Weekly Ketchup 21 - Return to the X-men

I've done a lot of revisiting and reminiscing this past week - mainly spurred by the release of Days of Future Past. Let me just get my feelings about the movie out of the way before I descend into my usual existentialist rambling.

1) The first trailer made me want to cry. The entire movie got me bawling. None of the MCU films have yet to affect me as much.
I will say this, though: DofP was a comic book/superhero movie I really WANTED to watch, whereas the MCU movies (with the exception of The Avengers) were something I just NEEDED to see.
2) I didn't think that I still cared about these characters but I apparently still do. The battle scenes are epic and all, but it was the emotional tugs and nods to the comics and previous movies that really made it for me.

Additionally, Comixology had an X-men sale so I bought Schism with my complimentary $5 coupon, which was about to expire. I also thought it would be perfect timing to pick up my copy of the Uncanny Avengers Annual and X-Men: No More Mutants en route to seeing the movie - on opening day!

It's my first X-book in almost a decade and I'm just glad most of them are there. 
With the new movie and the comics, my head was definitely swimming in mutant nostalgia this entire week. And, of course, thoughts and feelings happened.

I'd like to think that the fable of the X-men - empowering the disenfranchised, minority, outcasts, and all - were really what bonded me to the mutant universe growing up because that's exactly how I saw myself. Looking back, however, I realize that it was because they were, more than anything, easily accessible then . I collected the cards, followed the show, the works; but I didn't really get my first X-men comic until later - during the Phalanx Covenant saga when Blink first appeared (hence my excitement for her inclusion in DofP).

This is how much of a fan I was then: I drew fan art, wrote fan fiction, and contributed issue synopses on fan sites, none of which I have ever done for The Avengers. So when my mutant hysteria waned sometime in 2000, months after the first movie and before my first Avengers issue, I thought it was because:
a) The X-men had become too popular and I wanted a fandom that was just mine;
b) I don't want drama in my comics anymore - I just want action and super-heroics;
c) There are just too many X-books. I can't keep up.

Hmmm. Sound familiar?

What I realize now is that this change in super-team also coincided with a shift in my personality. Following a period of personal drama and identity issues, I entered a period of assertiveness where I decided what kind of person I wanted to be (forgive the pretension - I was 19 and about to enter college). No more drama, I thought then. I was gonna focus on being awesome. And so I did. Mission accomplished.

That's probably why I gravitated towards The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver early on. They got the job done and did away with all the drama associated with carrying the mutant banner.

Sad but true.
I also understand where Havok was coming from in that controversial speech. I also don't like labels as they have a way of boxing me and forcing expectations from other people that I have no intention of meeting, which is also where I stand with religion.

Coincidentally, he's been Wanda and Pietro's teammate on different squads.
Unlike the mutants, I've never really had to fight for my survival (like I said my only issues growing up, which seems silly now, were about identity). That, coupled with my disregard for other people's expectations, meant that I was also prone to fits of mediocrity, which further adds to the notion that I seem to lack ambition.

Aside from bringing out old issues (Get it? Issues? Coz comics?), this nostalgic week also seemingly brought back a bad behavior I've worked so hard to control: Impulse buying. I did set aside budget for the new comics I got this week, both of which I've been really waiting for, so that's okay. But as I dove back into the mutant world, I found myself looking for more digital comics to buy. I was even tempted to get the Origin of Generation X trade paperback, which reprints the entire Phalanx Covenant saga, from the downgraded Fully Booked Gateway branch. Granted, the book was at 50% off but I already have the individual issues, missing only a couple.

I also found myself looking at new Android devices even if I don't really need it. I suppose I was spoiled by reading Invincible on Rocky's 10-inch Asus Transformer, which I had just returned. So I just ended up re-reading old issues and the X-men chapters of the complete Avengers vs. X-men saga, which was about as close as I got to re-connecting with the mutants until now.

If I didn't know any better, I'd say my future self sent his consciousness back in time to stop me.


Weekly Ketchup 20 - This Week in Reviews

I think this blog has started to control my life. Thinking about content for this week's edition has driven me out of bed to actually accomplish stuff (hence, everything on this blog) and that's great.

