Weekly Ketchup 35 - Comics and 4DX!

I had a completely different idea about how this past week was gonna unfold and what this blog was gonna be about. When I said last week that I was gonna have something more coherent for this week, it was because I expected that, by this time, I've already seen 9 Works Theatrical's staging of "The Last Five Years" and gotten sized up for a costume I was gonna wear as a member of Enchantment Ph's Disney cosplay group in time for CosplayMania.

Well, life happened. Tickets to this weekend's show were sold out and it's the last one. And, as it turned out, Enchantment Ph wasn't gonna be at CosplayMania. So why bother?

While neither is a complete loss (I mean, I can live without either), I was really looking forward to them. For pretty much the entire year, I've been shaving off some of my regular activities and declining events for the purposes of saving money, so it was kind of a big deal for me that I got excited about the show and cosplaying enough that I considered dipping into my savings. It's musical theater and Disney after all!

Thankfully, I have other interests and this week I had some time to delve into my comics-adled self.

For starters, I spent a great deal of the week going through Comixology, the Google Play Store, and Kobo looking for new worlds to discover and explore. I've been actually doing it for months and so far the only viable DRM-free digital platform (similar to Kobo, CD Baby, and GOG.com) is ImageComics.com, which obviously narrows down my choices to those offered by that publisher. Comixology's recently unveiled DRM-Free backups, however, has opened my choices up to other publishers like Zenescope and Top Cow. Both companies offer free but DRM-locked #0 or #1 issues of their respective titles on Google Play (for Zenescope) and Kobo (for Top Cow) but, as much as they dabble in the fantasy genre, what little I've glimpsed of their universes in the past few months have so far failed to excite me.

I tried to broaden my horizon this past week by sampling some of Arcana Studios and Aspen's free offerings on Comixology. Both companies also dabble in the realm of fantasy but I just can't get past the DRM restrictions despite liking what I've seen. Some of Aspen's titles are also available DRM-Free from DriveThruComics. If the site can just sign more publishers up and offer more file formats, I feel like the company will be my go-to site for digital comics but at the moment I'm only test-driving their services by availing some free issues.

Pretty impressive list of publishers already
That being said, allow me to deviate from the topic of digital distribution to the actual content that these publishers offer, especially as it relates to the recent controversy surrounding Milo Manara's variant cover to Spider-Woman no. 1. I feel like some of the anger towards Manara is unfounded considering that drawing women in provocative poses is what he's known to do. I think the problem really is that Marvel commissioned him to do this variant cover in the first place, which makes me wonder why this particular cover is gaining so much heat when this is just the latest in a long line of Manara-commissioned Marvel variants. My take is that, as much as it pains me to admit this in 2014, there is still a segment of the market that gets off on sexified women in comics and, I guess, this is a variant cover to attract that market. Nobody has to buy it - the regular cover is just fine and I'm sure the rest of the actual story in the issue puts Jessica Drew (one of my all-time favorite Avengers, by the way) in very good light.

Which brings me back to the publishers I mentioned above. With the exception of Image Comics (whose 90s incarnation had so much to atone for), it's hard for me to take their titles seriously because just look at these. I'm probably being unfair as I'm sure their comics is brilliantly written if I really give them a chance but the prevalent imagery in their books sure looks like they're intended for a particular market.

There is, however, a shining beacon in the form of Dynamite, which is one of the publishers that are part of Comixology's DRM-Free back-up program. They also recently launched their own DRM-Free digital comics store, though their selection is not that extensive yet. With luck, they become as viable as Image Comics come Cyber Monday later this year and offer up their entire back catalog at a discount because I've perused their titles and I'm already interested in quite a few. when Comixology's DRM-free back up program was launched a few weeks ago, I sampled Project Super Powers with a couple of free zero issues and I'm in! I want to read the entire thing! I've also been thinking about Masks and King's Watch for a while now (they're like the Justice League and the Avengers but with pulp characters), so I'm looking forward to those. I just tried Kirby Genesis today via the free zero issue and I'm also game but, for some reason, the DRM-Free back-up isn't available. The series is currently on sale on Comixology but until I'm certain of the DRM-free back up, it's a no-go for me.
The best thing about these titles is that they're finite miniseries, so the stories draw to a close instead of goes on (much like Watchmen) so there's no need for me to follow them for years on end. Which brings me to another title I'm attraced to: George Perez's upcoming 6-issue miniseries Sirens. Remember last week when I said I've been daydreaming about Avengers stories? Well, one of those was an all-female Avengers squad and this lineup looks a lot like the one I have in my head. I see the Wasp, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Jocasta, She-Hulk. Obviously, that's not them but I wouldn't be surprised if these characters are Perez's analogues to Earth's Mightiest Heroines. Boom! Studios, this comics' publisher, currently doesn't offer any DRM-free digital comics, nor is it part of Comixology's backup program so I might just pick up the physical copy or wait for the trade paperback.

