Friday, September 29, 2006

Calamity Pain

We didn’t have electricity for almost 24 hours. Those of us in the family who’ve become dependent on the many machines that play big parts in our lives found ourselves somewhat crippled as darkness fell yesterday. Typhoon Milenyo didn’t last a day, but it did its damnedest to leave its mark. Its winds toppled trees, billboards, and road signs. It partially tore our garage roof from its foundations. But nevertheless, we felt safe at home, even when we’ve been cut off from technology and electronic communication until early today. The storm actually did worse in other parts of the country.

Wanted to watch a movie at a nearby mall earlier, but it didn’t have electricity yet and was running on generators. It was stuffy in there, enough to make me a little queasy, so I left after I ate my late lunch and bought things I needed (some snacks, candles, and a flashlight). Back home, the cellphone signal died again. But at least the electricity’s on. There’s no cable yet, but we’ll manage. I’m also glad that my friends are well, even after being incommunicado for a long time. I guess nobody really expected the power failure to last so long, and cell batteries, including mine, eventually died down and couldn’t be recharged. I suppose I can whine about how boring and unproductive yesterday was, but I’d rather not.

Ah, screw it. The terrible weather and all the disruptions it brings majorly suck.

Burning Sensation

Last year’s Serenity makes much more sense now that I’ve seen 15 episodes of Firefly. It took some time for me to like the series, but once I got the feel for the characters and the “space western” conceit, I was hooked. Unlike Whedon’s Buffy and Angel, it had no supernatural elements and metaphors, or even stock SF alien creatures, but it was still about different people (nine of them!), whose exploits bring them from one seedy part of the galaxy to another.

Humans inhabit different planets and are grouped into disparate communities in this particular future, and the ship Serenity’s crew is a reflection of that diversity: Mal Reynolds (the ex-soldier turned smuggler), Zoe (his second-in-command), Wash (Zoe’s pilot husband), Jayne (the thuggish merc), Kaylee (the resident mechanic), Inara (the prestigious courtesan), Book (the mysterious preacher), Simon (the fugitive doctor) and River (the idiot savant-like teenager).

My favorite episodes are, in no particular order, Out of Gas, War Stories, Our Mrs. Reynolds, Trash, Objects in Space, and Ariel. The rest were also good, but those were the ones that really made me cheer. The rescue mission, where almost everyone took a weapon and staged a raid to free Mal from the clutches of a torture-happy crimelord, was a huge defining point. So was the revelation that River was more than just a confused mess; her importance in Serenity is hinted at after all. The oft-uneasy inter-team dynamics and the unrequited affections also made the characters fun to watch.

Casualties of War

Civil War # 4 is finally out. Spoiler warning for those who’ve yet to read it. Was expecting the Human Torch to bite the dust, but they offed Goliath (Bill Foster) instead. Just as big a casualty is Reed and Sue Richards’s marriage (no surprise, there). Together with pro-registration science-types Iiron Man and Hank Pym, Reed created a clone of Asgardian thunder god Thor, who strays from his programming and blasts a hole through Goliath’s chest. Guilt-ridden, Sue abandons her husband and children, and convinces her brother Johnny (off-panel) to join Cap’s rogue Secret Avengers.

Plenty of powerful moments here: Goliath’s shrouded body being craned down to his grave, Sue’s letter to her husband, the defections in both opposing ranks, and Falcon thanking Sue for the save before teleporting away. I liked the issue, except for some parts that don’t make sense: Since the Thor clone overrode his programming somehow, how will the nanite-controlled super-villains (Venom, Lady Deathstrike, Taskmaster, Bullseye, etc.), who’re tasked to hunt down the fugitive superheroes, be an improvement? Also, isn’t it a bit harsh to put the rogue heroes in a Negative Zone prison, when super-villains are confined to Earth jails like the Raft and the Vault? And why is Capt. America so heartless and ungrateful to Stature and Nighthawk? They fought selflessly and are obviously shaken by the War.

I wish they’d shown Reed’s reaction to Sue’s letter, too. But I’m still enjoying the series, and looking forward to the real Thor, who’s very likely to side with Cap’s team, as well as Sue and Namor’s eventual rendezvous (romantic or otherwise). It’s nice to see that Living Lightning, Triathlon, Debrii, Firebird, Monica Rambeau and Machine Man are among the anti-registration group (although NextWave doesn’t really care, according to that hilarious CW “tie-in” cover).