On the downside, the blog also makes me consider some previously non-existent issues - like last week's rambling. Admittedly, recognizing my flaws would actually help me grow as a person, but I don't wanna be that little bitch who whines about my so-called life on a weekly basis, especially if it's unwarranted.

So instead of forcing myself to reveal my inner thoughts, how about some pop cultural experiences, eh?

Maybe because I wasn't really looking forward to this movie, I didn't really care much about this character, and my expectations were low, but I ended up really enjoying it. Here's the thing: I have now developed this tendency to go into a cinema expecting to come out with something to criticize the movie for. I hate that part of my brain but it's there. However, if a movie does its job correctly, that part of my brain shuts off and I leave the cinema happy. It happened with The Lego Movie, The Winter Soldier, and it happened with this movie. Heck! It happened with the Daredevil and the Fantastic Four movies!

You know when I didn't leave the cinema happy? Green Lantern and Man of Steel. But those are to be expected, right? Well, get this: I wasn't happy with Iron Man 2, Thor 2, or even Frozen. Boom! Shocker! Rally the mob! Call the church elders! Alert the police!

I still don't believe that The Amazing Spider-Man franchise is a necessary reboot. I'd still be fine if it didn't exist. It hasn't so far erased the foul taste that Spider-Man 3 left in my mouth the way that First Class somehow redeemed the X-men movies for me. But, for what it's worth, Marc Webb's amazing take on the web-crawler has (so far) entertained me and that's good enough for now.

I mentioned before that Rocky lent me his tablet so I can read the 110 issues that he bought from the Comixology sale. I finished reading all of it (wow, that took, like, 3 weeks?) yesterday and I enjoyed every minute of it. This is just how I like my superhero comic: fun, colorful, action-packed, and none of that real world allegory crap (I still hate Civil War).

Speaking of art, I love how the artists Cory Walkey and Ryan Ottley kept the style consistent.

Not everything is consistent, though. In the first half of the run, the creators made a point of not showing any sex scenes at all because it was "a family book". Later in the series, the sex was much more pronounced, and so was the violence, and I think an f-bomb was even dropped. Not that I mind - I just wish they were more consistent.

Regardless, I enjoyed the series. The energy of the book reminded me so much of The Initiative back in the day, so I spent some time rereading my old issues. Good times, those.

The first season finale aired this past week and it's a good one as any. I liked the nod to Coulson's weapon in the Avengers movie ("I know what it does" is just brilliant) and loved how they brought so many items back from the entire season (May's Asgardian stick, the alien weapon ray thing, gravitonium, etc). And, yes, of course, Samuel L. Jackson's appearance as Nick Fury (that confrontation with John Garrett towards the end was just too funny).

But here's the thing with Agents of SHIELD as a whole: I'm only ever really watching it because of its connection to the MCU. Secret agents aren't exactly the most exciting thing to watch and I'm still disappointed that there aren't many Easter eggs that comic book fans can latch on to. Bring in Jimmy Woo, Barbara Morse, JESSICA DREW, any of the high profile SHIELD agents from the comics - or bring in any of the super-powered characters (Blackout, Blizzard, and Lorelei can't be it) from the comics - and then I'll be more invested in the show.

I did appreciate how well they handed one of my favorite characters from the comics though. I hope they find a way to work her back into the show.

I made it to the final level a couple of weeks ago and I was almost done! But then I loaded an older saved game and then saved over the more updated game. Anyway, my overall experience of Dust: An Elysian Tail is that it's fantastic platformer with gorgeous art and a compelling story to boot! I have no complaints with the gameplay since this is actually one of the very few platformers I have ever played. Although I loved that I can just mash buttons together, not really think about much of anything, and just watch as chaos unfolds - beautifully, I might add.

I think the art is just really the best thing about the experience. I was pleasantly surprised that my laptop's system can handle the graphic requirements at all. At least three of the other games I bought along with this one suffered graphically. I had a smooth playing experience the entire time - until I reached the final level when everything just slowed down and stuttered. I'm not sure if it's my system or the game but I'll contact GOG.com anyway and see if other users experienced the same problem.

