Thursday, March 29, 2012

Project 52 2012 (13/52): On Whether Hunger Games Was A Rip-Off Of Battle Royale (Even If I Like Them Both)

.:Project 52 2012 (13/52): On Whether Hunger Games Was A Rip-Off Of Battle Royale (Even If I Like Them Both):.

In an alternate timeline, the totalitarian government has enacted policies for an annual tournament for children to fight each other to the death. This is done as a means to establish control by the government, and... waiiit. Which franchise were we talking about again?


This discussion will focus mainly on the film versions of Battle Royale and the Hunger Games. If any other medium or version would be used for comparison, it will be specified as such. Otherwise, assume I am referring to the movies.

It was inevitable for this discussion to crop up. Since the year 2000, when the controversial novel by Koushun Takami was turned into a film by the late Kinji Fukusaku, the controversy surrounding the film's violent and mature themes as portrayed by 15-year old kids shocked anyone who has heard of it, read of it, or seen it. Whether it was Japan or America, whether it was the novel, the film, or the manga, controversy hounded it. The premise of children fighting each other to the death, sanctioned by the government (As opposed to due to sheer savagery due to anarchy, as categorized by "Lord Of The Flies."), was an upsetting notion that gave people pause.

I've always been a fan of the film and the manga. I'm still in the process of reading through the novel, but I honestly feel that the loss in translation is keeping me from appreciating it as much as I did the film and the manga. I loathed the sequel of both the film and the manga and in my headcanon, neither of these things ever happened. In fact, I've watched something Battle Royale-related as recently as a few weeks ago.

As for the Hunger Games, I watched the film last Friday, and even gave it a very glowing review. On its own merits, the film stood strong and had more than its share of great moments, exciting action, and great character arcs. The lavish budget the film obviously had only aided in making the experience all the better.

And true, netizens far and wide were castigating The Hunger Games the minute the first book came out as being a ripoff of "Battle Royale." What? Because every single film with the same premise is now a ripoff, even if the execution is pretty much worlds apart?

Totally different, see? Only one of them didn't suck.

I was mostly insulated from this because I haven't read Young Adult material since Encyclopedia Brown (Harry Potter doesn't count.). I have heard of The Hunger Games, but I was by no means a fan, since I never even read it. Despite that, as a huge fan of the BR franchise, I definitely felt protective of anyone who would dare rip off and bastardize the premise. Few things are as masterfully terrifying as putting kids in life or death situations where they need to kill other kids to survive.

Although of course, this ripoff was much scarier because 
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin was trying to act. Oh, synapse!

I walked into the movie with certain expectations, and a keen eye on the story themes, eager to jump in on the "how dare you rip off Battle Royale?!?" bandwagon when the unthinkable happened...

... don't take this the wrong way, but could it be that somebody on the internet was actually wrong, and The Hunger Games isn't a ripoff of Battle Royale? Like, at all?

Gasp! How dare you, xkcd?

If you can't look past the themes of totalitarian government, kids as the victims, and wholesale murder as themes, then of course you'd think one was a ripoff of the other. It's when you actually look at the directions either franchise decided to take with these notions where you see the meat of contention and just how absolutely far apart the two films are.

In the tradition of Cracked, here are three reasons why Battle Royale wasn't really ripped off by Hunger Games. And, for the sake of argument, even if it were, I feel that the two works are vastly different enough to each stand on their own merits.

1. Battle Royale is a Program. The Hunger Games is a Game.

First of all, Battle Royale's premise didn't take it in the direction of the BR program being a game, but an actual control mechanism. While there is media coverage and whatnot, and while the manga translation turned it into a reality show concept, the film version did not turn it into a matter of entertainment. It wasn't a top ratings bonanza, or else the kids in the Program would have been very much aware about it.

In contrast, the Hunger Games made it very clear that this annual competition was a highly-anticipated spectacle by the people in Capitol, while even the 12 sectors participate as spectators as well to the Games, reluctantly or otherwise. As I pointed out, being satirical in nature, the Hunger Games were a matter of course and a matter of fact, and for the most part, looked wrong only to us and to the ones who didn't want to be in the Games.

2. Battle Royale is a Morality Play. Hunger Games is Deadpan Satire.

Which leads us to the second point: I would show Battle Royale to an ethics class as part of their course work, but not the Hunger Games. Battle Royale is clearly framed as a morality play, what with the tagline "Would you kill your best friend?" The theme of right and wrong is very big throughout the film, while it is downplayed at best in The Hunger Games. I'm aware that at some point, how wrong the Games are would become more emphasized in the succeeding books, but if we started including the sequels in this discussion, then yeah, Battle Royale wouldn't have a leg to stand on at all, I'm guessing.

The reason Battle Royale appealed so much to 2003-2004 me was because it was a genuine moral quandary that they posed, and one that really made me think. When you saw each character death excluding arguably Kiriyama's, you felt compelled to know about their story and what brought them to that point. Even the clear villains, such as Takeshi Sensei, were sympathetic, and the psycho femme fatale, Mitsuko, was even more so. While I was taking up ethics then, it made me think about themes that really felt appropriate.

The Hunger Games regarded the killings with a certain resignation and banality. The lead character was clearly willing to play the game, and the entrenchment of the Hunger Games as part and parcel of the Treaty of Treason has made it virtually unquestionable and more of a backdrop to a riveting adventure where we root for Katniss and maybe even Peeta and Rue to survive against all odds as the ultimate victor. Battle Royale makes no such attempt and instead makes us wish all 42 students didn't have to die.

3. Battle Royale is a tale of one class. The Hunger Games is a tale of one Tribute.

And that's the third biggest distinction between Battle Royale and The Hunger Games: BR is the tale of 42 kids sent to a deserted island to kill each other off. HG is a tale of Katniss Everdeen outplaying 23 other competitors to win. The fact that there is a focal character where everything happens through her point of view changes how we view the story as a whole. Even in the film, except for the bits involving the Gamemasters, the film was told nigh-exclusively within the sphere of Katniss's presence.

This changes the whole dynamic of the way the films play out, and who we root for throughout the movie. In Battle Royale, the movie wants us to root for the class as a whole .

Except for this guy. He tried to rape Gogo Yubari, so screw this dude. 

