Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Health Spazz

Early Thursday morning, I went to an interview assignment. I tried sleeping early the night prior, but after hours of just tossing and turning due to a toothache, I just decided to get rest when I get back. Felt a throbbing in my molar, but I was able to ignore it the time I was working. But my concern then was different, had to stay awake because I had to walk through a mall after the job to get a ride home.

It’s happened before; I stay awake for a day and I just shut down and get a big headache after. Was feeling woozy hours after I got home, so I took paracetamol, put vaporub on my temples and chest, and lied down to catch some z’s. I felt cold, then hot, and I would wake up wanting to pull my molar out with my fingers (which wasn’t really aching, but it feels like the nerves underneath got cold). I also tugged at my thickening would-be sideburns, a sign that I needed to get to the barber’s. I felt like throwing up for a time, but I couldn’t for some reason. I hate getting sick.

Spent Friday sleeping and recharging. Was able to enjoy some Hot and Crispy fried chicken, which I rarely eat, but it's strongly spiced and it registers on my then-dulled taste buds. And, boy, can that unclog your nose and make it run. Yeah.

So anyway, went to the barber shop when I felt better two days later, and ended up sporting a Prison Break-ish skinhead ‘do, because the razor-happy barber didn’t get what I was trying to say. Well, my head’s easier to wash, I know, and it’ll grow back, but that’s gonna be tedious. I had my head shaved ten years ago, and it took me time to grow it back to a style that I like, especially since my hairline's receding.

Not much happening lately. Weather in Manila’s nice and cold, and I lost the two pounds I gained during the holidays. Read some comics, a few of them unexpectedly bad (I’m looking at you, Civil War: The Return!). Watched 21 Grams, and for the second time since I saw it in 2000, Scream 3.

Oh yeah, speaking of Scream, I just remembered, I was able to phone-interview Timothy Olyphant (Broken Hearts Club, Scream 2, Go) for the paper about his Deadwood work a few weeks back. That was cool.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

52 Picks Up

Gothamite lezzies Kate Kane and Renee Montoya

I’ve been reading DC Comics’ post-Infinite Crisis series 52, a weekly title that (woohoo!) doesn’t star the company’s big three—Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman—for a change. They still pop up every now and then but it’s generally focused on other characters, like the Question, Ralph Dibny (he’s powerless here), Booster Gold, Will Magnus, Black Adam, and Steel, to name a few. This yearlong series fills the gap between IC and the "One Year Later"-affected titles, and introduces new characters like Isis, Supernova, and a certain dark, er, knightess (more on her later).

It’s now on its thirtysomething-th week, a few of the arcs have been resolved, and some are fast reaching their conclusions. Written by top scribes Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid and Keith Giffen—it’s hard to guess who wrote what, but the dialogue’s a giveaway sometimes—52 has its big dramatic moments and clever new mysteries. Spoilers ahead.

So far, some arcs have been enjoyable. The Black Marvel Family (Black Adam, Isis, Osiris, and their crocodile guy mascot) story has been intriguing, and it seems inevitable that this powerful new royal family will break up before the series ends. I don't know if they appeared in any of the OYL books. It feels like the team is headed for a tragic direction, and that's already begun with Osiris. I hope they survive, though. It’s doubtful, but one can hope.

Also, I find the Renee Montoya arc nicely handled. The lesbian ex-cop, a former alcoholic, is recruited by the Question, to look into Gotham City’s growing metahuman criminal activity. Batman’s away, but another caped crusader, Batwoman (conveniently Renee’s ex Kate Kane!), fills the void. It’s interesting that Renee’s being groomed to be a fighter—possibly a new Question?—as the "faceless" crimefighter is dying of lung cancer. She’s being trained by one of the DCU’s best martial artists, Richard Dragon. Can’t wait to see what the writers have in store for her.

Less than twenty issues to go.


Speaking of, I’m digging the show The L Word, which is about a group of lesbian and bisexual women friends living in Los Angeles. My fave of the bunch is the Shane character (I dunno yet who plays her). She’s the deep-voiced, rocker-looking one. She’s unpretentious, and Brian Kinney-esque, promiscuity-wise, but she seems like a kind person, if the first five eps of season one are any indication.