See how different the women in this cover is.
Lastly, there is another comic I'm currently interested in, mainly because of last night's new experience. Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero is on Comixology but is neither DRM-Free nor on sale. Unfortunately, it's also not available on Google Play or Kobo. I might have to scour the world for a physical copy, hopefully on sale. And, yes, I'm only interested in it because I just saw Pacific Rim last night with a bunch of friends. I didn't see it when it came out last year because the premise just didn't tickle my fancy. It was just another CGI-laden summer blockbuster as far as I was concerned. But, having finally seen it, in 4DX no less - I find that the movie actually did something not even the Marvel movies could do: elicit a physical reaction from me in the theater that doesn't involve laughing (or crying for that matter). I was literally at the edge of my seat grabbing hold of my armrest and clenching my jaw as the jaegers and kaijus duked it out. It was definitely an intense experience.

As much as I enjoyed 4DX, though, I don't think any amount of special atmospheric effect is going to save a bad movie (*cough*Bayformers*cough*). I'd like to see another 4DX movie again as long as I know the movie's good to begin with, though I can't imagine what other movie would be perfect for this format? Gravity, perhaps?

Oh, and just to connect the movie to something I said a few paragraphs ago, gratuitousness goes both ways in 2014 and I think the filmmakers knew what they were doing when they hired Charlie Hunnam for the movie.

It looks like I ended the week on a pretty high note, despite the disappointments, so I'd like to think it's still a good week!


Weekly Ketchup 34 - General Updates and Addenda

Lest my current work problems turn into a three-episode arc, I'm just gonna append the experience of the past few weeks with a simple "things had a way of working themselves out". So, yeah, I'm slowly creeping back to my hopeful self.

Thankfully, the rest of the week passed without much fanfare, which brings me to the subject of this week's blog: What to write about? I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some thoughts that have been buzzing around in my head for a while now. These are mostly ramblings that were in drafts of earlier entries but had to be cut off because the blogs were getting too long. Either that or there just hadn't been an impetus to share them in a given week. Until now.

Changing Social Behavior

A couple of weeks ago, I ran this list of geeky distractions. What didn't make the cut of that rather long blog was the behind-the-scenes dilemma I had throughout that entire week about whether I should share the movie, music, book, or game I've been checking out. In real time. On all my social networks.

The thing was that I didn't want this blog to be a curation of what I've been sharing on social media the past week. I didn't want it to be like an extended edition of what I've already shared. That's just too much time sharing, opining, and talking about the same set of subjects.

And so I resolved to keep quiet about my new interests until I can blog about them. It's not in real time and I don't even get a lot of views but I do get to archive my thoughts, which is why I still prefer blogging in long form as opposed to sharing random bursts of opinion or activity.

Waging A Silent War

One of the earliest entries on this series was about random thoughts I had while walking home from work. In another blog not too long ago, I briefly mentioned how jeepneys have never been part of my reality. I'm aware that they're there and I do take them on occasion, especially late at night when buses and trains are no longer available but, until the Manila bus ban, I've never had to take them on a daily basis.

These past few months I've devised ways to cope with my current predicament. One way, as one might guess, was that I've been walking home. Thankfully, the distance between my house and office isn't all that great and I could use the bit of exercise given my sedentary lifestyle.

Another way I've been dealing, especially in the morning on my way to work, is holding on to my payment until I'm near the office and satisfied with the journey. Because the worst part about taking these piles of scrap metal are smoking drivers, everytime a driver lights a stick, I get off - without paying - and transfer to another jeep. I will also transfer if the driver plays really loud awful music. I realize that this sounds cruel but as a consumer, I need to get this satisfaction from a service I'm paying for.