This was why Mimura was one of the favorite characters in the franchise to begin with, as he wasn't playing the game: he was trying to break the game. He had the right plan, and quite frankly, if it weren't for Kiriyama, he would've succeeded at it, too. There's just something really admirable about that.

Or how about Sugimura? How his quest to find Kotohiki could've been a movie in itself, and how his character arc was just nothing short of beautiful until the predictably grim and hopeless ending? Maybe even the girls at the lighthouse? These characters were sympathetic independently of Shuya and Noriko. You knew the kids in Battle Royale as a class, and wanted them to survive the games collectively. By the end of it, you didn't want to see Shuya playing the game, and when he ended up shooting Takeshi-sensei, that was the only time he actively tried to kill anyone, and certainly not a classmate.

In contrast, in The Hunger Games, it's clear that they want you to root for characters only in relation to Katniss. Heymitch, Cinna, Peeta, Rue, even Thresh. The arcs are centered around Katniss, so you aren't led to feel sympathetic to anyone who is antagonistic of Katniss, and it's also great how they managed to avoid turning Katniss into a Mary Sue just because she got an 11 in the Gamemaker evaluations. At the end of it all, you only cared about Katniss, and you wanted her to win the game, all the other kids (Excluding maybe Thresh, Peeta, and Rue.) be damned. You didn't get to know the other players the way you got to know Katniss and Peeta.

True, there is no question that I like Battle Royale more than Hunger Games. Despite that, there's no reason for me to hate on the Hunger Games on the basis of its originality or the lack of it. Not only does it not feel derivative of BR when you watch them side by side (Which I did.), but it isn't like the themes BR and HG share in common, totalitarian rule (1984, V for Vendetta, Brave New World), children in dire situations (Lord Of The Flies), or life or death struggles (Bloodsport, The Running Man) are particularly original and never-before touched upon, to begin with.

Yeah, they took the same initial premise, but they ran in parallel and starkly different directions, the least of them being the fact that while Battle Royale was clearly an adult-oriented film, Hunger Games was aimed at a young adult market. After everything has been said and done, I believe there is room in the world for both franchises.

And thank goodness for that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Zone: The Unsent Series, Volume 4, Part II

.:I Thought I Knew You:.

Dear Erratic Duo,

Yep, I was definitely wong about you. The both of you. I can’t believe that after all this time, I’m still stuck having to play the same old dance with the same old scenarios and deal with the same old bull from supposedly new people.

I thought maybe things would turn out differently this time, but I was woefully mistaken. Flake out on me not once, but twice in the same go? Run the tired old “let’s just be friends” line by me and whine about you not being able to get over the age gap when I’m not the one who has a biological clock to worry about? Seriously?

And then you people expect me to take it sitting down? You actually expect me to just look at you and tell you we’re cool, despite the fact that not only have I heard the same old crap from so many people over the years, you actually come out even more insincere than I’ve ever heard it before? Oh, please. Give me a break. You think too highly of yourselves if you actually believe for one moment that I’d still have the patience to put up with that.

I’ve gotten too old for your games and for your bull. You can try playing them with a willing patsy, but I refuse to be that guy for you, especially since you’re too full of yourself to realize what an utter joke you’ve made out of the concept of friendship.

Erratic Duo, friends don’t put friends in tiny little boxes and tell them that’s all there is to it. Friends don’t go back on their own word five minutes after saying it, nor do they settle for offering vestigial platitudes that offer even less consolation than someone laughing at your own funeral. So please, do us all a favour and stop making friendship some kind of pathetic consolation prize people can hope to expect for not living up to the very standards you can’t really live up to, yourself.

Oh, yes, I’m angry. I’m angry, and you’re lucky that I’ve decided to cut you out of my life before I did. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

Considering how old you think you are, you’ve turned into nothing but a bitter aftertaste in my mouth whenever I have to say the word “friend.” You made a mockery out of it, and I find it so sad and disgusting that I hardly have to change anything about what I say right now to end up talking about two supposedly entirely different people. Guess you showed me, huh? I should’ve known better than to think highly of you.

I'm sick and tired of this. Guess you just happened to be the straws that broke the camel's back.

Film Review: The Hunger Games

.:Film Review: The Hunger Games:.

I liked it better when it was called “Battle Royale.” Okay, okay. I’ll drop it.

The Hunger Games
Hungry for the sequels.

Last Friday, Nuffnang, Banana Boat, and Schick hosted a special screening of the most anticipated film of 2012, the Hunger Games. Based on the infamous book series by Suzanne Collins, this was going to be the first of four (?) films based on the three (!) books. Yes, yes. Curse Harry Potter for that one.

Allow me to preface this review by saying I am giving my opinion on the film on its own merits, with no comparison to the book (Which I have only started reading.), or to Battle Royale, which is a comparative review I am setting aside for a later day. That being said, let’s get on with it.

It was an alternate future where Panem, a state that arose from what once was North America, has become a society that is dystopic and totalitarian. As a means of controlling their mutinous populace, the ruling class from the city of Capitol, required two tributes from 12 of the 13 districts that rose up against the Capitol and resulted in the great Treason. The 13th district was destroyed as the outcome of this travesty.

Each tribute, a boy and a female between 12 to 18 years of age, would then represent their district in the annual Hunger Games: a fight to the death, where only one survivor would arise from the ashes, achieving riches and honor beyond their wildest dreams.

Following the point of view of one Katniss Everdeen from Sector 12, she finds herself forced to volunteer in lieu of her sister, Prim, who was inadvertently drawn during the Reaping ceremony. From the boys, Peeta Mallard was picked: the son of a baker who showed Katniss a random act of kindness she never quite forgot. While preparations are being made, the two see themselves quite unlikely to ever win, being outskilled, outmatched, and even outsized by most of their other competitors.

Throughout the film, character development has been a strong suit of the production, because while Gale may seem like the stereotypical love interest for Katniss, the “will they or won’t they” element of their story made it a bit heartwrenching to see the unexpected tension between Peeta and Katniss (In the tradition of Brangelina and Kimerald, that makes them... not age-appropriate for this blog.) finally comes to a head over the course of the games.

