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Lessons on activism from an ice-bucket

A scene from Flashdance: The Fundraising Ball

A scene from Flashdance 2: The Fundraiser

I’m a big fan of the ALS Ice-bucket Challenge.

From the point-of-view of an aspiring (at times: failed, frustrated) copywriter, the Ice-bucket challenge was an effective digital campaign. It easily went viral, thanks to the click-bait appeal of seeing your favorite celebrities pour ice-cold water on themselves, and then nominate other famous celebrities to do the same within 24 hours, or donate to charity. It’s like the best Celebrity Pyramid Scheme ever.

Some criticize the Ice-bucket Challenge for taking the spotlight off ALS, (or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), or for “stealing attention” from other more prevalent diseases.

But I’m not here to argue the validity of these points. Rather, I’m here to discuss how the Ice-Bucket Challenge (IBC) changed the face of activism.

3. It showed us the power of “likes” and “shares” in promoting a movement.

It seems far-fetched to connect ice cubes to activism, like trying to connect binge-eating fajitas to the Occupy movement.

However, if we accept that activism’s goal is to promote social or economic change — in its rawest form, to “make a difference” — then we can see how the IBC fulfilled this: it brought an obscure, unknown condition to public consciousness, and revitalized funding for ALS research. Near the end of August, the ALS foundation had a cool $22.9-M in donations, compared to a paltry $1.9-M the same period last year.

Not bad, for a movement others consider “juvenile” or “stupid”.

How was this possible? Through the unlikeliest method: social media sharing.

Remember those depressing FB posts with pictures of children in war or famine-stricken areas, where the post-maker had the gall to include the caption “1 share = 1 prayer”? Sorry but those things do nothing, no matter how much you abuse the “share” button. You’d be better off personally praying for the kid, or actually donating to charity than to think that your “share” can alleviate the child’s condition.

The assumption is that “sharing” magically sends a prayer to God’s FB wall, as if God doesn’t have anything better to do than to browse Facebook all day:

“Wow, already 22 million shares? Hmm I better do something about that famine!”FB1

But with the IBC, your “shares” actually does something.  It promotes ALS awareness and adds another coating to the snowball, making it big enough to reach those in the capacity to donate big, like Bill Gates and other millionaire-philanthropists.

How did it go supernova in such a short time? By having a highly shareable content, thanks to the presence of celebrities. You wouldn’t think twice about sharing a video of a drenched Tom Hiddleston, or a soaking Iggy Azalea, would you? Half of the internet does that on their free time, sans charity.

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“…And your fedora looks stupid too!”

I can only imagine the pressure celebrities feel upon being nominated, knowing that all eyes are on them. It’s like Biff calling Marty McFly “chicken”, except this time, you have a whole crowd watching what you do next, each one with an MA in Internet Bashing.

In short, “shares” and “likes” can make your activist movement big enough to reach the doorsteps of the politicians/leaders you want to target. Just try ignoring the knock of something a million people support.

2. It gave us a template for future demonstrations

Rice bucket. Rubble bucket. Book bucket.

All of these sprung from the IBC. The Rice Bucket gave food to poor families in India. The Rubble Bucket raised awareness about the devastation in Gaza Strip. Book Bucket aimed to erase illiteracy by giving books. In the Philippines, our MRT challenge called for politicians to take the public train, to see its deplorable condition.

These campaigns leveraged on the IBC’s popularity, to put their own agendas across. And the best part? They didn’t even like the original movement.

In fact, the proponent of the Rice bucket challenge said that a person does not need to go through the torturous experience of pouring ice-cold water on his head, just to help out.

Still, they used the IBC as the template because it was effective and results-driven. The whole thing worked because of an easy-to-follow set of rules.

Its success can also be attributed to these:

  1. A sense of urgency via the imposed 24-hour time limit.
  2. A win-win situation. Do the challenge and raise awareness. Don’t do it and raise funds. (Do both and be in the running for the next Dalai Llama)
  3. A chance to pay it forward. By nominating someone else, you keep the movement alive. As Time puts it: “the challenge’s visual component fostered a sort of casual one-upmanship, especially once celebrities started doing it, knowing they had large audiences.”

Wait a minute. Now that I think about it, the roots of the IBC seem pretty familiar…

Holy crap.  Is the IBC just a modern version of a chain letter?

A chain where, instead of cursing someone with a visit from Bloody Mary, you pass on the opportunity to do a good deed?

I can dig that.

