Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Fine Line

It's been said that there is a fine line between genius and insanity. I think it's also the fine line that separates Batman and Joker.

Reminds me of the scene from Silence of the Lambs, when Hannibal Lecter escapes from the police station. So he took a police officers' costume and lies down with blood all over his face. When police saw him with a completely damaged and unrecognizable face, they brought him to an ambulance thinking he was the officer whose uniform he took. Lecter's escape was completed in teh ambulance.

I remember the first time watching it and I immediately admired his plan, (I thought he wounded his entire face just to be unrecognizable) I admired his planning and dedication. And then it was later revealed that he actually skinned the officer's face and wore it like a mask. And my admiration turned to terror. 

In the Batman/Joker comparison, Batman will wound his face. Joker will take another person's face and wear it as a mask. And both would be able to escape.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hopes and Dreams and the Parallel Universe

There are lots of symbolisms and metaphors in Scifi and Fantasy stories.

Werewolf stories are seen as metaphors for adolescence and coming of age. Vampire stories are sometimes seen as representation for intimacy amidst rejections and differences. Robots and AI tales are symbols of anti-slavery and uprising against an established authority.

Stories about Parallel Universes, on the other hand, are about hopes and dreams. A parallel universe is a place where we are a different person, a place where your dreams may have come true (or not). A place were we hope good things happened to our lives.

On the same light, time travel stories are about wistful thinking; what if I did this or that etc.

:end babble:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2 Worlds in Fiction

Most stories revolve in a battle between two entities, good versus evil, black vs. white, strong vs. weak and so on. My favorite stories are those that discusses this rivalry but adds a very different twist to it.

The anime series, 'Last Exile' is one of them. In the world of Prester, Anatoray and Disith are two rival countries that are physically separated by a barrier of fast-flowing air current called the Grand Stream. What is interesting in the series is the fact that the rivalry between the two countries is governed by another independent entity, who provides the machinery and capacity for the two countries' wars. What's more interesting is the fact that the two countries know about this but still they battle with each other.

I recommend the book 'The City and The City' by China Mieville.It is a novel about the cities of Bessel and Ul Qoma. This time, there is no physical separation between the two cities. Yet their cultures are quite very distinct from each other. I was amazed at how the author intricately described each city-- you really have to read it to know about it for yourself.

In the sci-fi series Fringe, the topic of a parallel universe is the main theme. One major arc of the series is a quest on how to traverse the other side. It's cool how the series depicted the alternate universe by giving very small yet noticeable differences (i.e Manhatan).

The critically-acclaimed movie 'Another Earth', tells of a story where there is another Earth with another set of people just floating within Earth's view.

In many Zelda games, a very usual scenario to move the story is for the protagonaist to travel between "worlds" in order to complete a quest. In the Oracle of Ages for example, Link has to do some actions in the 'past' (World 1) to advance the game in the 'present' (World 2). In the 'Minish Cap', Link has the ability to shrink into a smaller version of himself thereby experiencing a very different yet connected mini world as compared with his real sized world. While in 'A Link to the Past', Link has a magic mirror that allows him to traverse between the Light and the Dark world, which is required to finish various in-game quests.

In these stories, the conflict between the two worlds is not the main focus-- it is the interaction or synergy of the two entities that primarily move the story.

(Images courtesy of the web)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Trese book 4: (Not a Review )

I've just finished reading Trese Book 4: Last Seen After Midnight for the second time. This is not really a review, just some random thoughts after reading it. Probable spoilers ahead.

As usual, Budjette Tan's writing is very captivating in this new book. It offers everything that you loved from the first three books and even more. There's the drama and the horror, the funny banters of the 'kambal', the walk into the Pinoy mythological lane, the slice of life stories with a twist and the entertaining popular culture references. (Offtrack question: How many creatures can you spot in the collector's gallery? I see a Tikbalang skeleton, a 'nuno sa punso' (or is it a duwende?) in a bottle, a diwata, a mananaggal's wings and what seemed like a 'banga' (i.e 'halimaw sa banga').

As for the stories, all I can say is that they are all great. Ruel de Vera , in the introduction, is quite spot on when he mentioned this book alongside the legendary classics of Warren Ellis' 'Planetary' and Mike Mignola's 'Hellboy'. I agree 100%. My favorite perhaps is 'Fight of the Year'. It's got that similar tribute vibe which I loved (being also a Pacquiao fan) and amazing story that could match 'Our Secret Constellation' (which is in my opinion the best Trese story). [Though I find it funny that when I read Manuel's lines, I hear it in my mind the way the real Manny speaks. You know what I'm talking about, I mean, you know.]

I truly admire Kajo Baldisimo's artwork in this book; from the detailed depiction of many cityscapes like Luneta, Ortigas and Katipunan, to the fine, flowing lines for the elementals and underworld creatures, to the splash pages and panel layout, everything just works out perfectly. My favorite is Manuel's fight in the underworld boxing arena. I like how the fight started with six panels on the first fight page and becomes 5 panels, then 4 then 3 then 2 as the fight goes on to the next round. Then, on rounds 11 and 12, there is only one panel each. The round 12 single-panel page shows Manuel standing over his kill-- that's the perfect victory shot right there. Add also the fact that Manuel fights a bagyon (?) lightning tribesman, a shark, and a Cthulhu-esque monster no less, says something about the awesomeness of these splash pages.

