Good Taste

My dad’s always complimented me on this.  Back in the days of video renting on long weekends, he usually leaves me the decision on what movies to get, and then kicks back and enjoys my choices.


Persona 3?  This PS2 game that currently occupies my rave stage?


Nuh-uh, I can’t take credit for this one.  It was my wife who discovered it.


But I guess that’s what we are, husband and wife with good taste



“For years now, Japanese role-playing games have been stagnating.  More games than ever are being released, but very few even try to break the mold.  Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series has always been good for a refreshing take on the genre.  But Persona 3 is its most ambitious and addictively playable game to date.”




“If you enjoy console-style role-playing, and have the courage to put a gun to your head, don’t miss it.”


 

GORGEOUS

Once I tried my hand at computer-aided artwork.  Once only, because I immediately discovered that unlike my good buddy Jie, computer artwork is a field where I will forevermore suck the big one.  Still, that doesn’t take away my appreciation for those who are talented as heck.  And once in a while, I encounter an artwork that stops me cold because of the sheer beauty and emotion delivered in the masterpiece.


This is one of those.


Photobucket


 (Would say they’re Squall of Final Fantasy VIII and Aeris of Final Fantasy VII. But context-wise it’s more appropriate to call them Leon and Aeris of Kingdom Hearts)


 

Unfinished business

There was this joke that became popular right after the Gulf War ended. A CNN news correspondent reporting live from the battlefield was describing the U.S. led forces attack against Saddam’s Air Force and the difficulties they were having. First was how the U.S. sent a fleet of 1,000 F-15 Eagle fighter jets but they were still having a hard time winning against Saddam’s planes. Then the British sent 1,000 Eurofighter Typhoons, but they were still having a hard time. The French followed suit and deployed 1,000 Mirage fighters, and that didn’t help either. The Allied forces were becoming desperate because Saddam’s Air Force was too powerful.

Then a report came that Japan has entered the battle. Everyone was hopeful at first, but their hearts sank in despair when they saw that Japan sent only five fighter jets. Five. What the heck are mere five fighters supposed to accomplish when 3,000 planes have already failed?

Then a voice was overheard through the radio, coming from the five Japanese fighters.

“LET’S VOLT IN!!!”

That corny joke aside (though it made me laugh when I first heard it), I guess that for our generation, nothing defines “Unfinished business” more clearly and meaningfully than that old anime series Voltes V. Flashback some 30 years ago when we still resided in Bulacan and I was nothing more than a rubber band-bearing, spider-fight watching snot who couldn’t go home from school until the tricycle my mom paid to ferry me home arrived. The routine was play time after school, every day, when my playmates and I would clutter the dirt roads of St. Martin’s Subdivision (beside present-day SM Marilao) with our cheap and “classless” toys and playthings like wooden guns, “tex” and the aforementioned rubber bands.

And when it strikes 6 p.m., we’d all zip home, like clockwork, leaving the streets emptier than a proverbial ghost town. We did it so efficiently that a visitor could mistake it for a scene from a John Carpenter movie. Eerie.

Why? Voltes V is on. “He” and “his” contemporaries. It was the time when Voltes and gang – Daimos (Tuesday), Mazinger Z (Wednesday), U.F.O. Grendaizer (Thursday) and Mekanda (Monday) – lorded over prime time TV to provide us kids of our generation with 30 minutes of utter TV-viewing bliss. Unbridled TV heaven at 6 p.m. every school day, amen.

You probably know how it all went down. The series (not just Voltes but all of the Super Robot series) was cancelled by order of the late President Marcos allegedly because it was too violent. Well, no arguments there, as I’ve compared this with other subsequent similar Sentai format shows that came out, like Star Rangers (the “template” of the Power Rangers) and Voltron, and it was clear how they toned the violence down - for example showing only streaks of bright light instead of the whole graphic enchilada of Voltes slicing through the beast fighter’s body with his Laser sword. But then again, a side story ran rampant of how such shows carried heavy revolutionary undertones that could have endangered the despot’s regime. Still, one has to have a great deal of imagination and paranoia to even consider the possibility of a cartoon… er… anime show provoking an entire nation to rebellion (besides, we all know that the Edsa revolution was triggered by an entirely different event. But I digress).Â

We didn’t give a flying chicken of course. All we cared about was THEY CANCELLED OUR FAVORITE SHOW, just when it was leading to the final episodes! WAAAA! And we were left with nothing but a harrowing question – of how the series eventually ended – that lingered through the years, despite Voltes V and his contemporaries being revived dozens of times in its original home (GMA 7) and its bitter rival (duh). Nostalgia aside, none of the reshowings gave us the closure that we’d been longing for since the original program’s cancellation on March 25, 1978.

