Sunday, January 27, 2008

My Hero


This is an amazing fanboy moment.

I was clearing out my roster of Yahoo groups, since a huge chunk of the egroups I am a member of has become little more than a repository for spam. This meant the decisive cleaving of all the band productions I am a member of, the cutting of the umbilical cords of my old, pseudo-rock n' roll lifestyle. I chanced upon a link from the Philippine Tolkien Society leading to this site - which led me, in turn, to this list.

J.R.R. Tolkien is a god among men. Hearing his voice stirs the lyrical undertones in my bones. It doesn't hurt that he sounds like a smoke-filled, well-vinegared old man, the kind of old man I'd want to be when I've grandkids running around.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Killing Joke


and the wings of angels
will not carry you to the heavens;
nor will the jackdaws
caw for your remains
for death
is transitory


Just like the lull of the storm breaks with the first thunderclaps on the horizon, so does The Dark Knight begin its media run with the dismally poetic, morbidly chilling death of one of its main actors.

It's funny that the man should go just after the completion of the movie where he plays one of the most blood-curdling characters in contemporary fantasy - the Joker. It's curious that the circumstances of his death revolve around suicide via drug abuse, since it has been said that in preparation for his role as The Joker, the actor technically chose to destroy his otherwise systematic lifestyle. In true Supersize Me fashion, the man's health deteriorated, his temperament worsened, and I think anybody can only take so much of The Killing Joke, one of the most introspective, and arguably the darkest, Batman story arc ever published, before one's faith in humanity runs out. It's also rather funny, in a grim, shocking sort of way, that his death follows a falling-out with his better half - who just recently gave birth to his child.

In other words, it was probably an accident waiting to happen. A time bomb, if you will.

Godspeed, Mr. Ledger. You were an awesome soldier, and a fantastic knight-errant. Millions of fans will remember The Dark Knight as a fitting - and rather premonitory - encore before your final exit from the silver screen.

---

This will not change the sombre mood of this post. In my last entry, I forgot to mention one of the more chilling pieces of media that I happened to encounter recently. This is a 1990 Canadian short film entitled To Be, and deals with teleportation, among other things. Do not let the childish animation fool you: this video is rather grim, for its childish treatment.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And There's Just Too Many Movies in the World Today


There's media and then there's media. The past year, I've been knee-deep in a quagmire of geek-related media that, while entertaining, lacks that certain air of distinguished intelligent accomplishment that makes snooty people wriggle in their seats with joy because lo and behold, something new exists what they can talk for hours about while the rest of their more pedestrian acquaintances sit slack-jawed (bonus points if they yawn). Forget that most of the Satoshi Kon anime I have actually requires one to think, or that Trainspotting is an adaptation of a good book with the additional detrimental bonus of actually seeing Ewan McGregor's flaccid penis in action; everything that is eating up space in my laptop's fragile and overflowing bowels is almost brainless media.

It's all fun, of course. I love the way the story plays out in Paradise Kiss, or how The Hakkenden masks a gorefest with the pretensions of being an historical study of Japanese literary history. Both the recent Batman and Superman movies were really worth a geekgasm or two, any Jack Black and Jackass movie is a laugh waiting to happen, and I have been hooked to Naruto and Bleach because the shonen in me is screaming for more sauce. Bandwidth has become my best friend since I rubbed lips with Smart's demon of a DSL service, and I can't say that I've been regretting it.

But sometimes, you look at the stacks of hardcore literature that you have in your library, and you start thinking that a very small part of you misses thinking.

I first got that feeling when I revisited Multiplex, and read about Terry Gilliam's film Brazil. I immediately downloaded the movie, and while I haven't seen it yet due to the backlog of media that I have lying in wait like a horde of blood-hungry swine, I did get to download Trainspotting and Thank you for Smoking, two awesome films that didn't get enough publicity - or air - here in the metro.

I compiled a list of the media that, through serendipity or otherwise, I recently had the good fortune of finding. Mind that most of these aren't exactly the most up-to-date and consumer-friendly bits of entertainment, but it wouldn't be as much fun if everybody got it, now would it?