Some more thoughts:
I have a feeling (or yearning) that Jay Gerson will be back. Though I like how Trese is always able to give a 'happy' ending to each case (by curing the cursed or defeating the baddies) I would like to see a vulnerable side of her-- the side that sometimes lose fights and possibly cry. I think an archenemy can expose that side of her -- an enemy with the same skills, background, or even personality but with different motivations. I feel that Jay Gerson is a very good candidate. Like a nemesis that would challenge Trese's skills throughout many overarching cases. Like her Moriarty or Joker. Like a supernatural serial killer.

I'm also curious why the Great Santelmo is very loyal to Trese. In past books, the santelmo have played big parts in solving some cases.  It actually appeared in this book twice and saved Trese's life both times. (Maybe Budjette and Kajo are building this up to something bigger?)

That's all. I'm already watching out for Trese Book 5 whenever that will be.

(Image from www.tresekomix.blogspot.com)

Friday, September 30, 2011

On Photoshoppery and Money

     Filipinos are a creative and innovative bunch. Consider our photography and visual manipulation skills as an example. Just this week, Filipino photoshoppers, err, graphic designers are spotlighted on two different occasions-- one on a positive and one on a negative light.

     The first one that gathered a lot of bad rap is the DPWH Photoshop fiasco. A photograph was posted on the DPWH facebook account where some DPWH officials seem to be having a deep, thoughtful conversation while standing in the Manila Bay rubbles on the aftermath of typhoon Pedring. A blogger saw the photo for what it really is and cried " 'shopped! ". Sometime later, the photo was taken down with an apology from an official.

     The blogger (site here) really has valid points. As he pointed out, the guy in the red-jacket is obviously floating while the guy in the center has one leg shorter than the other. See for yourself on the picture below. I indicated it with red circle and a red arrow if you can't see it. Those are some awful photoshop skillz.

See the complete report here:

     The other one is more uplifting. Remember the newly redesigned Peso notes that were previously reviled by majority of the internet public? Well, they actually impressed an international body for their amazing and unique features. The new generation currency (NGC) notes are shortlisted as one of three nominees for the best currency award.

The complete report is here:

     These news reports just show that we have an immense creative pool of talents in our country. How high we can rise if we only do our best and how low we can sink if we just settle for less, it's all up to us.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reminiscing the Dark Knight

I love The Dark Knight movie. In fact I believe it's the best superhero movie ever made and it's on my list of the best movies ever. For me, it is a cerebral ride of awesomeness that will leave you breathless and amazed in every scene you watch.

The one thing it is lacking or had difficulty with, in my opinion, is the emotional connection. You never really felt the pain and anguish of the heroes. When then Lt. Gordon "died", I was shocked but I never felt bad. When Rachel Dawes died, I never felt bad. When Harvey Dent died I never felt bad. You might experience the heavy moral dilemma (like in the ferry scene) but it has no emotional weight, it just seemed like a philosophical exercise. The dominant emotion is that of fear every time the Joker is in the scene, courtesy of Heath Ledger's masterful work.

It's the one thing other movies have better. In Ironman, I felt sad when the doctor who helped Tony Stark died. I felt Stark's anguish. In Captain America, I felt bad when Bucky died (I might feel the weight of the death of any of the Howling Commandos if that would happen). Thor also delivered many emotionally captivating scenes, especially with Tom Hiddleston's portrayal of Loki.

There is none of that in The Dark Knight. Maybe there is, but it didn't leave a lasting dent (no pun intended). One might say, "It's a goddamn Batman movie", "There is no place for emotions". But no, In Batman Begins, you will feel Bruce's pain as a child when his parent's died. You would almost feel Gordon's sympathy as he console Bruce. And you will feel Alfred's grief as well. In the comics, there were many stories that poured a lot of emotional scenes. Grant Morrison has made many.

In Batman #701, when Batman returned after his encounter with Dr. Hurt, Alfred welcomes him in his extreme butlering mode and the following dialogue took place;

Alfred: Master Bruce? Oh my goodness gracious!
Bruce: How's the "Extreme Butlering" thing working out for you, Alfred? Tell me you didn't use up all the band-aids.
Alfred: I believe the correct term is "Butling", sir.
Bruce: Good to see you, old friend.
Alfred: Likewise, Master Bruce. A tense few days, but I know you'd work it all out in the end. I prepared Mulligatawny Soup, your favorite.

That short interchange, with Alfred giving that terse smile, and with all those bruises on his face, is very heartfelt. In Batman: The Return, Alfred delivered yet another emotional dialogue;

In The Dark Knight, I feel like every emotion is actually just a battle of morals and ethics.

The Superman movies have it better. Every time Superman carries Lois while flying, or save her from danger, the scene is so memorable. When we look back into those scenes now, we would have a feeling of nostalgia for the movies, even if they are not that great to begin with.

10 years from now, if we see a scene from The Dark Knight, like when he saves Rachel from falling, I doubt if we will feel nostalgic and reminisce the times past.

