Wednesday, December 31

One Last Look: 2008

T'was the Year of the Superhero Movie. After tons of disappointing drivel like Superman Returns, 2008 saw some of the best comic-to-film translations yet. Iron Man, Incredible Hulk and The Dark Knight have laid the foundation for superhero films to rise even higher and greater than before. With X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Watchmen looming, I can't wait to see comic book movies can accomplish.

T'was the Year of Sequels both crappy and cool. Rambo was bloody awesome, while Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was... not.

T'was the Year of Big Endings. This year saw the end of one of the best animated series I have ever seen, with the closing of Avatar: The Last Airbender. 60 Episodes of Awesomeness culminated in a finale that truly lived up to expectations. Metal Gear Solid 4 came after years of waiting, and finished the Saga of Solid Snake in a big, big way. Metal Gear may continue on without him, but Snake will live on forever. SNNNAAAAAAAAAAKKKKEEE!!!

T'was the Year of the Apple Gadgets. My first-gen iPhone lasted me well into the third quarter of the year, and it's actually still around (with Mom). But I wasn't Apple-less at any point; I use a Macbook Pro at work, I bought an iMac for use at home, and eventually topped it all off with a 2nd Gen iPod Touch. What's next? If a spiffier, cooler Apple device arrives next year, I'll surely be on the lookout.

T'was the Year of the Game. This was the time that I really knew I am a gamer through and through, and I probably will be until the day I die. Gaming has never been as awesome as it is these days, with HDTVs and HiDef making the experience truly a feast for the senses. I can't wait to see what great games and titles are in store in 2009.

T'was the Year of Jet-setting! Yeah, in less than a month's time, I found myself in another country twice in 2008. First in Bangkok, Thailand, and then a couple of weeks later in Taiwan. It was for work, but man, staying in posh hotels and living it up was damn fun.

T'was the Year of Overtime! Let me say this- I don't think I ever went home with the sun in the sky in 2008. Pitches kept me busy day after day, week after week. But despite it all, it just made time move fast and I enjoy a challenge. Better yet, I think we won more pitches this year than any before, so it was all worth it. Work won't be any easier next year, but what the heck... it's a living.

T'was the Year of the Ninja Girl! And hopefully, with Mangaholix and Kriss Sison behind her, Michiko Yamashita will continue to adventure on in 2009.

It was an interesting year, but I have to say... I'm glad it's over. Onwards into 2009!
Looking Back

Here I am, typing away in The Sanctum, where I've been vegging out for the past week. Due to the current clime of holiday traffic and crowds, I have decided to just quit cold turkey with any idea of venturing into malls. Staying home and just Staying Still is the Thing, but that doesn't mean I'm meditating on some higher truth... actually I'm just enjoying the stuff I've squirreled away all these past months but never really got into. Actually, there's so much stuff I doubt I'll finish them all by the time work begins again, but hopefully I'll make a big dent in the backlog.

Anyway, the past year. Man, the past year. It wasn't the best of times. But that's for the world in general, I guess. For me... well... it was a year of working and working and living and working and just getting along. As usual, I got along fine. I have stuff to be thankful for- in work, basically having a pretty great job and a great workplace I continue to enjoy going to and people I enjoy being around with. That's all you can ask for in this challenging economic bunghole we're all in. The next year won't be any easier, but well, it should be cool to keep the thing working as long as we can, as best as we can.

For me, the Comic scene wouldn't outwardly be anything special- I didn't publish any comic by myself. However, I can probably say that this year was my most successful in my comic 'career', thanks to Mangaholix, who let me create Ninja Girl KO! with my art master partner Kriss Sison. Hopefully 2009 will see more and more adventures of Michiko and Anton reach more readers here and, well, wherever. Even so, I STILL do hope to do other stuff with pen and page, so wish me luck. There's a comic yearning to break free into the wild from my head, I just need to tear it out and give it... wings.

There are other stuff too. I'm looking forward to games, comics, movies and other fun stuff in 2009. What's the next cool gadget I can get into? Will there be a new iPhone? A new Do-it-All device? Man, I think we're all going to be blown away by the stuff coming based on what came last year.

Yeah it's going to be hard next year, but hey... it's always hard. What else is new. Just the New Year, and whatever we have before us. That's all we have, and all we need. See you in 2009, everyone.

Friday, December 26

Rainy Christmas

Perhaps fitting for the way the whole year has gone, Manila saw a rainy, sodden Christmas. Not much in the way or sound or even feeling of festivity from Christmases Past. It was more subdued, less extravagant and more introspective, I believe. The economic crisis, a corrupt, ruthless regime that's filthy and incompetent from top to bottom, and a puzzling frequency of fires has taken it's toll. Yeah, it's still Christmas. Still, Filipinos want to have their Noche Buena feasts and gifts and stuff. But a bit quieter this time.

Not really a biggie for me... we've always had a simple but hearty dinner every Christmas Eve, and that's all we need. Despite it all, I am so happy that I'm still around, and this big chance to just chill, pause and rest for quite a while is something that I treasure. Just some Me Time, some time to savour and just BE without something looming in a couple of days. Bliss, in spite of it all.

Let's be thankful for small miracles, for life and our loved ones. That's all we need.

Thursday, December 4

Death Becomes Them

It's like Harry Potter... with SCYTHES.

What is it with entertainment and its fascination with DEATH? There are quite a lot of movies, comics and anime that have a big focus on the Grim Reaper, the Great Beyond, Davy Jones' Locker and What Have You. Meet Joe Black, Death Note, Bleach... maybe its an unconscious way for us to be desensitized towards dying. I mean, if Death was a hot albino Goth chick, you wouldn't be that afraid now, would you?

Anyway, such matters aside, my latest anime fixation is yet another title that deals with death. Soul Eater is an action anime based on the manga by Atsushi Okubo and produced by Studio Bones and Square Enix of Japan. It's all about the adventures of students of the Shinigami Weapon Meister Vocational School, or Shibusen for short. Think of it like Hogwarts, complete with gangs of young students and oddball teachers... but instead of wands and brooms (although you might find such wizardly things around), you're more likely to find them swinging katana or even brandishing high caliber firepower. Shibusen specializes in the training of humans who have the ability to turn into weapons(!) and the ones who will actually wield them in battle. Their targer- other humans who are so evil that they have been turned into demonic beings known as the Eggs of the Demon God. As the story goes, any such Egg-head has the capacity to eventually turn into the Demon God, or Kishin, himself, and lay waste to the world. To prevent that crisis from happening is the ultimate goal of Shibusen, it's headmaster Shinigami (a comical Grim Reaper Himself) and the three groups of heroes upon which the series revolves.

The main heroes of Soul-Eater are the members of three groups of Weapons and Meisters (Masters). Maka Albam seems to be the main heroine; a long-legged, cute and over-achieving young girl whose specialty is using a nasty scythe. Her weapon parter is Soul Eater Evan, or Soul for short, a spiky-haired and spiky-toothed teen for whom being cool is top priority. Maka and Soul seem to be total opposites (she's serious and driven, he's cynical and laidback), but they're a pretty good team particularly because they care for each other selflessly.

The second team is the ninja duo of the Meister Black Star and his walking Ninja Arsenal, Tsubaki Nakatsukasa. Black Star is yet another spiky-haired shorty, albeit a ninja warrior of great potential power. Unfortunately he's also got the world's biggest ego and he can't seem to resist announcing to the world his entrance before diving into combat, often with disastrous results. Though he can make even Naruto cringe, he's inexplicably likeable, and no one can resist the cuteness and undying patience of the lovely, long-suffering Tsubaki.

Finally, there's the team of Death the Kid and his twin pistols, Liz and Patti Thompson. Death the Kid, or 'Kid' is, literally, Shinigami's son- the fruit of the Grim Reaper's loins. He's dignified, slick, mannered and... possessed of the most severe case of Obsessive Compulsive disorder ever. Totally consumed by the idea of symmetry, just seeing anything uneven or imbalanced can send him into convulsions. Thankfully, his two Weapons, the ditzy Patti and the level-headed Liz, can usually reign in his bouts of disorder depression. Despite being technically a God of Death himself, Kid has decided to slog it along with the other student Meisters of Shibusen to hunt down evil souls and keep the Kishin from reemerging.

Soul Eater is a pretty funny, often light-hearted show with some pretty impressive art and animation quality, fluid action scenes and some wild characters. The world is a wacky mix of fantasy and reality, a stylized battlefield where Meisters and their Weapons hunt down evil souls based on real world villains (Jack the Ripper and Al Capone have already been found and Eaten) and do battle with mysterious and powerful witches dedicated to causing chaos in the world. But deep down, it's also about teen angst, growing pains, friendship and family. With Scythes.

So if you're looking for a cool action anime title to get into, you may want to check out Soul Eater at your local anime dealer.

Tuesday, November 25

Komikon and Mangaholix Presents #7 Wrap-up

Available now in National Bookstore branches all over.

Last Saturday, I attended the fourth Philippine Komiks Convention or Komikon 2008. As usual, this annual event was held at the Bahay ng Alumni at the University of the Philippines in Diliman (and as far as I'm concerned, that's where it should stay). As usual, it was a day of milling crowds, rows and rows of comics (most of them indie and local publications), the usual suspects of longtime local comic creators/artists/personalities and a budding new crop of young grafictionists wanting to break into the local comic publishing biz.

Unfortunately this year found me without any publication of my very own, though of course my work in Mangaholix Presents was present in full force. As usual though I found myself being asked when the next Angel Ace book will be coming out. As I told them, it's still in the works. Yes, I'm still intending to release the definitive, compleat, final Angel Ace book. We'll see. Next year.

For the most part though, being untied to any particular booth or function I had the luxury to just mill around with the crowd, to check out this or that shelf, pick up this or that indie and just sweat it out happily. I picked up quite a few things, so that should be fun. I met up with komik comrades Ian Cang, Kriss Sison and the Groundbreakers, Carl Vergara, Budjette Tan, Ka-Jo Baldisimo, Elbert Or, Jaime Bautista, Gerry Alanguilan and of course Arnold and Cynthia Arre. Everyone was for the most part busy as bees till the Kon finished at about eight in the evening.