Drive Another Nail In

I'm listening to Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes CD while typing this. Weather’s getting awful again, and I’m getting a little anxious. Sometimes, when I’m in a mood, I pop in her old, cathartic debut album. It gives words to some negative emotions, and magically exorcises them.

I’ve been an on-and-off Tori-phile through the years (I have her first four albums on cassette tape); she’s done great arty stuff that I don’t get, sometimes. But she still sounds angelic whatever it is she sings about. Still, the songs that continue to resonate with me are her older, angrier ones, like “Crucify” and “Precious Things” (“I wanna smash the faces of those beautiful boys…”).

Way lovely.

Friday, September 22, 2006

And If You Can't Be Good

Brian Kinney and Michael Novotny (image from YahooTV)

I’m getting re-acquainted with the characters of Queer As Folk (US), two years after finishing the first season. I’m way late; the show stopped airing some time ago after five seasons. Well, I gotta say, Brian Kinney, played by Gale Harold, is still one of the nastiest TV bastards ever. I’m ranking him up there with other uncompromising-but-duplicitous small-screen characters that I love watching, including Amanda Woodward (Heather Locklear) of Melrose Place, Jayne (Adam Baldwin) of Firefly, Spike (James Marsters) of Buffy, Mrs. Palmer (Penny Johnson Jerald) of 24, and Andrew Van De Kamp (Shawn Pyfrom) of Desperate Housewives. He’s unique, however, even in this collection of characters I love to hate.

Brian answers to no one, and occasionally hurts people emotionally to prove his points. He’s the heartless prick; he's the kind of guy you wouldn’t hesitate to punch. I really wanted to hit his conceited mug after just a few scenes, but—this has happened a few times—he redeems himself at the last minute, sometimes proving himself the unconventional hero, even. He’s written consistently as a vain, promiscuous and unapologetic cocktease, but admittedly he’s the kind of person that you’d rather have as an ally if he were real.

Uno, Dos, Tres

Meme time, folks!

3 People Who Make Me Laugh:
1 Conan O’Brien
2 Pol Medina
3 Sarah Silverman

3 Things I Love:
1 Comic books
2 Long cold baths
3 Sex

3 Things I Hate:
1 Bigotry
2 Flood water in my shoes
3 People who abuse their kids

3 Things on My Desk:
1 Pens
2 Paper
3 CDs

3 Things I am Doing Right Now:
1 Typing
2 Editing the post
3 Thinking

3 Things I Want to Do Before I Die:
1 Continue doing many things I like
2 Raise a child well
3 Make my parents proud

3 Things I Can Do:
1 Write
2 Draw
3 Talk to people

3 Ways to Describe My Personality:
1 Removed
2 Demanding
3 Pensive

3 Things People Might Not Know About Me:
1 A talent scout wanted to get me for a TV commercial when I was a boy, but I was shy and didn’t wanna do it.
2 I like drawing on those plastic magic slate thingies displayed at toy stores.
3 I drew some Christian comics stories for a local educational magazine a few years back.

3 Things I Think You Should Listen To:
1 Your heart
2 Advice of open-minded people
3 Dar Williams’ music

3 Things I Don’t Think You Should Listen To Ever:
1 Judgmental, bigoted preaching
2 Opinions of people who look down on you
3 Lies

3 of My Absolute Favorite Foods:
1 Pizza
2 Fried Rice
3 Bodhi’s asado fake meat

3 Things I’d like to Learn:
1 How to Cook
2 A foreign language
3 The secrets of the universe

3 Beverages I Drink Regularly:
1 Coke Lite
2 Water
3 Juice

3 Shows I Watched When I Was a Child:
1 Sesame Street
2 Thundercats
3 Paul in Fantasyland

3 People I Tag to Do This Crap:
1-3 The three people who read this blog religiously. But seriously, anyone who wants to, tag yourselves.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Whedon Needs No Education

Runaways creators Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s decision to leave the monthly comic book was surprising and saddening. Vaughan told Newsarama last week that they wanted to leave on a high note, and do other projects after almost four years on the successful, fan-favorite project. But many fans, me included, are happy that Buffy creator Joss Whedon will be taking over. Whedon admitted in another interview that he’s a fan of Vaughan’s, and Runaways is one of his favorite titles. He also shed a “man-tear” over issue # 18, where one of the mostly-teen team’s original members died.

