Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Say it like a puppy who can't help but show his love

Work's become so much of a part of my daily routine that I don't even have the time to blog or to write that story for the upcoming speculative fiction collection the third, and it's getting the best of me by making me grouchy. Fortunately, Thelonious Monk is always great company for the pressurized heart.

Speaking of Dean Alfar. I regularly read Dean Alfar's blog just to keep in touch with what's what and hot and not in the mainland of the Pinoy writing universe. His site's no survey of Philippine literature, but he delivers news of the kind that don't dwell on the overomnipotence of the singular well-placed word, so it's the kind of lit news that I'd actually like to read.

Not that I lose myself in his posts much; I read his blog, not his fiction. Take this entry, for example. It illustrates a discipline in writing that should become something like a force of habit for anybody dead set in making anything out of any art form, since inspiration is like a sugar rush that's going to go bad soon and you sure wouldn't want to be in the same room when you hit rock bottom. But I read the first paragraph, glossed through the next few, then hopped through the last paragraph. Then I read the comments, went back to the last paragraph, thought about whether I should leave a comment or not, then decided against it because Maryanne Moll had left a comment and the only encounter I've ever had with her was when I left a comment at
her blog and I'd sounded like an idiot then.

Self-preservation is the pits sometimes.

Where was I?

So yeah. I generally agree with his point about writing as more than a spark of inspiration. What didn't really sit well with me was mostly everything else. Most writers tend to take things to a totally different level the only way they know how: by going overboard with the details (guilty!).

Steve Conte of The Crowned Jewels, on the other hand, gives a more concrete example in his journal post entitled "On Depression and Despair." It might take you a bit to find the exact post, but it's worth it since he gives out actual exercises on keeping that artistic muscle flexed.

Not that I'm dissing Dean. He's a cool guy with a lot of great ideas. But I'm kinda choosy when it comes down to making a liberal art a job. It's no secret that the fastest way to lose interest in anything is to make it your source of livelihood, but that's technically all you need to know about it. I mean, there's no immediate point in puffing all these enlightened ideas just to illustrate that what was once A will have to become B just to keep on being A.

Of course, it's his blog and there's Freedom of Expression that says that all the flak I've just given him makes me an instant asshole. But then, he doesn't care about me, and neither do I care about him. I just wish that writers would just stop prettifying something as simple as a blog post and get to the damned point already. I ain't got all day.

Oh my God, I'm starting to sound like Maddox.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The World Ended With Chrono Trigger

I love Final Fantasy Six. In the same manner as most FF fanatics love Final Fantasy Four. Nobue Uematsu hit the heights of midi entertainment with six, and this was the last good FF game that wasn't at all touched by Berserk.

That's a side note right there. Berserk features main character good-guy Guts who's out to fight against Godhand Femto, formerly Griffith of the Band of the Hawk. Guts weilds the Dragon Slayer, while Griffith is a nancy boy with a katana.

This was an idea spawned during the 1980s. Way beyond the idea of Cloud and Sephiroth were brought to conception. Coincidence? There aren't that many consipracy theories that attempt to link Berserk to FF VII, but hell, I'm sure Guts and Griffith influenced the characters of Cloud and Sephiroth. One-winged angel? I mean. c'mon. Seven was good, but FF IX went beyond VII in terms of story and originality, and that's reality. So no, VII was only groundbreaking because of the 3D, and the RPG Arc the Lad was actually a better RPG in terms of breadth and scope. So boo hoo to the recent FF games. Except for the tactics series.

No, I'm no hypocrite. I enjoyed VII just as much as the next guy, and even wasted enough of my time with the silly game that was FFVIII, which demoted the super cool ragnarok into a ship that didn't even scratch the coolness factor of FFVI's Falcon (whih was 2D) and FFVII's Highwind (which was cool because of its pilot, Cid).

But there's not enough character development. I mean, sure. You've got all the new games and animes / movies that help bring breadth, width, and candour to the rest of the FFVII crew (such as the Dirge of Cerberus series that makes Vincent Valentine more than just your average playable character, or the prequel celphone RPG that went in depth with Yuffie's character. Let's not leave out Advnent Children that was cool because you see a lot of CGI ass-kicking, which was the ONLY FRICKIN THING the movie was about.

Nothing much about secondary characters like Barret and Red XIII. No story about what the friggin hell ever happened to Cid. These were two really cool characters. First of all, Barret was a salute to the Band of the Hawk's Pippin (sans the quiet, cool atitude). And Cid, for a geriatric, was really cool. He uses a friggin harpoon to spear Bahamut through in Advent Children. He owns the bloody Highwind, a jet-propelled airship.

Cloud owns a sword, had a traumatic childhood with Sephiroth and Zack, and weilds a huge blade (whose name I can't even remember anymore).

Oh yeah, and he nearly screwed Aeris and most likely screwed Tifa, the only two playable females in FFVII.

Oh, did I mention that he wanted to kill Sephiroth because of his demented love for all children of Jenova? (Yeah, it wasn't a demented love, but by the end of FFVII I wanted to puke so much because of the attention the whole Cloud-Sephiroth love triangle was getting. It was insufferable. It was an insult to the relationship between Guts and Griffith. And Sephiroth never even fuckin spoke. At least, not enough to matter).

Let's get down to business. All you CGI kids are FUCKING SPOILED BRATS THAT CAN'T HANDLE A GOOD STORY THAT DIDN'T DELIVER ANYTHING VISUALLY BEAUTIFUL ENOUGH TO KICK SPIDERMAN 3'S ASS. Funny thing, I meant every word. I hardly even play CGI games anymore. I quit at Divine Divinity (do you kids even KNOW the game?). I'd still occasionally play Grand Theft Auto, and I'd like to try Baldur's Gate and even Neverwinter Nights, but that's not because its 3D. I'd play it because it was based on a really good RPG that I happened to play once before.

