Wednesday, July 07, 2010

More or Less Alive...

Things have been ... hectic.

I have been to Korea, China, Thailand and Japan, with several travels to Manila and Cebu in between, in the last six months. All work related, sad to say.

The company that I work in is on the verge of opening two or three more stores this year. We had just opened Cebu branch a couple of months back.

My in-laws house is in the process of renovation and I have been helping out somewhat when I have the time.

Internet connection has been fuzzy these last couple of months (30mb torrent download: 1yr 7mo 3hrs...arrrgh).

On the bright side, I still get to read on the wee hours of morning when the voices in my head are too loud for me to get any shut-eye.

Still, that's something I guess.

On the reading list:

Haruki Murakami "Dance, Dance, Dance".
Kazuo Ishiguro "Nocturnes"
Ryusonuke Akutagawa "Rashomon."
Dan Abnett "Gaunt's Ghost Omnibus: The Lost."
Terry Prachett "Unseen Academicals"
Robert Kirkman "The Walking Dead."
John Scalzi "The Ghost Brigades"
Bill Willingham "Fables: War and Pieces"

On the must watch list:

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
A Dangerous Method
Green Hornet

New Games:
Dragon Age Origins (PC)
Dawn of War II (PC)
Runebound (Boardgame)
Arkham Asylum (Boardgame)
Legend of the Five Rings (CCG)
Vampire: the Eternal Struggle (CCG)
A Game of Thrones (LCG)

For now, I'm more likely to update my status at Facebook (Add me up if you like) than here. I'll get back to blogging once my workload comes clear next month ... hopefully.

I need a time stop.

State of Mind: Blurred Vision (where are my glasses?)
Book of the Week: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Song of the Day: "Billionaire" B.O.B. (shoot me now).
Looking for: R.E.S.T.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser...

:::Down Again into the Rabbit Hole:::

Despite misgivings, I actually like Tim Burton's Alice in the Wonderland. While the plot is so-so, I always understand that Alice in the Wonderland is a character driven story, from the detached Cheshire Cat to the insane Mad Hatter; to the diabolical Queen of Hearts to the enigmatic Caterpillar. What stole the scene in the movie though was the Knave of Hearts. The instant you see him in the screen, your mind immediately registers "evil bastard". And this confirms your suspicion after he gave false promises to the bloodhound in return for tracking Alice.

I always like Helena Bonham Carter as an actress, especially if she stars in any Tim Burton film. Being the Queen of Hearts was a joy to watch, and just as I imagined her from the book: overbearing, paranoid and power mad hungry. I think the nearest correct interpretation was the March Hare, who undoubtedly is much more insane than the Mad Hatter. And as I said before, the Knave of Hearts was pretty cool to watch, and Crispin Glover delivers another solid role. Creepy Thin Man strikes again! 

There were a couple of slightly weird voices though. Alan Rickman gave his voice as the Blue Caterpillar, but you shake that feeling that it's actually Prof. Snape high on drugs and giving you weird advice ("Follow me to the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Potter ... I mean Alice, sorry"). And it was surprising to discover the Jobberwocky has Christopher Lee's voice, and almost wished that he had Nazghul as back-up for his final fight with Alice. NOW that would have been a battle scene.

The movie is not a remake from the old Disney cartoon, nor it is adapted from the book; rather it is the imaginary continuation of the two books that Lewis Carroll's books, a what-if story if you will, in this case Alice going back again for the last time. If there's any gripe in the story, I could say that since it was an original script, it could have gone longer, thus improving the plot and story more. The last battle looks a little hurried for my taste. But then again, this is a Disney film, and with today's kids small attention span, I think they made it just right for their target audience. Here's hoping for a Director's Cut with extended scenes.

Slightly Off Topic Rant: Can people at least please learn to shut up in the theater when the movie is on? I really don't need your varied opinions as to why Johhny Depp is more cuter in another movie, or hear a blow-by-blow account on what's happening on the screen. Good lord, as I didn't want to get into a fight because I'm with my wife and sister-in-law, this is the first time I have to move three times to find a spot that's relatively quiet. Have you people no shame?