Well, he’s the right guy for the job. His creations Buffy, Angel, and Firefly are evidence enough that he’s capable of different voices and creative character dissection. I also have high hopes for the Wonder Woman movie, which he’ll be directing soon. Wow. Can’t wait to read his take on the Runaway characters; I’m excited for them, and a little afraid that they’ll be experiencing some tough challenges soon. I’m enjoying Joss on Astonishing X-Men too, and I especially like his handling of the now-grownup Kitty Pryde and uber-X-bitch Emma Frost.

Siege Perilous and Life Incarnate

Rachel Summers versus the Beyonder (image from

Speaking of Marvel’s mutants, I’ve been arranging all my old, yellowing X-Men, X-Factor and New Mutants comic books. Benedict borrowed my Morrison New X-Men issues and a couple of random old Uncanny X-Men’s. He’ll be borrowing the rest of them eventually, so I taped up the tattered, loosely bound ones. Like the Runaways, the X-Men and its extended family were heroes that I really cared about, albeit only during specific eras. Claremont’s long ‘80s run and Morrison’s 3-year stint were mostly exciting for me. The soap opera elements were nicely bound to the book’s themes of alienation and moral debates. There were times when the plots and bigger story arcs got way too muddled, and some subplots were never fully addressed, but the characters stood out nevertheless.

The aging newsprint now has a graininess that feels weird on the fingers, but I didn’t really mind it when I re-read a number of the comics. I always liked the pre-Morlock Massacre lineup (a powerless Storm, Rogue, Wolverine, Shadowcat, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Magneto, Phoenix II) and the martyred “Legends” team (which was composed of a repowered Storm, Havok, Dazzler, Rogue, Colossus, Longshot, Wolverine, pre-ninja Psylocke, and Madelyne Pryor). I was always fascinated with the Jean-Scott-Maddie triangle, which was drawn out for years until it was finally resolved in the “Inferno” crossover. I was shocked at the brash cruelty of the Marauders, which I still consider the team’s deadliest enemies. I’m reminded that I really liked Rachel Summers’ drama (“I’m from a future where you’re all dead and I helped hunt my kind!”) before the whole thing became too convoluted to follow (Cable! Stryfe! Askani!). I didn’t get what Cameron Hodge’s beef with his ex-friend Angel was when I was a kid, until I found out last night that it was an if-I-can’t-have-you-then-no-one-will scenario (X-Factor # 34). Well.

After all these years, the characters continue to experience change. Professor X now has a closet full of retconned skeletons, which seem to get exposed every few months (Cassandra! Danger! Vulcan!). The students are now teachers, but Cyclops is still occasionally messed up, and arguably a consistent ass. After leaving his then-wife Maddie and child to hook up with the resurrected Jean, Scott would later marry and cheat on Jean with Emma.

The X-Men, as characters, will always have flaws, but they make them interesting, if and when done right. The old stories have renewed meaning to me now, especially those that show them at their bravest (the Beyonder was omnipotent, but it didn’t stop them from arguing with him until they made sense to him).

They still champion mutantkind, which, in the real world can easily be the minorities, the oppressed, and the rejects, which is why they’ll still appeal to generations of readers to come.

Remoto Alert

Okay, speaking of mutant champions (hehe), Danton Remoto of Ang Ladlad texted me this announcement: “We’re filing our papers w/ Comelec this Friday, 1 p.m., Intramuros, Manila. Am inviting you to join us and give moral support to this historic moment. Sorry for the late request. Comelec announced deadline only recently. Sana makadaan kayo. Tapos ito in 30 minutes. Thank you po.”

For more info on the Ang Ladlad partylist, please go here.

Aye, Carrabba

(pic from Wikipedia)

I’m resting now and catching up on some Firefly episodes and old borrowed comic books. Also, I’m playing with and posing my new Young Avengers action figures (an awesome foursome, but Patriot’s left wrist is super-limp). The Marvel Monsters set has arrived, too. They look great, although I don’t really care for the characters, except Dracula and Jack Russell-Werewolf. Crap, I need money; the Mojo–ML set is bound to pop up any time now.

