Sunday, July 29, 2007

Today, part four of our series of the agonizing pain in which I live...

This blog won't be the same without the usual dose of angst.

But before we get to that, I feel it is my duty to tell you what I think about The Simpsons Movie (% on the biiig screeen %). The bottom line is, I like it because it feels like a movie unlike the usual problems that plague TV-to-movie ventures. Of course, you can't please everybody who's watched some of the 400 (and counting) TV episodes, spanning almost two decades. I felt there was a lot lacking, as a matter of fact, but I also thought it was forgivable. Sooooo, quick switch to the lists:

[Here be spoilers]

Things that I like:
  • The gags
  • The homage/nods to the fans
  • The self-referential humour
  • The pop culture references
Things that were OK:
  • Plot was OK. Nothing groundbreaking.
  • Characters who were involved (more on this later)
  • Using 3D animation ala Futurama, which, I maintain, is the only true logical and underrated successor to the show.
  • Shallow sight gags
Aaaand, to the Things that were bad/disappointing:
  • Mr. Burns' cameo-ish role
  • The story, in my opinion, could have been taken a lot further
  • Not the Best. Movie. Ever.
Recommendation: Go watch it... in 2-D!


Anyway, angst, angst. I'm twenty seven years old and I still have angst attacks. Around this age, my parents had already married and are about to have their first child. My sister had her first kid last month, not counting Christopher Dominic (God rest his soul). And I, I only have angst.

What's the difference between them and me? For one thing, they've got it all figured out, so to speak. While I (still) don't have a clue what to do and what to make of this life. What is it that makes you happy? or successful? or wealthy? or healthy? or content? Is it money? An acronym for a title? Friends? Family? Loved ones? Respect? Dignity? Recognition? Fame? Fortune? Enlightenment? Accumulation of knowledge? Broadening the mind?

The problem, of course, with life, is that it gives you a lot of choices and that sometimes choosing one path effectively seals all others. The worst case being, not being able to decide at all what you want.

Which is where I'm headed at this point.

There's that nagging feeling that I'm not good at what I do, even if that's the only thing I know how to do. Or at least, I won't be the best at what I do. So what now? Change careers? Move countries? Adjust anew? Keep running?

I mean, what's the point? [This is the typical angst question, by the way]

But let's turn this on its head. Who is the happiest person you know (or know of), and why? I'm dying to find out. If possible, none of the religious type people and deities.



There's a good chance I've been hit by angst because I've only just recently watched Cars. While this movie is not at all about finding out what you want, it touches on how wrong we usually are in thinking about what matters in life. Just a thought. Good movie, by the way.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Smashing Pumpkins? I love doing that!

[A little break from trip-planning]

I'm currently listening to the new Smashing Pumpkins album, Zeitgeist, which has some pretty cool tunes in it.

Also, I'm reading a couple of comments of how these are NOT the Smashing Pumpkins, of how it sounds like Zwan, and that people either hate Zwan or love it, etc.

I am not in any way an authority on the Smashing Pumpkins. I got hooked in the uber-excellent early 90s album, Siamese Dream (totally skipped Gish). In my personal opinion, this album should be in every rock/alternative lover's collection. I love each and every song, and so do a lot of people. The song Drown, which is in the Singles [movie] soundtrack (also a great album) was one of my early adolescent favorites. I wasn't into Pisces Iscariot a lot but I probably just need to give it a chance to grow on me, since I don't own a copy. On the other hand, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is a brilliant collection of music that displays how the band makes great music. I don't think a great number of people liked Adore, but I appreciate it a lot. It's a bit somber and mellow, and it totally works for me. After that album, I sort of drifted away from their music but still heard from a couple of their songs like The End is the Beginning is The End (from the Batman and Robin) soundtrack, and One from The Aeroplane Flies High, which I think is another uber-collection of songs. Finally, The Smashing Pumpkins - Greatest Hits - Rotten Apples and Machina, the latter not so bad but still different.

After all that, came the breakup. Then came Billy Corgan's new band, Zwan which, and I share this with a lot of fans, is a good effort and their album Mary Star of the Sea is one of the albums in my iPod that I often listen to. I think Billy Corgan went solo after that, not being able to go away from making music.

Amidst all the debate, I think Zeitgeist is also a good album, but not great. Whether having half the original band makes a difference or if James Iha and D'Arcy Wretsky really count at all, the brand is back. I'll give it a couple more album listens to decide if I like this album or I love it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

In English, "The Meadows"

Kitty Anne Marzan: sabi taviks, mag-las vegas kayo. sayang naman daw. may $200 per person daw. kasama na hotel accom
True, true. What it costs to get to Las Vegas from San Francisco is just about the same as going to Singapore from Manila, and this is with accomodations.

With proper planning and budgeting, I might just be able to squeeze in a trip like this just before heading for New York. And as long as I'm spending, there's a good chance I'll swing by and do the Star Trek Experience (geeeeeeeek!). I'll just work off the money I will spend (gulp!) for that sidetrip in the next few months.