:::The Dead Jungle Book:::

Stephen always writes some very powerful stories, but for most of his stories you have to have your mind clear. Which not advisable after several grueling days in the office. I think I got as far as Chapter 7 till I lost track on the varied characters. So I sadly shelved the Stand and took out a book with an almost similar genre: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

I always like Neil Gaiman as one of my favorite authors, and reading The Graveyard Book reaffirms that. Loosely based on Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book, it revolves around the story of Nobody Owens, who survives an assassination attempt as a baby. He then grows up in a graveyard and has the ghosts of the area as his teachers, mentors, friends and family. 

It then tells the story of his life till he reaches young adult age, and all the while learning skills on both the living and the dead. Pretty nice story, and in the end, gives you a message that life is too short, enjoy it the fullest. Me likey. 

:::The Great Wall:::

While I'm not really talking about that HUGE thing in China (although I'm going there in a couple weeks for my second visit), I'm talking about writer's block. It's always been a goal of mine to write for the Palanca Awards, and every year I get sidetracked as not having time to sit down and create something. This year though, though I think I'm finally free to do something about it, and now the next step crushes me like my brain being crushed after hearing the words "Hi! I crush you, you know."

Good lord.

Anyhow, what I meant to say is I have writer's block. Oh, yeah I have tons of ideas, for years now, but they don't go anywhere. Some start at the beginning and sputter to oblivion, other appear in the middle suddenly and just trail off somewhere. Still others, clearly have an ending, but the start and the middle.

It's becoming a bit of an obstacle, and hopefully my mind will just stop fighting, put down those guns and knives, settle down united on just ONE idea. Please, grey matter, violence is not an option.

State of the Mind: Fuzzy Thoughts
Song of the Day: Castaway by Franco
Book of the Week: Hellboy: Collected Stories by Various Authors
Want or Need: Several Days of Focusing. 

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Full Moon Sways, Gently in the Night of One Fine Day

:::Blame it on Me:::
First of all, I blame visiting to Makati Square. Then, I blame Facebook.
I haven't been blogging much lately because of these two reasons. Permit me to expound. I decided to go to Makati Square to look for some interesting TV series to wile my nights away after the deary hours of office. Divine intervention intervened, and I found myself scrounging on the second level basement floor looking for some anime series. Suffice to say, I bought enough to last me three months of regular watching.
Meanwhile, I succumbed to insanity and began playing games at Facebook. Lack of good games to play (and with both my PC and Xbox 360 "disabled") made me take on the apps, and now I'm collecting cards over in Warstorm, playing king at Kingdoms of Camelot and exploring dungeons over at Dungeons and Dragons Mini Adventures. At the very least, I am NOT playing the abyss known as Farmtown. I saw my wife pick up this game and I literally seen her glued to the monitor, eyes never leaving the screen and whispering diabolical mantras like "...must farm strawberries..." I think there was a slight foaming in the mouth, but thatcould be just bad lighting.
At least my games take just a few minutes to play, just enough to get my gaming fix, and then watch an episode or two in the TV, and then spend the night reading. Nothing beats a good day when you're in the bed, reading a good book, eating a cookie or two, and listening to the unearthly screams of the wife who just found out that her harvest is ruined. Ah, married life is bliss.

