December 31, 2011

Flying Pigs, Too Many Mitts and Other Adventures in Obsessive Knitting

46 pairs of fingerless gloves in two years. Well, that was a stupid idea.

It all started with this nifty pattern. Actually, it goes back a little farther, when my knitting-fingerless-gloves obsession was in full swing and I joined this little website called Ravelry. First launched in 2007, the site has become a major online hub for knitters, crocheters, and other fiber artists of all skill levels.

A typical Ravelry page.
So what does this have to do with me swimming in a surplus of half-mitts? Blame it on a weird hybrid of ambitiousness, peer pressure, and maybe even a streak of hypomania or two.

See, like any other sizable online community, Ravelry has a metric ton of user groups. As luck would have it, I found a group that was devoted entirely to fingerless gloves. (Good people, all of 'em.) It was December 2010, and for the coming New Year people were aiming to knit 11 pairs for 2011. I threw my name into the hat, and just two months later-- well, you get the picture.

11 in 2011 Rampage, The Pretty Pictures Version
Okay, basically I had completed my 11 pairs by February. By New Year's Eve I had 35. Thirty-five. A good number of them still have yet to have any takers. In hindsight, I may have massively underestimated the whole "tropical climate" thing.

So I had to hit the brakes on glove-knitting for the time being. But no way am I taking a break from knitting period. So I asked myself, "What can I knit all year round, regardless of climate, that I can still derive twee amusement from?"

Enter two square meters of fiberfill.

That's a lot of plush.
Here we have but a snapshot of some of the Ravelry toy patterns I'd been meaning to try, not necessarily right away. To make things more interesting, I decided to give myself the self-imposed goal of knitting 12 toys in 2012. Because I'm a stickler for continuity that way.

Of course, since I rarely ever knit anything bigger than a hat, it's not like I'm aiming for the moon or anything. (Plus I generally work better with double-points than with circular needles, which hate me for some reason.)

My first few toy projects from this new phase
Since December is also "Spend The Holidays With The Relatives" Season, I have inadvertently discovered that handknit dolls are a fast and dirty way to distract young nieces and nephews while also eliciting the oohs and ahhs of older aunts and uncles. Already I have given two away and volunteered to knit two particularly outlandish family requests, namely something in bright colors and a flying pig.

Yes, the flying pig is real. (In knitted form, anyway.)
Hopefully toys will be a bit easier to give away to random people. Which reminds me: Anybody know an upcoming anime/steampunk convention where I can give away 46 pairs of fingerless gloves?

December 4, 2011

Good Morning [insert place name here]!

First of all, the full-length version of this jingle actually isn't that bad. Though the TV commercial is a bit too syrupy for my tastes.





But more importantly, I finally know what this ad subconsciously reminds me of!





I'm a bad person for always giggling at that flasher bit.

Also, there might be the teeniest hint of an Enchanted-esque crowd song influence here. (Small confession: not all that crazy about Enchanted.)

In any case, I am now fully expecting a "Good Morning, Convergys!" follow-up number.

November 6, 2011

When All You're Missing Is A Dollhouse...

Lately I've stumbled onto a couple of discoveries that were as unsurprising as they were bad for my long-term financial health: that there were local Facebook fan pages for both Re-Ment and Sylvanian Families. As if my small world (of plastic, not the one in my head) needed any more over-populating.

To the uninitiated, Re-Ment products are a quick way to add some personality (if not kitschy flair) to the average diorama. Of course, this doesn't disqualify them from having their own applications for playtime either. *cough*

Pizza Night, Fun Meals, Re-Ment
I tend to hold a high appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into products like the collectibles Re-Ment puts out. My minor obsessiveness over tiny objects aside, one of Re-Ment's real selling points is the unnerving realism that goes into their products. Most people have trouble keeping track of anything smaller than their car keys, but Re-Ment proffers a world that tries to sell as complete a scene as possible in miniature.

Re-Ment desk
Sylvanian Families, meanwhile, treads a fine line between being just another old-school dollhouse company and a furry fandom enabler. (Not that I have anything against furries. Fine people, I'm sure they all are.)

While realism doesn't rank as highly on this brand's priorities list as it does for Re-Ment, Sylvanian Families still aims to create its own idealized microcosm of cute forest creatures living in their own quaint country-style throwback of a society.

Sewing with Mom
For their 25th anniversary, Sylvanian Families decided to put out a few very special items. These include sets with a maypole, a nautical rabbit family, and--

Sylvanian Families, 25th Anniversary Police Box (plus cop)
Huh.

Think they're gunning for a new target demographic, perhaps? Perhaps baiting in consumers along the lines of...

Yet another Doctor Who reference on this blasted blog.
Nah.

September 24, 2011

Transformers are so five years ago.

Archie McPhee is perhaps better known in geek circles for being a purveyor of unique 21st century novelty items, a disproportionate number of which are themed after bacon and mustaches. But the website really won me over with its quirky selection of toys.