Oh, Mia Kirshner (Mandy the bisexual assassin from 24) is a cast member too. She’s bi here too, but she’s sweet and conflicted. Her aspiring writer character's torn between two lovers, characters played by Eric Mabius and Karina Lombardo. Wow. ;)

Dust to Dust Bunnies

It’s almost February and my Christmas tree’s still up on the shelf. Hm, gotta put that away soon. Yeah, that means it’ll probably gather dust for about a week more.

Which reminds me, I finally read mystery writer Bob Ong’s absorbing, funny book about education, A B N K K B S N P L A Ko, two years after Peach Abubakar gave me a copy. She gave me another book two Christmases ago, also by the same author, I think, but I can’t find it. I’ve been rummaging through my stuff; I remember seeing it about two or so months ago. Gack, must buy another elcheapo plastic cabinet so I can re-organize and keep track of my things. Gotta go through the piles of paper clutter--brochures, reference material and old work-related notes and magazines—that have accumulated in the past few years.

Soon. Which probably means… whatever.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Super Soldier Seriousness

Two recent Marvel titles emphasize how no-nonsense or grim some of the company’s major superheroes have become. Well, extreme personality changes caused by wartime woes notwithstanding, reading their new adventures is still addictive. There’s more depth to many of them now, as heroism now in that universe seems extra-burdened with compromises and more unusual sacrifices.

Civil War # 6- the penultimate issue of Marvel’s big event, was just, well… okay. It’s noticeable that Steve McNiven’s art looks simpler this time, especially in the Namor-Sue Richards pages. Story-wise, a few important—and expected--things happen, and again, some splash pages, and those with big pinup pose-y panels, look squandered. You really aren’t getting a very detailed look at the War if you’re just picking this one title, and it’s a very quick read. I’m actually more excited for one of the series spinning off of this, which is Avengers: The Initiative by Dan Slott. Still, I’m hoping the final issue of CW next month will be a more substantial issue, as the future of Marvel’s heroes (and its comics titles) will finally be decided.

Real creative re-scripting of Civil War # 6 here, by the way. Heheh, nice plug by Monica Rambeau.

New Avengers: Illuminati # 1- surprisingly, it’s quite enjoyable. The secret team made up of Marvel hero leaders is shown doing something significant, finally, and this particular hidden adventure shows that Black Bolt can steal the show from this lineup of more popular powerhouses. Good unconventional superhero stuff by co-writers Bendis and Reed, and artist Cheung. Next issue will tackle the Infinity Gauntlet event, and I’m looking forward to how the retconned details fit into the bigger picture.

Celebration of Independents

Please support the Bagong Agos Film Festival, organized by the Independent Filmmakers Cooperative and Robinson’s Movieworld. The ongoing film fest is currently exhibiting the works of Jeffrey Jeturian, Lav Diaz, Khavn dela Cruz, Ditsy Carolino, Cris Pablo and many others at Robinson’s Galleria, until the 24th of January. Contact the mall cinema numbers (they’re usually listed at the movies section of major dailies) for screening schedules.

Caught a Lightweight Lightningseed

Last week, I pulled out an old picture of Tori Amos, vellum paper, water color, gel pens, correction fluid and markers, and drew this semi-caricaturish interpretation of the singer-songwriter. Just had to get it outta the way, actually. Kept seeing this in my head. Well, not exactly like this, but I had this thought that her red hair was looking all swirly and I just had to put that on paper. Details, I added to the composition bit by bit, like the tiny wings (slightly inspired by the “Glory of the 80s” video) and background stuff. Posted this also at my art blog.