Also bought some old Dashboard Confessional albums. Man, I’m digging Chris Carrabba’s music. I have three albums now (“MTV Unplugged”, “Dusk and Summer” and “Swiss Army Romance”) and I can’t wait to get the one with the special DVD of DC’s live performance with REM. His voice in the older, acoustic guitar-accompanied stuff kinda sounds like Placebo’s vocalist, and sometimes James’ and a little Gene Loves Jezebel’s. He sounds The Cure-ish in some songs in the latest CD; not that I think he’s mimicking, I just am discovering his range, and it’s easier to describe it with points of comparison.

His lyrics contain a youthful energy and almost Lilith-esque sensitivity that captures the poetry of love, heartache, longing and discovery. He’s honest and intimate, but not vulgar. Well, personally, it’s like he’s singing some of the unwritten songs in my head. For me, many of the songs conjure up and flavor ruminations of "wow I’m having sex like there’s no tomorrow and I'm becoming one with the universe and the only thing stopping me for a few seconds is spitting out strands of you-know-what and it’s a contemplative and lifeshaping experience". But that’s just me. Nicey.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Magical Mystery Tour Guide

Budjette Tan and Ka-Jo Baldisimo’s Trese reveals the busy mystical underbellies of Metro Manila and beyond through the supernatural crime scene investigations of Alexandra Trese. I personally liked issue numbers 1, 4, and 5. The third issue was just okay; I kind of figured out the demigod character’s costume design prior to the big reveal. What I’m actually looking forward to is the origin story of the title character, and eventually, her Kambal minions’. The self-contained stories are easy reads, although I’m curious to see an adventure that doesn’t require Trese’s arcane expertise in the regular case-solving structure, but one that proactively puts her in the thick of things.

To the creators, keep up the good work!

Time for Fussing and Fighting

Please read LAGABLAB’s detailed recap of the recent PDI column controversy and media-related gay rights cases from a few years back. Felt sad after reading it.

Learn to Fly All Your Life

It’s been two years since I last saw J.S., an old high school friend. It was nice timing when he texted me early last Monday morning. He wanted to meet me after work because he was feeling a little depressed, and I was feeling similarly weird because I had three consecutive strange dreams earlier. Since I planned to go out to a nearby mall that day anyway, I thought that it’d be a nice chance to talk and maybe help. I brought a couple of comics like he asked. They actually help him unwind, just as much, I’d guess, as the Justice League and Batman animated shows.

Over the years, we remained close friends, which is unusual, because he and I have contrasting personalities and mindsets. While he’s a conservative Catholic up to this day, he’s very tolerant of my liberal opinions. But I’m one of very few people he can freely talk to, while he freely cusses about his problems and people he disliked. It’s a brotherly bond, except I don’t think that a lot of siblings can be open about their personal problems and discuss respective love lives with each other. We’re both escapist geeks, so I guess we do have some things in common. I’ve seen him struggle through problematic periods years after college, and he’s seen me go through a dark period as well.

It was a nice fast food dinner; we talked about how we love our occasionally stressful jobs. We talked about how hard it is to make and save money. We laughed over long-forgotten high school inanities and embarrassing misadventures. We talked about other old friends and batchmates we ran into in the past few months. But we also discussed how serious some family matters have gotten, and how bummed out we feel about them.

The conversation shifted to reminiscing about high school times again, to details about teachers that we never mentioned before, and to how the old McDonald’s in the area that our small group used to frequent when it just opened is now about 18 years old. We walked to the place, where we sat for a bit and talked some more. It was cool hanging out with him, and interesting to learn how we’ve changed in the past couple of years. We may not always see eye to eye when it comes to certain beliefs and issues, but he’s still that old friend from simpler times, that person whose elephantine memories remind me that that certain stage of our lives was actually quite okay.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

You Lose, You Learn

The Sunday edition of PDI had a short article about the ten teachers that were awarded the most outstanding in the country. Metrobank Foundation gave the chosen ones P250,000 and a trophy each. Congratulations to all of them; may more of their hardworking kind help educate and challenge youngsters to become better, more enlightened persons. It’s good to know that there are still those that possess, to quote the criteria, “personal integrity, character, instructional competence, and professional and community involvement.”

Looking back at my sixteen years of school, from kindergarten to college, there’d be very few of my teachers who’d pass such a tight list of requirements. But the few that do, they were very selfless and motherly (or fatherly, depending), and have given me fond memories of learning and the classroom. School is tough for students and teachers both, but those instructors that don’t crack under pressure really have to be commended.