Other than that, everything was flawless! Kudos to the voice actors and everyone involved in crafting the story, writing the dialog, building the world, etc. Everything was just fantastic - down to the rousing soundtrack! It really felt like the game was a spectacular animated movie!

I enjoyed the game so much that I bought a gamepad for it but sadly the game only works with an Xbox controller. Oh well, I can use it for other games (Yeah, I'm diversifying, getting into more platformers and not just strategies and simulations).

The story is standard fantasy fair but it changed the formula a lot! Although the series is named after him, Septimus Heap is not the most important character in the first book. He's not the one with  a glorious destiny waiting for him. He's not the one that the villains are trying to capture and the heroes are trying to protect. His true identity wasn't even revealed until the very end, and even then, it was just a little more than an afterthought.

I also love that author Angie Sage managed to tie up the story all in one book. I'm now curious what stories the remaining books tell - but I need to start on another book or series first.

Funny thing about the Septimus Heap series is that I only got interested because of the cover of the books, which I've seen in various bookstores, and because I got a bargain copy of the official guide book from one of those National Bookstore sale bins. I didn't realize I'd enjoy it so much - certainly more so than the first Artemis Fowl book.

Speaking of National Bookstore, I went to the Cubao branch earlier today and didn't get a thing from the warehouse sale. However, I did get this lovely little thing from the aforementioned regular bargain bin.

I've always been fascinated by classic world history and the cultures of ancient peoples and I was hoping to find a handy reference book at the warehouse sale but didn't find any. Good thing I stayed and looked around the rest of the store. Otherwise, I wouldn't have found this book. Obviously, Norse runes satiate my interests in both fantasy/mythology and ancient cultures.

Anyway, that's been my week. How was yours?


Weekly Ketchup 19 - Do I lack ambition?

Compared to last week's grand geekstravaganza, this past week had been rather quiet, except for one Quiz Night and a couple of birthday celebrations.

Cap'n Karen celebrated her birthday at this month's Amici Quiz Night
(Photo c/o Ramon Sunico)
And once again at a party at her place last Saturday.
(Photo c/o Lynn Montejo)
My college friend Nicolai celebrated her big 3-0 at the Bowery, the Fort
(Photo c/o Andrea Roque)
Although in my case, "quiet" really hardly ever is. Neither is "alone" for that matter. I find that in those moments of solitude, which lasts from minutes to hours, that's when the voices in my head start reaching out to me.

And don't deny it - you have them too. Whether you're a geeky or creative type or both, you know they're there. Even the most pristinely ungifted among muggles have them.

Now, I don't know about you but I welcome these personas in my mind. They give me ideas. Sometimes, they offer realizations, some of which I've already shared on this blog. Most of the time, they just give me somebody to talk to.

Yes, I talk to myself. Get over it.

But sometimes, as was the case this week, they just make me question myself.

This week's final jeopardy round question was: Do I lack ambition?

Funny thing is, when one voice asks such identity-defining question, another would usually chime in with an answer. And I would have an instant fodder for a blog subject - like so. Resolutions FTW!

This time, though, I found myself grasping at straws.

I found myself thinking back to about four years ago when I was looking for a job and I kept fumbling for answers whenever my potential employers ask the question: "Where do you see yourself five years from now?"

I just imagined that if I were to face that question today, I still wouldn't know the answer. To recap, that's almost ten years in total - and that's not even counting the other times I was asked that question earlier in my career. Within that same time frame, most folks (my brother included) would want to have had a successful career or business, a family, a house, etc.

Maybe because I'm mentally stuck at 17, or maybe because I live for the moment, or maybe because I didn't experience the normal life cycle of a human being in today's structured society, but such ambitions have never once figured into any of my grand plans.

Yes, I do have them. A few years ago, I realized that what I want to do with the rest of my life is learn. There is still so much of this world I want to find the time to get into - like art and music. Does that constitute an ambition?

I'd like to think I've already set life goals - one of which to sail around the Mediterranean. Is that ambitious? What about what comes after or before?

I've always said that ultimately what I want to achieve with my life is to publish a book. Or just put out a story in one form or another. But here's thing: Whether I have a readership of one or one million, I'd be happy with just having put my work out there. That hardly counts as ambitious, does it? (And also: With the advent of ebooks, anybody can publish anything).