Ten Torific

Anyway, some defining or picturesque lines from some of my favorite lyrics. Just a few of the many stunning or surreal songs from Miss Amos’ first four albums:

Girls you’ve got to know when it’s time to turn the page, when you’re only wet because of the rain. (“Northern Lad”)

And when my hand touches myself, I can finally rest my head. And when they say “take of his body,” I think I’ll take from mine instead. (“Icicle”)

I almost ran over an angel. He had a nice big fat cigar. (“Leather”)

I am not you senorita. I am not from your tribe. If you want inside her well, boy you better make her raspberry swirl. (“Raspberry Swirl”)

What’s so amazing about really deep thoughts? Boy, you’d best pray that I bleed real soon. How’s that thought for you? (“Silent All These Years”)

Baker, baker, can you explain, if truly his heart was made of icing? And I wonder how mine could taste. Maybe we could change his mind. (“Baker Baker”)

I’ve been looking for a savior in these dirty streets, looking for a savior beneath these dirty sheets. (“Crucify”)

Hey, they found a body. Not sure it was his but still they’re using his name. (“Past the Mission”)

So you can make me cum. That doesn’t make you Jesus. (“Precious Things”)

Now I’ve got to worry ‘cause boy, you still look pretty when you’re putting the damage on. (“Putting the Damage On”)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Secret Identity Crises

Jennifer Garner as heroic superspy Sydney Bristow (pic from Yahoo TV)

Finished with the fifth season of Alias, finally. The show, created by JJ Abrams, has been an intelligently written, entertaining, and at times, a perplexing series. It explored recurring themes of duplicity, betrayal and heroism, and its many characters have mostly been multi-dimensional, flawed people with clear and strong obsessions. The good guys—the team composed of top CIA operative Sydney Bristow and her colleagues Jack, Marshall, Vaughn, Dixon, and later, Nadia, Tom, and Rachel—were especially interesting to follow. The villains usually weren’t just totally evil; they’re shown as people with their own frailties. But when they’re bad, they’re really merciless. Irina, Sark, Arvin Sloane, Gordon Dean, The Covenant, The Alliance, Prophet 5, and their numerous henchmen and henchwomen, have proven themselves a sharp contrast to the do-gooders.

While many episodes were good, there were times that storylines were stretched too thin, and the dialogue faltered every now and then. The scavenger hunt for artifacts created by the prophetic 15th century scientist, Milo Rambaldi, was exciting until the third season, but by season four, every time that name is mentioned, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Still, the consistently careful treatment of Sydney and the other characters justified the ongoing adventures, and gave the lead spy a sense of destiny and prolonged purpose, because she tied heavily into Rambaldi’s “prophecies.” Season five cleared many things up, and gave some good enough resolutions to long-standing puzzles.

I noticed that Alias also has interesting story parallels to another TV heroine series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At certain points of their careers, the women adventurers were each called “the Chosen One.” Both series had traitorous female characters by season three. They also discovered sisters that they never knew existed. Sydney and Buffy eventually fought doubles of their friends, and themselves. For the ultimate benefit of humanity, they’ve formed uneasy alliances with their staunchest foes. By their show’s final seasons, both have advanced to the role of teacher, were handed special prophesied objects by old enigmatic figures, and witnessed amulets figure strongly into the final gambits. Sydney and Buffy, if they teamed up, they’d have some stories to share. There are major differences, though, like Sydney’s very complicated family ties, love interests, and the shows’ respective bittersweet endings. Ultimately, these women, and all the girl characters in them, kick ass. No hyperbole.

I hope there’ll be TV super-heroines like them again, and soon.

Children of the Atom, and Juggy

Charlie and the X-Gene Factory (pic by Benedict)

Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, re-arranged from last time (June 2006), and with a few recent additions like Longshot, Psylocke, Chamber (bro got that over a decade back) and Wolfsbane (from a 1998 pre-Marvel Legends set, got it on sale a few weeks ago). Those last two figures’ proportions allow them to mingle with the Legends, but they have very few points of articulation. I don’t have Havok, Captain Britain and Shadowcat, because they’re part of the frigging exclusive Giant-Man set, grrr, but I’m happy with this cool bunch right here.

By the way, I’ve been hearing good things about the adjectiveless X-Men comic book by Mike Carey, whose lineup consists of Rogue (the team leader), Cannonball, Iceman, Cable, Mystique, Sabretooth, Lady Mastermind (Mastermind’s daughter) and Karima Shapandar (the cyborg Sentinel from the Genoshan Excalibur team). Must read that some day.

