Friday, August 29, 2014

Recitals During JCM Opening Program


I was given the opportunity to accompany by piano two recital performances during the official launching of Joy Campus Ministry (JCM) in Bicol University last August 26, first was a cover of Mandy Moore's version of "Only Hope" and the second was a violin duet of "Canon in D Major."  Unfortunately, we weren't able to bring an actual piano to the venue, hence I had to use this defective keyboard which has several faulty and dead keys.  The performance, in respect to my playing, wasn't as good as the practices.  Nonetheless, it was still fun playing with talented musicians for the glory of God. 



Monday, August 25, 2014

Top 10 PC Games I Had Played in My Pre-Teens and Teens


In a past list, I already covered the vintage PC games (which run in Windows ’95) that I played during my childhood.  This time around, I’ll be tackling the favorite games of mine during another period of my life – when I was 11 to 16 years old, late elementary to high school.
     
“Top 10 PC Games I Had Played Which I Even Cut Classes For” could be an alternate title for this list.  I was so into them, that I could cut classes so I can play them.  Ah, those were the days.  It was in Grade 5 when I learned to cut classes so I can instead go play PC games in Internet cafes.  And when I was in high school, I was habitually cutting classes to hang out with my high school gang in the Internet Cafes near my school (and when I mean “near”, I mean hundreds of meters away).  Heck, the name of my high school posse was “Cutting Classes Club.”  Boys will always be full of mischief.  LOL.  Thank God, it never really got too serious enough that put our academics in peril (though we got into some minor troubles with our school nonetheless).

Anyway, these are the games that I was so into that I opt to play them during most of my free time, and often even compelled me to skip classes so I can play them.    

DISCLAIMER: Screenshots are not mine.  I just Googled them.     

10.) TEAM FORTRESS

What makes Team Fortress unique from other first-person shooter PC games from Valve Corporation is that there are different playable classes to choose from.  Each class has a different set of unique skills and weaponry, with each class having different strengths and weaknesses; thus, there is a “rock-paper-scissors” philosophy that players had to consider in choosing what classes to play.   There is a need for a team to find the proper mix of classes, to be as diverse and balanced as best as they can be.  This makes the game’s teamwork aspect more cerebral than Counter-Strike.  Nonetheless, despite having a more sophisticated gameplay, Team Fortress wasn’t nearly as popular in my gaming circles as other first-person shooter games like Half-Life or Counter-Strike

9.) NBA LIVE

 
NBA 2K, in the present, has emerged as the premier NBA video game series, but back in my time, the NBA Live series was more popular.  If I remember it correctly, I started with NBA Live 2003, and the last version of the game that I got to play was NBA Live 2007.  I got to play the NBA Live games in both PC and Playstation but I was more comfortable playing it with the former. 

8.) HALF-LIFE

 
Half-Life is considered by many gamers as one of the greatest games of all time due to its mentally stimulating gameplay and brilliant story.  However, my affection for Half-Life wasn’t due to playing through its mission-narrative, where most of the praise is, but in its free-for-all multiplayer option wherein players battle each other, every man for himself, competing who will get the highest kills and least deaths.  I remembered that we really loved the part wherein a red button can be pushed after a period of time, which will start a countdown for an explosion covering the map, and everybody had to race to the bunker since anybody outside the bunker is automatically killed by the blast.   

7.) BATTLE REALMS

 
Despite the bugs, especially the capability to immediately destroy any structure by just selecting it and pressing “Ctrl+D”, Battle Realms was one of my most favorite strategy game to play back then.  Its Asian theme, the colorful variety of units from the four playable factions/clans (Dragon, Serpent, Wolf, and Lotus), the gorgeous graphics, and the multi-linear story of the mission mightily appealed to me.  It was also the first strategy game I played that I had encountered the concept of “hero”-type units, which is a major reason why this game is so memorable to me. 
      
6.) RAGNAROK! ONLINE

This is the first and only MMORPG (massively multi-player online role-playing game) that I got so engrossed with.  I don’t know what is its status now, but when this game first entered the country, prepaid cards are required to play it.  Hence, this is probably the game that has made me spend the most amount of money, for buying the prepaid cards and for paying for the Internet café sessions to play it.  Still, I really had fun with this game.  It was my first experience with MMORPG that I was greatly fascinated with the concept of maintaining a character in a virtual world.  Also another selling point was its animation style: cute, anime-style characters existing in a stunning 3D environment, which I found very appealing and delightful.  Eventually, after some time, I grew tired of the non-linear, repetitive gameplay, plus the expensive cost of playing it, that I quit Ragnarok! completely.         
 
5.) WARCRAFT III

I had never played the Warcraft games prior this; Warcraft III was my first encounter with the Warcraft franchise.  From the first time I got to play this game, I loved it right away (beating my two opponents during that first game helped much in making me immediately love the game).  It’s definitely one of the smartest strategy game ever created.  Heck, it’s probably even more complicated than StarCraft.  I adored greatly the fantasy world and mythology that Warcraft III established (which World of Warcraft is enjoying now), and its story (from the campaigns) blew me away due to its depth, awesome characterizations, and superior narrative. 

Most importantly, Warcraft III also served as the platform for the revolutionary game Defense of the Ancients, popularly known as DOTA, which probably has become more popular than the Warcraft franchise itself. 