I think that's what may be needed in the next movie. A heart-wrenching scene. An uplifting moment. I have no doubt that the trilogy will end with a big and spectacular bang. I believe it may well be one of the greatest trilogies ever. I'm just not sure  if it will leave a deep enough mark in my heart that I will carry even as I get older, the way the Superman movies did.

What could it do to leave that mark?

Include a good soundtrack perhaps. Or evoke the nostalgic feeling of Winnie the Pooh in the trailers. Or both.

Or maybe not.

That's just my two cents. I think 'The Dark Knight Rises' will be an amazing finale nonetheless. As they say on many forums, "I believe in Christopher Nolan."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Amazing Sci Fi Fashion Apparels

Nike just announced the release of "Back to the Future" shoes (a.k.a Air Mag) for a limited stock only. These shoes will be put up on auction in eBay and the proceeds will go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation to find the cure for Parkinson's Disease. All I can say is the shoes are absolutely marvelous!

I've always loved the Back to the Future movies and I always watch the BTTF DVD trilogy if I feel like it. The entertainment factor never diminishes. I think I'm one of the many fans who wishes to get one of those limited edition shoes into our hands, er, feet.

When I last checked the auction site,  the prices of each pair were already at $4,000 with still 17 hours left for bidding. That is around 200,000 Pesos. (200,000 Pesos?! Imagine Doc Emmett saying, "1.21 jigawatts!"). That's already the price of a second-hand car. So that only means goodbye Air Mag.

I wonder if that design is patented? Because if not, maybe our local Marikina shoemakers can make them here. I would really want to have a pair if only for the aesthetic and nostalgic factors (I won't really wear them at work). If they are patented, however, then that's just unfortunate. We dont want them to make japeyk copies of the original, right? (wink. wink.)

Anyways, with Nike's announcement of the shoes, I've thought of other clothing apparels from Sci-Fi movies that were already made in real life and are actually wearable not just during cosplays but in daily life (at least on some occasions and settings). I compiled them into the list below.

1. Tron hoodie (Threadless)

This is not really an actual costume that was worn by characters in the movie, just a design based on it. Nevertheless, these are pretty amazing.

2. The Matrix trenchcoat (AbbyShot.com)

This is not something that can be worn in a hot country like mine. But one would look badass just wearing these. Wear dark sunglasses for an added cool factor.

3. Superhero jackets from Universal Designs (udreplicas.com)

If you are a motorcycle rider, then you'll find these replicas of jackets from movies like Wolverine, Captain America, The Dark Knight and Xmen pretty rad.

4. Star Trek T-shirts (Nerdyshirts)

I'm not really a Trekkie but these t-shirts from Nerdyshirts boasting the Star Trek logo on a plain colored background are just great.

5. Star Wars Hoodie (Star Wars)

Lastly, these hoodies of Star Wars characters such as a Storm Trooper, Darth Maul and Boba Fett are beautiful. To see the full effect you have to close the hoodie's front zipper all way to the top. Best thing to do when you feel like disappearing instantly like during a boss' lecture etc.

So that's it, a round of amazing apparels based on sci fi movies. I'm adding all  of these (along with the Air Mag) into my wishlist for Christmas.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Twitterature - Twitter as the new literature

We are now living in a fast-paced world. And the fast-paced world needs a fast-paced means of communication, expression and information dissemination. Twitter is one of the promising sites that could cater to that requirement. Although more of a personal ad space more than anything, Twitter has the potential of becoming the ultimate news aggregation or literary internet site-- feeding bite-sized tidbits of info to an audience with an ever shortening attention span.

That's why the buzzword right now is 'concise'. To be a succesful internet entity, one must have the skill to express what he wants to express in the fewest words possible.

Lately, I've been reading Ramon Bautista's twitter and I'm always amazed by how much ideas he can express in such a short message. Here are some of his best tweets of wisdom (Tweesdom?) for August in my opinion.

On Psychology
Just had flu shots. I feel invincible!
17 Aug
Nababawasan ang driving skills mo pag di mo dala lisensya mo
15 Aug
(ed. - A placebo is a sham or simulated medical intervention. Sometimes patients given a placebo treatment will have a perceived or actual improvement in a medical condition, a phenomenon commonly called the placebo effect. Here, Ramon Bautista gave good examples of the placebo effect aplied to other fields.)
wag na nga, di na kita gagamitan ng reverse psychology...
1 Aug

On Love and Relationships
Ilang km ang minimum na layo para magqualify na long distance relationship?
12 Aug
Hanggang ilan ba ang "the one that got away"?
2 Aug
(ed. - These are rhetorical but valid questions. They will make you laugh then think.)

On Death and the Internet

Pag bigla kang na deadz, yung huling ni-tweet mo, iinterpret ng lahat na goodbye message mo sa mundo. Make it good!
14 Aug
(ed. - A very sound observation. This is related to a previous post here i.e. What happens when an internet poster dies?)
masarap manood ng youtube, magtweet saka shempre mag facebook pag kailangan mo na umalis ng bahay
19 Aug
Wagas na pag ibig, hindi nahahadlangan ng pagwakas ng unli
31 Jul

On Innovation and Technology

Pag nag red yung traffic light, sana may nago-on din na free wi-fi. Sabay off na pag green
22 Aug
(ed. - With quite a lot of time wasted on traffic stops, this might jst be a very good suggestion.)
Lasang sabon itong tubig ko. Bakit di sila gumawa ng ice tea flavor na dishwashing soap?
3 Aug
(ed. - An edible soap is not a bad idea.)

