Tuesday, May 26, 2009

And All the Book Lovers Rejoiced!

:: And It Comes to an End::

After weeks of speculation, The Great Book Blockade comes to an end with President Gloria commanding the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Customs to stop the customs duty on imported books. HUZZAH! Score one for the common man. 

For those who are interested to the timeline and excellent summary of the events that happened, visit this link : The Great Book Blockade.

Much love to all the people who all the people who valiantly declared that books should be free (figuratively speaking of course) and to all the bibliophiles that made the movement possible. 

Free words, free speech, free nation.

::On the TV Couch::

Right now, watching Lie to Me, which is probably one of this year's intriguing TV series. Tim Roth delivers an excellent performance as the scientist slash detective able to read faces through miniscule gestures and facial expresssions, which gives the women the power tell whether the guys is lying when asked the question "Do I look fat?" (Answer: don't say anything  and flee the 

So far, the first 12 episodes are very well done, and with personal character scenes in-between, the series looks solid. Think of it as CSI without evidence but with just faces. Fascinating.

Also on the other end of the spectrum is The Unit. Testosterone laden action, this is definitely a guy TV serial. Features Special Ops team tackling several dangerous missions (duh) and trying to live a normal family life. While it might not sound much, but looking at the other selections, this is probably better than the usual comedic, action, slapstick etc. fare, and ranks up next to 24 in quality. Nicely done.

Will also plan to watch True Blood, a TV serial about a community of vampires, but I have mixed feelings about this. Will do a review once I finish Season 3&4 of the The Unit.

State of Mind: Bleary-ish
Song of the Day: Use Somebody by Kings of Leon
Book of the WeeK: Contact Harvest by Joseph Staten (Halo Novel)
Want or Need: More Sleeping Time

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Money for Words

Edited: Horrified, my wife screamed at me to edit some of the "controversial stuff" I posted, and looking back to what I've written, even I can say I was way too open with certain confidential items. So here's the edited version.

You probably heard it on the news, the radio or followed a link or two about the The Great Book Blockade. To sum it all up, our beloved government, seeing that they needed more income to upgrade their Large Starbucks Cappucino to Venti proportions during siesta time, have come up with a way to do this: by taxing foreign books. Yup, you heard me, reading suddenly have gotten a little more expensive.

It started with Twilight (yeah, sorry Twilight fans, but the series continues to wreak havoc upon mankind) coming in from the United States. A customs official, seeing the very large number of literature (I cringe to consider it Lit, but whatever. Sorry) coming in, decided to make an extra buck and ask the importer for tariff duties. Surprised, the importer didn't know there was a tariff involved, and paid the said duties and hurried off (possibly he didn't want to be seen in company with the books). That opened a big can of worms. Suddenly, every customs official began targeting foreign books and demanding tariff for them.

Here's the hulabaloo: The Florence Agreement, a UN Treaty in 1952, guarantees the free flow of educational, scientific, and cultural materials between countries and declaring all imported books should be duty free, with Philippines signature on it. A customs official declared that, after reading the agreement, only educational books should be exempt from duties. A reporter bellowed "You mean, everyone else in the last 50 years misinterpreted the agreement and you alone interpreted it correctly?!"

"Yes", the official said to the stunned media persons.

Well, if that doesn't get your blood boiling, what will? C'mon man, I know you gotta feed your ten children and you're still building your second mansion on a five acre lot, but applying duties from books?! Does the Customs Department plan to overthrow the Taliban in the most hideous group category? They're right on par with the Death Cults, the German SS and the Backstreet Boys, and this might just make them reach the top.

Right now though, we won't still feel it until after three months, when old stocks will run out. Soon, Archie Comics that costs P250 will probably be P1000, and if that's the case, I shudder to think of the graphic novel prices.

State of Mind: Passionate Rage
Song of the Day: I'll Follow You in the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie
Book of the Week: Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn
Want/Need: A Wrecking Ball through Customs Building

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Weekend at Bacolod

::The Bloody Road::

We came, we saw and we gave our best. Basically it means we got ourselves trounced silly. Me and my seven comrades got our first taste of a real national tournament, the L5R Kotei. And we did our best against the Philippines has to offer: the veteran players of Manila and Baguio, the old timers of Cebu and our hosts, team Bacolod. 43 players all in all. While we didn't win any major awards, we did get to snag a couple: Best Cosplay and Top 16 players (Greg came in 13th).