Chain-Letter

The postal service has really gone downhill.

1. Everyone can participate — and debate

Some things you can’t ignore, especially if it’s force-fed to you 24/7.

The IBC craze may be over. But I remember how last August, you couldn’t go anywhere without running into the phenomenon.

You see it on your FB wall, you learn about it on the news, you view it on YouTube, or on your seatmate’s iPhone screen. It’s like a B-movie monster that refuses to die and shows up at every corner, just in time for murder.

Even if you don’t want to participate, you get pulled right in by the massive viral wave. Finally, you cave and watch a 3-minute video of someone doing the challenge.

From here, several things could happen: 1.) you like the IBC and don’t mind sharing the video; 2.) you think it is stupid and express your opposition of it online; or 3.) you think the challenge could use a little tweaking, to make it more relevant to the cause it promotes. There’s also a fourth option where you don’t give a flying fuck about ALS or about donating to charity, by which I assume you are an emotionless plant/robot, or is the same guy who made the 1 share=1 prayer post to capitalize on tragedy because you seek attention.

Save for the last one, all those reactions are valid and open the doors for discussion on what the movement lacks, what needs to be fixed, what makes it work/fail, etc. You become a participant of the phenomenon, without having to douse yourself with cold water.

This back-and-forth of ideas lead to revisions, realignment of goals, spin-off campaigns (Rice Bucket and the others), or calls to stop everything once and for all.

It’s the same reason why long-running demonstrations can sometimes change or take a life of its own. It adapts and evolves, depending on the needs of the majority.

This is why I think digital activism is something we should utilize to the fullest, to implement the changes we want (especially here in the Philippines, where corruption and crime is rampant).

I’m not saying that this should totally replace traditional forms of activism. Rather, it should complement it by transforming social media into an alternative protest ground that is connected to the rest of the world. Once the international community sees your plight, the pressure would be enough to make our politicians actually get off their asses and do something to fix the problem.

Because having genuine progress? That’s our greatest challenge.

 A1

How to cope (in 500 words or less)

How do you deal with the sudden news that someone you know died?

A friend. A relative. An acquaintance who, despite the brief moment you were in each other’s life, still left a mark?

The default reaction is denial of a deliberate kind. This is eventually replaced by acceptance, followed by a fervid desire to remember everything about the person. It’s a coping mechanism of sorts; our mind’s way of making sure the person isn’t completely erased from existence.

We grab at strings in the dark, each one a cherished moment shared with the deceased. Some of the strings turn to air, slipping through one’s fingers, rising and spreading out towards the sky. You start to forget, start to lose the little details which used to mean a lot. You become angry for not having more.

Because in the end, that’s what it all boils down to: we just want more. More time with the person. More memories to hold on to. More of everything, before it’s too late.

This is how I choose to process death, in a way I can best express myself. Blogging is just another way of coping, after all. With this entry, I can make one final memory, one sturdy string tied down with words.

Recently I attended the wake of Lee, a friend from college. Lee was already an outgoing Varsitarian staffer by the time I joined the publication. Hands down, he was the warmest, friendliest person there, helping us newbies learn the ropes of being a student-writer. 

We shared similar interests: Pokemon, anime and other geeky things generally frowned upon by others as being too “childish”. Maybe that’s why we became fast friends.  

Last Monday, Lee succumbed to tuberculosis, at the young age of 27. He will be missed.

Not so smartphone

 

My irrational fear of the week: getting a smartphone.

It has something to do with what happened yesterday. I was waiting for the office shuttle, along with 40 other employees who wanted to go home but didn’t want to commute. Like what my friend said: “Traffic in Manila is a ‘just add water’ phenomenon”. Add a bit of rain and voila! you have instant car-maggedon.

While I was contemplating on whether I should write or draw to pass time, I noticed everyone had their heads bowed, not in prayer or because they were sleepy, but in adoration of their smartphones, their apps, their videos, etc.

For the purposes of not sounding Amish, I have nothing against smartphone users, or people who are extremely attached to their gadgets that it borders on “unhealthy” or “creepy”, as if these were their virtual bfs/gfs. I do get annoyed when I’m with somebody who constantly looks down to check their phone every two minutes.The only time I look down that often is when I’m wearing my bad pair of pants, to check if my fly is open.

That last example (not the fly thing, but the “always looking at their phones” thing) is why I am wary of smartphones. I’m afraid of what they are doing to people, how they are changing the way we interact in a group. Try to remember the last group hangout/dinner you had. Chances are at several points during the meal at least two of your friends were busy diddling with their phones.

