Weekly Ketchup 30 - Comic Con, Geek Life, and the Last Two Years

This week was pretty much about all the nerd news coming out of San Diego Comic Con. It's always an exciting time for the geek community, although there is that element of despair at not being there yourself, which brings me to the first thing I want to address about the past week.

I've always wondered about the average 50 hits that these blog entries receive every week. Like, who the hell is reading them? Don't get me wrong, I love the attention but it makes me wonder if I should be cautious about the things I put in here, which I am as long it doesn't compromise honesty.

Who are you?!
The reason I mention this is because apparently geek friend Jovan had strong hard-to-articulate feelings about something she read a couple of entries ago. She mentioned it to me last week but we only got to talking about it last Friday over drinks with fellow geeks Hec and Alec, who also celebrated his birthday this past week.

I mentioned in the blog how the past couple of years have just been this kind of lull, like a television series that was a couple of seasons too long for its own good. And her question was: What did that make of the people around me? The friends that I keep? And what did my sentiments mean for her when she's okay with the steady flow of things going on in her story?

Me and my friends saw The Avengers
This is how all this personal matter connect to SDCC: Had things worked out the way they were supposed to, I would've been at Comic Con this year. Or at least closer to it (I heard those tickets can be hard to come by). The thing is that I already left in 2011 but I felt like my story here wasn't done yet, so I chose to come back (my auntie and my mom wanted me to stay there). By 2012, after the first Avengers movie, which I really wanted to see with the geek friends, I was already good to go but was holding out on money that, as it turned out, I wasn't gonna get after all. So come 2013, when the opportunity presented itself again, I thought that was it. Like in 2011, I was supposed to bring my grandma home to Canada, but the difference was that I wasn't gonna book a flight back. I had already saved up enough money to start over and I wouldn't have had to pay for the plane ticket so I thought I was all set! I started posting "throwback" photos on Instagram of my last trip to the States as a tease and even declared that "this exiled Targaryen is returning to Westeros". And, yeah, I already signed up to the Comic Con website in preparation for this year's event, which I knew even then would assemble the cast of Age of Ultron (Which isn't to say that I want to leave just so I can attend SDCC. I'm just saying last year would've been the best time for me to have left).

Obviously, things didn't work out the way they were supposed to last year, otherwise I'd have been live-tweeting from Hall H a few hours ago, instead of retweeting and sharing the news from other sources who were on the scene as the cast of Ant-Man and Age of Ultron drummed up support (like they need it) and hype for next year's Marvel Studios slate.

I took this photo in an alternate reality
By the way, I just started watching The Newsroom this past week during periods of no Internet at the office and I gotta say it's effin' brilliant. And me being me, I felt like I was in a virtual newsroom while covering all the major announcements coming from Marvel Studios earlier. I even heard myself saying in my head: "Do we have anyone on the ground at Hall H?

Another segue: I should be pissed. I should nerd-rage. The Ant-Man movie, as announced earlier, reimagines the mythology of the character to almost beyond recognition. Ultron and The Vision wouldn't even be part of their universe. But I'm not even upset because the movie is just a movie. It's just a fraction, though a significant one at that, of the myriad of ways I can appreciate and experience Hank Pym, Scott Lang, Janet Van Dyne, Yellowjacket, and their little world. It would've been great if they stayed true to the material but I'm over it.

One thing I'm not gonna get over if it turns out to be true is the absence of Arianne Martell on Game of Thrones. New cast members of the show were announced this past week and her name still hasn't popped up. I mentioned in a previous blog that her and the Greyjoys were among the new characters I'm looking forward to seeing on the show, but it's beginning to look like they've been cut or maybe just not appearing yet next season. Of course, this is all just speculation.