---

: Trainspotting
This rambunctious, blasphemous, fucked-up coming-of-age film not only features the four greatest hedonistic faults of your average teen-ager - these being sex, drugs, alcohol and stupidity - but also the hot and happening bodies of a thinner Ewan McGregor and a sultry, twenty-year old Kelly McDonald, who is the very definition of sex. I know that this film is more than a decade old, but I put off viewing / reading Irvine Welsh's first novel since I'm a lazy butt.

: A Clockwork Orange
I haven't seen the film, actually. It has been queued, however, and is waiting for me to feast my eyes on all the Stanley Kubrick goodness it has to offer. I loved the book - I'm sure I'll achieve full orgasm with the movie.

: Thank You for Smoking
Okay, plot-wise, this film isn't necessarily a movie for the smarts, as with most of Hollywood's films. But spin doctors make amazing social subjects, and Katie Holmes has hot legs.

: McSweeney's
The one-stop solution for all your literary hunger pangs. It really takes a bit of mental (and nonsensical) effort to enjoy this little treasure, but suffice it to say that Cholo did me a favor when he introduced me to this site.

: Piling Piling Pelikula
This man reviews movies that I didn't even know existed. I almost didn't see Trainspotting, I almost missed 2046, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let crap like that happen again. I look forward to seeing his reviews in the future, and watching the films he deems as "sensational."

---

In other news, I've recently begun walking for about an hour for my daily cardiovascular exercise. My route starts at Narciso, where I start a steady trot to Inviernes. From there, I slow down while walking to Pedro Gil, due to the rather pitiful sidewalks along that thoroughfare, getting back up to speed once I hit Herran. Then it's a walking race to Quirino Avenue, with a slight depression in speed as I pass Concordia College because women in uniform rock. From Quirino it's a straight walk through to Quirino extension, then I slow down as I hit Otis, since that area is a muddy stretch of road, and I hate it when my shoes are caked with mud.

If you're ever up at around 7am with nothing to do, feel free to join me. You could treat me to my morning fix of pan de coco.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Don't Sweat the Lithium


Jon Abaca finally put up a blog. The world trembled in fear. You can check it out here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

There are Approximately 2400 Steps


From the edge of Inviernes (M.L. Carreon, for the newer Manila kids) to my house. Yes, I counted. There might have been more, but I lost count several times.

There's something about walking at the dead of night that challenges me. My friend Jon'd probably say that it was the testosterone rush of looking over your shoulder for fear of somebody with the intent of gutting you from behind. He'd probably be right.

The risk of getting stabbed in the middle of the night increases proportionally the closer you are to old Manila; say, Pandacan is safer than Quiapo, and Sta. Cruz is safer than Tondo, or Avenida Rizal. Of course, the increments are of a very small percentage, but I think it still is worth taking note of.

One of the biggest questions about living in a city, though, is how one can survive walking home at the dead of night, considering the dangers. Well, here's a list of how anybody can increase his chances of survival in the streets of Manila at around 1AM:
  1. Never look anybody straight in the face. This is very important. One of the facts about Manila streets after 10PM is that majority of the people on the streets are either inebriated or high - or if you're really unlucky, both. My dad used to tell me off, as a teenager, about walking around the city with spiked hair (don't ask). In hindsight, I realize that he was probably right. People don't get into trouble because they look harmless - people are harassed on the streets because they look stupid or haughty, and nothing says stupid more than a friendly smile and wave at 1AM, and a split-second look can be misinterpreted.
  2. Keep your hands in your pockets. It gives the impression that you're carrying something that could remotely be used as a weapon. It also keeps your hands warm.
  3. If you can afford to walk in the middle of the street, do so. The threat of looming cars is probably one of the biggest assets you could ever rely on to save your hide at 1AM onwards. It's also rather easy to run on continuous asphalt, giving your getaway an added edge; take note, though, that this same edge could be just as beneficial to any prospective pursuers.
  4. Frown. Or scowl. And keep your body tense. This doesn't really do much to help you in a fight, but if you look like somebody who's just about to go and wrestle a Kodiak bear, even your mere presence / aura can scare away dogs.
  5. Make sure that you can defend yourself, if necessary. If you can't, proceed to kick yourself in the head. You are an idiot savant.
If you happen to be female, feel free to beat up your partner / better half upon arriving home for not accompanying you. That, or he didn't pick you up. This is a constitutional and God-given right.