Katniss and Peeta are trained and styled by their team, and it couldn’t be more obvious that the people backing them slowly believe more and more that Katniss could win this, to the point that even Peeta hopelessly resigns himself to this realization. It was very straightforward, to say the least: the Hunger Games was going to be very interesting, but in the end, there can be only one. Sorta like the Highlander, with a lot less beheading.

Seeing how changing this convention could be used to their advantage, the Gamemaker decides to change the rules in the middle of the game to make it become a team of two from the same District could end up winning it all, rather than just one sole survivor. This led to Katniss and Peeta teaming together, completely forgetting about all the unspoken tension they had as they put up a united front with the implicit knowledge that at best, only one of them could be left alive.

Bitingly satirical in nature, the Hunger Games ends with the two of them surviving, and then being forced to kill each other. At no point is this harsh reality treated as anything but a matter of course by the contestants themselves. In a genius move, Katniss tells Peeta that having no winner would be a disaster to the organizers, so she figured that this realization would force the Gamemaker’s hand to declare the both of them as winners, anyways. She was right. But this outwitting of the organizers was not going to be taken lightly.

The film was eye candy with a flair for that stupid shaky cam thing “The Blair Witch Project” made popular. A weird amalgam of both sensibilities, but hey, it still worked out. You had strong scripting, a good pacing for the story, and overall, very good picks in terms of high points of emphasis for the storyline. I didn’t exactly like how little character development most of the other kids got, but I guess since it’s pretty obvious this was Katniss’s show from the get-go, it was going to be a given.

I guess my biggest gripe about the film was that the Hunger Games felt so... banal. Oh, indeed, I get that it’s satire and the banality of the Games really lent to setting the tone for the whole film, but I guess I just expected there to be more outrage against it than a sense of wonder, y’know? I mean, even the players were more awed than appalled by the whole thing.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I think this film rocked. I liked it a lot, and wouldn’t hesitate seeing it again. But yeah, expect me to compare it to Battle Royale sometime this week and do it with a lot more depth, because, needless to say, I liked *that* film better. Much better.

Fun Evaluation: A (Thrills and spills, but ended on an obvious "there will be a sequel" note that made me wish for the next movies already.)
Critical Evaluation: A-
(Character development was spotty, although you have to account for the fact that the film had Katniss as its POV.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Project 52 (12/52): Why The Magnum Launch Worked (Despite All The Backlash)

.:Project 52 (12/52): Why The Magnum Launch Worked (Despite All The Backlash):.

Not that Magnum. That wouldn’t be a launch. That’d be an explosion.

Sometime last week, Selecta’s premium ice cream brand, Magnum, officially launched in the Philippines, albeit there were already stocks of the product available in most convenience stores and supermarket. At 55 pesos per helping, it’s not that expensive, but it certainly isn’t cheap when you compare it to other offerings in the freezer.

It feels like all the hipsters crawled out of the woodwork when they started selling Magnum here. It’s like everyone just wanted to say that they knew about it even before it got to the Philippines. That’s nice, really. Maybe they think it makes them special or something to eat some kind of ice cream before everyone else did.

They feel like royalty, I guess?

The best way to kill a bad product is to advertise the Hades out of it. That’s also the best way to boost a good product. Given how successful Magnum is, regardless of our opinions on the brand or how pretentious the diehard advocates of the brand come off to us, there’s no question that on this criteria alone, Magnum is definitely a good product. Personally, I actually like it. I’m a sucker for Belgian chocolate, and have fond memories of Mr. Donut ensnaring me with their offering back in the day.

The launch was crazy, to say the least. It was a star-studded affair, featuring the endorsers of Magnum, such as Solenn, Raymond Gutierrez, Rajo Laurel, Erwan, and Liz Uy, and even some top stars from all the networks, such as Kim Chiu, Rhian Ramos, and Aljur Abrenica. I just found myself mystified at how much effort Selecta put into making sure the event would succeed, and it was pretty clear that they were going to reap the benefits, even if there was, to me, one very sore spot about the whole campaign...

Hey, kids starving on the street! Hindi daw kayo COOL!

If you like Magnum, cool. If you don’t like it, cool. Ruffa Gutierrez, in all her infinite wisdom, decided to put down everyone who didn’t care about the product, and boy, did she reap the backlash for this comment. Privilege and the ignorance borne from it, here we go again!

I mean, really. Magnum’s a great brand, but it’s not in any way life-changing. Seriously. To put that much stock in it, to put that much emphasis on it, is just ridiculous, and let’s face it, Ruffa Gutierrez isn’t exactly the paragon of sensitivity, either. With people riding the wave of hate and calling Magnum “overrated” and “overpriced pinipig crunch,” and “the social climber’s ice cream,” there was a bit of anti-rich, anti-privilege sentiment there that bubbled to the surface.

Then again, at 55 bucks a pop, it really shouldn’t be that much of a social status symbol, should it?

Yet despite all of these mishaps, Selecta has a winner on their hands. While some might say they have a winner because of their marketing campaign, I would actually have to say, in large thanks to Ruffa Gutierrez, they have a winner despite their marketing campaign. A good product simply can meet only so much backfire before it edges out on its own merits.

Friday, March 16, 2012

I Beg To Differ

.:I Beg To Differ:.

Do we even need a funny caption here? The article is unintentionally hilarious enough.

In today's Philippine Star, Karen Bolilia quotes one of the teenagers she interviews, who says “For as long as there are readers, there will always be bloggers. A blog is nothing without its readers.” The writer proceeds to indicate her assent to this statement with her last sentence, "Point taken."

Pardon me, but I beg to differ.

For as long as there are mom's basements, there will always be bloggers. That's more like it.

I'm fast approaching ten years of blogging, and I've always focused on the quality of my writing first, and the number of people reading my blog has always been an afterthought. While I like the recognition that has come through the years for what I have done in my little corner of the blogging world, I never allowed it to dictate how I would write my entries, or what I would talk about.

This isn't to say that there's anything wrong with writing with expanding one's audience in mind. In fact, quite the opposite: I am pointing out that a blog being written for its own writer's sake is every bit as valid as a blog being written for its readers' collective sakes. After all, didn't the blog simply start out as an online diary, for all intents and purposes, a repository for ideas and reflections that may or may not be there for the world to see?