 

I recently transferred to BGC because of a new job. Every morning before work, I go to the nearby park to take a breather. There, I would see people so engrossed with their gadgets, they ignore the beautiful sunrise unfolding right before them. The second coming of Christ could be happening and they’ll miss it, because they were too busy looking at a video of a ” cute cat doing sit-ups” in their smartphones.

In another instance, I was singing karaoke with my friends when an asshole started playing with his phone, ignoring the rest of the group.

Oh yeah, that asshole? It was me.

See? I’m not some tech-snob, nor am I immune to the allure of smartphones. On the contrary, it’s something I’ve been pining for, for a looong time. Hell, I want a smartphone just to play Clash of Clans! Forget those other apps. I’ll be using approximately 0.01%  of the gadget’s functions. 

I know that once I finally do get a smartphone, I’ll be a bowed-head zombie in no time. I’ll probably be the worst of them all, given my lack of self-control and proneness to addiction. 

What do I know anyway? It’s arrogant to assume that reading or writing are more substantial activities than tinkering with one’s gadget. After all, they’re really not that different from each other: they consume hours of your time, they are activities frowned upon by the older generation (my traditional grandmother hated whenever my mother would read, instead of doing chores), and you spend most of your time with your head bowed.

To each his own little addiction.

Scorn on the 12th of June

Flag

 

What does it mean to be truly free?

Is it a matter of being unbound by rules? Or is it more of a gift, an opportunity to live a full life?

I ask this because last Thursday (June 12th), the Philippines celebrated its 116th Independence Day. News channels came out with a slew of color stories: asking people if they think Independence Day is still relevant, or quizzing them about the martyrs who died for the country’s freedom (spoiler alert: many didn’t know who the quince martires were).

One particular news item caught my attention. The reporter wanted to know how people define freedom, and whether or not they think the country is free. He interviewed individuals who were marginally poor.

We see a man who, after trying his luck in Manila, discovers that this isn’t the Land of Opportunity he thought it was. Now, he lives as a beggar, soliciting money to go back to his province. “It is embarrassing work”, he reveals, “asking for change”.

The man adds: “What is more embarrassing is being turned down”.

The story shifts to a little girl looking out to the Pasig river. The girl dreams of one day becoming a doctor, to help her parents and her numerous siblings. She is hopeful, but stays realistic. “I don’t know if it will happen,” says the little girl. “We come from a poor family,” her eyes turning glassy from tears.

She continues to dream.

One by one, people from the underprivileged sector tell the reporter what freedom is:

“Freedom is being able to do what I want.”

“It is to be rich and successful.”

“To be rid of poverty someday.”

It is evident that they aren’t free. Their shackles may be invisible, but the struggle is true. Like the beggar and the girl, many are victims of circumstance.

The big event of the day was the Independence Day rally held at Mendiola. For months now, people have been protesting  the pork barrel scandal, where majority of the Senators have been accused of stealing from the coffers.

This isn’t chump change, too; The stolen money ranges in the billions of dollars.

It is money that could have been spent on a lot of things the country needs: Affordable healthcare. An efficient railway system for commuters (the ghastly line at the MRT is enough proof). More schools, in line with the new K-12 academic year schedule (and incidentally, something needs to be done about the teachers who will be jobless by 2016 because of this shift). And most of all, the speedy rehabilitation of Tacloban, whose citizens currently live in tent cities. They will be left drenched and unprotected once the monsoon season rolls in.

This blatant corruption is enough to make your blood boil. It is enough to make you want to go to the senate and wreck some well-deserved havoc.

A select few are living the good life, at the expense of the suffering folks they were tasked to serve.

I am not knowledgeable when it comes to Philippine history, though I am familiar with the cliff-notes version.

We have the katipuneros fighting against their Spanish oppressors, using guerrilla tactics to counter the enemy’s superior firepower.

More than a decade later, we find ourselves locked in a similar struggle. All the elements are there: the oppressors hindering our freedom to enjoy basic things, the masses trying to take it back, and the history of abuse and corruption that pervaded in the country for so long.

The only thing missing: our resolve as a people.

We’ve seen it time and again. Crimes committed against the public have a way of  being forgiven and forgotten. This is true, especially when politicians are involved (what other criminals are there?) Maybe we are so used to this injustice that we see it as a norm. Doesn’t make it any more right.