[10:39] mlauno: di ka abot ng 1st week of
september sa NY?
[10:39] mlauno: andun ako e
Talk about good timing.

Yo, Ton,

Come in around the same time so we can hitch a ride together at LGA [LaGuardia Airport in NY]. Start practicing cause we are playing ball and eating White castle.

This is turning out to be a small reunion of sorts. Basketball, eh? In New York? They'll eat me alive! Not only am I out of shape, but I got my ankle injured in a game just last Sunday. And for me, getting injured is the first step to not doing any healthy physical activity. Groan.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Planning Phase

Anticipating how big of a deal this U.S. trip would be, I've planned as early as last year, procrastinating until last month to push it forward. Getting the visa really got the ball rolling. Now, the real game plan has to be drafted ASAP.

For starters, I needed to book tickets. The original plan would bring me to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Dallas, Chicago, New York, Boston in a four-week triptastic holiday. Of course, the powers that be in the office wouldn't have it. So the longest I can have is three weeks. To add to that, I keep forgetting that I'm very, very far from being a millionaire (maybe in rupees or dongs, but not in pesos, much less dollars) and that going on a spending spree will greatly affect retirement funds. That brings it down to essential travel i.e. San Francisco (because of my newborn niece), and New York (because I want to go to New York). I was also determined to fly Singapore Airlines (SQ). However, after checking the prices, I decided against it. That way, an SQ flight from Singapore to San Francisco would even cost a bit more than what I ultimately got. The final flight plan is roundtrip from Singapore to San Francisco and roundtrip from San Francisco to New York, all the way via Northwest Airlines. Both of these booked through Zuji. And so it was written, so shall it be done -- on the 22nd of August.


Here's a draft of the ever-growing list of things to do over there. Now this is aside from most of the touristy stuff that I'll be doing (like going up the Empire State Building and riding the ferry to Liberty Island). Most of the things listed here I won't be able to do or go to. But listing them down allows me to plan the itinerary better.

Here we go:
  1. Great America
  2. Woodbury Common
  3. Six Flags
  4. Eat at Medieval Times - Cable Guy!
  5. Eat at White Castle - Harold and Kumar!
  6. Nathan's - Hot dogs! Hot dogs!
  7. NBA Store - Getting my jersey
  8. Napa Valley - Maybe not. I'm allergic to alcohol, after all.
  9. Vacaville
  10. Eat at Papa Johns - I saw this on TV
  11. Eat at Krispy Kreme
  12. Eat at Arthur's
  13. U.S. Open - asa pa. But after the epic men's final at Wimbledon last night (between Federer and Nadal), who wouldn't want to see them face-off again?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Different States

[Heads up. Long read/rant]

Just today, a nagging itch in my life finally got scratched.

You see I was stupid enough not to have renewed my U.S. Visa back in 1998, when I was in college. I didn't know what I was thinking at the time but it turned out to be one of the biggest regrets of my life. It came and bit a big chunk of my ass in 2003, when I absotively-posilutely had to be there for my sister's wedding in San Francisco.


Way back when we were kids (late eighties), we were denied twice already for a U.S. visa and opted instead for a trip to Hong Kong. It was a good consolation at the time, of course. I didn't know what the fuss is about in the U.S. except for what I see on TV. On the third attempt, it would be the first time we went to the U.S. embassy ourselves and smiled at the consul. I remember he was of Asian descent and not particularly nitpicky. My father did all the talking and me and my sister did all the smiling. And that was it. We were given 5-years, multiple entry.

We went there in 1992, went around in San Francisco, Virginia/Washington D.C., New Jersey/ New York, Florida then finally, Los Angeles. Maybe one of the best trips of my life.

We returned in 1994 for our grandparents' golden wedding anniversary which turned out to be a big success, even if I remembered I lost my coat/blazer before the night started and had to borrow from somebody else. I experienced the great American long drive to New York from Washington D.C. Aside from that, it's mostly lazing around the house in good old Manassas, Virginia where my cousins live. Suburbian living at its finest.

1997, I didn't know, would be the last trip over there. It was a packed three-week vacation, going back to Florida for another run at Disneyworld/EPCOT, MGM, and Universal Studios. At this time, I just renewed and was given a one year, multiple entry visa.

After that, the long exile.


My sister planned to get married late 2003; I wanted/needed to go.

I thought I'd still be able to renew my visa via dropbox since I was still just about in the period when I could still do that. But, after September 11, 2001, you know you just can't. In fact, on 9-11, watching TV, I truly thought, 'Now how the fuck are they going to give me a visa now?'

So we set out arranging everything for the interview, gathering requirements, and paying the necessary fees. The only thing missing was (get this), what the consul asked for. The lady had asked for an invitation to the wedding. Being as it was still relatively early, there were no invitations made yet. Bam! Denied.

Ok, so we get it. Try again. With wedding invitations this time.

Another $100 and a couple of weeks later, second try.