Action figures by Archie McPhee
Among other things, the site offers an honest-to-goodness line of action figures based on men and women from history. Move over, G.I. Joe! Now you too can play with your very own Benjamin Franklin, Marie Antoinette (complete with detachable head!), Charles Dickens, Harry Houdini, Sigmund Freud, and of course, Jesus Christ.

Box of Extraordinary Gentlemen Action Figure Collection
They even have their own "All Of The Above" package.

Archie McPhee doesn't just stop at famous historical figures, however. They also offer other toys ranging from the neat to the bizarre to the downright sad.

September 23, 2011

So much for maturity.

(Originally posted at the Lalaloopsy Fan Club forums last July 19, 2011, 11:34 PM forum time.

I am still ambivalent about the issue of indoctrinating little girls with the color pink.)


I'm getting one inch closer to completing the new minis! Managed to snag Jewel's Primpin' Party yesterday.

Mini Lalaloopsy, Jewel's Primpin' Party, packaging

A peek into the House of Lala

(Originally posted at the Lalaloopsy Fan Club forums last July 16, 2011, 1:55 PM forum time.

Yes, a Lalaloopsy fan club. These minis have really done a number on my thought processes.)


Just got my hands on Berry's Kitchen this week. It is adorable! The oven and sink are also pretty sturdy, which makes them an improvement over past playsets so far. Am going to get Jewel's Primpin' Party next, now all I need to do is save up for the Treehouse!

Mini Lalaloopsy, Berry's Kitchen, packaging

September 4, 2011

The Times, They Are...

I should have seen this coming. I walked into Astroplus today and there was a whole table of music CDs on sale. Two things immediately struck me: that these were actual proper albums by actual recording artists I recognized (some of which had even been on my CD Shopping List for a while now), and that they were now being proffered at ridiculously low prices. The sign even said "80% Off!"

I had already known about the radical decline of CD sales for some time now. I already know about the great sea change that lead people to get their music primarily from downloads and torrents and stuff. I even made the hard decision of making that shift myself recently, shutting away my older baggage about the medium for good. But I have to admit, seeing the great sea change with my own eyes was still a real punch to the gut for me.

Of course, even music fans know when not to be denied. As I had only a little cash left at the moment, I had to choose between this...

Kings Of Leon, Only by the Night, album cover
... and this.

The Music of DC Comics: 75th Anniversary Collection, album cover

In the end I had to go with Kings Of Leon. Admittedly the lure of having the original Superman film score, the Batman Beyond theme, Danny Elfman's Batman music AND the Justice League Unlimited theme blaring from my laptop on demand was great. However, even I had to admit that there were a couple niggles about this album that made it difficult for me to commit to it. Besides, how can you put Smallville in there without a token mention oSOMEBODY SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVE MEEEEEEEEEEE...





I kid, I kid. I guess I can always come back for the DC album some other time. It's not like only one Astroplus is feeling the music industry pinch, right?

Spin The Gray Circle: Confessions of a CD Snob

(Originally published in my very first blog last March 26, 2007, 22:48 Philippine time.

It probably goes without saying that my CD-buying habits have not fully recovered since then.)


Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped, album cover
To put it safely, by most accounts I am very money-wise and frugal: traits I often take pride in. But if I had to have only ONE very costly, irrational and disappointingly deplorable vice, it would have to be buying CDs. (All ORIGINAL ALBUMS, mind you.)

It has come to the point that my family has grown seriously concerned, worried that an otherwise clearheaded person would willingly splurge (I prefer to think of it as “invest”) thousands of pesos on an otherwise pointless hobby. To make things even MORE drastic, practically ALL the music I personally listen to these days comes exclusively from CDs. I’m not kidding.

My “sole vice” exists in very ironic circumstances: that these days (especially right here at home) one could always opt for easier and CHEAPER ways to obtain music… Downloading songs online and tracking down in Plaza Fair home-burned CD-R copies you could literally buy by the dozen, to name a few. This isn’t the Nineties anymore, when CDs and tapes and cursory playlists on FM radio and MTV really were the be-all and end-all of music for the masses. Now, it seems you can really find EVERYTING for free online (that is, if you’re tech-savvy enough).

I personally hate being figuratively backed into a corner whenever I’m questioned about my “musical habits.” Yes, such a pastime would indicate not only material elitism, but sheer musical snobbishness. And yes, not only is it technologically backward (seeing as CDs are possibly already on the fast track to obsolescence, thanks to the Great Wide Web), but it is also the sort of counter-productive consumer behavior that keeps the big record companies ludicrously rich and the current music industry perpetually on the rocks.

So WHY do I refuse to wean myself from this aesthetically “nasty” habit, especially since I have a whole shipload of good reasons to? Well, to speak very honestly, I’m feeling kinda stumped about it myself. For me CD-buying is not just some pathologically maniacal obsession I am enslaved to. It is simply MY way of maintaining a very personal, intimate, somewhat holistic affair with an art form that has otherwise been permanently changed and spread wide open by digital globalization and quantity-over-quality megalomania.