Happily, business was pretty brisk- as far as I know, copies of Issue 7 of Mangaholix Presents sold out in the late afternoon, as did copies of Budj's Trese. Carl's appearance at the Visprint booth also boosted sales of Zsa Zsa. That's the great thing about the Komikon- people are there for the comics, first and foremost... the odd cosplayer regardless.

Once again, I found myself going away from the Komikon refreshed and reinvigorated. Hopefully next year, same time, we'll have tons more Mangaholix and Ninja Girl KO as well as a book of my very own on offer. We'll see. For now, let's leave it at a nice feeling that at least once again, the Komikon proves that love for komics is not lacking in Manila.

Tuesday, November 18

Graphic Novel Review: Martial Law Babies

The latest opus from Arnold Arre takes us back a generation...

It's been a while since the last project from local master grafictionist, Arnold Arre, but the wait has been worth it. You really can't predict what Arn has up his sleeve. Last time, it was a tribute to tagalog action movies/local fantasy with Andong Agimat. This time, it's a decidedly less magical and whimsical tale- in fact, you can't get any more real with this. Martial Law Babies is a look back at Arnold's (and incidentally, my) origins. It's the often not-so-simple story of a bunch of friends who grew up in the 70s and into the present day.

While the story follows the characters' intertwining plots and interactions, the real stars of the book are the various anecdotes, experiences, ironies, in-jokes, games, music, moods and quirks of the decades they go through. And all made all the more funny and ironic looking back at it all now.

While the characters are mostly fictional or at least fabricated from various sources or inspirations (as far as I know), it's clearly Arnold's voice speaking throughout. It's part journal and diary (far earlier than the blogs of today), part love letter, part confession, part validation, part rant, part sermon, part comedy, part tragedy... and all real. The emotion invested in the pages is heartbreakingly sincere, and that's what makes this work easily Arnold's best so far. The pages also reflect his maturity as a storyteller in pictures, mixing panels with prose in some instances, and using a more graphic and sketchy style in lieu of the super-detailed art he is capable of to convey more emotion and mood rather than minute detail.

You can't expect any whimsical, happy-happy-joy-joy endings in this one, which is admittedly pretty much the same as in real life. I actually found MLB to be extremely dark in parts, and a high amount of angst which I actually find a much for if it be something we'd characterize for our generation. But that's just optimistic me talking. Perhaps it's simply because the story's ending isn't written yet. Or it's something we make ourselves. Anyway, I'll be sure to grill Arnold about his latest masterpiece when I collar him at the Komikon. Heheh.

Martial Law Babies is now available at bookstores and Comic Quest branches in the Metro. Go. Get. Now.

Wednesday, November 5


It's done. Barack Obama makes history today as the first African-American to hold the highest position in the United States of America.

Should be very interesting to see what happens next.

Good stuff. Congratulations, America. First step to a better world, hopefully.

Tuesday, October 21

Creepy Planet

I love getting creeped out. That's pretty much the reason why I love shows like Ghost Hunters. Another show, on the same Sci-Fi Network, is Destination Truth, another documentary/reality show in the vein of Ghost Hunters (in fact, the host of DT has appeared as a guest on GH). Whereas Ghost Hunters concentrates on the adventures of The Atlantic Paranormal Society as they investigate various locales in the United States purported to be haunted or beset by paranormal goings-on, Destination Truth is all about mysterious phenomenon, monsters and local legends from all over the world.

This pretty much entails having imposingly tall but amiable host Josh Gates running around the globe with his team of investigators, visiting various countries and looking for a rumored boogeyman. Pretty much invariably, this boils down to the show's host and company (awkwardly or hilariously) interfacing with the locals, meeting up with 'witnesses' or specialists on the monster-of-the-show, and then trekking to the remote location where the creature/object of their hunt is said to lurk. What follows in the last third of the episodes is usually a hodgepodge of night-vision footage as the team encounter eerie sounds, blurry dark shadows and creepy atmosphere.

For the most part, footage and evidence found is inconclusive and vague, and suspense often occurring not due to a face-to-face meeting with any monster but due to someone slipping on a log, seeing a big bug or normal, non-supernatural animal. Still, the atmosphere is usually always creepy in that Blair Witch sort of way. In other words... very similar to Ghost Hunters, just all about monsters and more world-spanning. In the end, it's all a little bit Globe Trekker/Lonely Planet travelog, but with a creepy twist, which I thoroughly enjoy, despite the overall light tone, campiness and fact that it's all in a tongue-in-cheek way, non-committal but intriguing. Just good, clean creepy fun. I'll probably have a Destination Truth marathon along with a Ghost Hunters marathon this Halloween... Heh...

Saturday, October 18


Today was a bit of a crossroads for me. I counted the minutes to the arrival of my new Nokia N96, which I won from eBay in a one-sided auction. Getting into my first Nokia after several years of using Pocket PCs and then the iPhone resulted in a bit of disorientation, but my fingers went back to keypad texting with little problem. As I sat there with the N96 in one hand and the iPhone in the other, I realized part of the reason why I chose this particular model to replace my Apple device- the N96 is very similar in look to the iPhone- glossy black with little visible trimmings save for the one button (though once you activate the thing, a myriad lights turn on like a Christmas Tree). Unfortunately, the similarity ends there, at least in substance. While the iPhone felt like a solid bar of sturdy metal with a lovely heavy feel, the N96 feels like a toy with it's plastic body. However, the phone has a nice feel to it regardless, and the size is just right to rest comfortably in my hand. I spent the evening (and the meager factory charge of the N96's battery) testing out the camera, trying out the video and Mass Storage capability and troubling over a file that refused to be deleted (forcing me to format the phone's memory).

Needless to say, I'll probably be spending most of the weekend getting to grips with my new toy. I'll also probably be spending a bit of time helping my Mom- who has consequently become the owner of a used First-Gen iPhone- get used to her new device.

All things are new again...

Wednesday, October 15


My next phone?

I love my Apple iPhone 2G. Even to this day, I haven't seen a phone out there that looks as sexy and as slick as Apple's first-generation effort in the mobile arena, not even the iPhone 3G. The phone still looks as sleek and lovely as the day I got it, and feels just as solid, sturdy and classy all around. It's still got, as far as I know, the most user-friendly and fun interface on a mobile device I've ever experienced, the best video playing and the loveliest screen around. So, why do I find myself continually thinking of making a switch to a new phone?

Well, it's natural... I'm a gadget freak. I yearn for always finding the next big thing, the next cool toy. Stability, sameness and status quo are nice, but ultimately... boring. Right now, everything's peachy with the iPhone, but there are several glaring things that I can't deny. One, my iPhone is of a dead species- like that silent Kurt Russell in the film Soldier, replaced by a new , slicker generation of plastic-backed descendants. Though it's working quite well now, I have no idea what I will do once the battery- which has to be sent to Apple for replacement- finally starts acting up. Two, support for apps and new stuff on the free, jailbroken side of the iPhone has apparently dried up. Installer, once a rushing river of cool free applications, games and nice stuff, has as of late grown stagnant. Everyone is developing for the Apple iTunes App Store, and who can blame them? They can get paid. So far the games and apps on my phone currently are cool, but aside from the most useful stuff like Sketches, Pool and Tetris, most are just stuff to take up space on the screen.

And finally... well... better things are coming. Phones with great cameras and video. Great functionality and features. These can't be denied. Even though the form factor of the iPhone is still king for me, looks can only get you so far. There's substance to be found in other phones coming out or out right now that I, as a gadget enthusiast, can't ignore.

So what are the options I'm looking at?

Definitely I am NOT getting an iPhone 3G. I'm just sick of the overblown priced plans from Globe and the overpriced models sold by the Grey Market. I asked myself, is it worth going through all that for just added storage and some nifty games from the App Store? Nope. Man, if the App Store had a Tekken or a Street Fighter game, if the iPhone had a decent camera and video-recording and 32 GB at least, I'd plunk into it in a heartbeat. But right now? It's pretty crap. At least, for someone who has already had an iPhone for a while, the 3G model isn't an upgrade- it's a grudging kiss to Apple's ass. No thank you.

I found myself gravitating a bit towards a couple of new phones out recently- the Samsung i5810 blew me away when I first saw it in a shop at Megamall's Cyberzone. The sleek black slider has an 8-Megapixel Camera (!) and the ability to take VGA videos at 120 frames per second- that means you can play them back in butter-smooth slow motion if you want. Add to that 16 Gigabytes of storage (which you can further augment with a memory card), the latest Symbian OS and you've got one heck of a smartphone that gadget geeks would cream over. The only problems are- well- supposedly the battery life sucks eggs, the screen isn't as sharp as you'd expect and the thing's a heavy, bulky bar. Well, at least if you need to defend yourself you can use it as a blunt instrument.

The other option I am thinking of is the Nokia N96, which is the Finnish upgrade to their now-classic N95 superphone. What sets it apart is a lot more focus on video and multimedia- both of which score high with me. The 5-Megapixel camera and DVD-quality VGA video recording look great, as well as the 16 GB storage, nice big 2.8 inch screen and Symbian OS (which includes NGage gaming support). This is a true all-in-one device that can pretty much serve as my phone, PDA, media player and camera/video recorder in one compact (albeit still substantial) package.

So it's pretty obvious- I'm teetering towards a return to Nokia. It certainly seems to be a better solution than an earlier plan I had for upgrading- getting myself a 32 GB iPod Touch and a Sony Ericsson Cameraphone combo. However, this route could potentially have me at one time lugging around THREE devices at a time (a proper digicam), which is just... dumb.

It's not yet a total done deal- everytime I look at my iPhone, I just find myself totally enamoured in that huge, lovely screen and my determination slightly falters. Ultimately, I probably won't be selling my iPhone... maybe I'll just retire it and keep it around in The Sanctum like my old O2 XDA2i. But someday, it seems to be invetable... I have to move on to something else. Man, decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, October 7

Award Winner KO!


My incomparable partner-in-ninja-crime, Kriss Sison, just took home a nice little souvenir from Japan. His work on Ninja Girl KO! won for him the Bronze Award at the 2nd International Manga Awards. The Second International MANGA Award had 368 entries from 46 countries and regions, which was 222 more entries and 22 more countries and regions from the First International MANGA Award.