Surprised that Rose Leslie and Pedro Pascal still made an appearance.
Now, to address Jovan's questions (and I don't know how to say this without alienating my other friends from other circles who might be reading this blog), my geek friends are the only reasons I would ever consider staying (I mentioned as much in that article I wrote about Manila) and they're the reason why I stayed as long as I have (more than lack of funding). Yeah, leaving has been on my mind for a while already - even longer than these past couple of years actually. As early as 2008, on one of those "getting-to-know-you" memes that went around Multiply, I said that had I left when I should have a long time ago, I never would've had the pleasure of their company and while nothing has changed that would make leaving them any easier now, I feel like our relationship has grown to the level that I can check in every now and then or come back and it'd be like I never left at all. Hey, it worked out well for Hec, Alec, and, to some extent, Dek, even if she hasn't come back yet. And with many of them getting married, having children, moving to new houses, and just moving on to the next stage of their lives, I feel like it's time to pursue the next chapter of my story. Like I said in a previous blog, I already know what I'm leaving behind and I'm grateful but it's time for me to unravel the unknown ahead.

As for what it means that she's content with the way things are in her life, well, considering the mess she often has to deal with, I think a little security and stability for long periods might be good for her. And since we've also established some time ago that we're not compatible travel partners (she prefers to stay in and relax; I prefer to go out and stress myself trying to take everything in at once), maybe we also differ with how we approach contentment. While she relishes in it, preferring to stay in for as long as she can, I am itching to get out and see everything else as soon as I'm settled. Of course, I can't speak for her. Again, these are all speculations.

It's so beautiful I want to cry!
Anyway, hopefully, next year I would be reporting/tweeting live from San Diego, but I want to reaffirm a vow I once made on social media that the first time I attend SDCC would be as a panelist, volunteer, or booth... babe. What? A guy can dream!


Weekly Ketchup 29 - Typhoon, Techcessive, and Avengers Now

As of this posting, my house is still disconnected from the matrix (so to speak). Lack of Internet obviously makes blogging extra hard, actually impossible but, well, here I am. Thanks to the office Internet. Otherwise, I would've had to skip a week in this little online experiment/exercise/experience I have, which I'm not willing to do. So better late than never, right?

So last week, for me, was one first world problem after another and it just wasn't a good time to be having one. Why? Because typhoon.

First, a few days before the typhoon, I decided to reset the Cherry mobile unit I use as a secondary phone, primarily for mobile Internet and for some apps that aren't compatible with or don't fit on the onboard storage of my main phone. I thought resetting would activate the many sensors I just discovered the phone had (thanks to Android Sensor Box) but weren't responding.

Then, the day before the typhoon, my mom's decade-old feature phone finally conked out and she asked to borrow mine. I lent her the keypad-enabled Alcatel unit I use as my main phone since she wasn't ready for full touchscreen yet. For some reason, I thought it was also a good idea to reset the damn thing to its factory settings.

And last, since both Gingerbread devices were out of commission, I had to use the agonizingly slow Acer phone that I use, along with my Acer tablet, mainly for apps that are only available to post-Gingerbread devices, particularly the native Google apps. See, I have this thing where I keep the Jelly Bean devices strictly on a Google diet. Even if Opera Mini, which I use on the Gingerbreads, is so much faster than Chrome.

Yes, I've turned Android into a hobby. I wouldn't say I'm addicted yet or that I need an intervention (or maybe I do) but I love the experience. I can discuss what I do with all these droids around me in another blog but for now I want to share this related photo I took as soon as the power was restored to the house.

Seriously, I began charging everything thinking we would lose power again. I wanted to post it on Instagram and caption it "The extent to which I'm allergic to boredom" or "My idea of disaster preparation". I ended up not posting the damn thing because: One, I myself found it tacky to post my excesses at a time when other people were likely suffering; and two, because I wasn't sure what sort of reaction I was soliciting by posting it. I didn't think it was funny, cute, interesting, or even urgent at all. I just found it telling of my lifestyle.