To this very day, my blog still mostly follows that. Sure, I try my best to write with safe-space rules and political correctness in place, but it's not like that's far from how I really am in real life, either. I write for me. If people like my ideas and wish to subscribe to my newsletter, then great. If not, then that's fine, too. I've outlined my reasons for keeping my blog a long time ago. Gaining a following and achieving popularity was far from it, and I'm sure some people, such as Somebody That I Used To Know, even keep a blog for their eyes only, so it isn't even about finding a witness, but simply about having your own corner of the world where one's buntong-hininga could pass unnoticed to all but to one's self.

Solipsism or total immersion in the Einerlei of blogging? A wide breadth of motivations and involvement, ranging all kinds? Who would've thought, right? No, not really. This isn't even surprising. However, what is surprising is how an article mainly focused on fashion blogging, a particular niche of the blogosphere that certainly caters to gaining followers and wielding influence, suddenly became representative of the entirety of the blogosphere, the subtext thus becoming an unfortunate insinuation of invalidation. Insinuation of invalidation for every other aspect of this digital space that runs counter to the notion that bloggers are validated mainly, if not solely, by its readers.

Pardon me, but I beg to differ.

Flapping one's gums even just metaphorically has become a new form of exercise.

I am slighted by the misguided and narrow perception of blogging as a whole being paraded as representative and universal of all of us, precisely because besides having a computer of sorts (Yes, even cellphones can count as that.) and internet access, blogging has been all about breaking boundaries. It is the perfect storm of prose and post-modernism: very few things hold blogs together now, and reader validation would be the least of them, by far. To invalidate a blog in this manner is grossly ignorant, and must be at the very least corrected.

This isn't even the author's first attempt to put labels on blogging in what the easier to offend would take as presumptuous and condescending of her to do. I, on the other hand, find it woefully lacking in perspective for someone who focused on fashion blogging to draw grossly erroneous generalizations of the rest of the blogosphere. It's naive at best, and dangerously duplicitous of a so-called journalist at worst.

There is no question that for a blogger like Tricia Gosingtian to be considered successful, a following is needed. A blog that professes to be a peddler of influence requires precisely that: influence. That's well and good. But not every blog professes, or even wishes to be a peddler of influence. By what metric does one validate them, then? Would it not ultimately fall upon the author of the blog, and would this not shatter the premise that "a blog is nothing without its readers" if the author herself gives exactly [(100-10)/9] - 1 f%&s about readers?

To say I have a vendetta against Karen Bolilia would be giving this article too much credit. What I am simply doing at this point is correcting a misconception that is but the tip of the iceberg. As these misconceptions stack up, we end up attracting people who see these things as their ur-reason for being and validation, and find themselves woefully inadequate when they don't get what they thought they would be entitled to. It's not about elitism, or being a hipster and turning up your nose at mainstream bloggers while saying "I was a blogger before it was mainstream." It's actually about making sure people get into blogging not having absurd expectations of the platform.

When people hear about the kind of money someone like Yugatech makes, or how many freebies bloggers get from events, people jump right into blogging, expecting the same things. When people hear about how readers validate people's blogs, and they end up starting blogs with no readers to speak of, what do you think would happen to them? Do you think they'd be happy to be hit by such a rude awakening?

I make no claims about my blog except the very title of this blog for the past ten years: It's True! It's True! If I'm joking, it's true. If I'm mourning, it's true. If I'm lying, it's true. For me, knowing that my blog will likely outlive me is validation enough in doing what I do. If I manage to influence people, that just sweetens the pot for me, really. I appreciate outside validation, of course. But it isn't what keeps me writing. At all.

I refuse to be put in boxes where boxes should not exist. I refuse to accept invalidation on standards hardly anyone even considered when I started blogging ten years ago. I respect the evolution of the blogosphere and ride along with it, but I do so on my terms.

And that, Ms. Bolilia, is why I beg to differ.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Project 52 2012 (11/52): On The Game (And How It Works Like A Charm)

.:Project 52 2012 (11/52): On The Game (And How It Works Like A Charm):.

I've seen these people work their so-called magic in the local clubs in the metro. We've heard about them online, in men's magazines, even a few TV shows here and there. Internationally, we've seen them on VH-1. They seem to promise something too good to be true: the ability to pick up the woman of your dreams in minutes flat.

Except, I can safely tell you that it's not too good to be true. It works. Not all the time, obviously, but it works more often than it has any business to.

When I read "The Game" a few weeks ago while I was there in CamSur, I figured out that a lot of what Pickup Artists do is really the end result of massive trial and error processes acquired by the gurus over the years, even decades. These are men who have gotten slapped, doused with a lady's drink, or possibly worse, but when they're on, they are absolutely on. If anything, the most difficult part of becoming a true PUA isn't even the scripts or routines you need to memorize: it's the change of mindset that you need to undergo.

Most guys end up in the Average Frustrated Chump area simply because they don't know any better. It's easy to be polite and decent, but it's hard to remain that and be interesting at the same time. Sometimes, they even end up being mutually exclusive. Unless you're an out and out alpha male and liken yourself to a caveman altogether, it's going to take quite a bit of work mentally and psychologically just to get to a point where you're willing to fail. And with the willingness to fail, surprisingly, comes some modicum of success.

I never once questioned that PUA works. I figured that it does, but I didn't realize just how well it actually does. Aside from being articulate and not necessarily repulsive, I don't believe I have what it takes to sweep a woman off her feet within the first five minutes. I've been treated to the old "Let's just be friends" song and dance routine for far too many times than I can count. Yet, I can tell you this much: just by running, word for word, some of the canned routines from the book, I pretty much succeeded at initiating conversation with a relative stranger where I would've otherwise just stared at my feet endlessly.

I read up on one of the sequences used in the book by Ross Jeffries, and used the whole routine, word for word. It worked wonders. For a first try by someone who didn't even have hands-on training, much less a wingman, this was nothing short of phenomenal, and from that point on, while I know I still am unwilling to make the leap into full-on PUA (And the mindset that needs to come with it.), I was definitely interested at the ability to just break the ice and not come off as threatening or worse, creepy. It all just flows naturally, and if that's the only thing I could take from The Game, I'm already grateful enough for it.