My final ranking was 3 wins and 4 losses. Not to shabby, considering the universe conspired against me to pit my skills versus the Overall Top 3, the top Phoenix guy and and my own worst nightmare: Two Crab Clan players.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the tourney very much, so much especially with the freebies and stuff. More details at my personal gaming blog: The Green Bunker.

::Book Hunter: The Bacolod Expedition::

During the Kotei lunch break I did get to enjoy another past time: browsing through Gaisano Bacolod's Booksale selection:
Rage of the Demon King by Raymond E. Feist: Before George R.R. Martin, there was Feist. Stil one of my favorite fantasy series, and this hardbound beauty comes at only P175. Very Nice.

Boogers Are My Beat by Dave Barry: This Pulitzer Prize winner defines the term "literary fun". One of my fave non-fiction columnists, he turns his attention to the follies in the US Taxing System, the jungle maze of Wal Mart, and things you should give to your wife (a chainsaw).

The One Tree by Stephen Donaldson: Continuing the story of Thomas the Unbeliever. Replacement for the Typhoon Frank disaster.

The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: If you ever watched the movie Apocalypse Now starring Marlon Brandon, this is the book that is based at. Both are a brutal and honest look at the depths of man, which at every chapter of the book spiralling down with the protagonist. One of books you should read at least once.

::The Angels Say Nay, The Demons Say Yay::

Got to watch Angels and Demons, and as a rule I will, as long as my patience holds out, never compare the book to the movie. So, as long as I'm in that ground, I get to enjoy the movie in question. After watching the movie, I must say I enjoyed it throughly. Yes you will complain that there's no depth like the book and no obscure references, but like I said, I'm leaving my complaints at the door. And talk all you want about the cool/bad ending and the way the movie tried to capture the book, but the highlight of the film for me was the fact they showed the Large Hadron Collider in play. Yes, that's just the geek in me.

The Large Hadron Collider is a real life machine, built in the borders of Switzerland in purpose of finding out the violations of symmetry of matter and anti-matter, additional sources of the quark flavour and difference of dark matter and dark energy. Yes, its all greek to me, but the thing that captured my imagination was that while they were trying to slam particles, they maybe accidentally create a black hole. And while the normal everyday population went around its own business, the science sector held its collective breath as the LHC first went online of September 2008, and test apprently went succesful because there would be a large chunk of earth destoryed if things went awry (think half of Europe).

In any case, I enjoyed the movie, and will again find time to read the book again (as I consider Angels and Demons superior to The Da Vinci Code).

State of Mind: Blearily Happy (I lacked sleep)
Song of the Day: One and Only by Nelly
Book of the Week: Boogers are my Beat by Dave Barry
Want/Need: L5R Celestial Cards

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Looking Forward With Anticipation

:::George is the Man!:::

Now that 2009 in half over, the other half promises to be one of the best halves in entertainment as several things that I wish to experience is most likely to happen this '09. First up, news that HBO has finally decided to start production on George R. R. Martin's acclaimed novels The Song of Ice and Fire. As fans of the series will know, this is an epic story spanning dozens of major characters over a land strifed by a vacant throne, each at a different viewpoint of each contender. From what I gathered, each volume would be enough for one season. If that's so, I'm looking at five seasons. Can't wait for this one, and with author at the helm (and with HBO's previous undertaking of Mist of Avalon), this TV show will promises to please both the fans and the mainstream audience.

:::There Will Be Blood:::

Also, coming this summer, the anime Blood the Last Vampire comes to a live action movie near you. And it stars the Korean movie My Sassy Girl actress Jeon Ji-hyun, and for that alone I gonna watch it on the big screen. Practically, I'm afraid it might suffer the Dragonball syndrome being a Japanese original but having Chinese and American actors with an American production (as opposed to Blood's having a Korean actress) but seeing the trailer, I hope it more than surpasses Dragonball Evolution, and moreso the debacle known as Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li.
And while most people would violently disagree (the female half most likely), at least the vampires here don't make sheep eyes. And attempt to cuddle you. And look vunerable. And sparkle. Especially the sparkling part.

:::Me and the Monkey:::

Another movie to look forward to is the comic book story "Y: The Last Man" by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. Imagine a world ravage by a unknown virus that wipes out every Y chromosome in the planet. The planet falls apart as society re-evolves, and reconstruct as women began running everything, from corporate businesses, religion and even the underworld. What was great about the series is that it shows how humanity reinvents itself to survive. Enter Yorick Brown and his monkey Ampersand, the last male beings in the entire planet. Actually, while Yorick and his simian companion are the fulcrum of the story, what happens around the world is what really shines in this series.