In fact, this is what worries the protest rally leaders:  that the anti-Pork Barrel movement is losing steam, and people are becoming uninterested in the trials. Old habits die hard after all.

With corruption in the government as rampant and garapal as it is, apathy and inaction are our worst enemies. It holds the post up, for evil individuals to hammer it in and keep us fenced.

By the time we finally stir and wake up (years from now when another scandal takes place) it might already be too late and we will have forgotten what freedom looks like.  There might not be another June 12 to celebrate.

What does it mean to be truly free?

 

Who really knows?

Rage into the (mid)Night

Most artists dream of someday holding their own exhibit. It’s probably at the top of their bucket list.

When that day comes (and that’s a big IF), I’m not really sure if I have anything worthy to put up. Probably a series of comics, mediocre paintings, or badly-lit photographs.

My artworks are often layo-genic: you only fully appreciate them when looking from afar, with your eyes scrunched to the point that it’s almost closed. “Wow,” you’ll say, 3-feet-away from a painting, with slits for eyes, “It’s really not THAT bad!”

Fortunately, the bitterness of being a frustrated artist doesn’t hinder me from celebrating the success of others, especially when the successful artist in question is someone dear to me.

 

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The proud artist standing in front of her works

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Thanks to our friend Chuchie, Aencille was able to hold her first exhibit alongside other artists, crossing out an important item from her bucket list. Good job! 🙂

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Aencille vs Chuchie: Clash in QC

Midnight Music

The exhibit was part of an event called This Sentence is False (I’ll let that thought sink in and blow your mind. Go ahead), which celebrated young talents by inviting budding artists and indie rock bands to showcase their artwork/perform. It was held at the Heber Bartolome Gallery in QC, on the same Saturday as our food trip to Tokyo Bubble Tea.

I haven’t been to a rock concert in AGES. I think the last one I went to, Gangnam Style was still a thing and Miley Cyrus hadn’t violated a foam finger yet.

So, imagine my excitement when — for the first time in what felt like forever — I once again heard the thumping of the drums, the wail of the guitar, the other-wordly reverb of the distortion pedal, the tribal beat of the bass, and finally, the gurgling growl of the vocalist, channeling all the rage and emotion he can muster for an epic, once-in-a-lifetime, electrifying performance…

And that’s just the tune-up.

 

I brought Scarlet my red 1100D EOS Canon, to document the concert. I tried to capture the energy and angst of the bands via some nifty zooming action (really the only camera trick I know). Hopefully, that’s what you’ll see in the pictures below, not a Rorschach test:

 

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Danish band Vokadin, my favorite thing about Denmark (aside from Danish cookies)

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Vokadin had the smoothest performance of the night. Awesome band

 

Black-winged.

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Going warp speed

 

My only regret is that I didn’t get enough good shots of Ruweda, an awesome pinoy band who seemingly fed off the audience’s energy. At least, that’s the only explanation that made sense: how else were they able to perform the way they did?  The vocalist literally bounced all over the stage for half an hour, as if part of a furious one-man mosh pit (at times even scaring me a bit as we were inches away from a bloody headbutt), while belting out original compositions that appealed to local sensibilities. Meanwhile, the lead guitarist was adept at making his instrument sing like a lamenting phoenix, the notes washing 0ver us like hypnosis.

It was only when Ruweda played a cover of RHCP’s “Cant Stop” that the resemblance became all too clear.

 

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Ruweda, a band to watch out for




POP! Sakura Saturdays at Tokyo Bubble Tea Resto

Sunny Saturdays are always a delight, especially one spent in the company of good food and good friends.

One Saturday a few weeks back was just that. It started with a meeting at a Japanese restaurant in Katipunan, and ended with a rocking gig somewhere in QC. Here’s what happened:

Bubble, Bubble Burst

Ever since the milktea-pocalypse back in 2010, you can’t turn a corner without seeing a milk tea shop. They usually have pun names, with a “TEA” there somewhere: InfiniTEA, SereniTEA, PubliciTEA, etc. They are also conveniently located next to a condo or a residential area. In fact, a property’s value is now measured by Mt/a (milk tea per area). True story.

Not that I mind. I love milk tea; it is an inexpensive, healthier alternative to “frappes” and other caffeine-laced drinks that does not offer much in terms of variety. With milktea, you have traditional tea flavors mixed with contemporary ones: oreo, reese, butterscotch, milo, salt caramel, dark raspberry, and a whole lot others.