Last week, I actually had the pleasure of meeting a new acquaintance, W, and she was showing her friend, T, around town, as she flew in from London. At some point, we arrived at Greenbelt, and sat in the middle of Cafe Havana just for the experience of it. At some point, we saw a few guys T found interesting, and talk went to having W wing for T. This was when I ended up feeding W the opener where she asks the guys from the table if men or women are the better liars.

So here's a woman who approaches guys who were more interested, in her own words, in "island souvenirs" than a Chinese girl. Someone who had zero experience with PUA, and ultimately, had no idea how to follow through once they got talking about the question.

You know what? She nailed it, and all T had to do was number close at the end.

Afterwards, I ended up bonding pretty well with The both of them, which is pretty good, considering I wasn't even trying to use any of the techniques on either of them, and instead, imparting them with the information.

The basics of PUA may be shady or objectionable to some people, but the mechanics behind it, particularly from Mystery's school, are social dynamics. It is in these dynamics we get to find a way to relate to other people, and we become less stilted, less nervous, and ultimately, less terrified of the opposite sex.

I honestly think there's a lot of good to be had from that.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Review: Battalia Royale!

.:Review: Battalia Royale!:.

Kuya Bodjie: Ruining my childhood since "Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros."

This review will be as spoiler-free as possible, and will not even mention any character names aside from the teacher.

If you've known me for longer than a month, you'd probably know that one of my favorite films is Battle Royale. Based on the novel by Takami Koushun, this follows the tale of a class of students sent to an island to kill each other off. Needless to say, the premise alone has incited a lot of controversy, and more than a few people have accused Suzanne Collins's "The Hunger Games" series as nothing more than a rip-off.

That being said, the premise isn't particularly unique, but the execution could always very well be switched around to make for variety. Sipat Lawin decided that this meant a good Filipino adaptation could be produced based on the premise, and from what I heard, the initial CCP run was actually pretty good, albeit that wasn't the one that I got to see.

There's still one playdate tonight, and I'm contemplating if I should try to shoot for a walk-in ticket, seeing how awesome the whole experience was last night, despite all the imperfections.

In any case, I don't want to get into spoilers, but the premise for the live-action game does away with any attempt at explaining how the Philippines could possibly ever be party to a Battle Royale game. That's fine, really, since we hardly need that backstory just to get to the core, and the core naturally has to focus on the key students, and how they develop themselves over the course of the game.

I'm rather desensitized to gruesome deaths after Final Destination, so my eye was trained more towards the character arcs in the play. I don't know if it was because of the way the whole play was set up, where three separate groups would mobilize and then watch the play from three different vantage points and then at the last moment, be free to choose one of three endgame scenarios play out

The ever-reliable and amazingly talented Kuya Bodjie Pascua played Frazer Salomon, the teacher of the class who facilitates Battalia Royale. Throughout the play, several character arcs were developed that both mimicked as well as played on the expectations of people who saw the film, and assuming that they don't change the endings for every game, I have to admit that the way the play ended for me last night left me cold because I couldn't really identify too well with the winner of the game.

I don't know if it's the weakness of doing the game in this setting, or if it really was just scripted poorly, but whether or not the frenetic running and herding of the audience had anything to do with it, nearly all the characters in the game felt raw and underdeveloped, especially if they did not parallel any of the characters from the movie.

Set inside an abandoned high school building, the atmosphere really lent to a gritty and realistic feel for the game. With ghost house rules guiding the whole audience as well as the cast, you get to see the players of the game up close and personal and try to gain some semblance of affinity for them, yet very few of them manage to pull that off.

I liked it, because I was a fan of Battle Royale. I'm sure many others would like it because of the themes they played with were brilliant and there wasn't really a dearth of talent going around that night. Despite that, if you aren't easily dazzled by gory faux-death scenes, you might find the entire game to be rather weak. It doesn't have the punch of the film because there were no clear ramifications for the winner of Battalia Royale after the fact, nor did it have any catharsis when it comes to a very important character who was dealt with in the film. This terrible combination of an anti-climax and a non-resolution left me cold and expecting more.

Ultimately, though, I enjoyed the game, despite my rather high standards. I think the realistic feel of running around the abandoned school to get a good view of what was going on really helped, and so did having Radioactive Sago Project play live music during the game.

Much love to Dang Ching and her friends, as well as all the random people I ran into during Battalia Royale last night. It made for a very great experience, and if they ever do another run of this in the future, I will certainly be on hand to support it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Heartbreak Hair!

.:Heartbreak Hair!:.

I remember those stories from my girl friends about how they'd drastically change their hairstyles whenever they get heartbroken. I've even been company for some of these female friends in the midst of their metamorphosis, which is kinda cool.

Seeing how majority of my friends happen to be female, and seeing how my game, until last night, wasn't really on point.

So here's to all the heartaches and heartbreaks I've encountered in the past nine years my hair has not changed one bit...

Screw yoooouuuuuuuuuuu... barber!

It feels mighty liberating, truth be told.

Project 52 2012 (10/52): On The Futility Of Being A (Hopeless) Romantic Movie Buff

.:Project 52 2012 (10/52): On The Futility Of Being A (Hopeless) Romantic Movie Buff:.

Pictured: a waste of paper that doesn't work in real life.

I'm a sucker for movies. I was all over "Love Actually," I went nuts on "Crazy Stupid Love," and I remember that even "A Walk To Remember" slew me completely. I'm not the least bit ashamed to admit that movies like these definitely have left an indelible impression on me, on a level comparable to how "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind" did (Yeah, I know that counts as a romantic film, too.). Anyone who knows me would also know that "One More Chance" really, really gets me every single time.

Of course, I'm not blind to think that life, much less my own life, would be anything like the movies. Still, you watch how their stories unfold, and you see them fight for true love, and by the time the credits roll, there was a story you just can't help but be touched by. Not every romantic film I fell in love with had a wonderfully happy ending, but they sure were damned worth telling.

Those are the great love stories out there. They inspire. They provoke thought. They dare us to love because love is indeed a many splendored thing. And it's so amazing how it feels when we find ourselves being loved and cherished, and we are loving someone.