Standard questions: What is the purpose of the trip? To attend my sister's wedding (shows invitation). How long have I been working? How much am I earning? Where are my relatives at the moment? etc, etc , etc

"When is your sister's wedding?"
"November 29th"
(types something) "I'm sorry I can't give you a visa"
(me, speechless. then...) "You can't? Why not?"
"I just don't find you qualified"

Bam! Denied. In. My. Face.

I was pissed. My father was pissed. My family was pissed.

So I missed the wedding. I was alone on my birthday and on Christmas 2003. Well, it basically fucked up my life then and there. The whole not being there for the family on a once in a lifetime occasion. The whole thinking I'm not good enough. The whole thinking when will I ever be good enough. For us Pinoys, it's difficult not to take it personally. It wasn't any different.


Another thing about Pinoys is the infatuation with the land of opportunity. In some cases, it borders on obssession. Check out this conversation with my cousin:

Luis: lipat ka na ba dito tapos magtatago

Tonton: di ah. iba-blacklist ako sa bangko

Tonton: sabay sa buong banking

Luis: haha

Or this with my mom:

Mama: sabi ni Nanay ( ni Mike) ihahanap ka daw niya ng mapapangasawa dito.


As if being there is everyone's ultimate life goal. But true enough, it's what millions, maybe billions of people risk everything for: a chance to make it in the U.S. To wait decades for the petition to push through, to marry an American citizen, to give birth in the U.S., to unethically beef up the resume, to suffer long periods of unemployment and underemployment, to sneak across the border, to spend life savings, to leave family behind. Just for a chance.

Meanwhile, guys like me, who have honest intentions and earnest reasons get the disappointing and truly disheartening stamp on the passport. "Application received." Denied.


This time, however, armed with a new set of personal particulars, a couple of notable stamps on the passport, the glimmering surface of an issued U.K. visa, and the employment pass, things were looking good.

I booked the early morning appointment, wore my best office attire and smile, and waited for my turn. Answered the standard questions.

"You can pick up your visa on Monday, between 2:30 - 3:30, on the receiving window outside."

"Monday, 2:30. Thank you, Ma'am" [Face stapled with a smile that lasted throughout the day]

Sunday, July 01, 2007

More than Meets the Expectations.

I have seen, and I be-lieve, brothers and sisters! Testify! Transformers is one of the coolest movies of recent history.

I don't say that just because I'm admittedly a fanboy; but rather, like Spider-man and X-men, this movie was long overdue and yet it delivers!

[Spoilers start here]

Overall, if I hadn't been too obvious already, I liked the movie a lot. But similar to recent Star Wars installments and The Lord of the Rings, there's just too many humans and not enough fictional beings (robots in this case). Time for the lists!

Things that were good:
  1. Optimus Prime voiced by Peter Cullen. Iconic.
  2. Realism. Oh you'd believe that you're watching robots fighting. And that they change into vehicles.
  3. Oh my, Megan Fox and Rachael Taylor. Droooooool...
  4. Shia LeBouf who's everywhere this year. Fine actor.
  5. Blackout (the chopper), who I don't remember from the canon. But pretty cool entrance as the intro to the story. And good as a secondary character.
  6. Megatron being ruthless.
  7. The score. Good music for action.
  8. Action! Action! Action! Battle! Transform! Boom!
  9. Paid homage to the fans. "One shall stand and one shall fall", "Autobots, roll out", Megatron and Starscream hate each other, etc.
  10. The talk of a sequel. Droooooool...
Things that were OK:
  1. It's a Michael Bay film, so it's OK to have sappy humanoid storylines in between Transformer scenes.
  2. Supporting characters i.e. Transformers not named Optimus Prime or Megatron.
  3. Bumblebee as a Camaro (2008 concept car). Borders on things that were good.
  4. Bumblebee not being able to talk normally.
  5. Megatron as an alien jet fighter. Did you want him as a .38 pistol?
  6. Megatron voiced by Hugo Weaving. I heard the guy who voiced him in the cartoons doesn't have the same voice he had a couple of years earlier.
  7. Humor. Can't live with them, can't live without them.
Aaaaand, here's where the fanboy in me is brought out. Things that were bad:
  1. Exclusion of important characters in the cartoon (which will be completely unforgivable if they're not at all in the sequel), which deserves a list of it's own:
    1. Soundwave
    2. Laserbeak, Rumble and Ravage
    3. Wheeljack
    4. Perceptor
    5. Skywarp and other jets
    6. Constructicons and Devastator (a big Oops for the movie, since they named Brawl as "Devastator")
    7. Omega Supreme
    8. Dinobots!
  2. Optimus Prime does not say things like "my bad", ever.
  3. Optimus Prime does not need the fiery custom paint job.
  4. Where's Optimus's gun?
  5. Where's Megatron's gun?
  6. Not calling them Spike and Sparkplug.
  7. Why oh why did you kill Jazz? Was easily one of the coolest in the film.
  8. Frenzy was an annoying robot Ewok.
  9. Action scenes were usually dizzying and too zoomed in.
  10. The climax/resolution. Huh? Sige na nga.
Anyway, go watch it! I want to watch it again and again until 2009, when the sequel is released.