Unfinished Business. Over and over and over again.

Happily, that’s over and done with. Thanks to the outfit that sponsored the showing of Voltes V: The Liberation in theaters back in 1999, we’ve finally resolved this unfinished business that lasted for more than 20 years. Ivan Chen maintains a fantastic Voltes V shrine and, being the incorrigible softie that I am, I couldn’t resist swooning out my personal sentiment after witnessing the resolution of this most classic anime treasure.

You have to understand, The animation technology may pale compared to the likes of today’s Gundam series, but my generation lived for Voltes V. The original showing may have lasted for only a little under a year, but the mark it left on us was indelible. And really, how many other anime series merited the number of reshowings that Voltes V had (notwithstanding that shoddy ‘Voltes V Evolution’ over at Hero TV)?

This video is an excerpt from Episode 2, the very first show on TV that made me cry (I’m not ashamed to admit this because my brothers and sister were crying with me the first time we saw this). To my contemporaries, enjoy this brief trip down memory lane (“you have not seen an angry-as-hell robot until you’ve seen this”). To everyone else, discover why Voltes V is also sometimes called ‘a universe-spanning animated soap’ =)

Why I stopped reading DC Comics

I hate DC Comics for turning one of my favorite sources of entertainment into a principle-bereft money-making machine. No more Batman, no more Ion, no more Justice League. Sad. But I’m not going to put up with this sleaze-ball act. Another prime example of the pull of money compromising the distinguished accomplishments of past luminaries of the trade.

This is from a Wiki article on the controversial character Maxwell Lord:***************

“How Lord recovered his original human body and received a different variation of his telepathic powers has not been revealed, and fans have criticized this reboot of the character, especially after interviews where prominent DC comics administrators revealed they knew about the continuity problems but decided to ignore them (see next paragraph). In-story, it is possible to explain the various continuity errors as one of the side-effects of Superboy Prime “punching” the universe and changing history (see Continuity changes during Infinite Crisis for more details); this may also explain his character change from hero to villain, as might influence by Alexander Luthor and/or the Psycho-Pirate. While it is was probably the writer’s intent to suggest that Lord’s previous ‘heroic behavior’ was simply a part he played to ingratiate himself with the heroes before his intended plan of betrayal, this is contradicted by his various thought-bubbles over the years.

At the “Crisis Counseling” panel at Wizard World Chicago, Dan DiDio explained DC’s reasoning in using Lord’s character in Infinite Crisis. After going through several possible characters who could be the “new leader for the offshoot of Checkmate”, Maxwell Lord was suggested. Many of the editors thought that the idea made sense, as Lord had been shown to have a mean streak and to have killed previously. The idea was dropped due to the continuity errors, such as him being a cyborg, but they went back to it later after deciding none of the other possible characters were suitable. “We thought about that aspect of the story [where Maxwell was turned into a cyborg] some more,” DiDio explained. “And then asked, ‘Did anyone read it?’ No. ‘Did anyone like the idea?’ No. So we moved ahead with Max as being a human, and having been a human, and not letting that small part of the past stand in the way of this story. We wanted what was best for Countdown [to Infinite Crisis], and for us, that meant that Max had to be a human.”[1]

***************

So the legendary Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire run of the 80s Justice League, including all its spin-offs that covered almost a decade, plus this highly entertaining sequel storyline, suddenly never happened?

The sleaze that media money grubbers are willing to commit never fails to astound me. In a bad way

VDU Awards?

YouTube rocks! Yeah! Thanks to them, I could now catch up on old trailers, old commercials, music videos and other cool stuff that I used to only hope to chance on while watching TV. Add to these all the cool stuff that could be found there that I never thought existed – fan-made videos made by people who got genuine movie-making talent and loads of free time. If I’d been a movie mogul, I’d hire them on the spot!

Anyways, here’s a short list of the best of the best – my favorite among My Favorite compiled videos.

1) Best Car/Car maker commercial – first aired, if I remember it right, during Superbowl XXXII, a little under 10 years ago. Notorious pigeons lock on their helpless target, and then find out later on that it’s anything but helpless.

2) Best official game trailer – No, it’s not a Final Fantasy, but the trailer for Shadow Hearts: Covenant (subtitled “At last Midway did something right” =p ).

3) Best Fan-made trailer – A piece made from Final Fantasy VIII FMV shots. Simply awesome. I wish I could figure out where they got the music (because I know for a fact that it’s not from FFVIII)

4) Best Fan-made theme video – a collection of scenes from Final Fantasy VIII, IX and X, with music from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Wheel of Fortune). Simply too good to be categorized as amateur video

5) Best commodity commercial that never saw the light of day – Xbox 360 TV ad that allegedly was banned apparently for promotion of violence. Which IMO is ridiculous. This would have tripled the sales of the 360 if it had aired.