He was one of the 12 finalists and the ONLY Filipino among the prestigious list! How about that, eh? Yes, the Filipino CAN! Heheh.

CONGRATULATIONS, KRISS!!! May this be a sign of much more good things to come! And more Ninja Girl KO! as well! Heheh. Thanks of course to all the Mangaholix readers and NGK fans out there for the continued and enthusiastic support.

You can be sure me, Kriss and the rest of the Mangaholix crew will be working hard to bring more of Michiko's world-class, award-winning ninja girl adventures to you as we can.

Monday, October 6

Remembering Twister

I came home tonight and caught Jan de Bont's Twister on HBO. Now, despite all the less-than-stellar reviews that this blockbuster got, I am quite ready to say at anytime that this nature-action film is one of my favorite movies ever. There's such a coolness about the film- how it actually made a bunch of weirdo scientists/thrillseekers a gang you almost would want to run into a tornado's path with. The effects were pretty awesome, the music was great (still trying to find the score to this day) and the whole film is just... FUN. This was a good-natured flick that just hit the right notes with me, sappy love story aside. Little funny tidbit... I finally realized that one of the cast, the happy-go-lucky 'Dusty', was played by none other than Philip Seymour Hoffman! MAN! Looking at him then, you'd never think that the guy would go on to play far more serious charaters and roles, from Truman Capote to the cold-blooded Owen Davian in Mission Impossible 3. That's pretty cool.

Man, it was great to just see the flick and reminisce watching it in theaters years ago. Those were the days.

Wednesday, September 24

Snake eater

Okay... I just watched the obligatory 'Food Episode' of Man VS WIld. And I have to say... MAN. And I thought the stuff Ian Wright ate way back in the earlier days of Lonely Planet/Globe Trekker were bad. I mean, the stuff that host Bear Gryll scarfs down in the episode are positively FOUL. Forget the usual goat's eyeball or live, wriggling snails or maggots... what REALLY got my hackles up in a bunch was seeing the man tear away at a dead zebra's meat (although the meat was supposedly fresh) and a dead camel's fat. But even more horrid was the hunt for water- how does drinking your own pee sound? The guy does it onscreen- FRESH, WARM PEE. My. God. But it didn't stop there... next Mr. Gryll was squeezing the fluid out of fresh elephant dung. But the worst was, for me, opening up a dead camel and drinking the liquid pooled in the carcass's stomach, and then getting the half-digested clumps of matter in the stomach, then squeezing THAT sludge for drink. GYYYYAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

It was horrific and utterly, utterly... fascinating.

I don't think I'd survive in the wild, but damn, you may probably surprise yourself if you were put into that situation. Still, I prefer any raw stuff I eat to be either fruit or sushi, thank you very much. Oddly enough, after watching all that, I suddenly found myself having the munchies. Man, where's a Big Mac where you need one...?

Saturday, September 13

Sobra-sa-Overtime Part... I Lost Count

After a week's straight of overtime at The Salt Mines, here I am still at a TV shoot for the weekend. Man... 7 days straight. Still, there's a twisted sense of accomplishment that I seem to enjoy after all the hubbub of last week. Whatever doesn't kill you just makes you stronger, I guess. But that doesn't mean I won't be demanding to take a break afterwards. Got things to take care of, and rest to catch up on. Nope, you really can't take back lost time... but you can try.

Friday, September 5

Better Than Six

Now available!

Heeeey! Mangaholix Presents Issue #6 is now out on shelves in National Bookstore, Powerbooks and Fully Booked! So if you want your latest local manga fix, go get your copy. There's a reason for the flowery artwork on the cover- this issue sees the debut of Sampaguita Daydreams (whose characters are actually cosplaying personages from other MH stories) which should please the romantics out there. As usual, it's also brimming with the latest episodes of Chronicles of Hao Ran: Kraust: Ten Roars of the Heavens. Midknighters: Fist-Fight Manifesto, Pulis Pangkalawakan, Aporia and, well, of course, Ninja Girl KO!

Let me give you guys a tip- Mangaholix is found with most of the other comics, and is often places inside deep of NBS or Powerbook branches. If you can't find copies, ask one of the ladies to help find them.

Man, I gotta get my own copy. Can't wait to see the finished art...

Thursday, September 4

Cracking Up

Okay, day by day I'm reading all these complaints with the new iPhone 3G. The most vocal I see on Attack of the Show on G4TV, where the once-iPhone-loving hosts are now loudly castigating Apple for their new iPhones' extremely short battery life, non-working 3G. synching issues, lost apps and other stuff. The most recent issue though is that of cracks- little hairline cracks- appearing supposedly spontaneously on some iPhone 3Gs even though the owners swear they have never dropped or sat on their mobiles. The cracks- which appear often on the white plastic casing, have OC iPhoners up in arms and wanting Apple to take responsibility.

Heh. I remember when the 1st Gen iPhones came out, everyone was raving how they could throw the device around, drop it onto concrete or run blades on the screen without any scratches. Man, I am loving my First-Gen phone more and more each day.

But seriously, I think a lot of this is overreaction, particularly about the cracks. If it does seem to be chronic and widespread, maybe Apple should do something. Still, it seems these cracks are appearing only under the scrutiny of UV light or magnifying glasses- in which case maybe the owner should just take a chill pill.

Then again, if my iPhone got a crack for no reason I'd freak too. Oh well. Such is the price for beauty and coolness.

Wednesday, September 3

Superman Retooled

HBO's been showing the Bryan Singer debacle movie Superman Returns a LOT recently, and it really just reinforces what I knew two years ago when I first saw it... it's a load of crap and probably one of the WORST, if not THE worst superhero movie ever made (along with Hulk and Elektra, I guess). Boring, overlong, insanely-obsessed with the Richard Donner original and again, BORING as freaking hell, it just gets all the more horrible in the light of the recent releases of superhero movies done right like Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and The Dark Knight. Well, it appears that validation has come as well- Warner Brothers has signalled their intention to 'reboot' the franchise, wiping away Superman Returns from existence like Ang Lee's Bulk, er- Hulk and starting anew. Man, I wonder what they will do with all those Brandon Routh-faced dolls and other Superman Returns merchandise? Bury them all in a landfill with those Atari ET videogame cartridges? Anyway, that's all behind us with good stuff like the Avengers and JLA being developed. Oh, and that awesome Watchmen movie too. Let's have enough of small-minded, short-sighted fools with superhero and comic book flicks. Yes, we do want yellow spandex, if the comic requires it.

Tuesday, August 26

Ninja Girl KO has a Mega-Fan!

A while ago, I was informed by Mangaholix that Henry Sy, the big boss of Shoemart and one of the richest guys in the country, is a fan of our little mangazine and, particularly, of Ninja Girl KO! Of course, that our comic got the attention of the mall magnate is pretty cool... but that Michiko's adventures are something he likes is even cooler. That actually got me thinking of some weird storyline of how I'd be walking along one day when this big car comes along and I'd be met by a line of SM Girls. They'd take me over to the Main Branch of SM- which turns out to be SM Centerpoint- to meet The Boss Himself. Then I'd sign his copies of Mangaholix and he'd ask me if I'd approve of letting him have his SM Girls' uniforms to be changed to match Michiko's ninja outfit. Heheh.

Just a weird little yarn. Anyways, Ninja Girl KO! continues to Hai-YAH and KIAAAIII in the pages of Mangaholix Presents, with the next issue (Issue 6) coming soon to a National Bookstore near you. I can't wait for readers (Mr. Sy Included) to see the upcoming episodes. Lots more action, laughs and Ninja Girl-powered coolness to come!

Monday, August 25

New iPhone!

Well, actually... Not really. No, I didn't go running off to the nearest Globe Business Center to grab an iPhone 3G, as did quite a few people who've without a doubt been waiting for the device for some time. To be sure, I did find myself surfing the web for information about the local release of the phone, but even a visit to PhilMUG and seeing some positive comments and experiences shared didn't convince me. For one thing- the phone itself. I've heard not-so-nice things about the new 3G model, from sluggish performance and slow web browsing to the disconcerting change of the phone's back from the original brushed aluminum to either black or white plastic. Also, the biggest and best thing about the new model for me is- well- it's available in 16 Gig memory capacity. 3G doesn't make my eyebrows rise- I mean, why would I be excited by what is basically a way to burn my money away? I'd rather surf or browse on free Wi-Fi spots, and save any actual GPRS surfing use for emergencies. Aside from that... nothing else. No upgrade in the camera. No text-forwarding or MMS. The App Store? Just more ways to squeeze money from you... although the Lightsaber app seemed kinda fun.

No, I wasn't getting the new 3G iPhone. But I DID get something new. I upgraded my iPhone 2G's firmware- from the original 1.0.2 Firmware it shipped with, I've now switched to 1.1.4. What does it do? Well, they're mostly tweaks and small additions, but are quite good- you can now send a text to multiple recipients (FINALLY). Rearranging icons on the screen is now as easy as tapping and holding an icon and then sliding them to where you want them to go- pretty neat, and the OC in me can waste hours away just rearranging apps. There are also new text alert tones and a tweak (third party download) lets me amp up the volume a bit. Nothing world-beating, but they're nice.

One of the more fun things the firmware upgrade allows me is the ability to download more apps again and get my constant gadget companion- which had stagnated in terms of any new stuff lately- refreshed and loaded with new stuff again. Thankfully, the web is alive with the stuff you need to do the upgrade, so I was able to do the deed myself, instead of running off to the highway robbers in Greenhills or elsewhere. So far, my new 1.1.4 version iPhone seems cool- I've installed games and themes, and it's once again mine after a short time of being a blank slate. Man, the OC in me is having a field day again... to the distress of my wallet as I find myself downloading stuff using EDGE. Thanks a lot to the new GPRS-payment scheme with Globe, actually.

On the topic of the new 3G iPhone though, it's supposedly available in most Globe Business Centers, notably in Podium, for even walk-in customers. There have been reservations made, but not every reservation was filled or taken, with fault on both sides of the equation. I am irked to read that Globe puts more value with new accounts and put people like me- loyal customers who already have an account with them- on secondary priority. That's another reason why I'm not getting the phone, at least from Globe. However, it's not a good idea to get it in outside stores either- apparently the device (16 GB) is selling for as high as 55K. MAN! Isn't the damn thing supposed to be cheaper? You can get a freakin' good laptop with that money! Crazy. Even an iPhone fan like me is appalled.