:::Anime Countdown:::
I've finished Beck, an anime about a boy joining a rock. Not your typical hack and slash/romance/adventure series, it chronicles how rock bands are formed, what do they go through, and how do they survive to become mainstream stars. Not everyone's cup of tea I know, but I hold special reason to watch this since I used toplay bass guitar in a band, and I can empathize with they go through. Bad news is that it's only one season, but the good news is they're going to release a live action movie! Now I can't wait for that one.
After hearing so many good things about the series, I decided to watch next Gundam 00. And I must say, take away the mechas (read: robots) in the series, and you'll find a very political story. And it's all serious stuff. Wars are ugly, politicians backstabbing, lots of hidden agendas. If you like world wide politics, I can recommend these series to you. I'm finishing the last episodes of Season One, and will probably go into Season Two by the end of the week.
After that, I'll probably choose between Canaan (assassin story, amazing gunplay), The Tower of Druaga (fantasy like Record of Lodoss War) orValkyrie Chronicles (Special Operations Force). Life is good.

So me and the missus finally had a vacation in very cold Korea (-7C!!!) and had a lot of fun. We stayed there for a week, got to visit the DMZ (good lord you people are paranoid!), ate a lot of good food (what do mean we have to cook our food?!) and generally had a fun frolic in the snow. The Koreans over there are very polite, helpful, and generally no nonsense (not unlike the kids who come here to study in the Philippines; the tour guide explained to us those were country bumpkins and not "cultured"). The food is good, though generally it depends on how well you can cook. Most of the restaurants we went into have built in cooking pans, so most the Korean fare are either boiled, grilled or steamed.
The high point for me was watching Nanta, a world acclaimed cooking theather show, (kinda like Stomp, but in the kitchen). The low point was me forgetting my battery pack for my camera (epic fail on my part). The silver lining was looking for a replacement battery, and going inside a store full of old cameras. Like Mamiyas, Hasselbrads and Rolleiflexes! Seeing the price made me balked at buying one even though it uses medium format film, not the regular 35mm we have these days, just for collection purposes.
All in all, it was a good vacation, and made me want to visit Korea again, if only for just one day to visit that store again and get some good stuff. And definitely in the summertime.

:::Bookhunter Log 030210:::
The Stand by Stephen King, Complete and Unabridged.
Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King
Conqueror's Pride by Timothy Zahn
The Frank Herbert Collection by Frank Herbert
This Year's Best Science Fiction, 6th Edition edited by Gardner Dozois

I'm starting The Stand tonight, and I've been waiting for the unabridged edition to come out.
The Frank Herbert Collection is a joy to buy, as the author of the critically acclaimed Dune has some very good stories to tell. I like Timothy Zahn ever since reading Icarus, and is probably the one who eased me gently to appreciate science fiction. All in all, a very good haul.
:::Percy Rant:::
I have raved about Percy Jackson series last entry, so it gives me great honor to say that the movie suck ass. Where is Clarisse? and Dionysius? and Annabeth's invisible cap? And how the hell Percy came out like a douche?
Ok, I understand that I was a little hype up and got disappointed, but in retrospect even if I lowered my expectations and standards, it still comes out idiotically at least. You don't leave out major characters, and Clarisse and Dionysius are very important characters. So important that Clarisse plays some major parts in the books! It's like leaving out C3po and R2D2 in Star Wars.
Again, don't watch this movie. Buy the book and enjoy.

State of Mind: Blurry Happy
Song of the Day: Moon on the Water by Beat Crusaders ft. Sowelu
Book of the Week: The Stand by Stephen King
Want/Need: Call of Cthulhu: Arkham Asylum

Monday, February 01, 2010

End of January, with Wishes

:::Greek Mythology Kicks Ass:::

I've just finished the Percy Jackson series (5 books in 6 d
ays! It's that good!) and now looking forward to read again the original greek myths, from Kronos and his kids to Homer to even the small short stories of Demeter, Pan and Hestia. One thing I like about Greek mythology (I have been reading them since I was a wee boy) is that like the Norse, most of the stories are tragic, which in turn makes them lifelike and real. While I have a soft spot for Nordic Gods, nothing beats the Greek in massive scale and pure epic butchery ... and some of these battles are crafted in poems.

The most recent Nordic tale I followed was American Gods by Neil Gaiman, but that doesn't really count since all the gods in all myths are there as well (though Odin and Loki were central to the story).