6) Video award for the angst-riddled – a feature article from the Discovery channel where a pissed off adventurer perforates his custom-made car with a chain gun.

7) Best music video – TIE BETWEEN: MJ and MJ! Michael Jackson joins forces with Michael Jordan in the music video “Jam”! AND This thought-provoking music video, “Woman In Chains” performed by – coincidentally – another collaboration. Oleta Adams side by side with Tears For Fears

8) My personal favorite sports moment – a piece of “documentary” of the last 28 seconds of the 1997 NBA Finals Game 6 between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz.

9) “I just have to capture this” Moment – awesome 2 part ending of Final Fantasy XII. Like, the immense epic cinematic feel is there even if you haven’t played the game yet.

10) Favorite “Cavalry” moment caught on video – Attack of the Silver Dragons, from Final Fantasy IX

11) Speaking of video game endings, Best overall Ending movie from – you guessed it – Final Fantasy VIII

12) From endings to beginnings – or intros, hehe. Best Game Intro – Gran Turismo 3, awesomely accompanied by Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way”

13) Best Game-based music video – Red Jumpsuit Apparatus song “You’re Guardian Angel” with scenes from FFVII: Advent Children

More to come!

Just when you think you know someone…

That someone turns around, turns her back on you, and turns your world upside down.

I don’t get reminded of this person often. Sometimes, maybe. It probably helps that I don’t see her anymore. It probably helps to say that she’s history. Used to be a part of my life.

Not like that.

Friends only, nothing more. But the character flaw of a person like me is the constant setting of expectations — however unwitting and involuntary – for my closest friends.

(And how swiftly I write them off if they ever let me down in a major way)

In this case, it was for this person to be a faithful friend.

This person failed me.

Well, that should have been over and done with. It’s just that…

… when I saw that clipping from an old comic book (with Dawnstar and Wildfire, my two favorite members of the Legion of Superheroes), it reminded me of this friend I had.

And how I’d been safe and secure in believing that she would always be there. How she’d always be a person I’d know deeply for the rest of my life.

And how I’d been sorely mistaken. How I woke up one day and realized that all of the sudden, I don’t know this person anymore.

Sucks to be hit by something you don’t see coming.

Pero wala lang.

Just an accidental reminder.

That’s how life is. Once in a while, it comes about without warning and kicks you on the face.

But that’s fine. Just an old scar that sometimes hurts with it’s cold. No biggie.

To hell with this…

A wild churning, wilder than the maelstrom where the epic battle between the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman happened in the blockbuster movie Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, raged in my stomach as I emerged from the shower last Wednesday morning. What followed was (pardon the graphic content) an eruption of gastric juices mixed with small bits of eggs, danggit and fried rice from my mouth. Then queasiness and stomach ache joined the gross parade, leading me to think that if I was my wife, I’d be jumping for joy. But no, I’m the husband, so I couldn’t be pregnant.

Consulting a doctor later that day, I was told that it was either due to a viral stomach infection or over-fatigue. Since the vomit-fest didn’t persist but my jelly legs did, I bet on the latter.

Last Friday, it was migraine – splitting headache, nausea, inability to look at anything without your head feeling like it’s in a vice-grip. Not the I-have-to-excuse-myself-from-work migraine. I know because even though I feel like a victim of Jack the Meat-grinder, I still reported for work.

Am I starting to sound like a martyr? I assure you that I’m not trying. It’s simply that bad at work. Wanna see how bad? Here:

– Almost everyday I get out of work unable to remember where I parked my car

– Yesterday, while in my room I was wondering when’s the next time that I’ll see my room with sunshine streaming through the window. Because I honestly don’t know.

– I could no longer trust an associate (the client PM) because she has the ability to smugly look everyone in the eye while lying through her teeth, knowing full well that everyone knows she’s lying (this person does a lot of damage to the brain and she doesn’t have the nerve or the professional integrity to own up to her mistakes)

– I no longer feel alarmed whenever I receive an email-full of expletives and insults from the client manager

– No other manager, I repeat, NO OTHER MANAGER wants to be involved in any account by this client

– Some of my subordinates suffer nosebleeds, get hospitalized, or miscarry because they’ve been working too hard and too much

– The others start thinking about consulting the DOLE for laws imposing too much work (and they have a point in doing this)

– I’ve tried several weight-loss techniques, from weight-training to boxing, for years, almost to no avail. In two months here I’ve lost more weight than anyone would have lost with a strictly-followed South Beach diet or typhoid fever

– Seeing my plight, the manager I replaced could only shake his head in sympathy and say “Don’t say I didn’t warn you”

– Why do I have a job here in the first place? Above-mentioned manager was removed from the project by the client because he kept pushing back on obscenely unworkable schedules. I’m talking about projects with computed 40-or-so man-days that the client demands to be finished in one week.