4.) COUNTER-STRIKE

 
Counter-Strike was arguably the king of all first-person shooter PC games.  In Counter-Strike, players get to choose whether to play for the “Terrorist” team or “Counter-Terrorist” team.  Each round starts with all players spawning at the same time and having the opportunity to buy weapons and equipment (if they survive the round, these are carried over to the next round).  Each team should accomplish its respective objective (depending on the map) or wipe out all of the opposing team’s members to win a round.

3.) STARCRAFT

 
StarCraft is probably the most successful and most famous real-time strategy game ever created.  Along with Counter-Strike, this game was one of the earliest PC games that became popular.  Its sci-fi concept of three races – Terran, Protoss, and Zerg – competing for dominance in that particular sector of the galaxy was very interesting.  It’s as challenging and stimulating as Warcraft III, but StarCraft is higher in this list since it was my first encounter with the real-time strategy game genre of such scope and versatility.  Prior StarCraft, the only strategy games I was most familiar with were turn-based strategy games and simulation games; Metal Marines was my only real-time strategy game experience, and its gameplay is not even close to the complexity of StarCraft’s gameplay.  Hence, my great fondness for StarCraft.    

2.) STRONGHOLD

 
The economic aspect of real-time strategy games, i.e. the gathering and management of resources, are often merely secondary to its army-building aspect – the former being simply a means to accomplish the latter.  It was in Stronghold that I first encountered a real-time strategy game in which both aspects are equally exciting and important to the gameplay.  Its “mission” feature even had an economic campaign as well as a military campaign. 

Stronghold is set in during the Medieval period in England, in which as a lord, you have to develop a flourishing economy in your land and at the same time build and maintain a strong military.

The game completely charmed me that even when my peers didn’t get into it, I was satisfied of playing it alone.      

1.) COMMAND & CONQUER: RED ALERT 2

 
It’s not the most sophisticated real-time strategy game around, it’s actually quite simple compared to StarCraft and WarCraft III, but it’s my most favorite for I tremendously enjoyed its simultaneously down-to-earth and wacky premise.  It also had Tanya, who was so hot and badass that she became one of my most favorite fictional female characters ever.  Moreover, most importantly, it was probably the PC game in which I was most good at.  So there. 

I have already written years ago an article solely about RA2, so if you want my more thorough insights about it, just go read that.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

'Attack on Titan' is the 'Game of Thrones' of Anime



First of all, for the record, I’m not really a fan of Game of Thrones.  Yet.  I know it’s one of the hottest shows in TV right, but I still don’t follow it.  I’m still postponing my jumping into its fandom, not only because I am already into a lot of TV series right now, but because I intend to read the books (which I haven’t get the chance yet) before really immersing myself into that show.  Also, honestly, its reputation for having so much gratuitous nudity and sex – almost borderline pornography – does turn me off a bit (really).  Nonetheless, I am aware of what makes Game of Throne, well, Game of Thrones: a fantasy of superior-quality, unapologetic violence, a complex plot, shocking game-changing twists that just come out of nowhere, and the penchant for killing well-developed characters that the audience had already grew fond of.  And all those elements are present in Attack on Titan, which I’ve just recently watched (at the present, it has one season with 25 episodes).    

Among all present ongoing anime series, AoT is the most stimulating to watch.  There’s a rich amount of emotion in its narrative, the drama and action are very engrossing, its management of its characters are extremely well done, and it incites a lot of insight.  In AoT, I’ve never found this kind of depth in an anime since Code Geass.  Really.  AoT is just that amazing.   

In the world of Attack on Titan, or Shingeki no Kyojin in Japanese (which means “advancing giants”), the remnants of humanity live in a country protected from Titans by three tiers of gargantuan and extensive walls – Wall Maria (outer wall), Wall Rose (middle wall), and Wall Sinna (the final and innermost wall).  For a century, the first wall, Maria, was able to hold back the Titans, ensuring humans to enjoy peace.  The status quo changed when a colossal 60-meter Titan broke through Maria’s wall, allowing the Titans to invade human land.

Titans are nude, genitalia-less giants of varying heights that have dumb, crazy looks on their faces – sometimes with filthy, nutty smiles – as if they are high, psychotic hobo-baby hybrids.  The description I made in that last sentence seems to make the Titans look weird and silly, but they are actually terrifying.  They are mindless but they have a zombie-like drive to go after humans.  Their sudden appearance in the world brought humanity to the brink of extinction.  However, they actually don’t hunt, kill, and eat humans for the sake of food – it seems they have no need to nourish themselves with food – since they just vomit out the corpses they have devoured; it’s just that murdering and eating humans are their innate impulse.  They are nigh invulnerable, for they have a quick healing factor and any body parts they lose will only regenerate.  The only way to kill them is to cut through their nape severely. 

To fight the Titans, humanity has their military, which is divided into three parts: the corrupt and useless Military Police; the Garrison Squad, who are in charge of guarding the walls; and the elite Recon/Survey Corps, who go beyond the walls to Titan-infested lands, hence, are the most competent soldiers to fight Titans (and in which group the main characters of AoT chose to join in). 