The latest flavor to hit the market is Sakura Milk Tea, a curious concoction that mixes green tea, milk and vanilla essence into a pink drink reminiscent of cherry blossom and “everything japan”. Here’s a picture to give you an idea:

Props if you can see Mt. Fuji

Props if you can see Mt. Fuji

The color alone can pique your interest. I wanted to taste the Sakura milktea so badly that when my good friend Angelo invited us to try it out for free, I immediately jumped at the opportunity (because what’s better than an inexpensive milktea, than a free one?)

We went to a restaurant called TOKYO BUBBLE TEAlocated in Katipunan. From the minute you walk in, you can see that the place went all-out with its Japanese motif: there is a life-sized cherry blossom tree up front, some cherry blossom-painted lanterns, wooden walls, and cushiony benches on the second floor, where you can sit in the traditional seiza style (kneeling, legs tucked in), that you often see Japanese people do in sushi bars.

“It’s like stepping onto the Sakura Season and witnessing the cherry blossom bloom,” says Reagan Tan, owner of Tokyo Bubble Tea restaurant.

Sure enough, it really did feel like an authentic Japanese restaurant. A lady from our group even donned a floral yukata complete with matching wooden slippers. It felt like I was in a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Japan, if it wasn’t for the cargo trucks thundering outside. Thankfully, this was offset by the serene, relaxing vibe inside the resto.

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The cherry blossom pattern was meticulously hand-painted on every lantern

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Where the milk-tea magic happens

Finally, the moment of truth. We were served with a large-sized Sakura Milk Tea MUG. Emphasis on the word “mug” because the serving was HUGE — literally filled to the brim. I had the milk tea shake, which tasted a bit like rose petal-flavored ice cream: fragrant and sweet (maybe even a bit too sweet, but thankfully, sugar levels can be adjusted). The green tea balances things out, while the inclusion of hot pearls add texture to an overall satisfying drink, especially on a hot day such as this. It is priced at PhP 145 for medium, and PhP 155 for large/Kaiju size.

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Big cup of happiness on a sweltering day

But Tokyo Bubble Tea is more than just a milk-tea shop, evident when they served us a medley of Japanese dishes, with a modern twist. First up, the Bulgogi Nachos. This Jap-Mex fusion comprise a heavenly plate of nachos, topped with bulgogi sauce, onions, tomato and sesame seed. It’s a bit on the spicy side, which makes it the perfect appetizer with milk tea. (Bulgogi Nachos: PhP 245)

I'm getting hungry just typing this

I’m getting hungry just typing this

Next, we had the Nippon Ebi Maki. Every piece had a prawn-filled center, and topped with mango and roe. The best part is the mozzarella drizzle that sticks to the maki, easily making this my favorite dish of the day.

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Mozarella and maki should be a thing

The Samurai Burger is a whopper of a meal. The pork patty (which tastes a lot like longanisa) is as big as the sesame seed bun. What makes this dish even more appetizing is the apple sauce and honey mustard dressing, making this equal parts sweet and salty, and all parts savory. It is big enough for sharing (although why would you want to do that?)

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Samurais used to eat this before battle. True story

By this time, we were all so full and yet we can’t turn away from the irresistible dishes that kept coming, especially when they served the Grilled Porkchop on Roasted Tomato Doria. My eyes practically lit up (and I’m sure there was a squeal there somewhere) when I learned what was in this dish: grilled pork, caramelized onion, and melted mozzarella, mixed with rice for a hearty meal.

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Mozzarella heaven once again

The last dish we had was taken from their Korean menu: the classic Bibimbap. Served in piping-hot stone bowl, it had generous servings of ground beef, egg, carrots, zuccini, and onions, mixed with rice. It’s advisable to mix and eat this quickly to prevent the ingredients from sticking to the bowl. With a presentation like that, you don’t have to ask me twice.

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Beautiful bowl of Bibimbap

For desserts, we had Chocolate Caramel and Sakura Mango Roll, the perfect way to end a wonderful meal. IMG_3967

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You can even say this is… “the icing on the cake”. *puts sunglasses and cues CSI music* YEAHHHHHHHH

As a bonus, Angelo and his team had us do an activity, which involved painting a sakura design on a glass. Now, this was the activity I really looked forward to. The food-coma I previously had was immediately gone, replaced by a “Warrior Emil” persona that wanted nothing but to dominate this group activity. Never mind that I was the only guy painting  in our group, or that I was the only one with a serious game face on. I didn’t even do it for the free GCs that the winner will get. I did it solely for pride, because sometimes it takes a glass painting to reveal a man’s resolve.