On Freedom of Expression

fan ako ng freedom of expression pero mas fan ako ng pagrespeto sa kung anumang sagrado para sa iba
16 Aug

On Girls

Mag ingat sa maganda: magaling sila manghuli ng nagnanakaw ng titig
5 Aug
favorite hobby ng mga chicks mag "...is typing a message" sabay offline
4 Aug


My favorite cooking utensil is the can opener
26 Aug

That last post reminded me of a short story written by Ernest Hemingway where he was able to tell a complete story that evoked a lot of emotions and images in just a few words. I think these kinds of stories are called Flash Fiction.

"For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Crowdsourcing a Country

We're now witnessing another phase in the evolution of online social media.

In recent news, Iceland has drafted their constitution through Facebook. This could set the template for other governments: a "crowdsourced" constitution.

A draft of the constitution was presented to Iceland’s parliament. The draft was then compiled and uploaded online. The constitution council then let citizens comment via a Facebook Page.

This is a significant step in the structure of government in the modern era. I'm sure this is just the beginning. Crowdsourcing other government functions could be the next to follow. A government could, for example, let the online citizenry directly participate in the passing of a bill, instead of just the congress. Even court proceedings, where a jury decides the verdict, can be posted online where the netizens can have a say.

Of course this would entail detailed consideration on various aspects. One must consider safeguarding against mob rule, online bullying, fraudulent users etc.

This is the exact concept I was doing for a futuristic short story a few months ago. In my story, the Philippines has been implementing a crowdsourced government which is anchored in cloud computing. Thus there is no real center of government. I called this type of government 'Nimbocracy' ('Nimbus' = Latin for cloud, 'Kratos' = Greek for power).

In this form of government, there is a person who has the role of a frontispiece (the "king"). However, it is really the SysAdmins who rule the country since they are the ones who moderate the forum for the citizens. The Supreme SysAdmin takes the role akin to the Prime Minister. Every department is then moderated by a sysadmin-- there is a SysAdmin for Justice, a SysAdmin for Education, a SysAdmin for Health etc.

[You may also want to check out the short story written by Cory Doctorow entitled "When SysAdmins Rule the World" for a similar concept.]

The essence of this government is that every netizen has direct, albeit online, participation as to how the government is run-- a perfected form of democracy. Isn't it exactly the goal of Democracy? A government of the people, for the people and by the people. Makes perfect sense. The only difference is the means of implementing that power.

I'm pretty sure this will be completed in my lifetime-- the short story that is. But the actual implementation of 'Nimbocracy' in real life may take a very long time. There are many factors to consider-- an efficient internet connection, a near 100% online literacy, a vigilant online security group among others.

What the Iceland government did is a giant step for mankind (well at least to the online world). We'll just have to wait and see what happens next.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Going Up!: Farewell to a Space-faring Legacy

The Space Shuttle Atlantis just had its final flight yesterday. An amazing era in space exploration has just ended, hopefully to start a new one. For one who grew up watching and liking "Iron Giant*", "Apollo 13". "Mission to Mars" or even "Contact", this news unsurprisingly tugged a small string in my heart.

As a child, it was my dream to fly up high into the unknown skies. To boldly go where no man has gone before. Or at least, to boldy follow where others have gone before. It was my innocent ambition to be the first Filipino to travel to space.

But living in a poor country, I would soon realize that these ambitions seem futile. Can our government even fathom space travel if we don't even have an efficient 'ground' travel system? Our most ambitious transportation system is the MRT-LRT system and they are not even working efficiently. Can we launch a spacecraft to the sky if our armed forces don't even have a good missile launching defense system? Are the heavens just too high for us?

In a country as ours, it is just practical to solve our terrestrial problems first (and there are a lot.) I guess for us, the heavens just have to wait.

Regarding the space shuttle's last launch, I find the statement of U.S. President Obama very inspiring:

"Today’s launch may mark the final flight of the Space Shuttle, but it propels us into the next era of our never-ending adventure to push the very frontiers of exploration and discovery in space. We’ll drive new advances in science and technology. We’ll enhance knowledge, education, innovation, and economic growth. And I have tasked the men and women of NASA with an ambitious new mission: to break new boundaries in space exploration, ultimately sending Americans to Mars. I know they are up to the challenge – and I plan to be around to see it."

A new space age dawns. Now, the target is Mars. But really, why do we even want to go risk lives, spend lots of resources just to go to space? In itself, space exploration doesn't even have any significant applications to our lives. What's with the fascination?

Warren Ellis' answer is "because it's waiting for us and it's where we're meant to be". I think I want to read "Orbiter" again.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

July 5

Yesterday was Independence Day in the United States.

The Fourth of July.

It is a day of fireworks.

The day of Jubilee.

Or the day of Katy Perry.

Yes, and Filipino-American Friendship Day.