And most importantly: hide anything that screams the words MUG ME from plain sight. Headphones go into the pocket. So do mobile phones. And watches. Do not display your affluence - that's tantamount to waving a red flag in front of an angry bull, to use an overused cliche.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Wizard Did It


I am not a fan of retconning stories. No, let me rephrase that: I hate retcons. Probably the worst thing about reading comic books is the fact that one day, everything you've ever known and loved about a character turns out to be an outright lie.

What makes things worse is that I'm coming from a writer's point of view. I don't know about other people who subsist on making stories, but I like logical progressions that don't rely heavily on MacGuffins to move the story to a newer level. Sure, post-modernist stories don't always make sense, and magic-realism makes sanity seem like a thing of the past, but from my experience, the hook is never something that doesn't make sense, or happened just because. Telling stories demands that when something happens, there's a reasonable plot device, and by reasonable, we're talking about things that work - and fit snugly - within the given logic of both the readers and the given universe of the given story.

Like, say, the animated series Megas XLR. Sure, Megas is a giant robot that's piloted by a fat geek who does nothing but play video games and eat. And the command center is a convertible. Sure, I'm willing to buy that, since it's innovation. What I don't buy is that Megas just happens to beat up all of his enemies for no apparent reason, and escaping relatively unscathed, to boot. No robot's that powerful. Not in Japanese anime, not in Transformers, not in Battletech. Megas is just too unbelievable; there is no way that Coop can be that good, or that his robot is that powerful. It doesn't make sense.

Another thing that doesn't make sense, vis-a-vis the subject of this post, is the recent Spiderman story arc called One More Day (OMD). In this arc, the editorial powers of Marvel comics dons its retconning hood and effectively does a mindwipe on most of the entire Marvel universe by rendering the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker as false.

As in it never happened. It wasn't real. You were fooled.

This revelation, which I first read from Websnark, piqued my curiosity as well as my outrage, since the Marriage of Spiderman remains as one of the few popular comics that I have completely read and subsequently loved, alongside the Death of Superman and the following Funeral for a Friend story arc. In my mind, these two story arcs are one of the biggest landmarks in the Marvel and DC universes, and serve as milestones for the characters, giving them an entirely new spectrum of possibilities.

Apparently, the ed board of Marvel didn't think so, since the marriage, according to Joe Quesada, didn't do much to help endear Spiderman to the fans. And sure, I recognize that what sold Spiderman was that he was the masses' hero, somebody who shared what your average Joe had to deal with. I understand that being single meant an entire universe of available possibilities was more viable for the title character, especially in that everyday person aspect.

But honestly, the execution of the storyline was utter crap, if you'll pardon the expression. Using Mephisto as a tool to make the entire Marvel universe forget about the existence of Mary Jane and Peter's marriage (not to mention the fact that Peter revealed his identity to the world as part of Civil War's storyline) was pretty weak; geeks will be familiar with the title of this post as a loophole for every inexplicable plothole that could be found in webcomics (fact is, the line was popularized by webcomics to parody silly MacGuffins), and what Joe Quesada did with the Spiderman storyline was literally something a wizard (Mephisto is a deity, but magic is magic is magic) was responsible for.

Now, okay: magic is pretty commonplace in fiction, and that's a fact. What fired up my snark gears was what happened between writer J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada during the production of the four-part story arc. The details are surprisingly clear: Straczynski didn't want to do the script for OMD, but a job's a job, so he does it anyway. The last batch of his scripts - for the last comic of the arc - weren't up to Quesada's standards, not because they were bad, but because the events that took place weren't what the editorial board of Marvel wanted to happen. So they tell Straczynski off, and Quesada does a massive overhaul of the script.