So I started with some branches and dabbled pink to show sakura flowers. Then in a burst of inspiration akin to Leonardo da Vinci painting Mona Lisa, I painted Mt. Fuji on the background, next to the sakura tree.

I straight-up killed that sakura glass painting. For sho.

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Competitive powers, activate!

Mine's the one at the rightmost, bottom row (or the one with the most blood and tears)

Mine’s the one at the rightmost, bottom row (or the one with the most blood and tears)

But of course, no amount of willpower can trump sheer talent. It was Aencille (who, by the way, is an artist. Just saying ) who won. Meh. I’m not affected or anything. Promise. And Im sure I couldn’t drink from my cup anyway, based on the  amount of acrylic I used. It’s probably enough to make a small painting.

Sakura glass-painting champions

Sakura glass-painting champions. For now.

Despite the upset, I had a grand time!I was able to eat at a nice restaurant, have a delicious meal, and bond with old friends, while making new ones.

Really, on a sunny Saturday such as this, what more can one ask for?

 

For more information, check Tokyo Bubble Tea’s official Facebook page (www.facebook.com/tokyobubbletea) or follow them on Twitter (@tokyobubbletea). You can also visit their branches at SM Megamall, SM North Edsa, Tomas Morato, Trinoma, Eastwood, Katipunan and BGC

 

NEXT: Midnight Music with Vocadin and Ruweda

POP! Not too cold towards the Cap’t

Captain smoulder

Captain smoulder

I had my doubts about the Winter Soldier, frankly because I HATED the first movie.

Captain America: The First Avenger was a snooze-fest of a film. It’s hard to muck up something set in World War 2, with exciting elements such as Nazis, Alliance troops, airplane dogfights, etc. There’s even Hugo Weaving with a really bad sunburn.

But the First Avenger did a splendid job of ruining all these.

The character of Steve Rogers was as boring as white bread in a basket of pastries. He had no depth, no driving force — just a ‘roided up jock with an overpowered Beyblade.

So when I finally got around to watching the 2nd movie, I was expecting two hours of dull one-liners, wooden characters, and a bouncing shield that defied the laws of Physics (you can almost hear Neil deGrasse Tyson scoffings).

What I didn’t expect was to sit up, mid-film, hand poised over a popcorn bucket, and stare intently at the screen in anticipation. I was fully engrossed with the plot.

Who would’ve thunk? Winter Soldier turned out to be a pretty good film.

I guess the producers learned from past mistakes and finally did a superhero movie that wasn’t all about effects *coughManofSteelcough*. Of all the Avenger movies I’ve seen, Winter Soldier was the only one who didn’t rely on its hero to carry it to the box office; it invested in a beefy plot that revolved around a conspiracy, a breath of fresh air for those fed up with shallow storylines.

(MAJOR SPOILERS INCOMING!!)

Basically, Winter Soldier is about Steve Rogers adjusting to life post-cryogenic freezing. With all his friends dead, and without a solid reason to keep on fighting, he comes down with a bad case of mid-life crisis, about 40 years late (considering he is 90+ years old).

But before Rogers can sort out his issues, friend/pirate Nick Fury (a.k.a. Mace Windu) is shot dead after uncovering a conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. The Captain sets out to discover the truth behind Fury’s last words “S.H.I.E.L.D is compromised. Trust no one.”

A ghost from the past in the form of a Nazi scientist’s brain (because why not?) confirmed Roger’s fears: Hydra operatives have infiltrated the organization and are actually holding the reins. They plan to use S.H.I.E.L.D’s super-weapon to launch a pre-emptive strike against those who would potentially oppose Hydra, killing millions in the process while ensuring that they go unchallenged.

Rogers, along with his team of The-Other-Avengers (Falcon, Black Widow, and Robin Scherbatsky) must race against time to stop Hydra and the missile launch. Barring their way is a highly-skilled assassin called “The Winter Soldier”, who seem to know the Captain from his WW2 days…

Fans of the Captain America comics will definitely know who this guy is

Fans of the Captain America comics will definitely know who this guy is

 

What I love about the film is their treatment of Captain America. He is a capable fighter, but not too overpowered like Thor, Iron Man, or the Hulk.