And also because Baldur's Gate has a character named Boo. Who is a hamster.

My point is, half of the CGI games you have out in the market are technically eyecandy games that cater to people who hardly even think when it comes to the difference between a right mouse button click and a left mouse button click in Half Life. Hell, you can reprogram the controls. Why not make it that you can go berserk and still have good results?

Fucking spoiled kids.

FF VI features a game that has an operatic theme, a stat character development that you can actually develop to level 99 (yes, I've done it for every character in FF VI, and actually enjoyed the experience no matter how tedious it eventually became), a character story development that, whichever ending you end up with, won't leave you with a question going somewhere along the lines of "So what good was so-and-so for in the game?"

I personally think that good RPGS died with FFVI and Chrono Trigger. Chrono Cross was good as a game, but there wasn't enough character development to make it worth finishing the game twice or thrice. I enjoyed Saga Frontier II because of the way the game generally played, and also because the story spanned literal generations as far as the story was concerned (you had characters that died, thus destroying the "level up" sickness that most roleplayers are rife with). I enjoyed FF Tactis (both versions) and Front Mission, as well as Zone of the Enders: Fist of Mars because of the gameplay (ZOE would have been horrible without the gameplay). I played Boktai because it was a good Zelda successor.

But still, RPG's always tend to pale in comparison to FF VI and Chrono Trigger for me. I played these two games repeatedly when they first came out. It was an amazing addiction. I can't recall playing any other game as much as I played these two. I collected almost everything that I could in FFVI. I even broke the cursed sheild curse, and even gauged the difference between the Illumina Sword and Ragnarok. I even tested the urban legend that another Atma Weapon could be stolen from the final boss. In fact, I'd think that the one thing I never tested was whether or not you can have a good ending with Shadow.

Call me a fanboy. I'll take it wholeheartedly. But unless FFXII can break free from the sickness that's been killing most of the FF games recently - at least for hardcore fans - then I'll still say that the world began with Square, and ended with Chrono Trigger.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

And Action

New story up in the old Zeppelin. You can read the, er, murder here. Short stories are fun when you don't think about them, and it relaxes a really tired mind sometimes. If you're lucky, you might even come up with something good.

A couple of weeks ago, I was told that a story of mine will be coming out in the newest issue of Story Philippines. That was a couple of weeks ago, a few days before the holy week celebrations in the Philippines ground almost all big businesses into a standstill. I hear the issue's been released though. My family actually bought five copies. One of my sisters called "Japanese Green Tea" (my story) short but sweet. But don't take her word for it. Take mine, and believe me when I say that the story goes really well with an ice-cold San Miguel pale pilsen and a few grilled eggplants. Many thanks to Mr. Bernas for letting my constant nagging slide.

The newest issue of Dapitan was also recently published, and yes, I sent in stories (yes! stories!) in lieau of an old piece that they really wanted. There's actually a funny story here. I was on a date with Laida Vicente when Keith Cortez stops me in the middle of one of Greenbelt's corridors saying "Are you Martin Cruz?" The thing was, I didn't even know his name, but I went from mild surprise to abject horror when he started talking about an old story I sent in for an older issue of Dapitan. Few people knew about it, and I hadn't even been in the UST writing circuit for so long that I imagine it would take a master sleuth to find traces of me in the UST-CCWS and TWG files.

Well, it turns out that somebody did find a dusty old manuscript of the said story (which will remain unnamed until it earns me something haha) in the CCWS's filing cabinet, and was considered worth publishing. At the time, though, I was busy rehashing (I still am) the story, so I begged off, and sent them two shorter stories - Double Take and Posthumous - in its stead.

And the folio looks really interesting. I was browsing through the list of contributors here, where I discovered that a huge bunch of the writers were either people I knew, or people who were well-known enough to carry a name that sounded like Egyptian lightning in a stone corridor. I was actually pretty pleased to find out that Cherifer Patola had a contribution, as well Junn Dela Rosa and Emong de Borja, people whom I briefly knew from a past life (ahem). I was also pleased to see that I wasn't the only short short fic contributor; Galapagos Man also sent in two short shorts, although his works were probably weren't sent in just to cover up an inability to send in something better.

Many thanks to Ron Benusa and Keith Cortez for helping me get these two stories out of the trunk (and no, Ronald, I don't think that those stories of mine are bad, haha. I wouldn't send in something that I didn't think was worht publishing). Readers may waylay any of the Flame or TWG people for copies of the folio starting now.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Life Began with Muck

I'm taking a break from this fluke of a flu to post something I chanced upon while searching for back issues of the Reader's Digest section "All In a Day's Work." (I read that laughter boosted the immune system, and what with the deadline I'm facing, I'll need all the help I can muster. Forth, Martiningas!)

Here's the text in (somewhat) full:

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. And He said: Let there be Chemistry.

And he looked upon the Chemistry and He saw that it was good. And then He said: Wait, we need more carbon. Also more water. Tap is fine.

Soon there was something new upon the waters of the Earth, this thing called Life. It oozed, multiplied, diversified. It learned to swim, crawl, even fly. Eventually a new form of life appeared, a creature large of brain, compulsively inquisitive, with an obsession for asking the really big, hairy, gnarly questions, such as: Where did I come from?

That's when things got really complicated."

The text goes on to discuss more mundane, scientific things (yes, I read the rest) about the studies for the origin of life. It mentions Tinkertoys. You can read the rest of it here.

Anyway. Back to work-slash-rest.