Consumer vs Creator

Another earlier post was how everything seems to be accessible online now, which has been rather good for me since I got to open myself up to new and even old books, games, and comics.

Not too long ago I also wrote about some first world problems I had during a recent storm that took out our power and Internet. What I cut from that entry was my hypothesis that I was much more creative and imaginative back when I didn't have much access to anything. I remember one stormy and blacked out day when I came up with an entire X-books crossover. At the time, there was nothing else to do and I also didn't read many X-men comics because I couldn't afford them.

In all my years as an Avengers fan, most of which time I've been able to afford everything, I've never once imagined a single storyline, let alone an entire crossover epic.  However, recently, now that I'm not following the comics (not because I can't afford them, rather because they weren't coming up with the type of stories I want to read), I've been daydreaming about fantasy story arcs I want to see! I even like launching a fan fiction series - but I would still like for it to be graphic, even if I'm not an artist. I just gotta iron out the story!

I shared this on my Instagram a few months ago.
I actually imagined a war game back when I could only fantasize about playing one.
That's just three of the most badly written ramblings ever but I do enjoy putting my thoughts into words, however haphazardly, otherwise they would just fester in my head. That being said, I'm looking forward to a more coherent blog next week!

Oh, and this blog was delayed because of two very important people:

Yesterday, I was recovering from a party we had the night before to celebrate geek friend Hank's birthday!

Photo from Lynn's Facebook
Earlier today, I was at lunch to celebrate the birthday of another geek friend, Carlo!

I'm sure there's a better photo somewhere but this will do for now.
From Tania's Facebook


Weekly Ketchup 33 - I Just Need A Win

Remember last week's pop culture distractions from a rather stressful work situation? Well, here's the follow-up: As much as I know I'm doing the right thing, educating the client and going against orders, I realized a few days ago that I also screwed up. And we're already going into print! While the client didn't notice the mistake yet, I need to find a way to rectify the situation before they do! I already have an idea about what to do but it's gonna be expensive. FUCK!

The truth is that this isn't the first time that this has happened. Back in my previous agency, we've also made a couple of really expensive mistakes. Yeah, small details that tend to be overlooked can be extremely costly for the agency or the creative director whose job it was to make sure details down to the minute level are well accounted for. I've even gotten fired from a couple of non-advertising jobs for missing mistakes that should have been spotted during proofing.

All this time I thought I've gotten better a this sort of thing but obviously not. Apologies if I'm keeping the details a little vague because it's really boring to have to explain. Bottom line is that I screwed up and I've been bummed about it this past week. I'm afraid of how much it's going to cost me considering I've been saving up and also leaving. I'm afraid of having to convince the printer to stop production so I can fix my mistake, which we thankfully have time for (at least). More importantly, I'm afraid of what this experience might mean to my future job prospects.

I've been reminding myself that this ordeal is just a job and it's not the end of the world. It won't even matter in a year's time. Take it as a lesson learned. This was all supposed to be just "plan b", remember?

And yet, up until yesterday, this matter has weighed heavily on my mind that I couldn't bring myself to do anything else. I wanted to take this weekend to get started on a few other projects but that didn't happen. Instead, I laid in bed punishing myself mentally for my incompetence.

Adding to my already paralyzing frustration this past week was Warlords Battlecry 2, which I've been playing to distract my thoughts from the situation. The problem was that I kept losing and it's really bruising my already wounded ego!

I really just needed one win this past week.
It doesn't help that Robin Williams also died this past week.
I mean, celebrities die all the time but this one really hit. He is, after all, one of the prominent figures I knew growing up. I also followed "The Crazy Ones" (wouldn't you know it, a show about my industry) this past year and was saddened that it was cancelled. I just couldn't help myself - I was tearing up this entire week just looking at tribute art like this one:

Credit to the artist
Late afternoon yesterday, after realizing I won't get anything done unless I get a win, I finally got up from bed and fired up Warlords Battlecry 2. I played that thing over and over again until, finally, around 11pm, I got my win! I finally conquered that region that has been denied me this entire week!

Man, I just needed that sense of satisfaction. Went to sleep a little peacefully last night and woke up feeling less lousy earlier today. I even got to do some work that I've been neglecting these past few weeks.