After dodging gigantic robots that transform into cars, Shia Lebeouf is slated to take the role of Yorick as he tries to make sense of the world gone mad and obviously female. If the production company doesn't muck this up, this could turn out as one of the best underestimated films this year. Much awaiting continues.

:::Book Hunter Log 051109: Regaining the Collection:::

It was a joyous event on that day, an important day known collectively as Booksale Stock Arrival. I've been to the store so many times these past year that the store clerks not only know our names, but also my book preferences: "Ser, meron naman tayo sci-fi dyan sa bandang kanto. Yung mga children's book ilalabas palang namin." Their definition of Sci-fi means both Sci-Fi and Fantasy, while childrens book means used comicbooks and the like. Anyway, I got a ton of books (what else is new?) and all while silently griping why people would want to throw these books away.

Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King - if you see this book, grab it. The only fantasy book the King wrote, and such a wonderful tale it was.
A Darkness of Sethanon by Raymond E. Feist - ever since Typhoon Frank, I'm trying to restore my collection. This series is one of the best I've ever read.
Earthborn by Orson Scott Card - Homecoming series number five, of which I only lacked number two.
Dragonwing by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman - Number one in the Death Gate Cycle, of which I'm also trying to complete.
Rise of the Ogre: Gorrilaz Biography - I've always been interested in Gorrilaz, and this hardbound coffeebook is perfect to browse through whilst listening to their tunes; not to mention its only P450.
Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn - an excellent sci-fi mystery slash action novel. Another replacement to T. Frank.
Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson - having heard excellent reviews I'm looking for Red Mars (1st) and Blue Mars (3rd) to complete the series .
Second Foundation and Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov - a definitive collection from the godfather of science fiction. Again recollecting.

::: The Celestial Era :::

After the Kotei tournament this weekend (three more days!!!) we'll looking on a new arc on Legend of the Five Rings. As any CCG old timer would know, L5R has been on the hobby spectrum for 15 years, and the second longest running CCG next to Magic: The Gathering. The previous story arc shows that the throne is empty, and all the Clans scrambling for a contender to command over the Empire. Last year, Dragon Clan won (through various worldwide torunaments and events) and now Empress Iweko I sits upon the celestial throne. Within months of her rule a new evil arises to threaten the whole of the empire, and this new story arc heralds the new edition: meaning new cards, new characters and new tournaments.

A story arc in L5R typically last for two years, so here's looking forward to another couple of years of great card design and gameplay, only from the best interactive CCG to date.

State of Mind: Kotei-static!
Song of the Day: Lala Song by Bob Sinclair ft. Sugar Hill Gang
Book of the Week: Imperial Guardman Omnibus by Various Authors
Want/Need: L5R Card: Wandering Budoka (edit: I just got one! w00t!)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cranky::Trekker::Kotei '09

So I was sick for most of the week, but that didn't stop me from watching a couple of movies. I saw Crank 2 at the height of my fever, and I laughed so hard that the snot I've been trying to supressed released itself sprayed the front row (which, thankfully, there was no one sitting there). The sheer absurdity, the balls out approach and treating the movie like some very long music video made Crank 2 one of my most enjoyable movies to date.

I won't argue that its nonsense; in fact I wholeheartedly agree. After seeing Versus by Beat Takeshi, Shoot 'Em Up starred by Clive Owen and original Crank 2, I ashamedly truly love the brilliantness of this movie. This is the movie that begs to be annoyed and hated at, but if you get past the initial extreme dislike, there is something bracingly fresh and original about it.

And it gets better. The second part of the movie throws all caution to the winds, and even part of plot goes with it, and ends up with everybody gunning everybody down while Jason Statham tries to climb a high voltage pole to recharge his heart. And this I can say his performance here is way much enjoyable then that crap movie called Transporter 3. Crank 2 has everything: guns, goons, hookers, porn stars, latinos, chinese triads, the whole lot. It even has David Carradine play a chinese mob boss, and with cameos like Ron Jeremy and Peter North, this movie is full of surprises.

Watch it and enjoy. Leave your sense out of the window and laugh out loud.

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I'm not a Trekkie. I'm more of a Star Wars fan, with its deep history, huge battles and a very large number of characters. And lightsabers man, plus Jedi and of course, Boba Fett. But after seeing Star Trek I wonder if I missed something.