While the power was restored to our house midway through typhoon day, our connection to the ether was still severed and Globe and Sun services were spotty. The thing is that I really just wanted to rebuild the app list on the Cherry phone, which for some reason was snappier than the Acer, with the ones that I now consider essential: Feedly and Opera Mini. I didn't even need the games or social apps and everything else (Instagram, Pocket, Evernote) could just be added again later.

In a way, I'm glad I was disconnected from everything as it allowed me the time to finish another article AND the video for that birthday party I covered a couple of weeks ago. My problem was that being perpetually online has become one of my biggest distractions. To be fair, I just allow myself to be distracted when I have open deadlines (ie, none at all) and I'm just forcing myself to be productive. In this case, though, I think productivity, creativity, and inspiration were distractions from boredom, so it all worked out.

My biggest concern being disconnected last week, though, was I thought SDCC was last weekend and I might miss out on all the announcements, which was why I wanted Feedly back so bad. Turns out I was a week too early to fret but there were still news on the Marvel front, which I understandably only got wind of days after. I guessed that there was gonna be a black Captain America a few weeks ago but the female Thor came out of left field. However, since I don't really actively follow the comics anymore, it's hard for me to care but I do welcome the change. On a technology and comics related note: ULTRON!

Going off on the Apple-esque Superior Iron Man tangent, my mom came home with a new iPhone last Saturday, which means I got my main phone back and life has slowly returned to normal minus Internet. I want to point out two things: a) This woman got a new power brick for her Macbook, a new battery for her iPod, and a new cable for her iPad just a few weeks ago (I'm not the only techcessive in the family); and b) Yet I still had to be the one to set up her iPhone and load her contacts (I'm surprised there's no way to transfer contacts from the Mac OS X Contacts via wire to the iPhone).

To close off the tech-adled week that I had, I went to my geek friends Duds and Carlo's kid's first birthday party last Sunday. The thing is: I was supposed to go to Cubao early in the morning so Mark E. can pick myself, Jovan, and Paul up and drive us to the venue. But then I overslept so I let them leave without me. Thankfully, some of the guys were still waiting in Trinoma and I was able to reach them and join them instead. Obviously, technology saved my ass in this situation but I hope never to be that guy who gets away with being constantly late or absent because texting makes it "polite" to be so. Yeah, I know a few people like that.

Medievalicious cake design by Jovan
Anyway, hopefully we get Internet back at the house this weekend so I can get back to my regular programming.


Weekly Ketchup 28 - Pretentious, Delusional, or Borderline Sociopath?

Previously on this blog: I lack ambition. I refuse to be Filipino. Identity issues. Unforeseen and unnecessary expenses.

Yes, that little episode recap is important to this blog. It's very meta.

Anyway, last Thursday, on my way to a client, I dropped my glasses and lost one of the lenses. Aside from adding one more item to the list of things I now have to spend for and making me feel even more guilty about buying a new toy last week, I thought the incident fit in perfectly with the theme of this week's blog, which I had already decided was gonna be about "perspective".

I've been wearing glasses continuously for about a year now supposedly to correct my slight astigmatism. Apparently my eyes, particularly the right side, are locked in perpetual macro mode. Chicken or egg question is whether my nearsightedness has to do with my obsession with mobile operating systems like Palm and Android or why I prefer writing on small devices like PDAs and smartphones. (Sidenote: All entries on this blog have been written on my phone.) Incidentally, I've been obsessed this week with shooting things in macro but because my phone doesn't have autofocus, I've resorted to using my trusty old jelly lens to do the job.

That aside, what got me really thinking about perspective this past week was a couple of "hypothetical" situations that I shared on my social networks (see here and here). I recon they were pretty funny incidents by themselves but I have this thing where I don't just tell a story - I put a creative spin on it. Because, seriously, there are millions of things being shared on social media, I want to make sure my virtual presence makes as much impact as my physical presence does.