Precisely because it has now gotten SO EASY to get gigabytes of aural pleasure online, some people now seem to get music online not because they want to, but simply because they can. This is just my opinion, but just clicking on an allegedly awesome song online just seems so antiseptic and impersonal compared to the concrete act of literally craning your neck, getting on your knees or breaking your back in search of some full musical document only Fate could bring your way, then later taking a chance and cradling it in your fingertips in some moment of surreal triumph.

In short, I hold on to my very costly, irrational and disappointingly deplorable vice… simply because I’m a damn romantic.

MY MOST RECENT ACQUISITION: Sonic Youth's 2006 album "Rather Ripped"

Google Images Versus Tiny Plastic Babies

I love Google Images. I don't know why, but today I randomly decided to play around with one of its newer features. They recently updated things so that you can find images not just with search queries, but also by uploading an image from your file.

That being said, the new image-based engine seems to run on predominantly-used colors, not unlike the search functions on sites like Etsy or Hostess With The Mostess. This is not without its foreseeable quirks.

This was a results page I just pulled up this evening:

Google Images experiment, results page
And this was the actual image I tried to bamboozle test Google with:

Carrot Jockey necklace (long story)
For some context, the Naked Mohawk Babies Riding On Carrots saga.
(It helps to know that I am also a Cake Wrecks junkie.)
I first came across the Carrot Jockey image about a year ago, happily giving it a new home in my Bizarre Stuff From The Internet hard drive repository. (What, you don't have one?) I would've easily put the whole Tiny Plastic Babies saga to rest right then and there. A chance work-related discovery, however, recently forced me to see these kitschy craft store tchotchkes in a whole new light.

I already figured there must have been a myriad of baby shower decor and party favor applications for these things. But I never imagined anything quite as specific as... well...
The [My Water Broke] baby shower game will sure break the ice at your upcoming baby shower celebration! Guests will be taken by surprise when you let them know about the little one in their favorite beverage! Prior to the shower, place a baby in each cube slot and make ice. During the shower, serve refreshments with the special ice. The guest that has their baby break free first is the winner!

Wow. Wow.

Yeah, this certainly takes the whole "icebreaker" concept a little too literally.

In short: Google Images, still an inexact science. Tiny plastic babies, now menacing ice cubes and carrots near you!

May 31, 2011

On The Zafra Years (also: journals)

Any young, aspiring Filipino pop writer worth their salt these days has had the Jessica Zafra phase. At least a couple of my friends have all dreamed of becoming her, some even long before they knew she existed. *cough* I'll never forget my Tita's immortal hallmark of a good writer: that she can make even the act of watching ice melt interesting to read about. ("Defrosting", Twisted 7)

More importantly, before the dawn of Rifftrax and the Nostalgia Critic her Twisted book series was my bible on the fine art of injecting film analysis with funny. Personal highlights include:
  • Twisted 5 with the Voltes V-inspired cover and the pieces on The Ninth Gate and Mystery Men, which for some reason I remember most vividly.
  • Twisted 7, which in its time shockingly put forth the theory that Terminator 3 was a good movie. I also fondly remember giggling way too long at the title of the book's Cold Mountain review.
  • Twisted 8, the most recent book I'd gotten to date. (Yes, I know 9 is already out.) Mostly I remember it for giving me yet another reason to just go out and effing buy Atonement already, and for now making me permanently associate Blood Diamond with both Congo and Lord Of The Rings.
In case it had not already become apparent, I had developed then a mild case of Zafra hero worship I decided to wean myself off of (mostly for my own sanity, but also because I still wasn't much of a movie/tennis/tech person).

Of course I still follow her official blog, from time to time remaining indebted to its presence for such things as celebrity correspondence and everything I ever needed to know about Joey Gosiengfiao's Temptation Island.



An extremely bad idea: watching this video right after reading the Wikipedia article on Cannibal Holocaust.


Lately I'd been scouring the blog for its previous entries on the subject of notebooks and other things we use for writing.

This year I have known the thrilling experience of shopping around for my sister's daily planner, and in a way it had caused me to become more contemplative about all the blank notebooks I'd lovingly amassed and scribbled in over the years. (Unlike Sis I am not much of a "planner" person.)

Ever since the minor Moleskine explosion that seems to have erupted domestically overnight, I never really understood the elitist preference for such absurdly pricey journals and other related instruments. (Inkwells? People really still use those?) However at the risk of sounding like a blatant shill, I developed a better understanding of such lofty preferences after finding Gwen Diehn's The Decorated Page on sale at National Bookstore.

I won't go too in-depth about how much I love this book (perhaps I'll save that for another blog entry), but I do highly appreciate its introductory chapters which discussed technical things like archival quality (a.k.a. why "acid-free paper" is a big deal) and the merits of neutral versus determined materials when journalling.