So, Happy Belated Independence Day to our American friends!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


In the Information Age, nothing is coincidence.

A while ago I just remembered the Inception movie and how awesome it is.
Just now, in my rss feed there is a video, a prenup video, that was based from the Inception movie.
While searching something in Google, there was an advertisement for Lucid Dreaming.

Back in 200x you'll think it is a very rare concidence. But nowadays you know it's nothing but the result of smart SEO algorithms, subconcious advertisements and user-click monitoring.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Grant Morrison's Ultimate Plan for World Domination

Grant Morrison is trying to control us humans by planting ideas into our subconscious.

If you have read some of Grant Morrison's work for the first time, you will immediately realize that they are just a bunch of trashy ideas conglomerated into an unrecognizable mess of a book. If so, I warn you then, DO NOT read that book ever again! It's all a part of Morrison's plan to take over your mind and who knows even the world. Let me explain.

The first Morrison book that I read was Arkham Asylum. I'm not a fan of his but I am a casual reader of Batman comics. Morrison's Arkham Asylum is one of the best Batman books according to many readers so I bought it. Surprisingly, it did not turn out to be a garbled mess, I actually find it to be hauntingly good. The amazingly disturbing art blends perfectly with the similarly disturbing script. I know Morrison is notorious to comic book readers for chaotic writing but this book did not appear so.

I read All Star Superman next. The book got rave reviews to many critics and comic book readers. Again it amazed me to a new level. It was very good. It actually made me become excited to read comic books again. Then came WE3. At that point I wondered why haters despise Morrison so much? Those 3 books are probably some of the best comic books I 've ever read. Where did haters get the idea of his messy writing?

Then I learned about Final Crisis.

Final Crisis-- the universally panned DC mega-event written by Grant Morrison. It has recieved terrible reviews from reviewers who describe the book as incomprehensible, disjointed, convoluted, incoherent. But I bought it anyway, I just thought Arkham Asylum, All Star Superman, WE3! But I was cautious when I started to read it, lowered my expectations a bit.

I finished the book after a few hours. It was a complete mess. I have only a vague idea of what happened, but it is too vague, everything just went over my head. In the end, I just called it a day and shelved the book in my cabinet.

A few days later, I searched in the internet about something I want to clarify regarding one Final Crisis panel. I found a complete annotation for one issue and it said something, a small detail about the issue. I became curious so I took out the book, opened it again and read the specific part mentioned in the annotation. Something must have clicked inside my brain, because suddenly, that part became very clear to me. I was astounded.

I decided to read the book from the start again.

That was my mistake. After completing the book for the second time, I found many answers. I saw it in a different perspective. I discovered some details and I'm almost proud to have discovered them. But simultaneously, I got as many questions. Again, I search the internet for annotations, but this time for all issues of the entire book.

I decided to read the book from the start for the third time. This time, I have the web annotations open. I became obsessed with finding the answers. I searched for more details. I was in front of the computer consistently while reading the book, cross-referencing the details each time I encounter one. I even bought some comic books that were said to be 'prequels' to the Final Crisis story.

I bought the two Batman:Last Rites issue first. Then I bought Batman: RIP. I became curious of this Batman iteration. I bought all Batman books in Grant Morrison's run. I have read them multiple times now. Next thing I know, I also bought Morrison's Seven Soldiers series. I've read it multiple times also; all four volumes. That's just the start.

At that point I realized Grant Morrison's master plan for world domination. He writes books in such a way that they won't be immediately noticed, books made to be conspicuous enough, sometimes look like mess. But look at them for a second time or more and your mind will be immediately subjugated. It will creep on you. You will then be under his control. Call it curiosity or anything. You'll find yourself looking for more information, for answers. You'll find yourself buying more of his books. Until finally, you will read that one Morrison book, the final book that will blow your mind and flick the final switch in your brain. All those information that was embedded in your subconscious from his previous books will then be released in one go.

It's like that scene in the Final Crisis, when the Anti-Life equation was sent to the entire world. But unlike in that story, no one will save us here, in reality. Soon, we will all become Morrison's puppet.

On July 19, Grant Morrison's non-fiction book entitled Supergods will be out on the book stores. Could it be that final switch? Maybe. I, for one, will buy it. And I, for one, welcome our bald-headed Scottish overlord.

And when Morrison speaks, it will be in 3 billion voices.

All will be one in Morrison.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Telling Stories about the Stories behind Stories

I first read Warren Ellis' Planetary in trade paperback format, more than a decade after its initial release. It is about a group of three people who call themselves the "Archaeologists of the impossible". They uncover the secrets of the pop culture and superhero genre and uncover the planet's secret history which is being horded by their rival four superhumans (who are based on the comics' Fantastic Four). The subjects range from the real story behind Japan's movie monsters (Gojira, Mothra) to an untold origin story of Lone Ranger and Tonto, to a what-if story of Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. There are stories which tells about a Galactus-like character and his demise; story about real technology behind Thor's hammer; the origin of Captain Marvel; a tale of John Constantine and Spider Jerusalem and many more fantastic ones.