But as much as I know little of Trek lore (just basics, more than enough from "Live long and prosper", Chekov is the youngest guy onboard Enterprise and that red shirts always die horribly but not enough to know what's Captain Kirks favortie food and what Spock dreams about), I throughly enjoyed the movie. I believe they have seamlessly crafted the old series to the new one and (this one is a Trek original) began a timeline in an alternate reality. So hardcore fans might be angered that all the Enterprise went through during the 80's, 90's, the new millenium, went zilch in that one moment.
That being said, the cast fit the characters like a glove, each contributed to a believable relationship between each other. I have reservations on the young Captain Kirk, but seeing him play the legend he does well surprisingly enough through ego and devil may care attitude. This is going to be one of the best movies this year, much better than Wolverine and way way better than the debacle that is Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li and Dragonball: Evolution.

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Legend of the Five Rings Kotei is just around the corner, and everybody is geared up to play in this annual event. Me and my gaming group are travelling to Bacolod to face off the best of the Philippines, namely from Manila, Baguio, Cebu and of course, hometown peeps who will be judging the event. The prize: to get your name on a card and probably benefitting your clan.

I've been playing L5R for the better part of the year, so more or less I think I have a shot of the top 16. I play Mantis Clan, and looking at the other Kotei results over the world, no Mantis has ever yet won a Kotei (there are 10 other clans vying) so that's a big obstacle to conquer.

Not that I have illusions on my skill, top 4 or 8 would be enough to feed my ego. And with a little more than 30 players, its a reasonable target to conquer. So we'll see this weekend how it goes.

State of Mind: Racking Cough and Snotty Sick
Song of the Day: The Awakening by Switchfoot

Book of the Week: The Diving Bell and Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Want or Need: Grim Angus, Hordes Trollkin Warlock

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Resurrection Mortis

It has been awhile since my last blog entry. I could lie that because of natural disasters,, momentous events and personal life intruding I couldn't blog a single entry since... (looks at the previous entry) dear God, June 2008?! Well, okay almost a year has past since I blogged about anything. And yes, its true that because of natural disasters, momentous events and personal life intruding that I didn't have time to post a single entry. I'll recap by the months.

June: Since I got transferred from my bedroom to my sala, I got zilch for internet connection. And I have no privacy whatsoever. And since its the sala, I got to experience again the wonders of "Lights out!" at 10pm. 
July: Typhoon Frank. Need I say more? Let's say the house got flooded, half of my book collection got destroyed (read: 500+ books). We transferred to the next house (my auntie) and stayed there for a couple of weeks.
August: Still in mourning for my lost books. No internet connection for another couple of months. And still sleeping on the sala. Plus, preparations were made for the wedding.
September: More preparations as the countdown comes closer. The cake, the dress, the barong, the venue, the caterers, the rings, the people attending, the people involved, the people who were not invited and will be ignored etc.
October: The wedding commences. As the groom (I did tell you it was my wedding right?), I was led to the altar like sheep to a slaughter. Ever wonder why the bride looks radiant and the groom always looks slightly constipated? Now I know.
November: Preparations were made for the honeymoon. Preparations were made for living conditions. Preparations were made for paying the wedding bills (my eyebrows shot to the heavens on the final tally). 
December: Paris, Milan, Florence, Rome. The 'backpacking' honeymoon. Learned a lesson: Never, ever bring a trolley bag to Europe. If you must, make sure it has arm slings to carry on your back.
January: Preparations were made for paying the honeymoon trip. My jaw dropped straight into the ground. Also visitors for the yearly Dinagyang Festival. Plus it was my birthday. Whoopeedo.
February: Getting into the vibe of living in two houses. Half the week is mine, the other half is hers and we wrestle for the odd day. Sometimes, we had drinking contests but I soon stopped once I figured out she was cheating by pouring the beer to the dogs.  Also, it was her birthday.
March: All business. Another major change is coming and, suffice to say, it will be life changing. Also planned a holy week trip. Lastly, got invited to write in a local magazine and maybe the local newspaper.
April: The Great North Luzon Trip! One car, six friends, six days from Manila to Ilocos Norte, then going south from Laoag to Vigan to Baguio etc. Personal favorites: The Bangui Windmills, the House of Juan Luna and the Streets of Vigan. Also the Payao Church, Unesco Heritage Site!!!
May: Thinking about writing again (since I'm doing magazines and newspapers) and actually doing it. Also, L5R Kotei is this month. Plus, it might be that one of my dreams will come true: my very own store.

Okay, so that's in the nutshell. I really would like recap all but now I wish to focus on the future. So, again barring natural disasters, momentous events and personal life, I'm back for good. See you all on the net.

State of Mind: Fresh yet Slightly Overwhelmed
Song of the Day: Beautiful Mess by Jason Mraz
Book of the Week: Flip: The Guide to World Domination by Various Artists
Want/Need: Trollblood Champion Box