Of course, Straczynski decides that since all that hoopla happened over a story he didn't want to write anyway, the story was better off without his name on the credits, although Quesada was able to persuade him to think otherwise. Now, the fun thing about this was that in Straczynski's original script, a massive haul of plotholes would have been nicely filled up. Quesada admits to this in this interview. The only reason he didn't let it pass was that it would have messed with the plans of the editorial board for the entire Marvel universe in the months to come, which, admittedly, is a pretty good reason.

But plotholes, man! Plotholes are the scourge of every logical individual who enjoys a good, entertaining, ship-tight story. And anyway, there have been more all-encompassing retcons before: Superman alone has a retcon history that could fill a book, not to mention the League of Superheroes and the variations between the Golden and Silver ages of comics. What's Quesada's beef with nulling most - if not all - of the Spiderman comics from the 1970's to the present? It's happened before, and while it doesn't make everybody happy, at least it makes for a neater timeline.

Here's a quote from Straczynski which fuels my distaste with Marvel's decision:

But there are some vital omissions in the interview, including the primary reason I finally threw up my hands on the book, which had mainly to do with how the resolution was handled.

To explain, here's the conversation I had with Marvel, in sum:

"So what does Mephisto do?" I ask.

"He makes everybody forget Peter's Spider-Man."

"Uh, huh. So Aunt May's still in the hospital --"

"No, he saves Aunt May."

"But if all he does is save her life and make everybody forget he's Spidey, she still has a scar on her midsection."

"No, he makes that go away too."

"Okay...:

"Then he wakes up in her house."

"The house that was burned down?"

"Right."

"But how --"

"Mephisto undoes that as well."

"Okay. And the guys who shot at Peter and May and were killed, they're alive too? Mephisto can bring guys back from the dead?"

"It's all part of the spell."

"And Doc Strange can't tell?"

"No,"

"And the newspaper articles? News footage?"

"Joe, it's been forgotten."

"I'm just asking is that stuff there or not there?"

"Not there. And Peter's web shooters are back."

"Is this the same spell or a different spell?"

"Same spell."

"How does making people forget he's Spidey bring back his web shooters?"

"It's magic, okay?"

"I see. And Harry's back."

"Right."

"And Mephisto does this too."

"Yep."

"So is Harry back from the dead, or has he been alive? If they ask him, hey Harry, what did you do last summer, will he remember? And the year before? And the year before? If he says they all went on a picnic two years ago, will they remember it?"

"It's --"

"Because if he now has a life he remembers, if he's not back from the dead, then you've changed the continuity you said you didn't want to change. Those are your only options: he was brought back from the dead, and there's a grave, and people remember him dying --"

"Mephisto changes THEIR memories too."

"-- or he's effectively been alive as far as our characters know, so he's been alive all along, so either way as far as our characters are concerned, continuity's been violated going back to 1971.

How do you explain that?"

"It's magic, we don't have to explain it."


And there you have it; quite possibly the silliest retcon in comic history. Please let me refer you to the title of this post yet again.

For shame, Marvel.

***

My former band, the awesome boys from MaHaSa, will be having a shocking series of gigs this week, starting tomorrow at Al's Bar in ParaƱaque, and another one at Purple Haze in Tomas Morato this coming Saturday. The music is awesome (and I'm not just talking about the songs that I helped pen), so if you're in the area, please do drop by. The music (and the company) is always worth it.

***

Speaking of music, I dropped by Freedom Bar, which has pretty much become MaHaSa's second home, last night since I felt like chatting up the owners. I didn't know that I'd be stumbling headfirst into what was the best night of the bar: the Monday jazz and free jam night. Which is pure awesome, so awesome that you'll end up forgetting that you planned on limiting yourself to two beers, and end up guzzling down seven.