For the same reason, I try as much as possible not to use social media as my opinion column because there are enough people with "thoughts and feelings" on the Internet already. For that matter, there are enough people living out their reality show fantasies on Facebook and Twitter, so I'd like to offer a different kind of programming. I don't necessarily believe I'm funny but I do constantly find myself in funny situations and social media has given me a channel, and an audience to boot, to broadcast my special brand of comedy.

Maybe because I once dreamed of being an actor or scriptwriter but I see my existence and reality as my own personal show (or movie). I wrote about it a long time ago during the golden days of Multiply and even alluded to this tendency of mine in another entry a few months back. To give you an idea, I've never left the house without anything plugged in my ears since I was in high school because music affords me the illusion that I'm in the opening montage of a show. Kinda like this:

I also tend to categorize specific periods of my life in seasons and I feel like these past few years have been like the final season of a show that already ran its course two seasons ago (*ahem*). I feel like everything that I've been doing the past year, this blog included, is just some last ditch effort by the writers and the network (ie, me) to make the show exciting. More than anything, this is why I need to leave and seek out new adventures.

I once told my geek friend Dek, who I'll be staying with for a while, that when I come over later this year, in her life of a TV show, I'll be like that character who left a few seasons back and made a surprise return in the finale to excite viewers for the next season. And that says a lot about how I see myself in the narrative I'm trying to live out. I don't really see myself as the protagonist of my own series. Rather, I'm the secondary character in everyone else's story. This makes so much sense now because I've always believed that if I ever get cast in a Disney movie, this is the type of character I would play.

Maybe that's why I'm not ambitious enough. I realized early on that I'm not meant to defeat the villain, get the girl, and save the world. My job is to support the hero, share in the glory but not the responsibility, and still be the audience's favorite character. In short: The comic relief. That's not so bad for someone with small ambitions, now, is it?

This probably why I have the hardest time navigating the reality around me. In the little bubble of delusion I created around myself, it was okay to merely have it together, which I mostly do, because the story of secondary characters hardly needs to evolve as much as the hero's story does. But to survive and succeed in the real world, I have to compete with the heroes of their story on terms everyone understands but me.

This dissonance between the reality in my head and the reality around me is likely where my identity issues stem from. In my little world, jeepneys and idiots who make garbage cans and toilet bowls out of the entire city just don't exist. And for as long as I can take buses and trains regularly, as I have for the nearly ten years that I've been working, I can live out my fantasy. Seriously, I'm the type of guy who would transfer from trains and buses to get from one place to another instead of taking the one jeep that goes all the way through. The Manila bus ban shattered that delusion and for the past year, I've been forced to take those heaping piles of scrap metal to work and face my third world reality on a daily basis.

For these reasons, I'm so glad I met my geek friends. They allowed me to indulge in my delusions. I get to throw out lines and be involved in situations that, by all accounts, should only work on TV.  I literally hear laugh tracks whenever we get together and I get to be the character I've always wanted to be. I don't know how everyone else sees the world but I'm happy to frolic in mine, with all its quirks and craziness! It's an interesting existence, believe me.

So this week's blog turned out to be that surprising episode that tied up loose ends and answered questions established in previous episodes, leaving the audience to wonder where the show can possibly go next. Oh, but in true TV show fashion, how about a cliffhanger / teaser with no context? Speculate away!


Weekly Ketchup 27 - Videographer, Dancers and Filmmakers, Cthulhu, and New Toy?

Welcome to another delayed blog brought you, or rather to me, by a paying gig I got last Sunday, which is ideally the time I write and post here. As I mentioned on all my social streams, I got to be the official videographer for a birthday party. It was for my boss's friend's daughter so guess how I got that gig!

Given the chance, I'd love to do more of these projects but I'm wary about people's expectations and being responsible for preserving their memories. I can't screw up because we're talking once-in-a-lifetime events here. That's actually why I couldn't write this blog last Sunday. Even if the event was in the afternoon, I spent the entire morning making sure that all my power sources were charged, that I have enough memory, and that I pack everything I might possibly need. I bought new batteries last Friday for my LED lamp to make sure my light source had adequate power. I even considered buying a new microphone since I wasn't sure my lapel would cut it but I thought that if I keep spending on new equipment, I'd be lucky to even just break even after everything. Thankfully, as it turns out, my new Lumix's built-in mic was good enough.