The military’s soldiers are armed with swords (for slashing Titan’s flesh, especially the nape) and 3D Maneuver Gears (or “Vertical Maneuvering Equipment”), which are like the stuff in Sky Commanders (a GI-Joe rip-off back in the days), only cooler.  The equipment enables the soldiers to swing around buildings and trees a la Spider-Man, giving them more mobility and better access in combating the Titans in high heights and slashing their napes. 

Attack on Titan tells the story of the struggles and lives of these soldiers – particularly, the trio of Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackermann, and Arminn Arlert; their batchmates from military boot camp; and the other members of the Survey Corps (wherein Eren and his batchmates decide to join after their graduation) – that have to face the hazards and carry the burden of going against murderous Titans in behalf of humanity’s protection and advancement.  Like Game of Thrones, the story of AoT is heavily character-driven.   It develops its characters very well, put plenty of personality and likability on them to get the audience invested in the characters as much as the story.  Thus, the audiences are really affected and even pained whenever these characters are killed in action.  It has established a feeling that no character is safe.  Everybody is fair game.  Everybody can get killed without moment’s notice. 

Heck, in an early episode, the main character, Eren, even got killed – he was eaten by a Titan.  Of course, a few episodes later, in a well-executed twist (for the record, all plot twists, though not all unexpected, have been well-executed), it was revealed that Eren was not really dead, that he actually has the ability to regenerate and transform into a Titan, and with his power manifesting for the first time, he burst out from the Titan that had eaten him.  The narrative was centrally being moved forward through Eren, but the whole thing was done in a way where you will never expect that he will actually come back.  At that point on, I really thought he was permanently dead, that he was a red herring and not the real main character.  It was awesome.  It was in Eren’s “death” where I actually went “Holy Tilda Swinton (go see Orphan Black to get the reference), this anime is so Game of Thrones-y!” since it was as if done in a Ned Stark manner.             

An interesting facet of AoT is how effectively it conveyed the cruelties and realities of war.  Yes, it has produced badass battle sequences.  But, again, because of the well-done character developments, deaths that rose from these battles have meaning and impact.  Us that are watching can easily empathize on the surviving characters that are scarred from the horrors they have gone through.  It also tackled the realistic principles in war, that death and sacrifice are necessary and should be willingly done for the sake of the greater good.  One memorable quote in the anime was, “Someone who can’t sacrifice anything can never change anything.”          

I appreciate AoT’s fast pacing; it seems a lot has happened already in its 25 episodes.  But, still, I just can’t get enough of it.  I do not know when the next season will be, and it needs to come fast.   AoT, for me, is best experienced in an anime format; therefore, I won’t read the manga as long as I can help it, so that I can enjoy any plot development in the anime without any foreknowledge of it due to reading the manga.  But if its new season doesn’t get here soon enough, then I’ll probably be led to check on the manga to get my needed AoT fix. 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

I ❤ 'Orphan Black'



The title says it all.  I love Orphan Black.  It’s a truly awesome TV series.  At this point, my fondness for it is the same I had for True Detective.  The story is extremely absorbing, and Tatiana Maslany is simply brilliant.  It’s something understandably worth being excited and invested about.    

Orphan Black is about a group of clones (all played by Tatiana Maslany) that have become self-aware of their real identities and have banded together, along with some allies and confidants – informally called the “Clone Club” – to seek answers for the mysteries of their biology and origins, deal with the various threats to their existence, and face the struggles of their remarkable lives. 

Orphan Black has always been in my radar, and I was really intrigued by how the show is generating a lot of buzz – especially about how awesome Tatiana Maslany’s acting is in her portrayal of multiple characters – but I did not immediately check it out because of the crowded TV series lineup that I’m already following.  But I finally get the chance/time to marathon on its two seasons when the majority of TV shows I’ve been watching went on their breaks.  At season one’s first episode, my interest was roused.  At episode three, I became a fan.  And at episode four, I fell in love with everyone of Maslany’s characters and with Orphan Black as a whole.            

Indeed, what I’ve presumed about Orphan Black from the implications of the buzz it was generating is right: the primary cause that makes this show a must-watch is Maslany’s amazing job of putting depth, uniqueness, and personality to each respective clone.  What I mean by that is seeing her performance is enough reason already to watch Orphan Black.  One amusing example of such display of wonderful acting is whenever a clone has to impersonate one of the others, for the expected fakeness and clumsiness of such charade, whether in subtle or evident manners, are so authentically portrayed.  You can’t help but be impressed and enamored of Maslany’s versatility.  Truly, her Emmy snub is an injustice. 

Most of the characters (there is terrific acting from the non-Maslany characters as well) in this show are well-developed and likable; everyone has fascinating complexity in his or her motivations and characterizations.  Among the characters, the most enjoyable are, of course, the clones, who each have their distinctive charms.  Moreover, I find it delightful whenever the clones are interacting, working together, bonding, and just being “sisters”; there’s something heartwarming about it.  The awesome “clone party” at the season 2 finale made my eyes a little bit misty.   

As far as the narrative is concerned, it’s first-rate entertainment.  It’s also very thought-provoking since its themes tackle the different aspects, implications, and moral questions of human cloning.  The suspense is intense, the mystery is gripping, the plot is smart and engaging, and there are several instances where the humor effectively made me laugh out loud (especially whenever Allison and Felix are involved).  There are a lot of fun things about this show.         