The whole series basically suggests that all stories in the comic books and pop culture phenomena of the past century actually happened due in some part to the machinations of The Four. It is a very highly recommended read. If you haven't already, you should go to the bookstore now and get it. It's a must read. I can't reiterate it enough. But I don't really want to discuss or review this masterpiece work right here as it had been already reviewed with flying colors elsewhere on the net.

In the series we get a glimpse of the global Planetary organization. We learn that there are Planetary branches all over the world; Hongkong, Japan, Brazil etc. Definitely there are stories on these local places themselves that are worth a look even without the original 3 being involved. I'm thinking there should be some kind off spin-off adventure based on the original one. And I'm sure it would be great. Let Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon handle the Brazil Planetario (a dream come true). Or Yoshitaka Amano (one can wish) draw the Japanese Planetary branch. These countries are rich in stories that can be starting point for amazing Planetary stories.

In particular, the Philippines has a lot of material that can be used for this kind of stuff. In fact there is one comic book that immediately comes to mind, Trese. Created by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, Trese tells the story of a paranormal investigator aptly named Alexandra Trese who takes on cases with supernatural taste. They encounter aswang, nuno sa punso, tikbalang and many other creatures based from Philippine folklore.

But in some cases Trese and the gang also get to cross with "real" (as opposed to folk tale supernatural) beings. They meet Robinson, the rumored snake under a city mall's basement who allegedly eat customers that go inside one of the fitting rooms. There's a story about Darna, or whatever happened to her after all these years. They also tell the story behind the scenes of a rags-to-riches actress from those prolific 80's movie drama.

Going back to the original topic, Planetary's Philippine branch could be named Pandaigdig ("Daigdig" = Filipino word for planet, "Pan- or Pang-" = Filipino preposition to indicate purpose, i.e. for the planet.) The Pandaigdig crew (come to think of it, Alexandra Trese can become one of the three, she can be the Jakita Wagner of the group) would tackle the secret stories behind the stories.

There could be stories that serves as an analysis of the archetypical Bida-Kontrabida synergy on Filipino action films. There could be stories about the old slapstick comedy of Palito and how he was really a Filipino secret spy during the World War 2. There could be an issue that will encompass the golden age of Filipino komiks and would have cameos by Captain Barbell, Darna, Lastikman, Panday and others. There could be a retelling of the real story behind the Edsa 1, 2 and 3 and how it was really a machination of someone more sinister and supernatural in nature. It could involve Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio, our national heroes who turn out to be more than just heroes. An appearance by Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao (Is he called Pacman because he made a Pact with someone?)

End wishlist.

Anyway, I think Trese Book 4 is coming out soon (November I think) and I am eagerly anticipating it's release. It's another highly recommended book and everyone should read it. Also, Budjette Tan writes another comics title, Precinto 13 and it's another great read which focus on Captain Guerrero's side of the story, a la Gotham Central by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka. I hope it gets included in the next Trese book.

End story.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Masters of Non-sequitur Rock

Parokya ni Edgar has always been a fun, happy-go-lucky band, never taking anything seriously. Their performances always become a ruckus. Their albums always become hits. Their songs always carry that signature Parokya happy (sometimes naughty) taste. When you listen to them, you know everything is for fun, nothing serious.

Their latest album does not stray from their musical credibility. "Middle-Aged Juvenile Novelty Pop Rockers" is a fun album as one can deduce from the name itself. But more than that, it is non-sensical. Everything is non-sequitur. Everything does not follow. Having said that, the album is a masterpiece on nonsensical terms (if there is such a thing) and is a product of a truly genius songwriting.

The first stroke of talent is showcased in their song "Orange". First and foremost, the topic is completely arbitrary, it is about a person's craving for an orange. The arbitraryness of this is even emphasized in the lyrics itself.

("Gusto kong kumain ng lemon/kahit ano kahit melon."
I want to eat lemon/ anything, even melon.)

They are able to make a song from a frigging orange! The melody is very catchy and could compete with OPM classics of Rey Valera or Basil Valdez. There's even a bit of cheesy words reminiscent of the 80 OPM's poetic lyrics.

("Patikim naman ng aking pangarap".
Let me taste my dreams.)

They also have a song entitled "Red Pants". And as you might expect, this song is about red pants and a man's story involving the aforementioned scarlet-tinted lower garments. Moving ahead.

In "Walong Baso", Parokya gives a health and wellness lesson to everyone. This of course refers to the 8 glasses of water that we need to drink everyday, which we all know since we are kids.

("Sapagkat walong baso ang dapat na maubos mo
Dahil sabi sa libro na kailangan daw ng tao
Ang tubig sa katawan halos 70%
Kung hindi mo yan alam malamang ikaw ay absent sa iskul."

Because 8 glasses is what you should drink
Because it says in the book that it is necessary
The water in our body almost 70%
If you don't know it, you're probably absent from school.)

But this song is another display of ingenuity. Sing this song in a bar or beerhouse and everyone would know the "other meaning" of the 8 glasses. The tune is reminiscent of "The Ordertaker", their rendition of System of a Down's Chopsuey.

In "Lolo Bye", the vocalist sings as if he is talking to someone and telling him/her to go to sleep.

("Malambot ang kama/ kukumutan na kita. Ipikit ang 'yong mata/ at wag mag-alala".
The bed is soft/ I will cover you with your blanket. Close your eyes/ and don't worry.)