Back to the toys. I hope they make a Cannonball figure. Other New Mutants members like Magma, Magik (armored and with Soulsword), Sunspot, Mirage (Valkyrie version), Cypher and Warlock (two-in-one pack) would be great, too. It’s good that some of those characters have become teachers at Xavier’s school in the X-books as well. I’m not too excited about the New X-Men (Hellion, Mercury, etc.) having their own figs yet. Maybe in a few years.

To Hasbro, figures of Polaris (preferably in the red and gold X-Factor costume), Jubilee, Madrox, Dazzler, Northstar, Forge, and Strong Guy are long overdue, and must be prioritized. We don’t want more of the X3: The Last Stand figure set mixed with the upcoming Legends waves.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Life Serial

Three things I’ve learned about people in the last couple of years, and consequently, stuff I learned about myself:

1. I feel truly indebted to only a handful of people.

I’ve come to the realization that there are people I can never repay for whatever kind of support they’ve given me all these years. And as much as I hate owing anyone anything, I have nothing but gratitude and endless thanks to those who have lent a hand during troubled times. A few relatives and friends can be counted within this distinction, as well as a few people from the occupational aspect of my life.

Thing is, in the past, there have been some people who feel that I owe them for whatever imagined favors. I find this kind of behavior puzzling, especially when I hear their sentiments through other people. I’ve always kept my distance from those I’ve nothing, or very little, in common with. Admittedly, I’ve had my share of whining about certain people in the past, but the cold, hard truth of the matter is, eventually, I had to grow up, accept that people often fall short of my expectations of them, and their lives don’t revolve around me.

I learned to keep work-related bonds professional. I pursue, and sometimes, make my own opportunities. I’ve worked at getting what I want, and continue to do so because no one else will do that for me. If certain people misconstrue and judge me for not acknowledging them, or feel that I’m not a nice enough person, then screw them. I don’t owe them anything.

2. Opinions are like butt holes.

Everyone’s got them. And that’s just the way it is. Well, I know how it feels like to be criticized by those who believe they’re better than me, in whatever it is I do. I used to feel upset about it, especially, since some 10 years ago, I was targeted by some poor schmuck, whose malicious dislike for me translated to awful things that passed for criticism of my work. I got over that, and accepted that there will be those who will say what they want, whether their views are intelligent or not, especially if you have something out that’s open to scrutiny. People will speak their minds, whether they’re being honest, or just feeling pompous (because, yes, some can’t accept that there are valid viewpoints other than their own).

It’s also easier now to discern which among the opinionated ones really know what they’re talking about. I believe now that listening to other people’s points is usually healthy for self-improvement, as well. And, however hard you may try, you just can’t please everyone. Tastes, preferences and mindsets will always differ from person to person. The reality of it is, you’ll see things that people can’t (or won’t) at some point, and vice versa.

Yep, butt holes.

3. Space is nice.

There are people I’ve met that I admire for a zillion different reasons, but I don’t have any desire to become real close friends with them, even when there have been opportunities that allow that. I can honestly say that I’ve outgrown many of my school friends, but I still respect them and wish them well, even when I don’t feel particularly concerned with them anymore. I suppose that’s pretty normal; my priorities, like theirs, have changed, just like our personalities and some predilections. I still feel a kinship with others who share my interests, in the fields I’m immersed in, but I’m okay with just being acquainted with them.

I’ve regretted pursuing some people, work-wise, and there were rare occasions when my relentlessness has been conceived as ill-timed or rude, even when I’ve been nothing but polite. I’ve discovered firsthand that some people can be such horrible assholes, who have no compunctions with humiliating you in front of others. But I don’t dwell on them anymore.

In recent years, “friendship” for me has evolved to define mutually beneficial transactions that don’t require deeper meaning or connotations. Sometimes, getting along is good enough. There are persons whom I communicate and work with, and things are just fine the way they are. We just have to respect each other’s boundaries. It’s convenient for both parties. Whatever works, I guess. And I appreciate them for being there.

Wings of Silver, Nerves of Steel

Archangel, one of my better-looking toys, from Toy Biz’s Marvel Legends-ish X-Men set, re-released last year. Was lucky I got this at the regular mall price.