So Orphan Black is now part of the growing group of ongoing TV series I’m following.  But it will definitely be among my most favorite ones, of which new episodes I would look forward to the most. I have high expectations for this show – introduction of new clones, more great character developments, consistent dosage of creative twists, sustaining the overall excellent quality of the show, etc. – and the momentum that it set in its first two seasons made me optimistic that it’s going to be more fantastic in season 3. 

2015 (schedule for season 3) can’t get here soon enough. 

Miss the Clone Club much...

Sunday, August 03, 2014

RE: ASM #4's Introduction of Silk


Unbeknownst to Peter Parker, the irradiated spider that gave him his Spidey powers was able to bite another one after it had bitten him.  This other recipient of spider powers was some girl named Cindy Moon, who has been locked down by Ezekiel (an important Amazing Spider-Man character back when J. Michael Straczynski was the writer for the book in the 2000’s) in a bunker all these years to prevent Morlun (another important character in Straczynski’s ASM run) from going after them.  Per the “Original Sin” event (wherein the supposed secrets of the Marvel Universe has been revealed in an attempt to introduce new characters and retcon old ones), this fact has finally been made known to Spider-Man.

    
Afterwards, Spider-Man proceeded to bust her out of her bunker. Hence, after getting glimpses of Cindy in the past issues, she has finally made her full appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #4.   


And the first characteristic we learned about the character is she can swear like a sailor.

We, through Spidey’s commentary, also get to evaluate her powers.  She’s faster than Spidey, but apparently less strong.  She also has a more potent spider-sense.

I like how Spidey describes it as “Matrix/bullet-time good,” made the whole initial-display-of-powers process interesting.  

Aside from the spider-speed and spider-sense, she can wield organic webs from her fingertips, which are more versatile than Spidey’s web formula.  At one point, Silk got to catch Spider-Man by making a web with a barbed tip, much to Spidey’s amazement.  She even used it to construct herself an impromptu costume.

Since the “Spider-Woman” and “Spider-Girl” names are both taken, this new Spider-character’s name is “Silk.”  Frankly, “Silk” doesn’t work for me.  It sounds boring, dumb, unremarkable, and lacked impact.  Also, I hope this improvised web costume of hers isn’t a permanent look, which I find unexciting and dull.

As mentioned earlier, Ezekiel hid Cindy Moon to keep Morlun away.  For mere moments after Spidey freed Cindy from her bunker…

So one of the purposes of this character’s creation is to put the epic “Spider-Verse” into motion, and she is, obviously, going to play an important role in it. 

And in the last page of ASM #4, we understand Morlun’s “Spider-Bride” remark a little bit better.    

Whoa.  Silk is going to be Spider-Man’s new love interest?  This development – their spider-senses giving them a special empathy for each other, compelling them to be drawn to one another – is the most intriguing thing about Silk’s addition to the Spider-Man mythos.    

So, overall, my first impression of Silk is… well, I’m not yet sure.  I would have definitely welcomed her warmly if there is no Spider-Woman character already, or that she was meant to become the new Spider-Woman or Spider-Girl character.  The “Spider-Bride” angle and the “Matrix/bullet-time good” powers show some promise for this character.  It is possible for something awesome to happen out of all of this. 

On the other hand, there are aspects I don’t like.  Again, I would have been excited if she was going to be a new Spider-Woman, but she isn’t.  At this point, to me, it feels like that this character’s conception has been gratuitous.  The Marvel Universe (Earth-616) is getting crowded with Spider-types already, and this present Spider-characters population kind of sips a little out of Spider-Man’s uniqueness as a character.  More so with Silk, since she shares the same origin as Spidey’s.  Furthermore, it feels like Spider-Man’s characterization has been cheapened with Silk receiving better spider powers from the same irradiated spider that bit Peter.  

I hope Dan Slott (current writer of ASM) would properly develop this character well and would have a brilliant justification for her inclusion in the Marvel Universe or, at least, in Spider-Man’s world.  I think I will be satisfied with, at least, significant character depth and smart plot purpose for Silk.  These would probably make me love this new character eventually.  But if she was created merely for the sake of having something shocking to reveal for “Original Sin” and as a catalyst to kick off “Spider-Verse,” then I would probably dislike her instead.   For now, it’s still too early to really tell.  

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Top 10 Asian Martial Artists in Fiction



Martial arts’ depiction in fiction, especially when on screen, is one of the most exciting pieces of action I’ve ever encountered.  There is something awesome with how the human body can perform close combat with such beautiful, fast, fluid, and masterful motions.  Of course, in real life, combat is actually brutal and messy, and not at all as elegant as a choreographed martial arts scene.  That’s why it is only in its romanticized depiction wherein we can best enjoy, appreciate, and gratify ourselves with displays of martial arts execution. 

Aside from mastery in close-combat, fictional martial artists also often share these common characteristics: determination, a sincere love for martial arts, confidence in their abilities, finding thrill or joy in sparing with other capable opponents, and a resolute desire to improve their skills.  Hence, despite ending up as clichéd sometimes, they still prove to be colorful and striking fictional characters due to these archetypal qualities.   