I still can't quite make that transition to high-quality leatherette carnets though, not while I still have a small stockpile of blank books I need to burn through right here at home. Nevertheless, I've now become a more aware, more conscientious diarist (with a disturbingly more pronounced selectiveness when it comes to ballpoint pens).

axilog14 on the art of decorating pages

My current notebook (WHICH IS NOT YOURS). Costed me just P16.50 at American Boulevard a.k.a. Trying To Be Hot Topic.

gloves, by Hot Topic
The funniest part? I could just as easily make these myself.

April 26, 2011

The Rock Radio Paradox

I can't go through this again.

I'm live-streaming UR Faceradio right now (yeah, I know, another audience share in Zuckerberg's pocket) just because I'm getting tired of rock 'n' roll suffering yet another slow and agonizing death at the hands of the short-sightedness of Pinoy radio executives. Yeah, my conscience is still nursing soul pains from not having tuned in to NU 107 enough.

Random story: I was actually old (young?) enough to remember back when 97.1 FM was still a semi-respectable student-oriented pop station that gave the odd bits of music trivia every now and then. There should be some sort of law dictating the increasing probability of a local FM station turning into the same sort of homogeneous masses-pandering behemoth that would play Celine Dion and lifeless reskinnings of the Papaya Song at the most inopportune times of day.

April 22, 2011

An Odd Musical Tradition

Despite the origin of my longtime Internet handle, I was never much of a religious person. That being said, in "observance" of every Good Friday I now have this odd tradition where I always play the same album.

More Than You Think You Are, Matchbox Twenty
First acquired in the summer of 2003, believe it or not I fondly regard this CD as one of my very first "real" rock albums. I was a pretty stupid teenager back then.

Besides the fact that a disturbing number of Rob Thomas's lyrics all seem to address how desperately he needs some sort of savior figure in his life, probably the most remotely Christian element in this whole album is the kickass gospel choir in "Downfall" (not to be confused with the meme-tastic German WWII film Der Untergang).

Matchbox Twenty is as faux-retro as you can get, a big-name artifact of a mildly regrettable era that emerged to try and fill the vast vacuum Kurt Cobain's Grunge left behind (without having to resort to bubblegum boy/girl pop groups, anyway). That whole era of just-passable rock bands was defined by this embarrassing mix of lyrical earnestness and overly self-conscious bids for musical credibility. One need only look back to the likes of Creed or Live to get a feel for how cheesy yet angst-ridden those post-grunge years were.

Incidentally Matchbox Twenty was also one of the biggest presences in my adolescent life for a while, the requisite totem I assumed in a volatile period in which almost every teenager needed some (often music-related) hero-slash-idol to project all their hormone-addled frustrations into.

By some accident of geography, I now often associate Good Friday with More Than You Think You Are. Catch me on a certain day and I may relive whole chunks of that decade to this band's music -- nay, even persist in my unironic adoration of them.

Hey, everyone's allowed to have at least one musical guilty pleasure, right?

April 19, 2011

Music For A Movie

Educational factoid of the day: The song "Never Let Me Go" (for the novel Never Let Me Go, later the movie Never Let Me Go) is not a real song.

Or at least it wasn't. Until now.



To crib shamelessly from the YouTube video description film critic Peter Howell's article in The Star about the song's conception:
... Judy Bridgewater isn’t real. The album is also fake, although it looks genuine, right down to the track listings: “Wanted,” “Dance With Me,” “Never Let Me Go,” “Moonlight Drive,” “Light Over The Hill” and “Crying Over You.”

The album cover shows an elegant woman lounging on a settee, a cigarette with holder in her hand, as she stares a come hither (or get lost) look.

Bridgewater and Songs After Dark are part of the elaborate fiction of Never Let Me Go, a 2005 sci-fi novel by British author Kazuo Ishiguro that is the basis of Mark Romanek’s affecting new film by the same name.

The singer and the album become the fascination of Kathy H., the story’s central character, played by Carey Mulligan.
Holy carp! World-building in action!

Then again (SPOILER ALERT), I did already hear somewhere that the plot of Never Let Me Go sounds like an artsier, less crappy take on The Island anyway. Factor in the novel's mild alternate history angle, and I guess some fictionalized filigree was inevitable.

Going back to the song, it really does sound like something my grandparents might have played on their old record player, possibly even danced to on their first date back in the Fifties. (Or do I mean their Fifties? Fifties the decade, I mean, not Fifties the age. And their Fifties, erm, the actual Fifties, not the Fifties as depicted in the book. Ow, my head.)

My point is that the song is genuinely lovely. I was never really much of an Old Standards kind of girl (though that might be bound to change once I reach my Spinster phase of existence), but this really does feel like a song I could enjoy playing constantly alongside my Asin or Johnny Cash albums. To confuse things even further, it appears the song mentioned in the book is a separate entity from the song that actually gets played in the movie-- You know what? The song is lovely. Can we just leave it at that and move on?!

Today in Flickr groups: Eraser Heads

First off, did you know that collecting Japanese stuff-shaped erasers is a thing now?