– Why do you think my team is suffering from over-fatigue and losing babies and whatnot?

– And when I say “it’s not doable, you have to give us more time”, client says “If you can’t do the job I’ll find someone else who could.”

So I say…

TO HELL WITH THIS!

Disclaimer: to those who know the company I work for (or used to now that I have submitted my resignation), it’s not the company itself that’s the problem. The company is actually good, with a nice location, good management, and some exceptionally great people to work with. The problem is with the client… really…

We should all get a life, but sometimes we can’t

Working on a Saturday should no longer be a new thing if you’re into a field as demanding (and sometimes unforgiving) as information technology or software services. I’ve been in that business for 15 years now and I could say with confidence that I’ve had more than my fair share of weekend work. No big deal.

Problem is, working extended hours becomes a big deal when it becomes the norm instead of the exception. And no, this is not whining. This is lamenting on the plight of good people who are dedicated to their work but at the same time have lives outside of their work. Yes, some of us can be workaholics in the real meaning of the term, but that’s not saying that workaholism is a good thing. In the grinding fast lane of the corporate world, being a workaholic may be admirable, but only for people who, we probably could say need to get a life.

It’s no laughing matter when people are consistently made to work extended hours to the point where they could only talk to friends via instant messaging, only see their kids to tuck them in and their husbands or wives to kiss them goodnight, with the kiss being relegated to nothing more than a fleeting peck from someone who’s been up so late the person could hardly keep his/her eyes open. I wouldn’t call that a life, not by a long shot.

This week could probably be the last straw. I jumped on board a company with the group I’m handling already in the thick of a war against deadlines that had been going on for more than half a year. Interesting time to come into the picture, says my colleagues. At the time I thought it was said as a good thing. I was wrong. With the way the client gives us so-called “hard deadline” — to finish in one week or less (that’s the trend) enough work for a 50-man crew to take a month to finish under marginally reasonable estimates, I learned that my group had been working like horses in the most unforgiving timelines I have ever seen.

Like I said, I’ve been in software services for more than 15 years now, and in all that time, save some rare exceptions, the relationship between client and vendor has always been that a client presents a task and a vendor evaluates whether that task is doable with the given timeline and resources. If not, the vendor pushes back and proposes an alternative. Now here at my current workplace, the term “push back” is almost synonymous to eating live, 12-inches long irradiated Chernobyl earthworms as far as the clients are concerned. Which is the reason why my people have been working as if the office is the only place on earth where they could breathe oxygen. Of course, if they could have it their way, they’d rather spend Saturdays and Sundays with family and friends and relax even for just a bit. But the clients won’t have it. “We have a hard deadline” is their usual statement. Which doesn’t sound like a statement at all. Sounds more like a decree from a dark and angry god.

I’m pissed. I am royally and immutably pissed. I have never seen one sincere and heartfelt smile from my 24-strong group for several weeks now and that’s quickly making for the most hopelessly gloomy workplace I’ve seen. So a few days ago I decided to exercise my prerogative as manager. With the deadline that we have to meet today, the client agreed that they wouldn’t be pushing for additional work anymore to help us meet our commitment. They violated that agreement the next day with another task that required at least a week of work but they demanded we finish for two days. It took us three days, and set us back for that much with our original task for the week. So I sent a status report to the client management stressing that because of the additional work they gave us, our current deadline is now compromised. Of course, I have an action plan in place to make up for lost time, but that would require another working weekend for everyone. The client didn’t catch the part where I said I have a plan and simply told me that if I couldn’t get the job done, they’d find someone else who would.

There’s something I need to clarify because of this. Did they really hire me to manage? Because any manager could manage for only so much without having to resort to slave-driving. And right now that’s what I’m forced to do.

And I hate slave-driving.

Two days ago I felt myself choked up from seeing the exhausted and exasperated expressions on the faces of my people when I told them that again, we have to work overtime and weekends. I feel so sorry for them, but I couldn’t do anything about it. The client has released a statement that if we don’t meet this deadline, heads will roll.  If I get axed because of it, that’s fine, anyways I don’t think I could last in a job where I will be forced to treat my team like slaves and work them past their limit. But what weighs heavily on me is I couldn’t guarantee that my team will be spared. Most of them are parents already and they need this job.

Oh, and did I mention that I got this job because the manager that I replaced was axed for this very same issue?

Suckiest job ever. But I care about my team so I couldn’t leave just yet. Wish there’s something that could actually be done to alleviate their plight.