The Pink Panther

I’ve always been one for a good throwback. I don’t know about you, but Rafael Nadal going sans sleeves and all body-ody-ody at this year’s Australian Open is making me feel things. The last time he went sleeveless was in 2008, tearing through the men’s draw in that swashbuckling pirate look. No sleeves, long shorts, and somehow he made it work.

He still does.

Nike has our dear Rafa revisiting the sleeveless look but ditching the long shorts. It’s decidedly more mature but somehow more compelling because he’s all grown up and filled out and who cares what’s going down on the tennis court with biceps like that? 

I mean come ON.

When it's time to go to work @rafaelnadal #ausopen

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Sheht pare, hijo de. You can barely even notice that ungodly combination of dove gray and highlighter pink.

Today I have reduced my favourite tennis player from a hugely talented athlete to a walking piece of very meaty beef. But, eh. The best things in life are free.

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Dioramas

Dear Elly G,

Word of the day: diorama. I am seriously pissed off that I never got the chance to take a picture of the Sinulog diorama they had outside Robinson’s Department Store. I want to kick myself. That display was something that will go down in the annals of our history of ridiculousness.

It was a display of superheroes: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, etc. (it was a League of Justice thing) and it wasn’t just a painting. It was a real mock-up of superheroes doing their thing. Superman was flying and shit.

In the middle of it all stood Sr. Sto. Niño holding up that scepter and wooden ball with a cross on it, because the “greatest superhero” is still Sto. Niño. The first time I saw that mess, I nearly choked. What a classic what-in-the-mother-effing-eff moment. People here are insane.

Just thought I’d share. Wish you’d seen it. So sorry I didn’t get it for posterity – I was just too busy staying away from the crazy crowd. I wish I hadn’t.

Regretfully,
Nikka
1/31/08

The Things We Leave Behind

Funerals make me feel awkward.

I have a chronic inability to deal with death, so I deflect. There are two ways I do this. Humour helps me deal with emotional upheaval because I find it goes a long way toward making the unbearable, bearable. My first step is to try and find a little levity. Note I say a little, because a funeral is obviously not the right time to be cheerful and gay and too much levity is disrespectful. There are other ways of processing trauma and my method may not be the most mature way of going through the stages of grief, so I can’t exactly recommend you kids do this at home. If it helps you with discomfort and pain, you’re welcome to try. Just remember to be appropriate about it. No one wants a crazy guest in the corner, pointing and laughing at a hearse.

death becomes them.gif
I blame Meryl Streep for my issues.

The second way I deal is to have takeaways. I note specific details to incorporate in my own funeral, i.e. open vs. closed casket, appropriate Biblical passages, whom I would want doing the eulogy, what to feed the guests. I never had plans for a dream wedding but it would seem I have plans for a dream funeral.

I met my aunt when I was much much younger, and I knew the basics: she was a nurse, had two boys, lived in Montreal. It wasn’t until her funeral that I found out she hadn’t just been a nurse, she’d been the head nurse of a prestigious hospital and a damn good one. So good, after she retired they named a hospital award after her. She was socially active, a woman who touched many, and had been, by all accounts, a pearl of a human being. For her funeral this week, I didn’t need very much levity. I am fortunate to have extended family in these parts and we were all together for the first time in a while, which meant stories of the misadventures of my aunts, uncles and cousins were shared to everyone’s delight. It also meant we were creating new memories just by being together again, catching up after a bit of time had passed. You can always make new friends and keep the old, but there’s nothing quite like the shared history unique to people related by blood. It seemed like a great way to honour her memory in a land far away from the place where she was born.

They say we take nothing with us when we die. I think we spend so much time making it a priority to enjoy the things we can’t bring with us, we forget to focus on what we actually leave behind. And this was my takeaway: while we take nothing with us when we pass on, we leave everything behind for others to deal with. And although we are by nature more forgiving when it comes to remembering someone who’s already dead, it does matter that we leave behind as many good memories of ourselves as possible because no one wants to be remembered as a jerk. It doesn’t matter if we’re no longer around to enjoy our own eulogies. It matters that others don’t struggle to write a decent one for us.