In this list are the fictional characters that I think have been made more interesting as characters because of their identities as martial arts practitioners.  As the title implies, I’ve limited this list to those characters that have explicit Asian racial origins and have been identified to practice an Asian martial arts discipline (real or fictional), regardless of citizenships, since the terms “martial arts” and “martial artist” are often typecast with “Asian” anyway.  So, non-Asian practitioners of some sort of Asian martial arts like Iron Fist, Beatrix Kiddo, and the “American Ninja” are not considered for this list (maybe they can be featured on another separate list someday).                     

10.) RANMA SAOTOME

Because he was trained in “Anything Goes Martial Arts” (just by the name alone of Ranma’s martial arts discipline is interesting already) since he was merely two years old, 16-year old Ranma is already a tough, versatile, and masterful martial artist.  Due to an accident while he was training with his father alongside some cursed springs (this plot device is the primary reason of Ranma ½’s uniqueness and charm as several characters are afflicted with different transformation curses from the springs), Ranma gained the peculiar but fascinating ability of transforming into a girl whenever he is soaked with water of cold or moderate temperature.  To return to his normal male self, he needs to be soaked in hot water.  Ranma is a stronger and more durable fighter with a longer reach when he is in male form, but is faster and more agile when in female form.           

9.) PO

Po is the main character of the delightful Kung Fu Panda movies.  At first, everyone found it hard to picture the fat, food-loving Po as the “Dragon Warrior” foretold by legend.   Though very enthusiastic about martial arts, Po was clumsy and inept.  Eventually, Po proved to possess a lot of heart, that he persevered, overcame his weaknesses and all the doubts, mastered Kung Fu, and turned out to be the hero that he was destined to be.      

8.) WONG FEI-HUNG (Once Upon a Time in China)

Wong Fei-Hung is a real-life folk hero in Chinese history (lived from 1847 to 1924), but his popularity allowed for many fictionally depiction of him in many films and TV shows.  One of these depictions, and my most favorite, is Jet Li’s character in the “Once Upon a Time in China” movies, which I adored when I was a kid (there was a period in the 90’s when I was so into Chinese martial arts flicks).  He was one of the early martial arts characters that charmed me with their Kung Fu awesomeness.          

7.) WONG FEI-HUNG (Drunken Master)

Many of the most entertaining martial arts sequences in film ever involve Jackie Chan (who choreographs them himself), so there are several interesting Jackie Chan-portrayed martial artist characters.  My most favorite, however, is his Drunken Master hero, Wong Fei-Hung (I’m not sure if it’s another depiction of the folk hero as the same with no. 8, or a spoof, or merely an incidental similarity).  What makes this character very interesting is that he requires to be intoxicated with alcohol to be highly proficient in combat.  With tipsy movements and form, he is able to fight – and win – in an extremely entertaining way.      

5.) & 6.) MIGHT GUY & ROCK LEE

Naruto has two enjoyable martial artists in Might Guy and his protégé, Rock Lee.  As ninjas, both have very low aptitude in ninjutsu (ninja techniques) and genjutsu (illusions) – though Might Guy has shown some mastery on some ninjutsu techniques (like dispelling genjutsu and summoning tortoises), while Rock Lee is currently still incapable of ninjutsu and genjutsu – hence, they have been primarily concentrating on taijutsu, or the ninja’s skills and strengths with regards to physical close-combat.  Since they are focused on taijutsu, they have become vastly adept in it that they have reached the point where their taijutsu prowess is adequate to allow them to comfortably do without ninjutsu and genjutsu in becoming successful and strong ninjas.   They have no trouble in standing on equal ground with talented ninjas that are capable in all three ninja skills. 

4.) SON GOKU

Son Goku is the hero of Dragon Ball Z, one of the most popular anime ever.  He is such an iconic character that there is no need to expound on who he is.  There is no need for any further explanation of his inclusion in this list. (Technically, Goku is an alien, so he does not have the “implied Asian racial origin” qualification.  But I have to make an exception for him.  Besides, he has already adopted an Asian characterization.)      
 
3.) SHANG-CHI

Shang-Chi is obviously conceived to exploit the popularity of Hong Kong martial arts films.  Nonetheless, he has remained a relevant Marvel Comics character ever since his creation.  He has been a secret agent, a crime fighter, and even become an Avenger. 

Shang-Chi has no superpowers, but being nicknamed “Master of Kung Fu”, it is presumed that he is one of the best, if not the best, martial artist in the Marvel Universe.  He has even been even able to best those that have superpowers in battle. Primarily using the discipline of Wushu, Shang-Chi is highly proficient in both empty-handed and armed aspects of close-combat.

2.) RYU

 
Ryu could be the most famous character, not only in the Street Fighter franchise, but in all “beat-‘em up” games.  Even at first glance, despite the simple character design, Ryu has a distinct intensity and coolness that make him a memorable and likable character.  The character’s trademark moves and “Hadouken” projectile (though similar with his buddy, Ken – an American, hence disqualified from this list) are the main reasons he is a formidable and notable fighter.  His back story also portrayed him as a dedicated and focused martial artist that continually desire to improve himself, giving more depth to the character.     
  
1.) KATO                           

There is a reasonable general consensus that considers Bruce Lee as the greatest martial arts actor ever.  Many fictional martial artists are patterned to him or the characters he portrayed on screen.  But my most favorite Bruce Lee character is Kato. 