Anyway, that's all to be expected as the device is still new and the rave of the town right now. I'd advise those who can get it free or for lowered price at Globe to do so if they really want the thing, though the Globe iPhone plans are pretty pricey and the prepaid kits quite on the level of higher-end mobiles. I'm just so glad though that I am well past the iPhone craze. I wonder where it will go from here though? It will be interesting to see.

Tuesday, August 19

Morpheus and Murder

WHOA! I really haven't been watching CSI: Las Vegas recently, but the show's still a big favorite of mine. It didn't help though that William Petersen's Grissom is leaving the series after being the team's main man all this time, but this little bit of news made me pretty excited. Yep, Laurence Fishburne aka Morpheus from The Matrix is joining the CSI team come the series' 9th Season, airing this November. From movie star to TV star, Fishburne will come on as a pathology professor who starts off being consulted for a murder investigation but is eventually lured into joining the CSI team full-time. Should be pretty interesting! I wonder if there'll be a dojo fight scene or something? Heheh...

Monday, August 18

Returning to the Source

Having a Blade of the Immortal anime is all well and good... but darn, the manga is where it all started and where you get the whole story, raw, unadulterated and uncensored. Sadly, while I religiously collected the issues years ago, some weird thing with Dark Horse Publishing happened that prevented local distributor Comic Quest from acquiring the title. I was forced to stop, and now I'm pretty much backlogged with my BOTI fixes. Well, that should change pretty soon. I just went and ordered a truckload of graphic novels online, so I'll hopefully be back in the know soon. Ultimately, I think this was all for the best- single issues of BOTI were about as substantial as cotton candy, so it's better to just wait for graphic novel/trade paperbacks to collect the chapters before I dive into a chapter.

It'll take a couple of orders, but I'll have the whole collection eventually. Gosh, I love the internet.
Of Criminals and Conquest

I just watched the first two episodes of the Blade of the Immortal anime. I came away pretty impressed- the animated version of Hiroaki Samura's ultraviolent, sexy samurai revenge epic seems pretty close to the source manga. The art style is close to Samura's lovely pencilled art, and even the action approaches the stylized tableaus of violent death by various bladed weapons. There are some changes- characters like the Mugai Ryu and Habaki Kagimura, personages that figured much later into the manga, are immediately shown even in the first episode. Also, there are some discreet editing of unpleasantness from the more violent and bloody scenes in the manga- such as the death of Manji's sister, Machi. This censorship will no doubt figure more in the future episodes when the more unsavoury bits of Samura's manga are translated. That said though, the series looks like it won't be lacking in fan service, sexy ladies and bloody action in any measure... certainly looks like I'm in for the ride. I just hope this doesn't take as long as the manga to develop though...

Saturday, August 16

OMG! Blade of the Immortal ANIME!

The Immortal Manji. In animation.

Just this night, a bit of surfing let me discover something utterly awesome (well, for me). One of my all-time favorite manga- Hiroaki Samura's ultraviolent punk-samurai epic, Blade of the Immortal- is finally an anime! I've been a bit out of touch with the anime scene of late, but THIS is truly something I've been waiting for, well, FOREVER!

The TV anime series will be animated by Bee Train, which is responsible for the .Hack series and the suspense anime Noir. Seiyuu Tomokazu Seki, famous for roles like Van in Escaflowne, will voice the immortal Manji, while Rina Satou (Negi in Negima) will voice heroine/sidekick Rin Asano. The rest of the voice cast was also announced, and already include characters like Anotsu Kagehisa to Makie Kotono-Tachibana as well as Hyakurin and Giichi.

Revenge-driven Rin Asano.

To date, two episodes are out, and I will be watching them over the weekend. Awesome.

MAN! This is so great. Finally something to get me watching anime again. WOOHOO!!!

Friday, August 15

Mummy Dearest

Last night, torrential rain forced me to seek shelter in Rockwell Power Plant mall, and to pass the time while waiting for the taxi lines to thin, I headed off to the theaters. I had a choice between Pixar's Wall-E, X-Files: I Want To Believe and Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Well, even though I was intrigued with Wall-E, I didn't feel like it was the proper time to watch it, nor did I think I had the patience and state of mind proper for digesting X-Files. In fact, I just wanted to watch Dark Knight again. Ultimately I settled for some dumb, fun action- and opted for Mummy 3.

The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is the true sequel to the last real entry into this action-adventure franchise (which was sidetracked by the utterly horrid Scorpion King). The first movie was a classic, surprisingly excellent action-horror hybrid... the second was a more heavy-handed CG-heavy action romp which, while greatly inferior to the original, was still quite fun. And so I went into the third movie expecting little but lots of bang and boom.

The sequel sees Brendan Fraser (who still looks fit, if a bit puffier and a bit hoarser) reprising his role as man-of-action he-man adventurer Rick O'Connell, along with John Hannah as his brother-in-law, fast-talking hustler Jonathan Carnahan. It's a bit of a sad note that most of the other cast do not return this time around. Missing, of course, is Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep the original Mummy (though a nod to the undead Egyptian high priest is present in the movie), since he was last seen being carted off into the underworld by countless tortured souls. Evy O'Connell, Rick's wife and adventuring partner, has been recast with a new actress- Maria Bello, who takes over the character from Rachel Weisz... this 'changing of the guard' is actually pointed at in the script, with Bello's Evy stating that she's 'a whole different person' from the Evy of the previous films. Hmmm. Anyway, there are sad goodbye's and there are happy goodbye's as well- the annoying kid from Mummy 2 (okay, he wasn't THAT annoying but still) is gone, as the character of Rick and Evy's son Alex is now 21 years old, and played by actor Luke Ford. Oh, and Oded Fehr's not around since the movie's mainly set in China and Tibet. Tuareg warriors would kinda seem out of place, I guess.

Shades of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Rick and Evy O'Connell are 'enjoying' the fruits of their long careers- apparently saving the world from an evil mummy and the Army of Anubis wasn't enough for the intrepid husband and wife... they had to go off and become espionage agents during the war (the movie is set in the 1940s, after World War II). With a beautiful palatial estate and servants, all Rick has to contend with is learning fly-fishing, while Evy has to deal with writing her next best-selling novel. But it appears that success has it's price- both are plainly wanting to get their blood fired up again, and the life of the idle rich isn't going to do that any good. And so, as if on cue, we see Alex O'Connell, now freshly-dropped out of college and following in his parents' dubious footsteps as an archaeologist and tomb pillager. The kid's got a chip on his shoulder- mainly the need to prove he's as much a man as his dad- and he's thinking that discovering another mummy is the thing to do it.

Anyway, this time around the Mummy in question isn't from Egypt. As if in line with the Beijing Olympics and the current China craze on Discovery Channel, the magical heavy is Emperor Han (Jet Li), a fictional ruler apparently juxtaposed with the real Emperor Chin who unified China and built the Great Wall. As cruel as the real Chin was, Jet Li's Han comes with Elemental Powers that would do the Avatar proud, as well as a Terra Cotta Army to resurrect. And so, with the inevitable awakening of the evil Dragon Emperor by the O'Connells through the manipulation of a Chinese paramilitary group dedicated to serving Han and returning him to power, the battle begins. Rick, Evy, Alex and Jonathan, along with a mysterious girl named Lin (Isabella Leong) and the immortal sorceress Zi Yuan (Michelle Yuan) struggle to keep the world safe from the thud of Terra-Cotta boots.

The Mummy 3 isn't that far-off from Mummy 2- with all that this entails. It's still got some cool action, lots of explosions and gunplay, nice CG (and bad CG too) and a BIG battle sequence at the end (which kinda beats out the finale in Mummy 2).

Brendan Fraser's the heart and soul of this franchise, now even more with Rachel Weisz gone, along with John Hannah (who is sadly a bit lacking for this one, though that's probably the fault of the script). Even though he's not as trim as he was in the first film, he's still pretty much a solid action guy. Maria Bello is pretty, but darn- Rachel Weisz is a tough act to follow. However, the weird transformation of Evy from the first to the second film made accepting this new incarnation not that hard. She's still a kick-ass adventurer as well as a prim and proper lady, so that at least gets it right. As for new boy Alex- I'm not that fine into how Alex is being groomed as another action guy like his dad. I figured him more of a brainy type, as his younger self was. Clever and quick-thinking, more brains than brawn. He should be able to shoot and fight, but all that heavy stuff is Rick's territory. And the guy, Luke Ford, kinda looks like a Wahlberg. Not a minus, but it's weird.

And then there's the Asian cast- Jet Li, once again, is underused. Emperor Han is just a mean guy, and that's all there is to him. Much more interesting actually are the modern-day paramilitary group that throws their loyalty to him. Michelle Yeoh, as the sorceress Zi Yuan, is getting along in years, but still as classy as ever. The Chinese Paramilitary Cult, led by General Yang (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) and his lieutenant Choi (Jessey Meng) are portrayed in some ways as ruthless enemies but also with admirable qualities of loyalty and courage... albeit misplaced, given that the object of their worship and servitude is a self-serving son of a dragon bitch.

For the most part, the production is slick and is in line with the rest of the Mummy franchise, with lots of pretty locales and settings, cool guns and lots of firepower, and a kick-ass battle at the end to mix it all up. It's probably a bit better than the Mummy 2, although the second movie had sexy chicks fighting with sais, and this does not.

So, what's next? Incan Mummies? How about the Hanging Mummies here in the Philippines? Heh. Well, supposedly there are plans for more Mummy movies to come so we'll be waiting.

In the end, Mummy 3 is an enjoyable action flick- at the very least, I actually enjoyed it a bit more than I did the last Indiana Jones flick- which is more a testament of how low Crystal Skull fell from the tree. You can do a lot worse than this for some escapist entertainment, and if you're a fan of the series it's something to see. Check it out! Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is now showing in theaters all over the Metro.

Tuesday, July 29

Mac Attack!

