred in De La Salle University.

Maureen Johnson
*This is the second time Eden Espinosa took over a role originated by Idina Menzel - the first was when we she performed as Elphaba in Wicked.
I first saw Carla Guevara-Laforteza on Atlantis' 'Avenue Q' and 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee'.

Mimi Marquez
*I thought Nicole Asensio's version of Mimi was much closer to Daphne Rubin Vega's while Rosario Dawson and Renee Elise Goldsberry mirrored each other.

Roger Davis
*I don't know what it is but Gian Magdangal failed to move me!
Boy, was he oh-so-hoarse after two performances prior to the one I saw.

Tom Collins
*Surprisingly, I first saw OJ Mariano when he was a 'celebrity speller' the second time I saw Spelling Bee. I was like 'Who? How is he a celebrity?!"
He did a memorable Tom Collins though.

So there. Here's me with the rest of the geeks. That's Shey's scarf around my neck, which I borrowed just for the night.

Oh, and last Wednesday, I snagged a copy of Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway DVD at 50% off to boot. So here's everything RENT that I now own:
Souvenir program and ticket to the left.
DVDs to the right: Rent movie on top and Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway at the bottom.
Not in picture: Rent souvenir shirt.