Still, the bad ones really leave scars that aren’t necessarily physical. This brings me back to grade school. One time, if I remember correctly, I was approached by a school official, a kind woman who was Prefect of Students during the time, outside our classroom. She asked me why my pants’ left knee was torn. I told her it just got that way naturally; my pants were old and worn out, and the tiny rip grew in time. I told her that I didn’t tell my mother about the hole because she was busy taking care of my little siblings. I thought that it was clear that it wasn’t a big deal, that I didn’t get that way because of any accident, and she let me be. I thought that’d be the last time I heard of it.

Apparently, she told her friend, our section’s class adviser, who was also our Language teacher. In front of some classmates between subjects, she sternly reprimanded me that my fashion faux pas was, to paraphrase her idiotic monologue, a sign of “rebellion.” She muttered stuff to herself that was too fast to comprehend. I was dumbfounded. What a horrible bitch! She took another opportunity to embarrass me, like when I approached her to apologize for forgetting an authorization letter. She yelled, “It’s your responsibility,” saliva spewing out of her disgusting mouth. Failing to reason with her, I just went back to my chair, stunned.

Now that I think about it, I probably rubbed her the wrong way, maybe because I didn’t participate in her deathly boring lectures about language, unlike her favorite students. Maybe it was because I’d rather read comics after class with some of my classmates, and she didn’t believe that they’re reliable educational material. Well, news flash! I learned more about the English language through comic books, the radio, cartoons, and books in the library back then, than by attending her classes. She had god-awful pronunciation and diction; I’m sure the other students knew this but were too afraid (or too bored) to talk about it.

I didn’t feel like going back to school after those incidents; I felt that I had no energy for it even when that adviser left to take over a vacant position in the school administrators’ board or some such. I was absent for long periods at a time during that school year. My parents kept asking me if I had enemies, because they were on to me that I just wasn’t interested in going back. I tearfully said that I had none. I couldn’t really tell them that I found it boring, that I didn’t really feel like I belong there, that I felt like dying a slow death there because I don’t really talk to anyone.

I passed it anyway, pasang-awa in some subjects, but I didn’t care. The next year, I didn’t feel like a freak anymore, partly because of the fact that there were many new students, and new teachers that were surprisingly kind to me and everyone else. They were seeing potential in me, and encouraged me to write more, to draw more, to communicate more with others. There were those that were fascist, with thundering voices or a propensity for chalk-throwing. There was even one who carried a walking cane for furious chalkboard–slamming, whenever even just one person showed a sign of misbehavior. In college, there were those lazy professors that rarely appeared; they’re a different disappointment from the kind that only popped up to give assignments, and never taught. And there were some that, alas, lectured robotically without ever elucidating their points in any relatable way. Of course, I can only look at it clearly now, because we were too preoccupied back then to really care.

I heard, years later, that my ex-adviser remained unjustly accusatory until she terrorized the wrong student, whose father gave the aging woman an angry lecture about her own notorious temper. She was, I’m told, quiet and restrained while taking her own medicine. Owned!

Many years after finishing school, I still learn, because life really doesn’t let up, and it’ll bombard you with all the tests that those teachers, the good and dedicated ones, repeatedly hinted at. And now that I’m grown up, I’m learning that understanding new knowledge is never-ending, as long as you’re receptive to it. Real life demands, sometimes, that we become substitute teachers ourselves, and not necessarily in the confines of the classroom.

You Choke, You Learn

Also in the Sunday issue of the Inquirer is Isagani A. Cruz’s latest column, another one that defends his “right to criticize.” The retired judge laments that he’s been getting letters that resort to name-calling. I’m surprised that he’s surprised. He did write a column that, despite his claims that he apologized to the “decorous” members of the gay community beforehand, nevertheless scathingly generalized and warned the populace against those that don’t prescribe to his standards of “macho” behavior. He is now saying that his opinions, “while provocative, are never evil-minded or discourteous.”

Please. Mr. Cruz, you wrote about your homophobia! You openly ridiculed gay people as a whole, and you even opined, quite wryly, that a fey kid would’ve been beaten up at the school where your five, ahem, “macho” sons studied. You also called gayness a "condition." That was VERY discourteous and very irresponsible, not to mention ignorant. You know what you wrote. It went beyond free speech. Now you’re saying that you’re just voicing out what the “silent majority,” is too afraid to say. Come on!