My latest toy.

Last night, my new iMac arrived. I guess it's finally safe to say I'm officially a Mac Addict, although the way that I am body-and-soul still held by my iPhone was probably a sign of my allegiance to the Apple. It's actually pretty surprising, since I've been a staunch PC user pretty much for all my working life. But in the past four or five years I've been working with Mac Powerbook laptops and Macbook Pros so much, I've been steadily converted. All the apps I once thought were exclusive to the PC have revealed improved equivalents on the Mac, so it was really just a matter of time- the fact that Macs are just so damn sexier and more beautiful than any PC (pretty much the same way as the iPhone is so much sleeker and lovelier than any other cellphone) was the icing on the cake.

So when I got the chance, I went for it. I got a mid-range model iMac, with 2 GB Ram, 2.66 Ghz Dual Core Intel processors with 320 GB of Hard Drive space and a lovely 20-inch screen. I have to say, it was pretty awesome to just come home and see the big box greet me in my room... it was even more awesome to just pop out the thing from the package (it's basically just the monitor and keyboard), insert the power cord, attach the mouse and keyboard, plug in the ethernet and I was off. MAN that was damn easy. Sadly, Apple's been saying this for years, but I only now really appreciate it. Freakin' fantastic.

I'm still keeping my old PC in The Sanctum though as my Internet Server and for storage, but even so, an era has been passed, I think. The guard has been changed. I'm gonna live and work from now on with a bit more style, a lot more fun and whole lot more power. Man, technology rocks.

Tuesday, July 22

Avatar: The Last Episodes

Animated Awesomeness.

It's been three years. Three long years, yet the road of the Avatar has finally indeed ended when it was supposed to end... in easily one of the most amazing, intense and jaw-droppingly action-packed animated features I've ever had the pleasure to watch. The 4-episode ending to Avatar: The Last Airbender, collectively called Sozin's Comet (consisting of episodes 3.18 to 3.21) reveals to us the climax of three seasons of superb cartoon craftmanship. As his fated battle with Fire Lord Ozai approaches, Aang must come to a decision whether or not he can truly take a life- an action that is against every fiber of his being. But even the slightest hesitation will cost him his life against the most powerful firebender on earth.

Meanwhile, his friends and allies face battles on their own as a multi-pronged battle to take back the Earth Kingdom from the forces of the Fire Nation explode. On the night when Sozin's Comet finally arrives, the true powers and mastery of bending are revealed and the destiny of the world is finally decided.


I have truly never seen an animated finale like Avatar's Swan Song. Though the first half of the 'movie' starts out leisurely (with a beach party, no less!), it's a steady build to the non-stop action of the final third of the climax. Once the action starts, it's a roller-coaster ride from there, with reunions aplenty, revelations and some of the finest and intense animated action you'll ever see from a US-made kid's show.

The execution of the climactic battles- the retaking of Ba Sing Se; Sokka, Toph and Suki's airship battle; Zuko and Katara's confrontation with a progressively imbalanced Azula, and Aang's own destined duel with Ozai are surely some of the best animated action scenes I've ever seen, be it in anime or otherwise. In fact, Aang vs Ozai is a battle that would make Saiyans stand up and take notice. Perhaps the best thing I can say about Aang vs Ozai is... for a battle that has been hyped and built up for 60 episodes- it doesn't just live up to expectations, it blows them all away.

Amazingly, all the action comes with no graphic violence, no blood (it IS still a kids' show ultimately) just PURE ACTION AWESOMENESS. And despite the A-team level of firepower and body count, it ALL WORKS. All the characters you've come to love (and hate) it all comes to a head in this one in one amazing action sequence after another, and I came away totally satisfied.

At the end of it, there is a bit of a convenient Deus Ex Machina and happy endings are delivered, though it is totally deserved. Not all issues are finished or ended totally (in fact, there are some new plots opened!), but after all is said and done we come to blissful contentedness a bright future ahead. Surely, this can't be an end to this incredible world given to us by Avatar's creators, artists, writers and vocal performers. I can't wait for more. New stories will probably follow, with new characters... but the Saga of the Boy in the Iceberg is one show I will cherish for the rest of my animation-loving otaku life.

For Avatar Aang and his new family, his new world and people... may you all live Awesomely Happy Ever After. Man, that was a freaking great ride. Is this series out on Blu-ray already or WHAT??!

Sunday, July 20

And So It Ends

Avatar Ends.

Today, the finale to Avatar: The Last Airbender aired. The conclusion to the story of Avatar Aang was a 'movie' consisting of four back-to-back-to-back-to-back episodes.

I haven't watched the finale yet, though I have seen the previous two episodes- 3.16 The Southern Raiders (kinda underwhelming) and 3.17 The Ember Island Players (pretty funny and cool). There was a bit of a lull before the finale, so I'll be going into the climax with a clear head.

Man, this series has been awesome throughout... I can't believe it's over. I do hope that the creators still decide to revisit the amazing, deep and beautiful world they have made, and somehow give us more of the beloved characters we have seen. Anyway, there's also still the live-action movies from M. Night Shyamalan someday, so what the heck. Review of the finale to follow soon.

Friday, July 18

The Dark Knight

I watched the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight, on the night it opened here in Manila. What can I say? The sequel to Batman Begins has been hyped astronomically in the months building up to its arrival... and man... it actually lives up to the hype. More detective story and thriller than capes and fisticuffs, this latest Batman adaptation to film kicks all the versions that came before in the nuts.

The cast is in that zone of familiarity and comfort in their roles- Christian Bale manages to have a little more humor in his role as Gotham's resident billionaire and vigilante, with his loyal Alfred (Michael Caine) at this side. Acting chameleon Gary Oldman vanishes once more into soon-to-be-Commissioner Jim Gordon. Finally, Morgan Freeman is back in a more noble role after his stint in Wanted. Taking over the role of Rachel Dawes from Katie Holmes is Maggie Gyllenhaal... certainly she doesn't have the star power or recognition of Mrs. Tom Cruise, but she does what she can with the role, which is pivotal to the film. Also new to the franchise is Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent, Gotham's new D.A. and 'white knight', a man so good and true that you know there's something cooking on the other side of the coin. I was even pleasantly surprised to see Scarecrow back, albeit briefly- and he was unmasked so you know it's still Cillian Murphy and not just some substitute.

But of course, we all know who's the real focus of The Dark Knight's beating black heart.

Heath Ledger's Joker is, easily, the most disturbing, formidable, scary and fascinating villain yet seen in a superhero film. You just can't take your eyes off this guy for a second, for all the right reasons. Among them, that quaking feeling of dread that he's about to do something really horrifying yet fascinating. In the deadly game of chess that he plays in Gotham, he always seems one step ahead. Can the Batman really stop this maniac? You're not really sure he can. And that's where the film succeeds- keeping you in that state of fear and tension for most of the 2 1/2 hours it runs. Ledger invested a lot in this role, and it may easily become his legacy for years to come.

That said, it's not the easiest film to follow- the action is reminiscent of the first film in the franchise; fight scenes are dizzying to watch, but stunts with vehicles and explosions are top notch. Lots of fireworks, lots of firepower and things go boom. People, good people and bad, die. It's far darker and more disturbing than any previous Batman, and so much braver. It takes that gutsy step to call forth imagery and fear of terrorism, much more so realistically that it ever was in the first film. This is indeed the Batman from the comics, The Dark Knight indeed.

However, when things seem darkest, the relief is just that more satisfying. As much and as hard evil may beat down the human spirit, somehow the good in people ultimately wins through. A jaded viewer may say, that's not entirely realistic. But damn it, this is a superhero flick still, after all.

This is the year of the Comic Book Movie, and this is the crown jewel. Watch this in theaters, and get ready to be blown away.

Sunday, July 13

Waiting for Knightfall

This week, one of the most awaited superhero flicks is set to arrive in our local theaters. I freaking missed The Incredible Hulk, I'll be freaking damned if I miss The Dark Knight. Yeah, though I can't watch Batman Begins in full ever again after realizing it was actually a pretty boring, overlong biopic/origin story with an Sith-like Qui-Gon Jinn in the place of what should have been Ra's Al Ghul, the sequel looks thoroughly amazing.

I won't hide that much of my anticipation stems from what appears to be a truly bad-ass interpretation of The Joker by the late Heath Ledger. The few reviews I've read online have been glowing in their praise of the actor's final performance, a masterpiece of psychotic villainy. Perhaps this is the Joker we've all been waiting to see- the madman from A KIlling Joke finally given cinematic life, far from the initial mark made by Jack Nicholson in the original Batman flick.

Darker, disturbing and powerful. That's what the film has been described as. I freaking can't wait. Later this week, or over the weekend. I'm gonna have me one Hell of a Knight.

Saturday, July 5

Wanted: Dead or Alive?

I finally got to watch Wanted last night. The last movie I watched was Kung Fu Panda, and I'm kinda pissed that I missed The Incredible Hulk and Prince Caspian in theaters (as penalty, I'll be sure to buy the Blu-Ray versions). Anyway, my movie drought ended finally, but did I regret it or not?

Wanted is based on the comic book by Mark Millar about super villains. Whereas the original source material was all about amoral assholes with an ending that basically says 'EFF YOU' to any reader sappy enough to care about the characters, the movie takes a softer approach by making hero Wesley Gibson just a repressed wimp instead of a egocentric selfish bastard. On the less good side though, it also downgrades the story from being about supervillains with super powers to just a bunch of professional killers, some of which can do some neat tricks with bullets.

Starting off life as a nobody in a go-nowhere job, His girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend, he's broke and constantly plagued by anxiety attacks. But one day his dreary life changes forever when Fox (Angelina Jolie), a professional assassin and member of the mysterious Fraternity finds him and tells him about his father, whom Wesley had thought up and left him and his mother when he was a week old. Apparently, his father died just the other day, and the man who killed him- another assassin named Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) was now after Wesley. After a harrowing car chase complete with Car-Fu similar to that in Speed Racer, Wesley finds himself among the Fraternity's odd bunch of killers/textile workers (apparently the Fraternity started off thousands of years ago as weavers). Their leader, Sloan (Morgan Freeman) tells him that he's one of them, an assassin of unequalled skill and power. And he's the only one who can kill Cross. But is there really a caged lion inside this mouse of an accountant?