Kato is supposedly the sidekick of the Green Hornet, but, seriously, with no exaggeration, it is clear to me that Kato is a better character than the Green Hornet.  Kato is smarter, more badass, and a deeper character than Green Hornet.  He is a very skillful driver, the more capable fighter, and the creator of the car and gadgets that the duo uses in their crime fighting adventures.  So, Kato is more awesome.  And I think I’m not alone with this perception that Kato is more interesting than the Green Hornet.  Anyone who have watched The Green Hornet TV show (and even the awful 2011 movie) has to agree with me.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chain of Thoughts on Avengers NOW!


Post-AXIS (Marvel’s upcoming mega-event featuring the X-Men and the Avengers), Marvel will be having another relaunching scheme called Avengers NOW!  Basically, it’s another Marvel NOW! – build new and initially intriguing status quos, rebrand many titles with a bunch of issue ones, and, voila!, watch the sales skyrocket – but only this time around, it is, obviously, more centered around the Avengers.  At this point, I’m still cool with another relaunching, but if there is going to be another NOW!-type attempt to boost comic book sales next year – like an X-Men NOW! – then I will be real annoyed.  Sure, it makes business sense, but in a creativity stand-point, it will feel gimmicky and gratuitous – bankrupt of any genuine imagination.             

Anyway, some few thoughts…
 
→ This promo art depicts the characters that will be significantly involved in Avengers NOW!.  I understand that these merely mean that new comic book titles will headline or will include these characters.  Nonetheless, utilizing these characters to promote something called Avengers NOW! gives the implication that ALL these characters in the promo art are going to be members or contributors to an Avengers team or, at least, an Avengers-linked comic book title.     I will be really disappointed if this won’t be so.  Because calling the whole thing Avengers NOW!, and then featuring these characters in its promo but actually not involving them at any form at all with the Avengers is somewhat exploitive and lacks sensibility . 
→ There are massive changes on all three major Avengers: Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor.  And I’m not too excited about these changes.
→ First, there will be a new Captain America.  It seems that 90-something-year-old Steve Rogers will lose the super-soldier serum in his body, retire from superheroing and adopt more of a “strategist” role (same as the time he was “the Captain” – commander of both the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. – while Bucky a.k.a. Winter Soldier was bearing the “Captain America” mantle) in the Avengers, and hand the shield and the “Captain America” name to Sam Wilson a.k.a. the Falcon.
→ Among the changes on the top 3 Avengers, this is the one I don’t like at all, for a couple of reasons. 
→ No, I am not particularly against a black Captain America (that’s silly), but I’m against anybody else aside from Steve Rogers becoming Captain America.  Though I don’t feel strongly about it as much as I feel about somebody replacing Peter Parker as Spider-Man, I am still uncomfortable about someone else other than Steve Rogers as Captain America.  Captain America is one of those superheroes in which many of the reasons that make them lovable are rooted on their alter egos’ characteristics.  Steve Rogers is a magnificent tactician; a moral badass; a charming, gruff old-timer (since he’s from a different time); and an embodiment of many of USA’s perceived quintessential values.  His characterization and character history makes him the perfect “Captain America.” Sam Wilson is indeed a fine superhero, but no other Marvel character’s characterization and character history can match up to the kind of pedigree that Steve Roger has.  Besides, some other heroes – Hawkeye and Winter Soldier – had been “Captain America” before, but the name always comes back to Steve Rogers because no one else is really worthy in the end.  The name is his birthright.
→ I also don’t like the character design of this new Captain America.  Since Sam Wilson is no super-soldier like Steve Rogers, and his only form of “super”-power is probably the ability to communicate and control birds (lol), it makes sense that he would opt to keep his Falcon wings (so he can still fly).  Still, wearing wings and carrying the Captain America shield at the same time awfully looks inelegant, clumsy, and inconvenient.  The best weapons that Sam Wilson can carry while having wings are guns, as awesomely depicted by Anthony Mackie’s Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier
→ Also, a “Captain America” should always be the leader.  It feels a bit off for “Captain America” to be just a regular member of the Avengers (though it has been done), merely following orders instead of giving them.  Sam Wilson is a soldier and is smart, but he’s no Steve Rogers (again, Rogers is a magnificent tactician).  He wouldn’t be quite as good as Steve as a field leader for the Avengers.  We don’t know yet if Sam Wilson’s Captain America is going to be a regular member or the leader of the Avengers.   But either way, it’ll be underwhelming.
→ Something will happen that will make the Thor we know no longer worthy to possess Mjolnir.  (It all makes sense now why he is wielding Jarnbjorn instead of Mjolnir in some promo artworks for AXIS.)  There is going to be a new wielder worthy of Mjolnir, and this new wielder is going to be a she!  However, she will not only inherit Mjolnir, but the “Thor” name as well.  Wait, what?  
→ According to Marvel’s press release:
“This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is Thor. This is the Thor of the Marvel Universe. But it's unlike any Thor we've ever seen before.”
Hmmm.  I like the character design and the concept of a girl wielding Mjolnir, but I think it is dumb and senseless to suddenly set “Thor” up as a girl just like that.  Come on, Thor is the god – not goddess – of thunder.  It’s not like “Thor” is a mere superhero code name like “Captain Marvel” that can just be adopted by either sex with no problem at all (it actually worked perfectly for Carol Danvers).  “Thor” is the actual name of a male character.  From his mythological origins to the character popularized by Marvel, “Thor” is an established masculine name for an established male fictional character.  Just as it feels absurd to read something like
“This January: Peter Parker loses his powers, which are mysteriously transferred to Carlie Cooper!  With Peter Parker no longer needing and capable to own the ‘Spider-Man’ name, Carlie Cooper will assume the name to herself, to become the all-new ‘Spider-Man’ – not ‘Spider-Woman’ (that’s taken already), not ‘Spider-Girl’ (also taken), and not ‘Lady Spider’; she is Spider-Man from now on!  Don’t miss the relaunched Amazing Spider-Man #1!”
so is what I felt when I encountered this the-new-Thor-is-a-girl announcement.    
→ We still don’t know much about this new Thor.   But I think she will be introduced at the culmination of the ongoing Thor-Loki-Angela tale in the “Original Sin” event.
    