The entire lyrics makes this a very sweet song, it is basically a lullabye. But it is only sweet if you are singing it to your child, or your girlfriend or wife. In another stroke of non-sequitur genius, they entitled it "Lolo Bye"; a play on Lullabye and Grandfather Goodbye. Suddenly the lyrics becomes very sad and melancholic. It is now almost a requiem. A farewell song. He is telling his grandfather to let go, to rest and sleep. By choosing the title, the song completely reverses its mood.

The mastery for creating amazing non-sequitur compositions culminate in the album's last song, "Pangarap Lang Kita", a reprise of PNE's collaboration with Happee Sy. But in this rendition, Vinci sings Happee Sy's part of the song. Which brings a very surprising twist and gives a different albeit deeper meaning to the song entirely. This version is more rock-sounding, with a helping of electric guitars and splash of drums added. Chito's part remains the same. But it is when Vinci sings when you just get awed by the bands' unique talent for composition. Vinci sings in a very deep voice that might just bring down Barry White or the Righteous Brothers. Yet he sings the lyrics specifically made for a woman with a very serious tone. Which makes a lot of implications. You can't not listen without seeing him as a gay, macho man singing for his secret love. You will feel uneasy or feel pity for this guy or perhaps afraid. The last part sees Vinci speaking Spanish words like a radio DJ or a DOM lover. I don't know what it means but it sure sound good.

All these songs are amazing compositions. All deserving a comprehensive and deep analysis before one can truly understand the real meaning behind the lyrics. Now add a sprinkling of their signature fillers, with the same level of non-sequitur words and sounds and you'll get a work of non-sequitur art that you can post on your non-sequitur museum.

Meaningless lyrics that could only attain their meaning from the interpretation of those who would listen, like Buddhist quotes. Lyrically nonsensical but structurally profound like Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Parokya ni Edgar at their finest. I like oranges.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Short Discourse on the Trajectory of a Chalk Projectile (Or how I lost a battle and how I wished it would have turned out)

During my college years as a physics undergraduate, I attended a chemistry class wherein the professor takes pride in putting her field of study in the pedestal. She is one of those professors who will fight to death to defend that her chosen field- in her case, chemistry- is the most important field of knowledge.

In one of our introductory classes, we were discussing chemistry in general as the central science. She discussed how all the other fields simply support the claims of chemistry.

So she was going over her class list and asking every student to debunk the notion that chemistry is the central most important science. But when the student answers, she would simply create another argument to prove that chemistry is indeed the central science.

So she started asking everyone until she arrived at me. She called my name, 'Mister --,. I raised my hand and stood up. 'You're a physics student. So how can you prove that physics and not chemistry is the most important field of science?'

I was sure that she would just negate everything i would say so i did not even think of a very elaborate argument. I simply said in a very non-convincing tone, 'In Physics, we study how the world works.'
She paused for a while and looked around the class and grinned. I was simply waiting for the ultimatum. Then she spoke, 'So, how does the world work?'

I knew that was coming all along. But i'm not in any position to argue with her so i simply answered, 'We're still studying it'. And that's it--the class eroded with laughter and she just smirked as if saying 'I rest my case'.
Some years after that fateful day, i look back and realize how a loser I was, not being able to fight for what i believe. One time i wondered what would become of me had i fought back. In fact i made a scenario of what I wish happened then.
She was looking at her class list when she calls my name. 'Mister --,. I raised my hand and stood up. 

'You're a physics student. So how can you prove that physics and not chemistry is not the most important field of science?'

'In Physics, we study how the world works.'

'So, how does the world work?'

And then I would say, 'According to rules.' She would just look at me and say 'Go on'.

'Everything in our physical world works according to rules devised by nature. How the earth revolves around the sun is governed by the Laws of Planetary motion. How some chemicals react with each other is governed the law of thermodynamics. When a ball is thrown, it follows a trajectory governed by the law of motion and gravitation. We study those things in physics. So, everything can be explained by physics from a planet revolving to a ball thrown.'

She was simply staring at me thinking of a very good rebound, for everyone from the class knew that she was on a very low position right now. And then she got up.

She asked in a very attacking tone, 'Ok so how would you solve this problem, if I throw this chalk to your face, will it hit you or not?' At that point her ears are becoming red with rage and defeat.

So I answered her matter-of-factly, 'There are two scenarios to that problem,' I said, 'One, if you are very much annoyed by the fact that you have been defeated; that chemistry is actually not the most important science, then you will throw the chalk and try to hit my face. However, two, if you are reasonable enough to accept those facts, then you will put that chalk back to the table and debate with the class in a very civilized manner or you could throw it somewhere else. Either way, I will not get hit by that chalk because you will not be able to put into consideration the following factors; First, air resistance provided by the huge ceiling fan above me. Second, the mass of that chalk which is definitely very small since it has low density. Third, the low initial velocity provided by your weak arms. And fourth, my speed of evasion. Did that answer your question?'
Yeah, I know it’s kind of made up and very improbable but one can dream, right?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Absence makes the heart grow

Movie Review for The Lovely Bones

I’m writing this on a dark night where my head has slowed down to a halt. I’m sleepy. My head is heavy with images. If I close my eyes, pictures linger in my mind. Image of dried-up roses. Surreal landscapes. A sinkhole. A model ship in a bottle. Teenaged retro-style girls. A serial killer. A doll house. Cornfields.