The Percy Jackson books I can highly recommend to anyone who enjoys greek myths, youngblood stories, or both. Two thumbs here.

Now, if only the movie "Lightning Thief" wouldn't suck that bad ...

:::In The Grim Dark Future, There is Only War:::

One of the reasons I haven't been updating lately is that I trying to read all my
backlog of books I bought last year. Before the Percy Jackson series, I read Dan Abnett's E
isenhorn Omnibus (Xenos, Malleus, Hereticus) and
Ravenor Omnibus (Ravenor, Ravenor Returned, Ravenor Rogue). Both stories are a kind of continuation, but the first three covers the tale of Inquisitor Eisenhorn, and the second three continues with his disciple and former student Inquisitor Ravenor.

Without saying, this is one of the best science fiction yarns I have read in a long time (Ok, so one year ago it was Gaunt's Ghost, but it's also written by Dan Abnett). Without spoilers, if you're going to read this, get ready for a rollercoaster ride of treachery, deceit and hopelessness. Because the setting for story is Warhammer's 40K universe, suffice to say there are no fluffy bunnies.

The heroes don't fit your typical stereotype. Indeed, Eisenhorn is one of the most singleminded individual that I read about. There can be no compromise, even in the face of having your soul ripped out and considered a outcast, a pariah in your own order. Ravenor is also human, even if he crippled. As one of the most intelligent Inquisitors in that age, he can be blinded by duty.

Even if you don't know the 40K universe, I heartily recommend this book. While it might take a while for some people to understand the phrases (vox-channels, the warp, daemonhosts etc) the book comes alive on its own.

:::Plans for the Year:::

1. The Store!
2. Palanca Awards!
3. More time to write.
4. More time to blog.
5. More time to take photos.
6. Be more geeky as always.
9. Have a kid. Really. Twins would be better.
10. Produce a game.

As it is, if I can just accomplish half, then I'm a happy man. A 30 year old man at that.

State of Mind: Abuzz With Thoughts
Now Reading: Still looking for the next one
Now Listening: Kings and Queens by 30 Second to Mars
Want/Need: Moar Ideas!

Monday, January 18, 2010

And ... I am OLD.

I suppose that it's inevitable.

I could rant and rage that turning a certain age is a milestone. But I won't. Because, when the clock struck 12 am, I began feeling ...  nothing. I did not self combust, flew up in the air, get struck by lightning or made noisy sounds in the bathroom. Just nothing. 

Well, perhaps just a little tired because I took a 3 hour drive from Kalibo, Aklan. But more or less, just meh.

I remember theorizing that time is essentially an effortless river of life, with it's small nooks and crannies of obstacles and the sheer number of creeks and streams of possibilities. And if you look ahead, the waters are raging, full of vim and vigor. Yet, if you look behind, it becomes calm, serene even. 

That's how I look at life, always going forward, hitting the occasional stone, but nevertheless moving forward. And sometimes looking back, and seeing far beyond, perhaps in glorious surise, or in clear blue skies of infinity.

So I look into my life, and while there are some things that I regret, I find that I cherish more things happily. Things could have been better, but if I didn't go through life roughly I probably wouldn't end like I am now: more wiser and more intelligent (yet still not healthy! Dammit!).

It's true that the more experiences you have (and I'm saying this as both good and bad experiences) the more able you are to paddle through life. And I'm always proud to say I have a cynical yet forgiving view of human nature. 

So maybe I'm wrong. Maybe, when the clock struck 12, in the deepest pits of my psyche, my soul screams out "So what?!"

Everything has changed. Nothing has changed.

Here's to me, at 30. 

State of Mind: Groggy, yet Slightly Euphoric (must be the late night Pepsi)
Book of the Week: Eisenhorn Omnibus: Xenos, Malleus, Hereticus by Dan Abnett
Song of the Day: Dancing With Myself by Billy Idol
Want/Need: A Game of Thrones Core Set