→ Since the whole SpOck thing is now over, the “Superior” adjective is very much available for the taking.  And the new owner of such obnoxious description is Iron Man, which I think is a character that is actually a better fit for it than Spider-Man.  Unlike the first two Avengers undergoing dramatic changes mentioned above, the man behind the superhero name will remain the same with “Iron Man.”  Still, despite of Tony Stark remaining as Iron Man, the new Superior Iron Man status quo change is as dramatic as if a new character is inside the armor
→ From Marvel’s EIC, Axel Alonso:
“What you're seeing in Superior Iron Man is a Tony Stark who’s seen both his worst and best impulses all let loose. It is Tony, but he’s going to be in a zone now where he’s never been. He's more ambitious, cunning, egotistical ... all of those quantities are unharnessed. He has a vision for the world. I like to think his position is defensible — controversial, but defensible.”
→ Ooooh… Among the three changes – Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man – this is the development I am fascinated the most.  I’m not saying I approve and am thrilled about it.  Not really.  But it’s legitimately interesting; the premise sounds intriguingly sensible and solid enough.   
→ Considering the fact that Tony Stark behaved very much like a supervillain during the “Civil War” event a couple of years ago, a darker, “mad-genius” rendition of the character, that would readily proceed to call himself “superior” regularly (just as what Doc Ock as Spidey had done), could probably work.  I’m expecting this new Tony Stark to be something like Adrian Veidt a.k.a. Ozymandias (from Watchmen) in terms of methods and rationalization, and be a bigger A-hole than Robert Downey, Jr.’s MCU portrayal. 
→ Also, since Tony Stark is the one bankrolling the Avengers, how will this development affect the team and his role in it?  Another interesting detail to ponder on.
→ Between these and the whole “Death of Wolverine” thing, some big and controversial shake-ups are happening to Marvel’s most major heroes that long-time fans (at least, Spidey is done with his turn with this stuff… hopefully) might find upsetting.   I’m not much bothered about these developments since nothing is permanent in comics.  After my whole experience with SpOck, I am more confident of this truth.   It’s even probable that everything will be back to normal – Steve Rogers is Captain America once more, Thor has his Mjolnir and “Thor” name back, and Tony Stark is a “good guy” again – sooner than later.  I’m gonna chill, and give these new stuff a look. 
→ Let me take this opportunity to detail some developments I actually want to see in the Avengers books, of which I wish Avenger NOW! is actually all about. 
  1. Spider-Man in the Secret Avengers.  Considering Peter Parker’s parentage (Richard and Mary Parker were C.I.A. and then S.H.I.E.L.D. agents), there is an awesome plot to be made from there.  I would love to see some regular espionage-style superheroing from Spider-Man (in his black costume, of course) in a Secret Avengers roster. 
  2. The memberships of the characters I’ve enumerated in my “Top 20 Characters I Want to Become Avengers” list. 
  3. MORE DOOMBOT!  Seriously, Avengers A.I. was an awesome comic book, and Doombot was the most awesome thing about it.  Definitely would love to see him in a more prominent Avenger role. 
  4. Moon Knight and Daredevil back as Avengers.
  5. Moon Knight and Hyperion simultaneously in an Avengers team.  And with a lot of exposures for both.  Being analogues for Batman and Superman, respectively, I would find such happening extremely amusing. 
  6. Hulk and Red Hulk simultaneously in one Avengers team.  Two Hulks might seem redundant.  But I just feel that it’s going to be awesome.
  7. This crazy roster: Captain Marvel (leader), Hyperion, Moon Knight, Doombot, Gambit, Howard the Duck, Hercules (or Hulk and Red Hulk at the same time), Echo (resurrect her!), Falcon (patterned with Anthony Mackie’s Falcon), Scarlet Spider (or Spider-Man 2099), Hank Pym (with yet another new superhero name), Human Torch (as a member of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four at the same time), Starbrand, Emma Frost (seriously, the Avengers should always have a capable telepath among them.  It’s what has been lacking in most of the team’s rosters through the years), Hawkeye (but Emma Bishop instead of Clint Barton), Mr. Immortal, Phil Coulson (serving as an official Avengers member and S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison), and Loki.  You can check out my rationale for some of these names in this line-up in my “Top 20 Characters I Want to Become Avengers” list.  The three main Avengers – Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor – will be in sabbatical from being Avengers during this time.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Be. Still.