I didn't.

Receptacle for erasers shaped like desserts
The way I see it, a telltale sign that your twee, eccentric recreational sideline has blossomed into a full-blown hobby is when you have whole Flickr groups devoted to taking artistic photographs of it. Yes, the same holds true for erasers.

Erasers shaped like desserts
Don't get me wrong, colorful erasers cut out in random weird shapes had been around even back when I was a kid. But even I don't recall this much loving detail devoted to them, back then the things were still designed with rubbing out penciled errors in mind. I might have even *gasp!* taken a fancy fruit-shaped eraser or two to some of my more disastrous art attempts.

Grade School-Era Disastrous Art Attempt
But these? These feel less like erasers and more like a distinct new miniature art wave rooted in the depiction of Chibi-fied objects in the Rubber medium.

This also adds fuel to my budding theory that deep down, humans have a bizarre fixation with things smaller than they should be. From fake dimsum platters to real bottles of hard liquor just like you'd get when you're flying First Class, if it exists then it may have also been adapted to a more diminutive form at some point. Even movies.

Erasers also happen to be a tad more affordable than real high-end miniatures (for now), which means that maybe it won't be as difficult for me to find props for my tabletop disco parties sceneries now.

Disco is still cool.

April 18, 2011

The Evita stuff made me tingle.*

*Come on, I can't be the only living human being who's seen Connie and Carla.

The musical may have had its cringe-inducing lyrical moments, and it may have taken me 15 years to admit it, but my God, Evita sure had one fantastic soundtrack. I will say that even way back then I loved "Another Suitcase in Another Hall." (Which on the album is exactly 3 minutes and 33 seconds long. Huh.)

Evita: Music From The Motion Picture (this was what our album's cover looked like)
"Requiem For Evita" is sure to go down in history as one of the most epic opening numbers to a musical rock opera ever. Right next to "Overture" (Tommy), "In The Flesh?" (The Wall) and... yeah, I've just exhausted all of my rock opera opening song stock knowledge.

Surely a huge part of the Requiem's punch is the melodic foreshadowing to one of the show's biggest numbers, "Rainbow High." My God, how I love this song. Its sheer impact never quite clicked with me as a kid. You'd think the note-for-note Simpsons homage from eight years prior would have clued me in, but nooooooo. It took a much-belated proper playing of the movie soundtrack last November for me to finally "get it." Because I'm culturally dense and thick-headed that way.

The Simpsons has never done an Evita-inspired episode. *cough*
The brash gravitas and mile-a-minute wordplays of "Rainbow High" almost made me wonder if the more accessible film adaptation of the musical would have succeeded at all without Madonna in the title role. And when she mouths that final "star quality" (flourish and all), you can just visualize her standing in front of a mirror, dressed to the nines and beaming with smug, triumphant satisfaction.

On the bright side, "Buenos Aires" immediately took me back to my childhood and my parents' frequent Broadway benders on the family CD player. (Some cheesy lip-synching, ponyback rides, Frank Sinatra and pillow fights may have been involved.)

Another song I didn't expect to like instantly was "I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You," which I gather depicts the hypothetical first meeting of Eva Duarte and Colonel Juan Peron. (I haven't seen the movie yet, I promise I will get around to it very soon, LET'S MOVE ON) Of course everybody by now knows that the song is dripping with the symbolic shrewd politicking that defined the Eva-Juan relationship and is thus not a seduction song in the conventional sense. That still doesn't diminish the song's hypnotic sexual tension though: If I had to choose between waltzing with Antonio Banderas Che and singing a plain hoighty-toighty duet to this song, I'd choose the duet.

"She Is A Diamond" is the shortest number on the CD, but it is also its rare fragile, earnest moment. ("You Must Love Me" is the other one.) The character of Juan Peron is an infrequent presence here anyway, so it seems apt that this short number was still enough to humanize him and paint him as a burgeoning dictator who might actually deeply care about his wife. Say it with me: awwwww.

Perhaps the eerier listening experiences for me had been "A New Argentina" and "And The Money Kept Rolling In", but only because listening to them suddenly gave me this inexplicable urge to go out and buy Here Lies Love. In a perfect universe, Imelda Marcos would have her own polarizing quasi-biographical musical, wildly popular yet tongue-in-cheek enough to make her the next, well, Evita.

Imelda Marcos (Here Lies Love)
"Lament" is, to put it succinctly, a terrifying ending. It puts a sinister spin on the whole musical, and it gets even worse when you stop and consider that the real Eva Perón's body really did disappear from the face of the earth for a little while. Thus, that danged last song really did turn into a brick-pooping moment for me.

And may I just say, not even a proper playthrough could save me from getting plain sick and tired of "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina." At least that Simpsons episode had the decency to ape other songs from the musical too.

April 15, 2011

How could you, Alex Proyas?!

I thought you were cool!

I liked The Crow. I actually enjoyed I, Robot on the big screen. I haven't seen Dark City yet but I've always wanted to! And now you retroactively pull this frakkery on me?!