Right now, my career trajectory seems to be headed towards advertising, media, and production. If I could just write copy, produce ads, do the occasional photography or videography - for the rest of my life, I would be happy. I'm not in a hurry to head my own company or even my own team. Can being static be considered ambitious?

Don't get me wrong: I know my strengths. I know the extent of my own talents and my willingness to learn a new skill that I currently don't have. I know I'm a team player and self-motivated, among other things.

But why the hell can't I answer that damn question?

All of this pondering was brought about by a big looming change in my life.

Or it could it just be the heat.

Anyway, I discovered a few songs this past week, which really helped quiet these "voices" down - ironically. Yes, I know they're not really new. But that's my thing. I've established that already.


Weekly Ketchup 18 - Geek Week

As my social media activities can attest, this past weekend was incredibly tiring and busy but overall awesome for me. It was, after all, Free Comic Book Day last Saturday and Star Wars Day last Sunday - both internationally observed annual geek events, so my weekend was bound to be really hectic - and really geeky! The stuff that The Big Bang Theory is made of!

Though, now that I think about it, my entire week has been across-the-board geeky, more so than any other week (I think).

First, let's begin with this little gem of a YouTube channel.

More than providing me with background sound while I work on designs for a client's project, the channel provides some quick, bite-sized information on a variety of topics - from psychology to literature. I actually discovered and subscribed to the channel some time ago but I got through their entire series on US History and got started on World History just the past week. I'm not much of a history nut but it's nice to have even just a bit of knowledge about events, especially when they are referenced in conversations, and this show makes learning history far more entertaining than the crap I endured in college.

In the realm of comics, I already went through 30+ issues of Invincible last week alone - and I loved every minute of it! It's a fun superhero book that doesn't take itself very seriously.

One of the funniest scenes I've read in comics!
My only gripe, though this applies to comics in general these days, is that there really isn't much to read in a single issue. Gone are the days where I spend 15 to 20 minutes on a single book. These days, I'll be lucky if I make it to 10 minutes.

Another surprisingly short read is the first book in the Artemis Fowl series. I finished it late last week and I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. The world-building just doesn't work for me and I couldn't bring myself to care about the characters. There's a dwarf that burrows by eating and pooping dirt.

Or maybe I'm just not down with having criminals as protagonists. Though Eoin Coifer did try to make readers empathize with his main character, but I just can't bring myself to do so. Here's hoping the next books hook me in.

And now, to gaming. My friends and I were supposed to spend last Thursday's Labor Day break playing board games but our host, Mark Poa, had to cancel because MR had a family emergency and she couldn't fly out. We tried to make other plans but I ended up staying home and playing my own games - most notably Dust: An Elysian Tail (yeah, I'm still there).

At this point, I was already consulting walkthroughs online because I couldn't figure some levels out and I wanted to be done with them so I can move on to the next. I ended the week on the final level of the game. I'm probably gonna finish it sometime this week.

Final level! Things are bound to get nasty from here!
I also bought a couple of Kemco and Kairosoft games on Android because they were on sale. I haven't fully delved into either games, so I can't really say much about them yet, but I did sample them a bit.

Friday night was Geek Fight at Boho. We had a modest turn out with only four teams competing, two of which were composed of me and my friends, but Kenneth the substitute host (Carlo Casas wasn't available for some reason) really livened up the evening with silly retorts like asking the groups to draw boobs, pubes, or even V-cuts on their board if they don't have the answer. I've actually seen Kenneth before - as a member of the Silly People Improv Troupe and as one of the doomed students on Battalia Royale.

Neither of our two groups won that evening but it was fun nonetheless, so it's all good.

Finally, the weekend. To be honest, there really wasn't much about FCBD that excites me anymore. After all, I'm not much of an avid collector anymore, I've gone every year since Comic Odyssey spearheaded the event locally, and I wasn't thrilled about basking in the searing heat while waiting in line for this year's free comic offerings, none of which I'm particularly interested in. Since I'm also in the business of cutting back and saving, I was also not interested in the sale. I only really went just to say that I've had a complete geek week and to have enough fodder for this blog.