Hopefully, the rest of the week won't be so bad.

See the green banners and castles? Those are mine.
The castle at the lower left, at the bottom of my empire is my hardest won territory yet.


Weekly Ketchup 32 - Geekstractions

This past week, I've been trying to distract myself from thinking about a possible confrontation with a client. Remember the campaign I mentioned here and the photo shoot I discussed here? Yeah, it's that client.

The short version, though, is that this client doesn't seem to get that the moment a digital proof of the layout we sent their printer is provided, then that means they're ready to go to print. This client also seems to have it in their heads that we speak for their printer along with some other expectations that we, as an agency, never offered. This situation bothers me so much that I'm constantly imagining the confrontation with the client. I suppose it's because I really can't be angry or annoyed towards the client however much I'd like to use expletives, hence I let the confrontation linger in my fantasies. But it's taken up so much of my free time that I just want release! The argument did happen last Friday though and I'm a bit proud of myself for holding my ground. I tried to be less argumentative or aggressive about it and tried to educate the client about the standard process that agencies and printers follow.

This all that either the printer or the agency should see on the digital proof
Anyway, as of this writing, the saga continues and my head is still swimming with negative scenarios, which brings me back to distractions. This past week, I've been trying out new comics, movies, and books - anything just to pass the time without imagining the screaming match I really want to have with the client.

I started the week finally reading my digital copy of "Rat Queens" that I got from the Image sale a few weeks back. It's a fantasy so it's obviously a prime pick for me and I enjoyed it immensely. I really wish there was more to read with each issue though. Like I said during my quick review of "Invincible", I really miss the days when comics would take at least 15 minutes to read.

I also got into "Real Heroes" mainly because it was free. It's basically "Galaxy Quest" but with superheroes. It's an interesting book, especially given the popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which was primarily based on the Ultimate universe. The connection, of course, was that "Real Heroes" creators Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch were the same team behind "The Ultimates".

On the movie front, I downloaded the Justice League animated movies "Doom", "Flashpoint Paradox", "War", and "Trapped in Time" and watched them one after another. I could just be asking for too much here (I know there's a current animated show and the live action films are kicking butts) but why can't Marvel come up with animated movies that are just as decent? I'd still really like a nice animated Avengers movie!

The past week, I also got a copy of the "If/Then" soundtrack, which means I'm now drowning in Idina Menzel after "Rent", "Wicked", and "Frozen". It's hard to appreciate the songs without context but I still enjoy them. It's nice to hear Anthony Rapp's voice again, though LaChanze's has matured since I first heard her on "Once on this Island". Anyway, I'd really like to see a staging of the show. It'd be interesting to see how they switch from one reality to another.

I also got a copy of Matchbox 20's "North" and the Green Day trilogy "Uno", "Dos", "Tre" albums. Both bands were holdovers from my music taste in the 1990s and I still enjoy their new material. Though admittedlying, I haven't listened to them as much as the "If/Then" soundtrack.

Finally, I got started on Brandon Sanderson's "Mistborn". I'm only a few chapters in and, in true Sanderson fashion, the pace is really quick and there's a lot of dialog to establish the world, which is always preferable as far as I'm concerned. I haven't read much about the series so I don't really know where the story is headed but my body is ready.

Other than that, I've been playing my games from GOG.com and Android. And just last Sunday, I went through all three Toy Story DVDs back to back. I thought I'd be immune by now, knowing how the trilogy ends, but no, I still had that moment when I was wiping tears and snot from my face.

Social interactions also help. Last Thursday was Amici Quiz Night and we lost despite there being a battalion of us. There was a Guardians of the Galaxy category though, which I mostly answered correctly. I was able to supply the names of Steve Gan and Bill Mantlo only because their names were on my news feed since the movie became popular.

And we celebrated high school friend Anya's birthday last night, which is why this blog is delayed by a day. I love getting together with the people who've known me the longest even if we're in different points in our lives. After all the catching up and reminiscing, we ended up talking about "Game of Thrones". Anya also said she read "Wolverine Origins" except the last issue, which is frustrating her because she wants to know what happened.

Hopefully, I hope this situation with the client gets sorted out this week. Or maybe just writing about it will give me the release I need. If not, well, at least I have all these things to geek out over!