Knowing
The end of the world? The wall of numbers? The creepy little girl who can see fifty years into the future? The grade school time capsule? The solar flare of doom? The little black rocks? "Everyone Else"? The man of science estranged from his religious father? The mom who goes crazy and dies? The Adam and Eve plot? The angels aliens? The flaming deer? THIS?

My hair is a bird. Your argument is invalid.
Granted, you didn't 'shop in the bird and you didn't slap on the caption.
This didn't even happen on the set of your movie.
YOU STILL COULD HAVE PREVENTED THIS, PROYAS!
 But you know what really adds insult to injury? Roger Ebert liked this movie. Not only that, My Dad liked this movie.

My Dad. Liked. This movie.

My Dad, the same man who without irony* would tell us all about the Third Secret of Fatima, the truth behind the Illuminati conspiracy, and how the President of the United States was 17th in line of succession for global command behind a secret cadre of super-gazillionaires, LIKED Knowing.

Okay, granted, you weren't the screenwriter. That might give you a pass.

Still, what the hell Alex Proyas? I thought you were cool! And now I'm going to be stuck thinking every other movie you've done was a fluke*.

_____
* I hope not.

For your sake, I pray that Garage Days turns out to be awesome.

Garage Days


P.S. They're planning a reboot of The Crow. Please do something about that.

April 13, 2011

After all, 132 pages is not a lot.

Scott Adams would like for you to know that he does indeed lead a life outside of Dilbert.

Any time a book claims that it can change your life, world view, fundamental belief system or whathaveyou, one naturally cannot help but feel dubious. If it also happens to be a short book you can legally download on the internet for free, well, it wouldn't hurt to put your principles to the test (for free!) every now and then.

God's Debris, book cover
God's Debris, Scott Adams' first published novella (and non-Dilbert book), openly markets itself as a "thought experiment," one that could possibly shake the walls of your own spiritual life if not bang on them incessantly with a big stick. If you're a young, impressionable high school ("People under the age of fourteen should not read it," says Scott in the Introduction) or college student possibly looking to expand your intellectual borders beyond angsty pop-rock and supernatural romance novels while trying to make yourself look smarter to your peers *coughmenineyearsagocough*, then sure, the moniker can work.

To be perfectly honest, the central concept Adams tries to highlight in the story would have made a shorter, less-muddled standalone nonfiction book on its own, and the framing device with the delivery man and the old man in the apartment feels unnecessary. Sure, it's a lovely jaunt through roughly fleshed-out narrative, rising action, falling action, organic dialogue, subtly-telegraphed ending and all that juicy quasi-literary stuff, but you can already tell the only thing anyone's going to remember of this whole book is the nifty, water-cooler-worthy "Levels of Consciousness" business.


Avatar SquaredI am the AVATAR! Watch as I assert my spiritual complexity over all of you sheeple!

What was my point again? Oh, yeah: admittedly the questions raised in the book are some very insightful ones. The "thought experiment" is a valid one if you have rarely ventured beyond the ethical dimensions of your own spirituality and dipped more into the metaphysical parts of it. It dwells less on the moral question of why we must do certain things and more on the "practical" question of why God -- assuming one exists -- does certain things.

The questions, however, lie fairly low (read: non-threatening) on the Sliding Scale of Earth-Shattering Revelations: innocent enough not to offend anybody -- or so Adams hoped in the book's Introduction -- but provocative enough to spark some spirited discussion. One wonders if maybe more of the book's metaphysical conflict would be explored in the novella's follow-up The Religion War because, come on, it's got the word "War" right there in the title.

God's Debris also consciously treads that very fine line that separates the devout and the logical-minded; a whole (brief) chapter, "Science," addresses the presumed dissonance between science and religion in a way that reads much like a watered-down Carl Sagan argument. An earnest attempt is made not to alienate any of the religious, though it's unlikely to cause any controversy anyway except maybe over the mention of string theory.

Plot-driving philosophical conundrums aside, as a proper novella I think I liked this book better the first time I read it.... when it was called Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Jonathan Livingston FREAKIN' Seagull
RECOMMENDED LISTENING: Since it's old hat to name-check R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" at a time like this, I shall instead break tradition (not to mention betray my post-grunge bias) by playing "Why I Don't Believe In God" by Everclear. Mostly because it's a legitimately nice song and Everclear needs every hit they can get.

April 10, 2011

... it wasn't a prequel.

OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS

IT WASN'T A PREQUEL


*ahem*

To explain, for several months now I had been made aware of a certain alternate reality game masterpiece known affectionately to its fans as the Beast. It ran for a magical three months in early 2001, but it had taken me just last month to actually sit through a walk-through explaining what the heck was going on in it.

I'm looking through my daily journals right now, trying to remember exactly which night I spent without sleep and devoted to that walk-through. It might have been the 28th, the 29th of March. It was an exhilarating night, and all over something that ended almost ten years ago. (Dang, I'm old. And I need to get out more.)