That very feeling is the exact opposite of how it feels when we love someone and they cannot or will not love us in return. Love isn't a transaction. It's a commitment that you need to make with your head on straight before you let your heart run wild. You can't expect to invest all your time and affection upon someone and expect that to be enough reason for them to fawn all over you and give you their heart the way you've given yours to them. Love can be a wretched thing, too.

That's really the curse of being a sucker for romantic films: you tend to lose sight of the fact that these things are like the most amazing Cliff's Notes versions of any love story out there, because even the greatest love story of all ages played out in real time would still seem and feel pretty plodding and boring. We need our pizzazz and panache. We need those bombastic gestures of affection and those equally explosive confrontations resolved by equally mind-numbingly hot lovin'. In real life, those sequences tend to be very far in between, if not few, or else you'd be party to a really unhealthy relationship.

So yeah, love is awesome, but real life doesn't lend itself to terribly riveting stories. There's highs, there's lows,  and unlike the films, the plateaus that come can't be fit into a five-minute montage. If it's extended highs, people burn out. If it's extended lows, people go nuts. If it's extended plateaus, people get bored. Love stories aren't worth telling when they're told in real time, apparently.

It's futile, because it's never gonna be like the movies, to be honest. But I take solace in the fact that no matter how many times my heart gets put through the wringer, I'm still here because I choose to. It's futile to think your lovelife would turn out like the movies, because who really wants a two-hour love affair, anyways? If real life has reel life beat at one thing, it's that we have access to all the deleted scenes of our own love story, and, for better or worse, it's going to stay that way.

Yes, banking on the movies is a futile thing. But writing your own story to tell? Whether or not it ends up being a tale worth telling, whether it ends up being tragic or triumphant, all of that is truly well within your power.

It's funny how I stopped believing that love can conquer all, yet I still believe that love can conquer you, and that's always good enough. And true, your love story may not be worth telling to the world, but if it's worth remembering and cherishing for yourself, then who the Hades cares what the rest of the world thinks?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

It Never Gets Easier...

They say time heals all wounds, but in reality, they just fester.

Please stop telling me I'll be okay soon. I've heard that before, and it sounds ridiculously patronizing.

This is the end of the road. Quite frankly, I never thought I'd be hurting things bad. I guess I underestimated things once again.

I can't believe I'm writing this right now, just to try to soothe the pain I feel at this point, yet here we are.

It's never going to get any easier for me.

Suddenly, Sexism!

.:Suddenly, Sexism!:.

How dare you get all uppity and ask for things like decent and humane treatment?

To say that geeks (Particularly, male ones.) have been looked down upon as immature, petulant, whiny man-children would be stating the obvious. Indeed, geeks have caught a lack of flak for things that are apparently now mainstream, particularly video games, and superheroes. I identify with being a geek because let's face it, when you're friends with Sacha Chua, Clair Ching, Peppy Salita, and Sean Uy, that's probably what you are.

There are a ton of negative things people paint in broad strokes about geeks, but there's one in particular that makes me cringe every single time, especially when some of us appear to go out of our way to prove it: that (male) geeks are ridiculously misogynistic people.

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion going on about Ari Bakhtanians, a fighting game player who made very lewd and sexual comments about a female gamer, Miranda Pakozdi. As if using sexually charged language weren't bad enough on its own already, what makes this worse is that Ari Bakhtanians was actually the team captain of Team Tekken, which Miranda was also part of.

How stupid do you actually have to be to videotape yourself making these comments about a woman? I mean, seriously. I never even heard of Ari prior to this, but afterwards, I could only shake my head at the things he did, and the stupid excuses his sorry @$$ came up with after the fact. Granted, Ari and Miranda have reportedly patched things up already, but just like the FHM Cover brouhaha, I don't think this means that this should be the end of dialogue.

This morning, I saw the news that the Azkals are being sued for sexual harassment by Cristy Ramos. This is a pretty interesting and disappointing development, considering how much fame and attention the Azkals have been getting.

In both cases, we see clear instances of harassment, and what is glaring about this is how these things happen to women more often than they happen to men, and how because of this gap, we see a lot of excuses being thrown to cover up for the offending men.

In the case of Aris, people have been using the fact that this is the Fighting Game Community as an excuse for his bawdy, uncouth behavior. I mean, wow. Really? We're going to institutionalize ill behavior towards other people now? Because really, if he wants to exercise his freedom of speech to demean Miranda, why are his defenders now demanding that people critiquing him suddenly care about his feelings and not make any comments? You mean, only Aris has the right to free speech now, and we can't call him out for being a grade-A douchebag? How does that double standard even begin to make sense?!?

It's been upsetting me a lot whenever I find myself playing an involuntary game of Oppression Bingo, as wave after wave of defenders for what should be taboo for an FGC that actually wants to expand and gain more recognition crawl out of the woodwork. That these people don't know any better is a given, seeing how they've spent most of their lives completely oblivious to the privilege they enjoy for belonging to a patriarchal society.

For a guy, it's easy to be oblivious to the glaring gender differences between men and women that are institutionally in place because it simply isn't relevant to us. Because so few of us have to deal with people leering at us and giving us so much unwanted attention, we think that it's such an ego boost for any woman to have someone praise them for their looks or their body, and to ogle them for it. For gamers, women are so few and far in between that when someone remotely attractive comes along, she becomes the center of attention for all the guys, and not all of these women will enjoy the fact that she can't enjoy a game in peace without some horndog hitting on her in the middle of it.

For the most part, men don't get that. And it's so easy to say they just need to toughen up and grin it and bear it because we aren't going through it every single day in our lives. When a man sticks his neck out to woo a woman, the worst that could possibly happen is that he gets heartbroken. But when a woman breaks somebody's heart, she runs the statistically valid risk of being physically abused for rejecting a man's advances.

The gap of empowerment between men and women seem immaterial to men because they are the ones enjoying the benefits of this gap. While some will actively go out of their way to keep this balance of power largely in their favor, a vast majority simply don't see it, so don't think that anything is wrong with it. Of course. How could anyone expect them to?

That doesn't excuse their behavior, though. And with this case the Azkals are facing again, no amount of being good-looking or winning tournaments (Which hasn't even been happening lately.) is going to be enough of an excuse for their behavior around Cristy Ramos.

Hades, you can even throw in Chris Brown and Rihanna and how many people quickly assumed that Rihanna getting beaten up was probably her fault, which just sent a cold chill down my spine.