Wanted is uneven for me- it's certainly got lots of flashy, eyebrow-raising CG action sequences (usually involving cars), but I found the ability to 'bend' or 'curve' bullets kinda hokey, and didn't really make me too impressed with the Fraternity, or it's nondescript members who never really get to play up their roles aside from searing-hot Angelina herself (who is, for some reason, the only female member). The story's interesting anyway, and the action was unusual so in the end director Timur Bekmambetov's style from the Daywatch and Nightwatch movies pays off.

James McAvoy plays a pretty convincing dope in Wesley (say, maybe he'd make a great new Peter Parker) and his performance is funny when it needs to be. Morgan Freeman has a nice twist in what seems to be his usual noble role, while Angelina Jolie seems to have put in her contract that she has to look gorgeous and impressive in every freakin' frame of film she appears in. She's pretty smoldering in this film... including one pretty impressive bit of nudity (I wonder if it was actually her though)...

Wanted sadly dispenses with the superhero trimmings of the overrated original and substitutes in fancy CG gunplay as well as a more palatable hero and ending. If you didn't read the comic, you'll find this a stylish and fun, mature action romp.

Monday, June 30

Malicious (Translation: Wrong Footwear)

About a month ago, I found myself stricken with impaired mobility. My back hurt, no doubt due to sitting in a chair all day at The Salt Mines, but a new pain had developed with my legs. To be exact, the joints that linked my legs to my torso. Moving my legs was excruciatingly painful, and it made things as simple as getting up from bed hard as hell. Walking was punctuated with pain in every step (although minor), and I found myself limping most of the time. It reached a point where I was taking painkiller medicine on a daily basis. What was going on?

After weeks of this crap, I finally found the cause. Frickin' SHOES. I found that the shoes I had taken to wearing a lot- a pair of moccasins, had very slick soles that apparently made walking in them difficult due to the fact that I was slipping every which way on anything even slightly polished. And so, in places like malls or buildings where floor tiles are regularly smoothened, it was like I was walking on slick ice everytime. Apparently this improper way of walking all developed into that long-term pain in my leg joints.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I bought a new pair of sneakers, and have been wearing them since. After a while, the pain eased and left, and hasn't been back since... and not a single pill. So I guess that was it. You really can't take things for granted, and it's so easy to ignore something that's underneath your feet. I'll just have to take these things in to account more. Man, I was pill-popping like a rock star or football champion... minus the big bucks. Glad to finally be getting back to working order.

Now, I wonder what's causing that third arm to sprout from my knee..?

Friday, June 13

Birthday Blast

War and white hairs go well together.

As I kinda mentioned earlier, I'll be spending the lion's share of my birthday break and weekend with Solid Snake, AKA Old Snake. The game, the latest and apparently GREATEST yet for the Sony Playstation 3, is titled Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. It is, quite frankly, one of the reasons I got the console for. The latest of this much-beloved franchise (which is the pillar of the 'Stealth-Action' genre of games) is also the last chapter of the adventures of ol' Snake, due to various reasons including the fact that he seems to be suffering from a case of Werner's Syndrome, afflicting him with rapid aging. But if Snake's gonna go down, he's not going away quietly with an I.V. plugged into his arm in a hospital bed. Nah, he's strapping on the latest in stealth technology suits and hi-tech boom-sticks and James Bond-tech and heading into the most chaos-ridden war zones all over the world... all in the purpose of hunting down and eliminating the one bad guy out to destroy the world.

To say that MGS4 is a beautiful game would be an understatement- the game's in-game graphics look as good as CG cinematics, and the detail, intricacy and design of pretty much everything you see, hear and experience is a cinematic experience. The gameplay is smoother, more playable and accessible than ever, melding both the traditional stealthy sneaking with balls-out shooting action depending on the player's desire. And as for the story... well, it all ends here, and everything you've been wondering about in Metal Gear- like how the hell is Liquid Snake still alive in a severed hand, who the heck are The Patriots or why is MGS2 hero Raiden now sporting a new cyborg body will be explained, in-game or in the multitude of amazing cutscenes.

Easily one of the most anticipated games ever (it's been in development for YEARS), it's finally here, and it's fitting I guess that I received it at this time.

What a damn freakin' cool birthday gift!

So I guess I'll end it here for now. For a more detailed review of this opus of a game, check out my game blog at The Lone Gamer. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go stealthily save the world... with a bad back, at that!
The Luckiest Day of My Life

While others may shirk, I don't see today as being in any way unlucky. In fact, it's perhaps the most important day of my life- the beginning, actually. Yep, I turn one year older today and damn... I'm getting old. It doesn't help that one of my favorite gaming heroes- whose game I am currently enjoying over the birthday weekend- also has some age-related issues, and a chronic bad back. Still, things are pretty good for me, all things considered, and I really can't complain (though the frackin' bad back is murder sometimes).

Thanks, everyone, who chimed in to greet an Old MADman. Much appreciated! What can I wish for aside from I hope there are lots more Fridays or Saturdays or whatever-the-13ths to come. I still plan on doing more comics, playing more games and having more fun with friends yet.

Man, it's good to BE! Later! WOOHOO!!!

Thursday, June 12

Simply Flabulous!

Prepare for Awesomeness, Indeed!

Last night, I was able to finally catch a movie before my upcoming Metal Gear Solid 4 weekend, and luckily I picked the Dreamworks' Animation film Kung-Fu Panda (over Prince Caspian, which I wanna watch too anyway). I can honestly say, that was the most fun I've had in a movie theater in recent months.

Dreamworks' animation features have always been- shall we say- a bit hit and miss. But this latest offering simply hits every punch, kick and ribbing with the skill of a master. As much a whimsical, fantastically-animated and realized look at an anthropomorphic animal-populated ancient China as it is a heartwarming story of a hero discovering his true worth, it's also one BAD-ASS kung fu flick. I have to say, If I wasn't laughing, I was gawking at some of the amazing martial arts action- I haven't had this much fun in a martial arts movie since Kung Fu Hustle.

Aside from the awesome animation and fight choreography, props go to Jack Black (in the titular role of Po the Panda) and Dustin Hoffman (as Master Shifu) for bringing in wonderful vocal performances (easily Black at his funniest), with able support from Randall Duk Kim as Master Oogway (probably the coolest, wisest and most powerful turtle you'll ever see in animation), Angelina Jolie as the formidable Tigress, the ever-reliable James Hong as Po's loveable, noodle-obsessed father, and Ian McShane as the intense, powerful villain, Tai Lung. Yeah, I have to mention Jackie Chan is in there as well, and his presence, while kinda minor, goes a bit of a way in making this flick that much more kung-fantastic.

Gorgeously animated, hilarious throughout, heartwarmingly emotional when it needs to be and jaw-droppingly amazing during the high-kicking, high-flying fight sequences, Kung Fu Panda is a 10-hit combo of Fighting FUN! Watch it in your nearest theater NOW!

Sunday, June 8

Home Sweet Home

I'm back in The Sanctum. And I couldn't be happier.

Traveling to international locales and spending time in first-class accommodations in posh hotels is awesome, but it's just... not totally right. I mean, my hotel room was luxury itself- big screen TV was awesome, but man, there's really NOTHING to watch save for CNN or National Geographic, or HBO- anything else, you have to pay for. Food was great- I ordered room service several times- but it's damn expensive. The king-sized bed with the man-sized pillows looked incredible, but the proof is in the sleeping... I just couldn't get as much rest as I wanted to. It was fun to seal yourself in under the snug, warm (but HEAVY) sheets and insulate yourself from the cool AC though.

The thing is, hotels are beautiful, luxurious and impressive and all... but it's all stuff that's paid for and manufactured. All of the pleasure, all of the smiles, all of the ingratiating service is from money. No money, all of that goes away revealing the machinery underneath like some freaky cyborg or killer Terminator.

Not that I'll be any less excited to go on another overseas work trip and enjoy another hotel stay (but not anytime soon, PLEASE). I just want to say that the saying really is true.

There's no freakin' place like home.

Thursday, June 5

Where in the World is Marco Dimaano?

This week, it's Taiwan!

Yeah, I seem to be a bit of a jet-setter these days, as the folks at The Salt Mines would say. It was only a few weeks ago that I found myself suddenly flying off to Bangkok, Thailand... and now I'm in Taipei, Taiwan! Again, it's just for work and for quite a bit shorter than my previous jaunt. I'll be back under Manila's skies by the weekend. Still, it's cool to just zip off and find myself in an altogether new environment, albeit still a bit familiar since we're all still in Asia. As I arrived at the Taiwan airport, my mind raced about all the Hong Kong action films shot here. The place is clean and proper and lovely, although there seems to be much less of a tourist vibe. Still, I enjoyed the long drive to the hotel, with mountains and hillsides teeming with foliage and trees on either side, the occasional odd temple or oriental structure breaking up the green carpet of leaves.

My room, turns out, is awesome... and comes with a BIG-ASS flatscreen TV that makes me wish I brought my PS3, to hell with the effort. It's so darned wasted on the drab hotel TV fare... I wanna see hi-res games on this thing... something like Metal Gear Solid 4 (out in a week) or Soulcalibur IV (out next month). Oh well, I guess CNN will have to do.

Today was a bit of a breather, but tomorrow will see me manning a TV shoot again as the imported Filipino dialogue consultant. It'll be a full day of work, I think, then it'll be a zip back to home. Thank goodness for the long weekend. That's that for now. Room service is at the door. Later!

Wednesday, June 4

Mingling at the M3Con

Ninja Girl KO!

Last Saturday, I went off the SM Mall of Asia's SMX Convention Center to attend the Mangaholix Manga, Anime and Cosplay Convention or M3Con 2008. It was my first Con with the Mangaholix/Groundbreakers crew, so I was pretty excited and pumped.

The Ninja Girl KO Team- Writer (Me), Cosplayer (Jac) and Artist (Kriss).