I had this medium-sized shirt altered for the occasion.
To be fair, though, this year's event was less taxing than last year. I was in line by 8:30 am and was done by around 9:30 am. Boy, was I glad they got the line moving early and quickly. I could've gone home then but I had to wait for Mark P. and Chiqui. Actually, one of the things I always enjoy about FCBD is meeting up with friends and the local fandom, so I'm glad I still took the time and effort to be there.

As for my stash, I got Transformers vs. GI Joe, Archie, and Power Rangers comics (yeah, I totally skipped the Marvel title) plus some other random issues that Comic Odyssey gave away to early birds. I ended up giving away my copy of Archie to Jay-r and Power Rangers to Alec. They didn't make it to the quality stuff but I wanted them to come away with something since they're hardly ever at these events and, like I said, I wasn't particularly interested in the comics anyway, so it just made sense. Mark P. also wanted the Bongo FCBD anthology but they already ran out of copies when he arrived. Had I known, I would've gotten a copy and given it to him.

My initial apprehension about attending this year's FCBD almost made me lose my slot to figure into this year's Star Wars Day celebration at Resorts World as part of the Philippine Outpost contingent. The call went out to troopers and handlers weeks ago for a two-day weekend trooping but there were limited slots, so I let the troopers sign up first. I also had to gauge whether my presence would be required for either or both days. It wasn't until early last week when I decided I would attend FCBD that I finally confirmed my participation for Sunday only but was told the slots had already been filled. I didn't really mind - I was perfectly fine with just supporting the event and taking photos and videos of them, which I always enjoy. However, I did volunteer to handle the small group who would be making an appearance on ASAP earlier in the day though.

I also had this shirt altered last week just for the weekend.
The trooping at ASAP was actually the second time I handled the troopers for a variety show performance. The first time was on Party Pilipinas about a couple of years ago. The experience was almost similar - down to Iza Calzado being present on both shows - except that, during rehearsals, I didn't know many of the performers on Party Pilipinas but I knew most of those on ASAP. And I don't watch either shows! Except for the rain that made crossing from the green room to the studio less than ideal, the trooping went swimmingly. I had my camera with me to take photos of the appearance but unfortunately: a. My position on the side of the stage wasn't a good angle; and b. My camera's battery ran out.


Thankfully I had a spare that I got to use for the event at Resorts World. It turned out that there were more troopers and a couple of Jedi than I initially expected (including Nabs and some new troopers who came all the way from Cebu!), so an extra handler came in really - well, handy! I found out I was officially enlisted, after all, which gave me backstage privileges, among other perks, in exchange for helping the legion out with putting their armor on, marching, and everything else they may need. My fellow handlers.and I shuffled between the dressing room and the activity area or going around the mall, wherever there's a trooper. And I still got to follow them around or RUN AHEAD OF THEM and take photos and video (that reminds me - I still need to edit)!

The final photo I took before my camera's spare battery conked out.
Yet this event was less exhausting for me than FCBD was. I was already crashing last Saturday afternoon while we were playing Cards Against Humanity at Krispy Kreme but I was pumped all the way through the trooping. Then again, I didn't get much sleep the night before FCBD because Geek Fight. And I pretty much slept the entire evening when I got home from FCBD, which foiled my plan of capping my Saturday with a comic book movie, ie the Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Anyway, back to Star Wars Day Sunday. Jovan, Aids, and I hitched a ride out of Resorts World with Jon, who also wanted to check out the VaderBoy custom toy exhibit at Ronac Art Center, so we tagged along. Turns out some of the troopers who were just at Resorts World at the event also came to support one of the troopers who couldn't participate at Resorts World because he was one of the exhibit organizers. I was actually blown away by the concept of the exhibit since I wasn't aware such a sub-culture exists. It's now become something I want to look into in the future. After all, it's art that I can easily appreciate.

Just imagine if Ewoks were this creative.
And so May the 4th and my "geek week" ended for me there. Funny enough, I've never been to any of the places I ended up going to on Star Wars Day, which is great for adding to my fount of experience. Actually, the whole of last week has been awesome on so many levels and I'm forever grateful that this is the kind of life I get to live.