Weekly Ketchup 31 - Aliens

The past couple of days, my social media activities have largely been about "Documented" and "Guardians of the Galaxy". One would think these two things couldn't be farther apart from each other but, well, I always find a connection.

Earlier this week, I found out that "Documented" was gonna be screening at the CCP as part of the opening festivities of the Cinemalaya Film Festival. I made the effort to catch it last Friday, though I had to take some time off work to do so, because Jose Antonio Vargas' story appeals to me on so many level. For one thing, I was an undocumented American citizen for about 16 years here in the Philippines and a couple of years in Canada, which is a story I've already discussed in a previous blog a couple of years ago. Like Vargas, my mom also sent me to board a plane with a stranger to go live with my grandparents.

However, the parallelism in our stories end there. For one thing, I'm not ever going to fight to gain citizenship to this country. But the irony is that I already do have a sort of citizenship thanks to my certificate of recognition, which actually makes me a citizen of the country in all but passport. This means that I can pay my taxes to this country (big whoop that turned out to be) and claim any benefits entitled to any taxpayer. I have been paying my dues since I started working and made my claim once, so that turned out pretty well. Vargas, though, has been paying his taxes in the US as well, even if he's not supposed to be there, but he won't be eligible to the benefits, which seems rather unfair.

The biggest difference between our stories is that I didn't end up separated from my mom or my dad or my siblings (yes, those are three separate entities as far as my sordid family history is concerned). And, unlike Vargas, I've actually experienced being deported - to the States.

I'm not sure if I knew anything at all of immigration laws back when I was a kid but I already knew the term "illegal alien" because my grandmother told me, more than once growing up, that I was one. And now that I think about it, it's strange that everyone in our little town seemed to know that they were basically harboring a fugitive like it was some sort of open secret. Was the country lax in implementing laws even then? Or was I sent to the province specifically to avoid the enforcers in Manila? I could ask but why bother. That time is done.

What I want answered now is whether it's fair that Vargas, whose contribution to the United States far outweighs mine, will never get the same opportunities available to me simply because I was born there. Just this past week, I was reminded to update my voter registration because there's a primary election happening in November. It feels like cheating, especially since I also share the opinion that, at least as far this country's electoral system is concerned, only the taxpayers should get to vote. That reminds me: I always tell people that I can't vote in Philippine elections because of my citizenship but I never conclusively figured out whether my recognition status covered that aspect of civic responsibility. I suppose I can still ask around.

Now, on to this week's other alien matter: "Guardians of the Galaxy"! There's not much else I can add to my barrage of posts yesterday, except maybe the big shocker that I wasn't really hyped up about the movie going into it. I did mention in my X-men blog that I feel like the Marvel Studios film universe is an obligation rather than a genuine interest. These Guardians aren't even characters I care so much about because like any fanboy of the old guard, these are still my Guardians of the Galaxy:

Still, the film is a triumph of genre storytelling. It's a comic book movie, to be sure, but it's clearly  not a superhero story. It's also the perfect example of how a simple plot wins in the execution. That being said, I'm not sure I agree with critics and fans who say that GotG is better than The Winter Soldier, which remains my favorite MCU film to date. And even then, Days of Future Past is still my favorite comic book movie of the year.

Of course, not everything about this past week was about aliens. Last Wednesday, I participated in Boho's quiz night / fundraiser hosted by geek friend Jon. I formed a team with UST batchmate/Geek Fight Committee member Denice and Mark Escay. We didn't win but hey! We had mojitos all around plus a screening of Robin Hood: Men In Tights! We even played a game of Cards Against Humanity with some of the Boho regulars, some of whom turned out to be Thomasians! I also caught up with Shin, an acquaintance I met through Dek, who I haven't seen or heard from in a long time. He invited to return last Friday but, well, "Documented" happened. I had a good time that night. I woke up late for work the next day and was so tired that I didn't catch GotG on opening day but I had a good time!

Funny thing about the Thomasians, though, was that Denice and I were just talking about how our old ID photos were stored on a server because we were able to retrieve it a few years before. The very next day, it was all over social media again. Not sure why but, well, I participated anyway.

Oh, and one last thing: It's my mom's birthday today so yay! Ice cream!