Flashback Finesse

The year is off to a good start if this is what we have to greet it. Bruno Mars reworks Finesse – the original being a fave off of his album 24K Magic, which as a whole sounds like it was triple dipped in the goodness that was 90’s RnB – into the perfect nostalgic trip back in time. He throws in a little Cardi B in this outing, even managing to make her make a little more sense than usual (what, exactly, is Bodak Yellow? I feel so old). Giving her her props for making that sassy mid-90’s look pop. Everything about this video is perfect, from the music, to the choreography and the outfits. Doesn’t everyone look cute, happy and innocent?

East, West and My Mom’s Macaroni Salad

I woke up with a clear desire to write about 2017 and what I’m going to do in 2018. In other words, to contribute just another post to a billion online posts about resolutions and what they mean and what I’ve broken and what I haven’t and how much weight I’m going to lose. Instead, I went down an inexplicable YouTube K-hole of Weird Al Yankovic’s best, culminating in at least five replays of White & Nerdy because sometimes, that’s just how I work. Or, as it turns out, don’t.

Today is going to be about prepping for the annual NYE dinner I make – a fusion (fusion! hah! #pretentious) of East meets West. It’s not as exotic as it sounds, it’s just me making enough food to feed a ton that will really only feed two and generate enough leftovers for a week, while ensuring both parties will be happy with all available nosh. So he gets his turkey, taters and stuffing, I get my macaroni salad, pancit and whatnot. Last year I came up with black sambo. This year, I’ve decided to cheat and get cheese tarts from Uncle Tetsu’s.

I make macaroni the way my mom does. It has mayo, shredded chicken and pineapple. My one substitution is craisins because I’ve never been a fan of sun-dried grapes. If it sounds weird, it is, and he doesn’t eat it so I tend to make enough just for me. But I make a point of having macaroni salad every New Year’s Eve because it tastes like home. It tastes like countless evenings spent ringing in the New Year with family, food on the table, twelve round fruits bursting out of a cornucopia, borderline illegal fireworks exploding throughout the night. It tastes like shaking my brothers awake at the stroke of midnight because they’ve fallen asleep. It tastes like the time my niece mistook a misplaced goblet of Tequila Rose for milk, drained it to the dregs and started walking sideways. She was two. I think.

I’ve seen posts reminding pet-owners to insulate their animals from the scariness of fireworks. Back home, no one gives a shit. We figure animals can take care of themselves to some extent without all the unnecessary mollycoddling, which is where the East really differs from the West. We haven’t got the time to worry about animal welfare when we’re too busy worrying about our own. It’s New Year’s Eve! We’re too busy trying to make sure humans don’t turn up in the ER with missing digits to worry about the mental state of the family cat.

But back to my preparations for NYE. I haven’t yet gone to get the traditional round fruits for the cornucopia. It’s believed that round fruits bring good luck for the coming year which is why one must have twelve – a different one for each month – but there’s only so many round fruits, so I end up with the odd banana, lemon and strawberry. To this day, the sight and scent of red apples reminds me of the holiday season. I delayed it as much as I could this year because putting so many fruits together  in one setting tends to ripen them all at once. It’s also something I do to remember my grandfather, who made it a point to have a massive mound of tropical fruits to ring in the New Year.

Le Hubs doesn’t really have NYE traditions other than eggnog and partying like a lush so he ends up having mine grafted onto his because we’re too old to party like lushes anymore. It’s why  every New Year you’ll find him absently clutching money at the stroke of midnight, the tryptophan kicking in, bemusedly watching his wife twirling around his living room, money in her own hands, windows all open, inviting in good luck and prosperity, as well as possible hypothermia because it’s -30C in Toronto and his wife is high on macaroni salad. But that’s New Year’s Eve. That’s New Year’s Eve, our style.

The Present

Thirty-seven people perished in a fire yesterday. Survivor accounts of thick, black, choking smoke suddenly pouring out of vents, of fluorescent bulbs exploding overhead, of a lobby plunged into darkness, of people screaming in fear and panic, all of it was difficult to read about, to digest. It’s easy to forget, with  Christmas looming so near, that horrible things happen to people every day, irrespective of season or timing. It’s easy to forget because this is supposed to be a holiday filled with love, with joy, with goodwill to all men and there’s just this sort of happiness in the air, covering everything that’s awful in a year that’s been particularly trying.