Of course, it is impossible for me to discuss the Beast without going into length about the film it was created solely to promote. A.I. Artificial Intelligence was originally a Stanley Kubrick project inspired by "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long," a sci-fi short story by Brian Aldiss. And going by the Wikipedia page, it also famously got stuck in development hell for several decades until Kubrick died and Steven Spielberg took the helm.

Considering that Development Hell is usually a place reserved for either the unluckiest or most passion-driven of projects, exactly what is so special about A.I. that Kubrick had spent years making sure he got it right?

Well... I'm not exactly ready to answer that question yet. Maybe one day I'll attempt a proper movie review, I'm still not sure. All I remember is that when my sister and I first watched that movie onpiratedVCDpleasedonotjudgeus we were both overcome by that same dazed, rotten but sobering feeling you get when a movie leaves behind an impression somewhere between "This movie is incredible" and "Oh my God I want to DIE." (The last movie to make such an impression on me was A Very Long Engagement. Thanks a lot, HBO.)

There's one more thing: Despite it leaving a fairly visible impact, I did not recall particularly falling head over heels in love with A.I. the way you normally would when you discover you have just seen your new favorite movie. In short I did not recall particularly liking A.I. despite its emotional punch.

I still don't. I still can't get over how stereotypical or under-developed some of the characters were, or how baffling the lead-up to that ending was, or how Jude Law as a sexbot seemed both eerily appropriate and utterly ridiculous.

But most of all I was just struck with how the plot itself seemed to do much of the movie's heavy lifting. Taken out of context many of the performances in this movie (like the jerkass big brother or the "ringleader" of the flesh fair) play out like lazy archetypes, but at the same time you get the feeling that their presence makes sense... or at least has to. All because of this loony roller coaster of a plot.

Ironically this quirk is also the reason why I cannot find it in me to outright dismiss A.I. as a work of fiction. It is a widely-held belief in literary circles how "literary fiction" (the kind you'd expect to win Pulitzers or other equally magnanimous awards) is known primarily for its character-driven stories while "genre fiction" (which includes works of horror, fantasy and science fiction among other things) is more known for its plot-driven stories, often derisively so. But as an aspiring writer with a preference for certain flavors of genre fiction (do you people read this blog?), I feel I need to bring up one of the surprise perks of plot-driven stories, and possibly one of the best parts of writing itself:

Worldbuilding.

While I may not care much for A.I. the movie, the Beast completely helped redeem A.I. the fictional universe in my eyes. That's because of exactly what the Beast is made of: it's knee-deep in the mythology of A.I. in ways the movie isn't. It clues us in on the nuances of the world that both created and doomed David the robot child, and it does so in tantalizing increments of company profiles, hacked e-mail, vandalized websites, stone-age blog posts and leaked coroner reports. And code-breaking. Piles and piles and piles of code-breaking. But I'll get to that later.

The enormity of the scale and depth of the Beast itself caused me to remember that for all its flaws, A.I. was still a remarkably complex feat of worldbuilding. The building of this universe from the ground up is as sound as you can get considering that this was all just for one single Hollywood movie. This is a universe where people can be kept in suspended animation, where companies are in cutthroat competition over the next groundbreaking piece of A.I. technology, where people attend university on the Moon, where rednecks have built campaigns and militias dedicated to the cause célèbre that is the snuffing out of the Mecha menace. Heck, the fact alone that the words "orga" and "mecha" are loaded epithets in this universe is just mind-blowing to this poor nerdichlorian heart of mine.

But most importantly at all, the Beast wasn't a prequel.

I mean that literally; after hearing so much about the Beast pretty much serving as the backstory of A.I., all this time I thought it was literally a direct prequel to the movie. It's not.

But I'm too much of a lady to spoil all the best bits, so I must insist you judge the Beast for yourself. Your sleepless night starts now. Now go, go, go, go, GO!

(Stay tuned for an eventual continuation to this post. I have not even begun to geek out over the Beast.)

April 6, 2011

You are waiting for a train...

Pardon me, I've got something in my eye.

YouTube surprises us yet again.

Damn, it's eerie how Harry Potter had become the thing that had pretty much completely pervaded this generation. My generation.

Ye gads. The antsy anticipation of the next book. The twee all-star Britishness of the movies. The aptly fantastical incredibility of a children's author richer than the Queen. The surprise alternate reality game tie-ins. The knitting. Heck, my very first email address (which one of my now-oldest friends first started up for me) was a Harry Potter reference.

Most of all, I keep feeling that J.K. Rowling should win a bloomin' Nobel Peace Prize just for being a writer lucky enough to be in a position to spawn more writers, to make writers dream big again. Dream that they could save literacy, spawn a subculture, out-moolah the Queen and all that. All thanks to a young boy-wizard dreamed up on a train ride.

Dang. How can you look back on something like this and not believe we live in surreal, interesting times?

April 2, 2011

Evicted

This depresses me just a bit.
No, I'm not being kicked out of the house yet.