Precisely because the power balance is not commensurate, a man beating up a woman is in no way a show of equality. This, and affirmative action, seem to be concepts that the privileged simply cannot wrap their heads around. It's frustrating to see these people insist on upholding the institutional power imbalance, and feeling so high and mighty about it. There's just something to be said about people's insistence on wanting to be douchebags, then wanting to silence people who call them out on it. Freedom of speech works both ways, bud.

Sexism in this day and age will always be a hot-button topic that many people will want to sweep under the rug. Despite that, I hope that by calling attention to it enough, I could contribute somehow to changing that fact along the way.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Some Simple Pleasures...

.:Some Of Life's Simple Pleasures...

Olympic energy!

In general, I avoid fastfood ever since I went on a minor health kick. It normally takes some extraordinary thing or another for me to end up dropping in on a fastfood place, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to have the word "mushroom" somewhere on the menu.

Jollibee caught my eye twice this week, even if I'm guessing I'm probably late to the party.

First of all, they have a new chicken and mushroom pasta on their menu, which is a nice alternative to their Jolly spaghetti. When I ended up trying it out, I was not disappointed at all, and knew what I would keep coming back to once I get to Jollibee.

Then of course, the piece de resistance: their new Milo Blitz sundae. Everyone knows that Milo as a choco malt drink, and everyone also knows they've spun off into a lot of other products. If there's one combination that never fails to work, though, it would be malt and ice cream, so Jollibee did the most logical thing in the world by putting the two together, giving you a very tasty way to top off your dining experience at Jollibee.

Well, with all that in mind, I sure wouldn't mind coming back every now and then. Quite honestly, it's nice to enjoy the simpler things in life every now and then and to share those little joys on my blog. Not every meal has to be the epitome of fine dining, when comfort food like chicken and mushroom pasta and a Milo Blitz sundae are available at practically a bargain pretty much everywhere you turn in the Philippines.

Here's to simple joys and a fine weekend, everyone!

Film Review: Unofficially Yours

.:Film Review: Unofficially Yours:.

JLC got fat enough to arguably have shown more skin than Angel Locsin. Literally.

Unofficially Yours
Mabuti pa ang TV. At least, ke low or high, may definition.


Following in the tradition of "No Strings Attached" and "Friends With Benefits" but given its own Filipino spin, "Unofficially Yours" stars the powerhouse tandem of John Lloyd Cruz and Angel Locsin, combining the boy-next door with the femme fatale in a sexy but cute package that will probably turn out to be one of the best movies this year, both in terms of quality and commercial success.

The movie starts on a clumsy yet sexy note, with Mackie (Cruz) and Ces (Locsin) meeting at the beach and engaging in a one-night stand. From there, coincidence kicks in , and Mackie ends up becoming Ces's mentee in the Manila Bulletin, where the former tries to acclimate himself to his first love, journalism, after having pursued dentistry all because of his ex.

The setup seemed pretty clear from the get-go: they were friends with benefits. No commitments, no expectations, no hassles. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough for Mackie, who was a hopeless romantic by nature. As is, Ces already broke her own policy of not going out with officemates, but as the (non)relationship gets deeper and deeper, you realize that at some point, something's got to give.

While it's sappy and cheesy towards the end, the movie is still a very strong effort by Star Cinema, and something I don't regret watching at all. The characters were relatable, Patrick Garcia's smarmy cameo was a pure genius and a great character moment for Mackie, and when the weakest link in your ensemble cast is already Angel Locsin, that says a lot about how stacked the acting talent is in this film.

I watched this with a very old friend of mine, and we had a long discussion about things afterwards, and it led me to thinking about a lot of different things. I found it funny how much I could relate to Angel Locsin, especially when it came to her disdain for having office relationships. Those who know my situation would probably know why as well. JLC's hopless romantic character is also something I can totally relate to, especially when he said that loving someone who may not even love him back may mean that he will get hurt, but he's ready for it. It's nice to find someone worth risking getting hurt over.

It'd be nicer, though, if you ended up being worth the risk of getting hurt over, too. But you can't have it like the movies all the time now, can you?

Go watch this movie, unless you have no soul or can't understand a word of Filipino. It's a keeper.

Fun Rating: A+ (It was a rom-com by Direk Molina. Hard to go wrong with that.)
Critical Rating: A- (The storyline took a turn for the predictable and schmaltzy at the end, but I'd prefer that over a sad ending.)

Project 52 2012 (9/52): On Discrimination (And Why It's Gotten Worse By Getting Subtler)

.:Project 52 2012 (9/52): On Discrimination (And Why It's Gotten Worse By Getting Subtler):.

And so we get into all this safe space and anti-discrimination stuff I sometimes touch on every now and then. You might even say that within my tiny sphere of influence, I treat it like an advocacy at this point. I've even written this two-part article about it this week.

This has been a rather interesting time for anyone with a modicum of interest in race relations. Admittedly, this is a weird concept in a country like the Philippines, seeing as our seemingly desperate sense of Filipino pride extends all the way to taking pride in anyone with a drop of Filipino blood in them, up to and including Rob Schneider. Rob. Freaking. Schneider.

What? No Betamax? Rob Schneider, you fail!

Sure, the whole FHM cover brouhaha was also tinged with class issues, but they aren't mutually exclusive from race issues, and both are rife with glaring examples of discrimination. What does get annoying is when some people insist that because they don't see anything wrong with something, then there's nothing wrong with it. Sorta like how people generally miss the fact that there's an arrow in the FedEx logo. And yet it's there.

You might say they're keeping themselves in the... should I even go on?

The above was the ill-advised, or at least, the troll-bait cover from FHM's upcoming issue, featuring Bela Padilla. Now, the cover is reportedly being replaced for when the magazine actually comes out, and FHM and even Bela Padilla herself apologized for the cover. I'm not writing this to crucify FHM or Bela Padilla, but that doesn't mean the discussion about issues of discrimination should similarly stop. If anything, this whole thing should spur further discussion with minimal shaming or condemnation in order to facilitate understanding.

Except that probably won't happen.