During fights, the Captain looks like a guy who happens to know parkour AND lives in an MMA ring. His enigmatic fighting style is complemented by acute senses (similar to how Sherlock Holmes analyzes his opponent’s weak points), making it thoroughly enjoyable to watch him kick ass. In fact, the best parts of the film all involve the Captain putting the hurt on a bunch of goons.I’m sure that elevator brawl will go down as one of the best hero fights of all time. OF ALL TIME. #endkanye

 

At what cost freedom?

The film is also rife with political undertones. At one point, Fury and Rogers discuss the moral implications of having a gun on everyone’s head, at the premise of “protecting many”. To this, Rogers points out “This isn’t freedom. This is fear”.

He goes on to say that it is exactly why he fought in the second World War: to prevent a scenario like this from happening. Fury counters that they also had to make hard decisions back then. “Not like this” says Rogers “We always found a way”

The whole plot was an obvious allusion to the NSA wiretapping controversy, a heavy issue to tackle especially for a film not expected to go any deeper than it needs to. Thankfully, the producers went the extra mile. Through the film’s conclusion, they were able to underscore the message that nothing good will ever come out of denying the people’s freedom in exchange for a little security, no matter how noble your cause may be.

Just remember: the Simpsons called it first

Just remember: the Simpsons called it first

 

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Winter Soldier may even be better than the Avengers, in both substance and enjoyment of a hero flick.

The latter is basically a film about big personalities with bigger egos, setting aside their pissing contest to work together and save Manhattan from an alien threat. But in truth, the Avengers weren’t in any real danger from the start — they were taking out dozens of alien soldiers by the minute (Hulk even made a rag doll out of Loki, the bid-bad of the film that was supposed to be an all-powerful god). The only legitimate threat they encountered was from a nuclear missile. Shot by their allies. 

If it wasn’t for the action-packed ending, Avengers would have been tedious. It had a lot of unnecessary dialogue that did nothing to advance the plot (Black Widow and Hawkeye’s 10-minute dialogue, on their past romance), and several cliche lines which actually made the first 30 minutes of the film boring (of course, since this is the Avengers, some nerds will shut down their ability to criticize anything about the film)

Compare that to Winter Soldier’s “The Other Guys” : Falcon, Black Widow, Nick Fury (“surprise, mothafucka!”) and Maria Hill, who actually used their brains to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D and shut it down from within, which by the way is a HUGE sacrifice to make especially since they’ve been part of the organization for years.

None of them had any mystical powers. No Mjolnir, no missiles, or overpowered army-grade weapons (Falcon’s wings are just that; it’s his skill as a pilot that defeats the flying drones. Even then, he was no match for the Winter Soldier). They were human and vulnerable. Captain America even got shot multiple times and was ultimately defeated by The Winter Soldier. But in a touching scene, he was saved by the “power of friendship”, as per Disney’s new memorandum where every ending must be warm and fuzzy.

If this is the current trend, then I have high hopes for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers 2. With all the money they make from movie-goers, it’s about time they gave us a hero flick we deserve — one that is not solely carried on the broad shoulders of its protagonists.

Dayum. You can park an airship on that thing

Dayum. You can park an airship on that thing

 

Wearing my Google-goggles

Google

You’re hanging out with a group of friends, when suddenly, someone asks a random question:

“What do you call the fear of snakes crawling out of the toilet?”

Everyone looks at the person, to try to see if she was serious or not. Finally, a friend curtly replies “GMG” with a mocking smile.

This stands for “Google Mo Gago” (or “Google Mo Gurl” if you want to be polite), a snappy way of saying that the answer is easily within reach, if only there was a search engine where you can type things in a box and have the answer return instantaneously.

Now, wherever can we find that? #sarcasm

Nowadays, if you are connected to the internet, you can consider yourself near-omniscient. All it takes are a few choice words in the Google search engine and voila! Instant knowledge at 320 kbps.

I’ve had a lot of free time lately and when I’m not out looking for a job, I spend most of my time googling random brain-farts. I would be browsing through several LinkedIn articles related to improving a resume when suddenly, the silliest thought would enter my mind, like: “Why are clouds  white?” or “Why is there a face on the moon?”

It would take approximately 5 seconds to know the answer. ( I counted. You can see for yourself if you are doubtful).

1. One second clicking a new tab.

2. Another 2.5 typing the keywords. In this case, it’s “Why is there a face…”.

3. By then Google, cheeky bastard that he is, will auto-suggest the next set of words: “…on the moon?”.

4. Press Enter, wait 1.5 seconds for the wiki page to load…

5. Spend two seconds scanning the paragraph, to ultimately learn that the phenomenon of seeing a face on the moon is called “lunar pareidolia” (para here means instead, and eidolon means image)

Now, is this information important? Definitely not. Will it help me get a new job? Unlikely.