Can you see me in action?
I was so worked up about whether to get a separate mic and other things (see below) the day before the gig that I couldn't focus on writing another article for Planet Philippines. Plus I had an event to attend that evening. Geek friend Mika organized a fundraiser for the upcoming documentary about male dancers that she was managing the production for (something I know a little about). She told me about the film on her birthday and I felt like it was my duty as a friend, fellow creator and production professional, and one-time aspiring dancer to throw my support for it, although I probably shouldn't be generous at the moment (again, more on this below).

I did have fun though. Geek friends Chiqui, Jon, and Denice were there. We got hang out with some of Mika's dancer friends and a Whovian whose uncanny skill at striking up conversations with strangers just blew away. And I consider myself an extrovert!

Anyway, being around filmmakers (and dancers) one evening and shooting a party the following day did get me thinking. I had this theory that videographers started off as would-be filmmakers, directors, cinematographers, etc. and either didn't make it or are waiting for their break. Me? I just want to be a videographer. I'm just really not that ambitious.

Then again, much like advertising, that line of work, as much as I enjoy it, was just really Plan B. It's as far as a practical career that I can get into in case Plan A doesn't work out.

And so we segue into last Thursday as I once again joined the Hat Madders for Amici Quiz Night (I missed last month's edition because I was at college friend Fiona's going away dinner). We eventually won (HOORAY!) with no contribution from me (BOO!) but what really made the evening more interesting for me was Plurk friend and fellow Hat Madder Karen Ang's copy of the Necronomicon.

I've only ever heard of HP Lovecraft and Cthulhu from my friends. I never even once looked it up on Wikipedia. So I wasn't aware that the universe was unraveled in short stories that were collected in this massive tome. I'm thinking maybe I should adapt it for my own universe. The thing is I've been developing Plan A or "the grand fantasy epic" novel for more than a decade now and I am constantly bombarded with ideas that I work out in my head like a jigsaw puzzle to make sure the individual pieces fit the grand narrative, which has also changed dramatically as I develop as a person and as a would-be creator. But if I unravel my universe in short stories, the pieces don't necessarily have to connect and conflict with each other as long as they're coherent and consistent, right?

Speaking of consistent, guess who isn't? Me!

Earlier last week, as in the day after I posted last week's episode about money woes, I placed an order on Lazada for an Android-based handheld console because I found that playing games, especially platformers and JRPGs, using virtual buttons on the touchscreen counter-intuitive. I suppose I could've gotten an NVIDIA Shield but it's too expensive for my needs since the games I play work well on my basic droid. I tried the Moga controller on my devices but it just didn't work for some reason. I suppose I could've gotten alternative bluetooth gamepads but I figured that for the same price, maybe even cheaper, I could get a dedicated Android console instead. Hence, this China-made mini tablet/handheld gaming device that I first discovered while wandering about SM Santa Mesa.

I acknowledge that it's not really a good time to buy a new gadget. The P2,300 I spent on it, however small as electronics go, could have been better used to add to my upcoming dental bridging fund or for my much-needed medical checkup. I created this blog to hold myself accountable and there's really no justification for going against everything that I committed to other than to make myself happy.

I usually post new gadgets on my Instagram but I feel a bit of shame!
I did feel guilty about making such an impulsive purchase come Sunday evening when a high school friend, who had been struggling to make ends meet for her and her two children, asked to borrow a measly P3k that I couldn't spare anymore because I had to pay for my new toy (and participated in the fundraiser and bought additional gear for my camera). I have always been obliging about these things because I feel like I am the best position to help because I don't really have any responsibilities, except to myself (and my pets), but it really just wasn't the best time.