Every single time discussions about race crop up, the only time Filipinos really feel a noticeable sense of outrage is when it's a Chip Tsao or an Alec Baldwin or a Teri Hatcher making the apparently racist statement, and Filipinos far and wide crying foul. We'd even happily do it when one of our own dares to spit upon the sacred altar of "Filipino pride." However, it seems that whenever we do come out as racist to other nations, we don't really do much to put ourselves in check, or else there would've been a larger uproar for the time Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, much as I love her to pieces, actually said that the Chinese invented corruption.

This whole issue is no different, as every single play from the Derailing For Dummies handbook was utilized just to sweep the issue under the rug, either because the issue seems irrelevant to most of us privileged people, or because a topic like this may be uncomfortable for privileged people who get upset when they find out they're actually racist. It's pretty coincidental that even Cracked has a relevant article about racism up this week, and it parallels a lot of the things I say right now, with a whole lot more comedy mixed into their take, obviously.

Granted, we don't live anymore in a world where it's okay to segregate blacks from whites, or women not being allowed to vote is par for the course. These things have become galvanizing symbols to rally against: these very blatant, egregious examples of inequality will find very few supporters.

Unfortunately, this also means that these blatant, egregious examples are normally the only things we look for when trying to find inequality in our world today. We seem to need something galvanizing before we so much as consider that maybe, just maybe, something oppressive is already happening right before our very eyes.

Most of us do live with privilege. In an ideal world, everyone would think the same way people of privilege do, where we assume we will get by this world on our own merits, and we can afford to be color-blind or gender-blind because everyone else is more of the same. Race as a mere social construct becomes completely obliviated because there no longer is no need for it. But then, neither would we have need for any of the other social constructs like sovereign nations or families. Which is to say, we don't live in an ideal world, and whether we like it or not, these social constructs are here to stay.

As people of privilege, we can afford to live without being conscious about race, because it rarely affects us, for as long as Desperate Housewives doesn't take another swipe at us. With privilege, we can afford to not be disturbed by, say, a pun likening dark-skinned people to shadows because it's just words, and only sticks and stones can break our bones, and these black people better toughen the fuck up and stop trying to find excuses to get offended all the time.

Of course it's easy for the privileged to say these things. They don't go through it every single day, much like a man in general would not have to live in fear of being raped, and might find it easy to make jokes about how Michael Bay's take on Transformers pretty much "raped" their childhood. What's not easy is to check one's privilege at the door, and to actually recognize what's important for the Other in front of us, instead of what's important only to ourselves.

Now that discrimination has gotten subtler, it has become fashionable for people to cry about the likes of affirmative action or the PC police, as if avoiding saying a word or two for the sake of not upsetting a marginalized group that has institutionally been discriminated against since they could remember would be the end of the world for the privileged. Is perpetrating the endless cycle of oppression against the Other all for the sake of "freedom of expression" really more important than just striking a couple of words from your vocabulary?

I find it a bit bewildering how someone who is caught doing or saying something racist feels so offended, and suddenly makes it about them, instead of the fact that they actually went and offended someone, to begin with. This very casual shift of denying acknowledgment of the Other and her issues only proves that the Other is indeed being marginalized, to the point that we, in our privilege, feel entitled to have the focus about us even when dealing with or simply dismissing their issues.

Discrimination has gotten worse because the fewer instances of discrimination remain seemingly non-taboo, the more steadfastly we will insist on holding onto them. Just look to homophobia and ableism, if you don't believe me. Because we're so busy looking for burning crosses and gas chambers, we forget that little daily affirmations of oppression can and do ruin the day for those who are marginalized.

And no, a lack of malicious intentions or even outright good intentions is not an excuse for offending people. When you step on someone's toes, you apologize for it especially if you didn't mean to do it (If you did mean to, you're clearly looking to start something, anyways.). Intent isn't magic. It's not a get out of jail free card.

Furthermore, since some people know I do contribute to the Filipino Freethinkers, and I even went and supported their call to uphold the right to offend in the middle of the Mideo Cruz issue, why am I suddenly being seemingly inconsistent and suddenly wishing people don't get all offensive against the marginalized?

If you're reading carefully enough, the key word is "marginalized." Obviously, if you're Catholic and in the Philippines, then you are anything but. If anything, atheists are the marginalized ones, and their crusade for secularism is precisely their call for equality. If people are free to insult the beliefs or lack thereof that atheists have, why is the opposite, insulting the beliefs of the religious, suddenly taboo? Does believing in God suddenly make you and your opinions (And make no mistake about it: the existence or non-existrence of God still stands as an opinion, albeit a very important and personal one.) superior?

True, not every single dark-skinned person was offended by the FHM cover, much like not all of us were offended by Chip Tsao's satirical tirade against this "nation of servants." That doesn't invalidate the feelings of people who were offended by any of these, either. It's the opportunity to discuss and educate ourselves from these occurrences that is one of our takeaways from this, rather than to be dismissive of the feelings of people who feel hurt by acts of actual or merely perceived discrimination.

For example, wouldn't it be better to explain to your black friend that the word "niggardly" isn't exactly what it sounds like, rather than to just point and laugh at him for making an honest mistake?

Some things require more explanation than others, though.

And if, after reasonable discussion, your friend still feels put off by the word, then is it such a big deal for you to just never use the word around him again? I think while one cannot rely on human decency in this world, this should never be an excuse for not displaying it. This is akin to how while Mideo has every right to offend religious folk in the manner that he did, I didn't have to like his art (I was never a fan of post-modern art, period, so this is no surprise.), nor do I need to do the exact same thing.

True, everyone's a little bit racist sometimes. And while it doesn't mean we go around committing hate crimes, there's a lot to be said about displaying basic human decency and compassion when it's within our power to do so. While it'd be nice if everyone could take a little joke, the last thing we have the right to do is to tell other people how to feel, because nobody in their right mind goes out of their way wanting to get hurt or offended.

Ultimately, discrimination happens in an imperfect world the more we are blind to the differences among us. It takes a lot of perspective, and genuinely walking a mile in the shoes of the Other for us to even begin to understand. Otherwise, we end up doing another unintentionally condescending "If I Were A Poor Black Kid," and no amount of good intentions could conceivably excuse the sheer insensitivity and ignorance of that.

Stop being insensitive, or he's comin' for you...
no good will come out of completing that statement, will it?