The best I can hope for is that “lunar pareidolia” will be the final answer in an episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? where I am a contestant. They’ll then make a movie based on the events, a Slumdog-esque film titled “The Googler” starring Andrew Garfield. But maybe that’s too ambitious.

While not necessarily useful, knowing this bit of trivia satisfies me in several ways (not like that, perv):

At the shallowest level, it quenches my curiosity instantaneously, with minimal effort. Deeper, it builds self-esteem in knowing things that others do not.

On the grandest scale, new knowledge makes the world familiar and accessible.

A deeper understanding of  a phenomenon, like the Man on the Moon for example, or the Ukrainian conflict, places it within the realm of knowable things. By extension, it then becomes part of an individual’s universe (akin to simply seeing a group of stars, versus knowing that these stars are actually white dwarfs and compose a part of Ursa Major).

It is not enough to be a mere spectator. One must actively pursue knowledge in order to expand one’s world.

 

moon

There are obvious disadvantages to instantaneous information, though these deal more with the handling of knowledge.

Before, whenever we had a burning question, it would haunt us for days. Restricted by our ignorance,  we are left to wonder until we stumble upon the answer via an encyclopedia, news clipping, or a know-it-all relative. The effort to obtain a singular fact is sometimes so difficult that the info tends to get seared on our brain.

Compare that to how accessible information is nowadays, where you can access a vast ocean of knowledge with a single click, and it isn’t far-fetched to think how all this can be taken for granted. After all, you’ll always have access to information, is there really a need to memorize every single thing?

There is also less time spent wondering. As soon as you formulate a question, the answer follows shortly within a few seconds. There is not enough time spent savoring curiosity or the pursuit of knowledge.

Why am I writing all this? (aside from promoting Google, in hopes that Google Philippines will read this and contact me) It’s because lately, I have become somewhat of an “information junkie”.

With all the free time in the world, I would literally spend hours researching things on Google. Often I’d get lost in the information blackhole that is Wikipedia, where a simple search for “teetotalism” (complete abstinence from beer) somehow leads to “18th century dueling etiquette” and then to a “brief overview of Henry VIII as a ruler” (spoilers: lots of beheadings). I love living in the gap between “not knowing” and “knowing”.

Turns  out research is something I genuinely enjoy, and I am even toying with the idea of making a career out it. Google has been sort of like a best friend during this time of unemployment. With auto-suggest on, we even finish each other’s sentences. A sign of true love.

But no matter how much I love searching for things, I can never find the correct keywords to know what “fear of toilet snakes” is, which is an irrational fear I actually have.

If someone knows the answer, do tell me. I really need to go to the bathroom.

It lives!!! (again)

Wow, it sure is dusty in here…

 

Let me just open the windows and clean up a bit before inviting you guys back in.

 

There we go. All set. Just mind the cobwebs, please.

 

*ahem*

 

Welcome to Sideways Writing, a personal blog born from the gunk of my mind.

It’s been forever since my last update (February of last year, to be exact), and for that, I sincerely apologize, especially to the select few who are still following me here. (you know who you are, you lovely devils).

A blogger’s biggest sin is to leave a site barren for months. But for the longest time, I didn’t really feel the need to blog as much. My “writing itch” was scratched by a job in the publishing industry, where I made articles on a daily basis. By the end of the day, my creative juice was all used up, leaving me too burned out to update my blog. This was up until December, when I finally left my job to pursue other things.

Now that I am at a career crossroads, it’s time to revive this blog again, to keep my mind sharp and to satiate the muse within. After all, my whole writing career was realized in the blogosphere; it is only fitting that I return here every once in a while, where everything began.

Because maybe sometimes, the only way to grow is to go back to one’s roots.

Image

“Oohh. How deep and full of crap.”

 

 

A new look-and-feel

I made a few changes to the site, layout-wise and content-wise. I’ve been toying with the idea of making alternative comics that deviate from the usual superhero stories (think Maus, Onion Jack, or other obscure american works). I’ll be posting them at the Strips section on Thusday so watch out for that (rendering is a bitch without a decent scanner).

Also, there is another section called Pop, where i’ll be bashing fanboying reviewing recent movies or series I’ve watched. Occasionally, I’ll be throwing in a game review to the mix, but since buying a new console game is now as expensive as getting bypass surgery, these reviews will be very rare.