There's no crime in exhibiting Filipino hospitality, though a case has to be made for when said hospitality comes at the expense of completely obliterating one's sense of personal space. I had only just managed to move most of my stuff back in the room (though the Bottomless Yarn Cooler is still sitting in the hallway), but recent events had informed me that I might have a lot more heavy lifting to do.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a toilet to unclog.

April 1, 2011

Looks like I have some plans for next weekend.

(via our favorite Filipino speculative fiction site, Rocket Kapre)

The FFP 24Hour Read-a-thon!
I just signed up. I've commuted by myself to Cubao before (thank you, WWE!) and a very good friend had already showed me around Cubao X...

How hard can it be?


Holy carp, I own ALL of these?!
Oh. Right.

*goes to rummage through her immense backlog for something she can bring to Cubao*

March 31, 2011

Let's Talk About Wallpaper!

So... that Doctor Who Series 6 trailer.

I'm not going to bore you with the details of what terminal squee velocity I hit the moment I found out this trailer showed up on YouTube-- okay, maybe I can deviate for just a bit by talking about how surprisingly hot and kick-ass River Song looked about 24 seconds into trailer.

The Doctor and River Song. Let's leave it at that.
Um, also this.
Okay, now onto the matter at hand. Fast-forward 38 seconds... GO!

The Moff's been hitting the crazy juice again.
Yeah, this scene is probably just another one of those eye-popping red-herring-type Why Trailers Lie kinds of scenes. But mostly this scene caught my attention just because it suddenly reminded me of one of my most favorite Pinoy rock music videos ever.

I'm talking of course about Pupil's "Dulo ng Dila".




Come on! How can you not love a band that tries to go the artsy [OVERUSED "H" WORD REDACTED] route on purpose?

But of course how can we forget our favorite concept video wallflowers?

OK Go at the Grammys

Oh, but let's talk about the Series 6 trailer some more!

Mental Wealth Girl, is that you?
 Is it just me, or does this girl look suspiciously like the one from those infamous Playstation "Mental Wealth" ads from a while back?

GeronimoAAAAAAAUUUGH
It takes a real man to fall and look lanky in style.

That interior looks familiar...
Of course this will be the scene all the more continuity-headed Who fans will be buzzing about for days. (For those of you not on the know, the show is about a time-traveling alien that controls a spaceship called a TARDIS and changes his appearance every once in a while. We are currently at Doctor Eleven. This scene *reportedly* portrays what the inside of the TARDIS looked like about two regenerations ago. Yes, I think that's supposed to be a big deal.)

On a less related note, I find it somewhat unfortunate how that picture angle made Arthur Darvill look like David Tennant for a split second. Sorry, fangirls.

So a Minotaur walks into a hotel...
Oh crud. They've got some The Shining in my House of Leaves again.

SPOILER ALERT!
SPOILER ALERT: SOMEBODY DIES.

Geek Quote of the Day

Eight words:

"I'm more concerned that someone banged Red Skull."

March 26, 2011

Unceremonious Fridging

"but one by one they're raped, tortured, killed, or all three."

Oh God, no.

In my endless optimism, I am still fairly confident a half-useful lesson can be construed from this train wreck somehow. But you can already tell any saving grace this thing can possibly have will just be buried under the very tall mountain of WTF DID I JUST WATCH ARGARBLAGH

I still need to see this movie, though.

March 21, 2011

March 18, 2011

We Are All Disney's Children.

A mildly funny chat conversation I got into today with my other friend named J (not that one, or that one):
Me: this is probably going to be a massively embarrassing question, but ever seen Tangled?

J*: No, but I heard it was pretty good

Me: oh, you should see it
Mom and I did, and I actually thought it was really good
granted, I still haven't seen The Princess and the Frog yet

J: I heard Tangled was one of the best animated Disney movies in awhile

Me: it was the DAC**'s 50th movie, I guess they pulled all the stops for that one
I can actually say it rocketed to my Top 3 Favorite DAC movies

J: What are your other two?

Me: mostly it depends on what mood I'm in
If I'm being a princess apologist, I'd probably say Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin

J: Those are two of the best

Me: if in my Literature geek mode, Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Great Mouse Detective
if in my steampunk geek mode, Atlantis and Treasure Planet
if in some other mode, I'd probably also say The Sword and The Stone and Sleeping Beauty, and maybe Winnie the Pooh just for the childhood nostalgia factor
Yeah, you can sort of see the exact point in the conversation where an innocent question turned into my classic word vomit of increasingly indecisive nitpicky proportions. And that's not even getting into my embarrassingly eloquent thoughts on the Rescuers movies, The Emperor's New Groove, how I realized several years too late that Pocahontas retroactively ruined my childhood, and why I now consider The Little Mermaid and The Lion King overrated.

Did get some neat toys out of them though.

A Little Mermaid doll, dredged from the cupboards of my childhood

__________
* This J is a guy.
** DAC = Disney Animated Canon