The Lovely Bones, a film by the great Peter Jackson, is in some ways a collage of unforgettable images. Just as the main character, Susie Salmon, tries to capture her life with her film camera, Jackson tries to capture and tell the story using a series of images or moments.

That heroic moment when Susie saved her brother’s life. That giggly moment when Ray first talked to Susie. That scary moment when Mr. Harvey invited Susie to his den under the cornfields.

And then those images after Susie’s death. Each scene depicts a very fantastic scenery– from a clear lake to a vast flower field. Or a winter wonderland. Or an autumn retreat. You will stop in awe with every set piece and you will admire the CG glory of it all.

The movie is worth watching if just for these amazing pictures. Storywise, there is not too much backbone to support it. You will know from the start that the narrator has been murdered. You will know a few minutes later who the murderer is. Hence you will not be given a chance to wonder nor a plot point to be curious at.

One could almost see the futility of Susie’s journey. What’s her purpose of staying? Why doesn’t she move on? What does she want? You’ll soon realize that she just wants her murderer to pay for what he did although we were not shown any indication on the film. (Or maybe she just want to kiss Ray first. I don’t really know.)

What is amazing though is how the theme of the film summed up nicely everything that happened and how Jackson has translated this to the screen. Towards the end, we were shown what happened to the people who knew Susie after her death. Her parents have moved on and became stronger. Her little sister grew up and found her love. Her murderer died of an accident. In the ending Susie narrates that these are the lovely bones that had grown from her absence. Moments that happened because of her death.

This gives a perfect explanation to the saying “Death is just the beginning”. Well, death may be the end for one person but it is a fresh new start to everyone else.

I read somewhere that death gives a new perspective to life. Perhaps, the film just want to show that every moment in one’s life gains a new meaning when death is factored in. Susie’s death is trivial– we were not even shown any grim funeral. Yet what we saw, the reactions to her death, those small moments have big impacts. Even scenes before her death were put into perspective. As photographs, they serve as memories, mirrors to her life as it has been.

One could say, the film has no deep story. But what it manages to show successfully are the moments that had grown from this lack thereof. Sometimes, absence makes things better–the way the town’s sinkhole in the movie has in a way defined the town’s lifestyle. The lovely bones that had grown around an absence.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Movie Review for Splice
For me, scifi stories have a very strange yet close connection with horror stories. Horror stories utilize our fear of the unknown, or of the abnormal or of the new. Scifi stories on the other hand utilize our curiosity for the unknown, our tendency to explain the abnormal or to understand the new.
Usually in Scifi/Horror stories, the scifi aspect provides the plot, the horror aspect is derived from the context.
In the movie Splice, the scientific plot is nothing but scary, two genetic scientists (Elsa and Clive) on a project of splicing DNA of various species into a single creature in the hopes of synthesizing useful products from these organisms. But pressured by their sponsor, the scientists began doing guerilla labwork and did the unthinkable– they spliced human DNA with their specimen (which they named Dren). What would follow is a very strange rendition of Oedipus complex.
The movie is full of bizarre twists and turns. As it turns out, Dren was ‘grown’ from the DNA of Elsa, which makes ‘it’ her daughter (although one could argue that it is her sibling or even just her clone). In the movie, Elsa and Clive treated her as if she was really their daughter. In another strange turn, sexual tension between Dren and Clive led them to have sex, which in a twisted way is just natural since Dren is Elsa and Clive loves Elsa. (Mind you, Elsa caught them doing the act just to add to the weirdness of it).
Now, Dren obtained some characteristics from those species where her DNA is spliced from. One such is the ability to change gender. Right after Clive and Dren have intercourse, Dren seemed to have died. But this appeared to be just a metamorphosis to becoming a male.
Soon after transformation, the male Dren started hunting the scientists. A chase occurs until Dren manages to rape Elsa and kill Clive.
The movie ends with Elsa, who seemed to have survived, sitting in a conference room with their sponsor where she signs a non-disclosure agreement. She then stands up and walks toward the window and we realize that she is pregnant. So, Dren who is Elsa’s ‘son’ now has a child with Elsa. That makes Elsa the bearer of her son’s child– or her grandchild.
As with any science-gone bad stories, the story revolved around a very noble cause. In this case that cause is creating a means to cure all kinds of diseases of humankind.
But as with any real stories, nothing comes out perfectly in the end. There is always a factor that would mess everything up, be it a greedy global company, a scientist taking things personally, the list goes on. That is the real world.
In the real world, throughout history, science has always been associated with horror. The Manhattan Project, the Nazi science etc.
It is important to note that the horror here is not really what science produces in itself. It’s not the nuclear bomb that we invent or the half-human, half-lizard that we create.
The horror here is that in reality we humans are so capable of doing much, much frightful things than these and that we humans actually have the frightening power to create, invent or discover things that may intentionally or unintentionally cause horrific events in our lives.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...