Going in, I knew that Mangaholix Presents Issue #5 would be launched, with my very own Ninja Girl KO! starring on the cover (thanks to the incomparable Kriss Sison for the consistently awesome visuals). Also, it seems that our girl Michiko Yamashita is proving to be a big favorite among readers, receiving the most fan art (and also later in the day, revealed to be the most-requested character when it came to sketches at the Mangaholix booth... GO, Michiko!). Aside from that, it was a great opportunity to watch the wonders of the local cosplaying crowd, with all the flashy costumes and otaku geek pleasures that come with that. Toy stores, manga and hobby shops were also out in force, so there was everything for a manga/otaku/anime fan to spend their cash on.

Energetic Jac, Mangaholix's cool MichiKosplayer.

Strike a pose!

Of course, I had the pleasure of meeting the Mangaholix crew (so many talented artists and comic creators), and in particular finally meeting my own heroine, Michiko, in the flesh! Yep, I finally got to meet Jac, the cool girl who cosplays Michiko Yamashita AKA Ninja Girl KO (I call her my Michikosplayer). What can I say? She definitely has the ninja girl scowl and poses down pat- plus, from the way she was zipping here and there all day, accommodating requests for photos and helping the Mangaholix crew keep things going... she surely has Ninja Girl-like endurance and stamina. Thank you, Jac! You're Awesome.

In the middle of the day, Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo went up onstage to talk about their comic, Trese. Although Budj was kinda apprehensive that the crowd wasn't into their kind of comics, there was a good reaction and several Trese fans threw some nice questions to the pair.

The Trese team (Kajo Baldisimo and Budjette Tan) on stage.

A big part of the M3Con was Cosplay, and there were TONS of cosplayers around. In fact, almost two hundred contestants in wigs, capes, schoolgirl uniforms, spandex and ruffles were on hand to show off their costumes. It was fun just walking around and suddenly recognizing a game or anime character, and snapping a pic. Later in the day, I manned the Cosplay Judges' Booth with Mangaholix's Comipa and Cosplay Princess Alodia Gosiengfiao, getting myself a royal view of the competitors. All I can say is, the local cosplay community is alive and well, and should be giving other countries' a run for the cosplay crown soon.

MADman with Tekken's Lili Rochefort, care of Alodia Gosiengfiao.

At the end of the day, I was tired but incredibly happy. Ninja Girl KO is proving to be mega-popular among Mangaholix readers, I got to meet the fans (along with the inevitable requests/questions about Angel Ace and even someone asking about a Ninja Girl KO/K.I.A. crossover!), man the Con along with the Mangaholix Crew (Thanks, Ian, Emman, Comipa, Xavier, Orgen and all the rest!), grab some nice Ninja Girl KO! merchandise and hot copies of Issue 5. The only wrinkle was that Kriss and me had a bit of a bitch of a time going home thanks to some traffic caused by a just-concluded fireworks display, but otherwise, it was all awesome.

Michiko vs Lili. Now THAT is a dream match...

Till the next M3Con, guys! Hope you all had fun!

Check out my other M3Con pics here and here.

Thursday, May 29


This Saturday May 31, 2008 is the M3Con or Mangaholix Manga Mania Convention 2008! At the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia all sorts of great otaku stuff will be happening- manga and local comics, toys and hobby stuff, cosplay and more cosplay! Aside from the Mangaholix crew of artists, creators and local manga-kas, we'll have guests like Budjette Tan and Ka-Jo Baldisimo of Trese to, well, I dunno... to be dragged up on stage to talk about their comic and characters. Heheh. Of course, me and Kriss Sison will be around to answer all your Ninja Girl KO! questions as well!

So come and join the fun! Buy manga or anime stuff! Buy local comics (particularly ALL 5 Issues of Mangaholix Presents!!!)! Buy some indie manga! Watch some cosplayers! Listen to some guys chatter about making comics! Oh, and buy some cool Mangaholix merchandise! There's gonna be so much to do!

Ever wanted to rest your head on Michiko's soft chest? NOW YOU CAN!!! WAAHAHA!!

It should be awesome. So, see you all there, okay? SATURDAY! Mall of Asia! COME! COME!

Friday, May 23

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones returns for one more adventure.

It's been a long time since the last time we saw Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. in fighting form, but Indy's back. Like John Rambo and John McClaine, Jonesy has come out of retirement for one more shot at glory. I have to say, the Indiana Jones series is, for me, THE number one title when it comes to pulp-action adventure with a historic/mythical schtick. Nothing else comes close- Tomb Raider, National Treasure... NO ONE can touch Dr. Jones. Even though I have to say that since the perfect and sublime Raiders of the Lost Ark, the quality has gone down by notches in every sequel after, an Indy film is head and shoulders, whiplashed-to-the-chandelier-higher than any other adventure movie delving into ancient secrets or mythical treasures.

That said, we all didn't think another Indy would be possible- when Indy, Henry Sr., Salah and Marcus Brody rode off into the sunset after Last Crusade, we all thought that was it. But apparently since then things happened and we do have another entry into the series, thus forever quashing the name Indiana Jones Trilogy and making it the Indiana Jones Foursome of movies.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Man, what a cumbersome title) takes a turn to the sci-fi, referring to the Roswell Incident with flying saucers and little gray men from outer space. It's soon revealed that a small army of Russian cold warriors, led by the supposedly psychic agent Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett doing her best Natasha impression) is after remains of aliens- crystal skulls- in the hopes of unlocking some mysterious powers to rule the world. Of course, the one man who can stop them is the one man they bring in to help them unlock the secrets of the skull- Indiana Jones himself.

Indiana (Harrison Ford) has seen better years- he's a lot older, a lot puffier and grizzled, and with old friend Marcus Brody and father Henry Sr. having passed away some time before, he's not in the highest spirits. But thank god- it's still Indy as we know him. Harrison Ford still has it for the most part, and he can still swing a punch, deliver a line, crack that whip and swash that buck like no other hero.

Unfortunately, even with nostalgia and the pleasure of seeing Indy again, the mere fact remains that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is, without a doubt, the least of the series.

It's not because the heroes are old, though I have to admit I was jarred a bit to realize how old Harrison Ford and Karen Allen are now... Harrison is Indy, Karen is Marion Ravenwood- it would have not been the same without them. The biggest problems I believe with Kingdom are the below par story, script, direction and pacing. That may be harshy, but really, I believe that given the pedigree of the series, this entry is just not done as well as with the previous installments. It certainly hurts that it isn't as intense as before (everything is so strangely bloodless), just as the demand to be more ratings-friendly hurt Die Hard 4.0. But for the most part, the movie just isn't tight, with scenes messily transitioning into one another with as much grace as Mutt Williams' (Shia LaBeouf) simply punching a random guard which inexplicably lets the heroes all escape an enemy camp into the jungle.

It's a problem that the actual quest for the Skull and its secrets is also not as clever, well-presented or clear as in previous movies. There's not as much sense of wonder or awe that permeated the quests of previous films- experiences like finding the Hell of Holes and discovering the resting place of the ark in Raiders, or even just finding the big 'X' marks the spot in Last Crusade- perhaps it's in the imagery and music as well as the script. Here things just seem to happen on autopilot, with the settings and ruins looking strangely generic, with odd live guardians (who are never really given explanation or any depth aside from being just obstacles to take out). The actual Crystal Skull, once found, is actually... strangely cheap-looking and under-whelming... and much too convenient as a device to just keep the quest going and going and going.

The pacing problems persist to the end- again, it's hard not to refer to previous films- as while all of the previous movies were thrill-a-minute rides, Crystal Skull has gaps between the big set-piece action scenes, things that just pop in and pop out as if they were there just to add a bit more spice to the scene (like the aforementioned live guardians of the ruins Indy and company head into). The finale/endgame and resolution sadly feels anti-climactic (coming right after the best action in the movie), predictable and unspectacular, and actually mirrors the same ending of X-Files the movie- just a spectacle for the characters to stand back and watch, rather than be a part of.

The new characters are hit-and-miss; Mutt Williams kinda starts off with a bum leg since we ALL know just WHO HE REALLY IS even before stepping into the theater, thanks to all the hype and news on the internet. He's not THAT bad, but I really feel they tried a bit too hard to make him 'cool' or likeable as a way perhaps of passing the fedora to him, maybe. Not yet ready, I say. Not quite there yet.

Then there's Mac (Ray Winstone), Indy's old friend who turns out to be a double-triple-quadruple dealing agent. He's never a real threat, doesn't really impact on the story much and just feels like extraneous, unnecessary baggage and dodgy comic relief.

As villains go, Irina Spalko is, at least, a physical adversary instead of just being a behind-the-fodder mastermind like Belloq or Donovan... but she still falls behind them in villainy, and Mola Ram of Temple of Doom still rules for me as the best Indy baddie. The sad thing about Spalco though is that she's woefully underused where she could have been really cool. Like Mola Ram's Heart-plucking trick, more should have been made of her psychic powers, instead of her fencing ability and physical prowess. No, I wouldn't have liked her to have become the Indy equivalent of Professor X, but at least make her deserve that offbeat uniform, poses and hairdo by making her more formidable. Also, the Russian soldiers are sadly nowhere near as nasty or fun to take on as the Nazis or Thugees. They seem brain-dead a lot of the time, and are strangely presented more sympathetically or more human than the cartoon baddies of previous films, which takes away a bit from the fun in dispatching them.

What makes me feel bad most about Kingdom is how many missed opportunities there are, I think, that could have made the overall experience so much better. It would have been more intense to give a bit of danger to Marion or Mutt near the end, or at any point of the movie, to give Indy that much more incentive to fight given it's HIS FAMILY at stake. However, we never really feel they're in any danger at any point, certainly not like how Henry Sr. is shot and taken to death's door at the climax of Last Crusade. We never really learn much about the Skull, what it's real powers were or what the point was to the whole thing after all was said and done.


Even with all that, I have to still say- it's an Indy film, and it's impossible for me to hate this film, flaws and flaws and all. There's still cool action about, memorable scenes (Indy and the Mushroom cloud is pretty amazing) and a nice, well-deserved ending for one of cinema's greatest action heroes. This just makes me want to bring out the old movies and watch them again... which certainly can't be a bad thing.

It's Indiana Jones, people. I'll take this Indy over No Indy anytime. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is now showing in theaters all over the Metro.