Whenever there are storms in my life,
God responds with two words:

"Be. Still."

Either He addresses those words to the storm
Or He addresses them to me.

Either He calms the tempest -
preventing that threatening external stimuli from continuing.
Or He calms my restless heart in turmoil -
giving me internal peace despite the raging storm around me.

Either way, His message to me is the same:
"I. Am. God."

To question Him, I dare not.
He is always in control.
And everything happens in accordance to His perfect, wise will.

Every storm is an opportunity to be awed by God.
His supremacy and goodness always reign.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Do We Need to Consider Nutrition and Eat Healthy Foods? (A Lecture for Nutrition Month)

I was tasked to deliver a short lecture last Monday (July 14) for our students to commemorate Nutrition Month.  This was how it roughly went…

Good morning.

I am here to deliver a short lecture on the significance of being concerned with eating nutritious foods.  Some of the details I will be sharing here are merely taken from your Health lessons.   Nonetheless, I hope that at the end of this short lecture, you will realize the relevance of eating healthy in your lives and be compelled to do your best to maintain a healthy diet.
   
Part 1 – The Body’s Need for Proper Nutrition

Let us start this with a simple question.     
It’s a misconception to think that one is “malnourished” when he or she is thin, and someone is “healthy” when he or she is fat.  Being “well-nourished” is NOT defined by how thin or fat you are, but whether you have the right amount – emphasis on “right amount” – of vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional components that the body requires to function.  Both being too thin and too fat are usually indications of malnourishment – meaning the “right amount” of nutrition is not being met. 

How can we make sure that we are getting the right amount of nutrition from our food intakes?  That’s what the food pyramid is for…

Many nutritionists consider this as the most definite, most comprehensive way of determining the right amount of food intake to ensure that we get the appropriate amount of nutrition that the body needs.  It’s very easy to understand: those that are in the base are the kind of foods that you need to take the most, and as it grows closer to the tip, the less you have to eat such kind of foods.  I will not discuss the food pyramid in detail.  It’s just to introduce or remind you of what guide you can use for a healthy diet.

Part 2 – Some Consequences of Not Getting Proper Nutrition

Now, let us proceed to look at some of the most common diseases that arose whenever there is lack of nutrition in the body, and some of the foods you can eat to avoid them. 

Part 3 – There is a Reason Why They Are Called “Junk” Foods

When we eat healthy foods, the body gains access to and breaks down necessary nutritional components like vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and amino acids so it can repair bodily wear-and-tear and refurbish cells.  However, in junk foods, there is a deficiency of nutritional components in them or none at all.  Aside from that, the toxins in junk foods put strain on the body because it has to work extra hard to flush them out of itself. 

Eating too much junk food can also lead to serious conditions…

Part 4 – Some Tips for Eating Healthy

Here are some basic tips for you as you start adopting a healthy diet…  
 

Part 5 – The Theology of Eating Healthy

As Christians, the Scriptures have provided some implicit insights with regards to the need to eat healthy.   I found four.  Let us read...
      
As Christians, our bodies are the temple of God.  We have a responsibility to take care of it, to keep it healthy.  Moreover, we need to glorify God in all our actions – and the Scripture openly includes eating, since it was the chosen example.  Do you think we are glorifying God in our eating if we are deliberately and gratuitously consuming stuff that can give harm to “God’s temple”?  There are consequences if we are not faithful stewards of these bodies God has given us. 

Eating should not be an end itself.  We should be conscious that eating is designed by God to give “fuel” to our bodies so that we can do the tasks that He entrusted to us and carry on His will in our lives.  I am not saying that it isn’t right to derive pleasure from eating, but, again, it should not be the end purpose itself.  We don’t enjoy earthly delights just for the sake of enjoying earthly delights itself.  Every pleasure we choose to partake in should always lead us to the glory of God (that is for another topic).    So, as we enjoy eating fried chicken, we always need to remember to thank God with each bite for the pleasure it gives us (delicious foods and meals in general are God’s gifts) and remind ourselves that the enjoyment we are deriving from eating  fried chicken is nothing compared to the enjoyment found in God alone

Lastly, there is no actual forbiddance in eating junk food.  It is not sinful to eat chips or drink soft drinks.  But, again, whenever we allow ourselves to exercise our freedom – and that includes eating junk foods – we need to think well if it’s beneficial to us, if it will help our purpose of glorifying God.        

It is up to you to make a decision out of your personal conviction from the Holy Spirit.  But let these Scriptures be your “food for thought” on your choices regarding your diet.  A Christian will always need to consider the glory of God in everything that his life touches on.     

Part 6 – Conclusion

In closing, I guarantee you this: Eating healthy will greatly help you in your school work.  I want you to ponder on this.

Kim John, stand up and please read the slide…

Zion, please read the next slide…

Next, David Daniel, please stand up and read…

Lastly, students, let us all read together…

Amen.  You can forget everything what T. Bernel has said to you, but just remember this one thing: to glorify God in all things, even your food choices, fitness, health, everything.  Glorify God in all things.      

Thank you very much for listening.