It’s not like me to wax poetic about tragedies. I do feel, and strongly, for people who are victims of devastating fate, but I rarely wear my heart on my sleeve about these things. This tragedy hit particularly close to home because the victims were part of what used to be my world – they were call centre agents, wrapping up work for the holidays, eager to go home and spend Christmas with their families, and I know what that felt like. I know what it was – and is – to look forward to seeing family I haven’t seen for months on end, to get through those interminable hours before the work day ends, to think ahead about which bus to take and how long the travel time will be, and to hope against hope that there won’t be too many people travelling along with me, knowing it’s a wasted hope, but willing to brave it anyway, just to be with the ones I love. To know that for these unfortunate agents, that anticipation, that excitement, that innocent joy, was wiped away in an instant by unimaginable horror, unable to reach out to anyone else in the outside world having no access to their phones (it’s common practice in a call centre for agents to leave their phones in their locker, to avoid disrupting the reception), is heartbreaking. One can only imagine the devastation that their loved ones are going through.

The questions will likely come later – why didn’t the fire alarms go off in time? Why didn’t the sprinkler system work*? For such an enclosed space, shouldn’t they have made sure the two fire escapes wouldn’t be impassable? Did they hold fire drills? Were there no emergency extinguishers?

This is not the happiest of Christmas posts, or the thing to get us all in the jubilant mood. It’s a sobering reminder that what is given can be taken away just as easily. It’s a little nudge to be thankful for being alive, because each day is a gift, which is why it’s called the present. (Corny, trite and overused to death, but it doesn’t make it any less true, does it?). So to you and yours, I wish a very Merry Christmas – with the hope that you get to spend time with the ones who love you with all the fierceness that you have in your soul for them. At the end of the day, all manner of material things bedamned, time is the most precious gift of all.

* Facebook feed post, as yet unsubstantiated by actual reports/interviews

Christmas YouTube K-hole

Apparently Jose Mari Chan doesn’t have a video for Christmas in our Hearts, which is a shame because that song dominates the Philippine airwaves the way Bing Crosby does on this side of the Atlantic. I know that song inside and out, and whenever they play it in September, you know the most wonderful time of the year is just around the bend.

Since I couldn’t put up a Jose Mari Chan video that wasn’t just random pictures cobbled together like a well-made videoke segment, here in no particular order are three music videos that I turn to come Yuletide. Hope they get you in the mood!

98 Degrees  – This Gift

Fake snow? Teddy bears? Handsome, clean-cut, corn-fed troubadours? I’m all in! This video gave me a weak spot for guys in cable-knit sweaters singing about giving gifts. This criminally overlooked Christmas song will forever and always be at the top of my list for the Christmas season. You guys can have Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber, I will take my cheesy, well-meaning boyband and hold it close to my heart. This Gift never fails to delight, even if it could use a little less Nick Lachey.

Troy & Abed – Christmas Infiltration (Community Rap)

Troy and Abed doing Chriiistmaaas! In an episode that melds the purity of Christmas with the underlying evil of the glee club (showrunner Dan Harmon wasn’t shy about how much he hated Glee), Christmas Infiltration is a standout and instantly became one of my favourite songs about Christmas. It was a wrench deciding between this, Baby Boomer Santa and Happy Birthday Jesus. I can’t help it. Troy and Abed always win out in the end. Actually, this whole episode wins out in the end. Community always aced their holiday episodes and Regional Holiday Music was no different. It’s Christmas viewed through the twisted lens of a music lover who wants to mean well but somehow can’t seem to find the strength to make the devil on his shoulder go away. It’s hilarious, it’s irreverent, it’s perfect.

Billy Mack – Christmas is All Around

Forever tardy to the party, I discovered Love, Actually a year ago on Netflix, while using some holiday downtime to do movie research for a project I was working on. It turned out to be a choice I thank the fates I made because  it has Bill Nighy as an aging rockstar with all the sleazy moves, Hugh Grant as an endearingly floppy-haired Prime Minister who has no idea he’s cute, Alan Rickman being Alan Rickman, a pre-Taken Liam Neeson as a grieving widower,  Andrew Lincoln before he moved to Atlanta to fight zombies and Colin Firth with a typewriter! I don’t give a rat’s arse what anyone says, Love Actually is an awesome holiday movie. It can’t be anything but, not with such a charming all-star cast and a truly hilarious script filled with that dry Brit humour we all know and love. Here, Billy Mack remakes his signature song into a wannabe Christmas staple, but even he knows it’s a “festering turd of a record.” I’m making a tradition out of watching Love, Actually every Christmas. I haven’t laughed as hard at a British ensemble movie since Ang Lee’s Four Weddings and a Funeral.