Saturday, May 17

Back from Bangkok

Scarfing down some Thai Chow.

I'm back! Certainly I enjoyed my Bangkok experience, even though it was mainly for work and I spent the lion's share of my time sitting in a set or shooting location (albeit a couple of the shoots were on really nice, interesting places). I unfortunately didn't get to go to the scenic, cultural spots of Thailand, but I think I was able to see the city in a nice way, walking the streets among the Thais and tourist crowds, eating stuff from street food to proper Thai cuisine and seeing the place both during rain and shine, both figuratively and literally.

Apparently Han Solo is still a carbonite prisoner, displayed in a Bangkok production house.

Japanese bookstore in Thailand...

Some of my more random, interesting bits in Bangkok include...

... walking the streets in the rain with just my raincoat, eating chicken crisps on the sidewalk and ogling some guy's spiffy media player as he watched some video on the street (more on this later)...

... Eating in a Mexican Restaurant (nice, chunky soup and tasty tacos)and realizing that half the staff are Filipino...

... Stalking a little baby elephant down a sidewalk...

... Walking the techno-paradise known as Panthrip Plaza (four floors of gadgets!!!) and seeing Buddhist Monks shopping for PC parts and talking on cellphones...

... Staring at millions of dollars' worth of jewelry and gems in a Bangkok government-run workshop/tourist display...

... Getting my abdomen crushed by the frickin' barrier at the BTS entrance...

... Finding a taste for Rose Apples...

... Experiencing Credit Card Crappiness as my BPI Mastercard proved USELESS and unusable in Bangkok and being left out with my arse hanging in the wind as their 89-100 service line was unreachable. This pretty much forced me to use up most of my cash to buy the Personal Media Player/Digital Recorder I had discovered. WHAT. THE. HELL. I am SOOOO going to complain about this on Monday.

All in all, I enjoyed myself immensely. The Hotel was awesomely classy and luxurious, the Thais are a lovely, friendly people (albeit I eventually found that Taxi Drivers can be irritating even here, and some are still not immune to the ol' "I don't have change" trick). Perhaps someday, on my own time, I'll come back to Bangkok to experience the culture and see the sights. Maybe. We'll see. For now, I have my memories, a new DVR player and other little doo-dads to enjoy my time living the Thai Life.

Monday, May 12

Hanging in Bangkok

Here I am, chilling (literally... the AC's pretty strong) in my hotel room in Bangkok. I'm staying in a pretty good hotel... in fact, probably one of the best in the place, and that alone is worth the trip. A week in luxurious executive class comfort? Thank you very much. Anyway, as much as I'd want to just vegetate in the room and surf on the complementary high-speed internet, I just had to go out. There were souvenirs to buy, things to see.

Day One had me going out and riding Bangkok's BTS, their equivalent to Manila's MRT. It works similarly, save here you buy tickets from vending machines with coins- the booths with tellers provide change for bills. The trains are well-maintained, cool and spacious... albeit smaller than the Edsa MRT. They're also apparently totally covered with advertising stickers, which makes sightseeing from the train impossible, weirdly enough.

A couple of stations' trip away from the hotel was Siam Square, Bangkok's central mall district, and it's BIG. I walked around for an hour or two, looking at the gorgeous setting, salivating at big-screen TVs and perusing some bookstores (including one that sold all Japanese/oriental books, manga and catalogs). Outside the big malls are countless flea markets, garment stores and shops revolving around the central malls. In a word- dizzying. It didn't help though that it was drizzling so I was walking around in my raincoat, stoically determined to experience the Bangkok night of a street pedestrian, even if it was through the rain. I ate some street food, went into a 7-11, walked through sidewalks and sidestreets and generally had an interesting watch of an altogether new but strangely familiar place.

Day Two had half of the day alloted for work, attending a meeting. Afterwards, I was free to go and I was determined to finish my souvenir-shopping to get it out of the way at least. I got a taxi which was driven by a young Thai driver named Tom, who thankfully had very good english. While I originally wanted to go to Wat Po and look at some temples, I eventually gave up since the traffic was pretty bad and the place was located on the other side of the city. I instead went off to a government-run facility (the name escapes me) where they produced Thailand's famous jewelry (along with other Thai souvenirs). Of course, I didn't exactly have countless dollars to spend on jade, rubies and sapphires, so I just slid over to the cultural goods shop and picked up some stuff for the folks back home.

Afterwards, Tom drove me over to MBK, a large market area where bargains could be had. I spent the next couple of hours walking around, wandering and buying a couple of gifts. On the sidewalk, I passed by video stalls and resisted the temptation to grab a couple of discs. Man, they have a LOT of malls here, albeit some are a lot less posh than others. The price though definitely goes down along with the ambience. Despite all that, I felt safe walking around among the Thai people... there was a nice air to everything, and it was nice to just be just another face in a place where Europeans, Americans, Indians and other Asians walked along as well in a pleasant, eclectic mix. I found myself admiring Bangkok for lots of stuff- the air was definitely cleaner (and not as much, if not at all of the stink you'd find in corners and alleys of Manila...) and sidewalks made for walking. Taxis as well seemed easier to get and plentiful, though I heard and read that even here there are unscrupulous cabbies. I haven't met one yet though.

Had dinner at a nice resto which served good Thai food... I was determined to do this since my first night's dinner was eaten at McDonald's. Don't scoff- I just wanted to see any differences from McDo at home. Not many, though incredibly enough they have a DOUBLE BIG MAC. Four freakin' patties. My. God.

After dinner, I walked back home and found myself inhaling a smell that reminded me of armpits times ten. I realized that walking ahead of me was a little elephant. A real, live pachyderm, on the street, walking along with it's owners/herders (who were vendors of some kind). I followed, just wanting to stare at the thing all the way. That moment I really regretted I left my camera in the hotel room. Well, at least the smell won't ever be forgotten.

And so, my second day in Bangkok passed. I finished my souvenir shopping and here I am. with the week still young. There's work to be done from here on in, but I think I'll still have chances to have more fun here in Bangkok. We'll see.

Sunday, May 11

Fast and Not-Too-Furious

On a side note, I spent my pre-departure night with El and Jonas watching the Wachowski-directed Speed Racer movie. I wasn't that hot for this anime-to-film translation (not really a race fan) but kinda knew what I was getting myself into from a couple of reviews, but what the heck. The movie looked like it would be a blast to watch, at least visually. And what do you know... it was.

On the bright (or psychedelic, to be exact) side, Speed Racer is indeed eye candy overload. Pretty much every frame is exploding with bright bubblegum colors as the movie depicts the world as a futuristic, sunshine-bright pinball-machine in which full-contact acrobatic car racing is the biggest craze. It's amazing though it's easy to get lost in the twisting, faster-than-you-can-comprehend races (being seated in the very front row didn't help either). Since the movie is like, 80 percent all-CG and filmed in blue screen, it's kinda like Sky Captain except instead of all sepia it's like someone spilled a gumball machine's worth of colors on everything.

That all said, the movie's kinda long, it's very cheezy and a bit too family-friendly (no deaths like in the anime, save for one supposed death of a major character), but even through the family/friend bonding and long tirades and constant flashbacks and stream-of-mind cutaways for many characters, there's an earnest theme to the movie about being true to yourself, about love of family and how ability and talent and drive rising above the system despite all odds. Yeah, it sounds shmoozy but it actually works.

High points? Man, Christina Ricci is UBER-hot in this film (despite the movie being family fare) and every time she's onscreen you can't take your eyes off her. John Goodman and Susan Sarandon were also great as Speed's parents, and the little kid and the monkey were constant crack-ups.

Goofy and silly at times, often thrilling with lots of action on and off the racetrack but having a bit of an anticlimactic climax, Speed Racer was nevertheless surprisingly enjoyable and worth seeing. The movie's playing now in theaters all over the Metro so check it out.

Another aside- perhaps the coolest thing in the night was the surprise showing of a trailer for the new CG Star Wars: Clone Wars movie! Clearly based on Genndy Tartarovsky's CW cartoons, this new reveal of the battles fought between Star Wars Episode Two and Three looks like it's gonna kick as much arse as the CW series did. Definitely want to watch out for that. Heh.
Out the Door

Nope, I'm still in Manila.

Got up at the crack of dawn this morning. Fortunately, I was able to get some sleep despite my usual pre-departure insomnia. A chartered cab took me to the airport, and here I am. It was kinda unnerving to go through the various checkpoints and stages- divesting yourself of metal objects and depositing them on trays or conveyor belts about twice, going through security and having documents checked and fees paid. After it was all said and done, I had only enough pesos left to buy myself breakfast- lukewarm sausage roll and Coke from Delifrance... which were grossly expensive but tasted like nectar and ambrosia to my rumbling stomach. No more money though, aside from the dollars that I'd be using for the trip, and my credit card. Hopefully I won't use up either. I'm not much of a shopper anyway, save for things that I really love. But I doubt I'll be finding a copy of Tekken 6, Soulcalibur IV or Metal Gear Solid 4 anywhere in Bangkok. Or anywhere else for that matter, yet.

Anyway, I've got a small list of requests to track down in my free time. A duster or two for Mom. A bag for the boss. Souvenirs and sweets for The Salt Mines folk. And... a tube of Thai toothpaste. Shouldn't be a problem.

Less than an hour left to boarding. It's almost time.
The Night Before

This always happens before I go on a long trip... I usually can't sleep, and it's because I'm excited or anxious or just had too much soda to drink. This time, it's a particularly long trip. I'll be off to Bangkok for about a week, attending a shoot for a TV commercial as a Filipino language consultant. Conceivably most of my time will be spent stationed at the shoot itself, but perhaps I'll be able to slip in some personal touring, sight-seeing and shopping as well.

But of course, I'm also a bit antsy because it IS my first time traveling alone in a foreign land. It's like that Sting song. I wonder how the people will be? How will it be different or alike from home?

From all indications, I'll have internet in my lodgings, so I'll most probably continue to update the blog (one way to keep my sanity and ease homesickness, I guess, if that creeps in) and surf. Gladly, the web knows no miles or borders... just bandwidth. Anyway, have PSP, will travel. Before noon, I fly off. The next post I put up, will be from Bangkok.