Catchy Songs

It's funny, but sometimes there are pleasantly entertaining songs that just won't leave your brain... I present the following YouTube videos for you to enjoy in that vein!

Katamari Damacy
We Love Katamari Damacy
Last Year at the Bookfair...

...I picked up a neat hardbound book containing nearly all the Hitchhiker's Guide novels. It was discounted, but months later it hardly seemed worth the time and effort spent trolling around the World Trade Center floor to buy a series of books that I'd already read.

This year I went into the bookfair with low expectations. I didn't expect to find anything I'd be willing to part with my money for.

Then my wife mentioned that ADB (A Different Bookstore) had a spectacular selection of SF books on sale. P99 each, and there was a buy 2, get one free deal. Then she mentioned that Iain M. Banks was one of the authors whose books were on sale.

Nonchalantly pushing my way through the crowd, I promptly found the stall, saw the hard-to-find Player of Games novel by said author, and picked it up (plus two other novels from his Culture setting).

Yay, wife!
Lit Crit Night

I've learned a lot in the 20+ sessions of Literary Criticism nights that the group has been regularly having these past few months. In addition to many terms and styles of critique, I've managed to identify aspects of the craft in storytelling that I find critical.

I know that critical to my engagement in a story is one of three things: plot, character, or idea (setting or macguffin).

I'm normally engaged in the plot if the situation or the threat is inriguing, or if the conflict is tasty. Naturally, this is often enhanced by one of the other two elements.

I'm often drawn to quintessential characters - people who stand out from the crowd due to excellence in some field despite any failings. However, characters who strike a chord in me because of the truth or versimilitude in their nature (overwhelming love for one's family, sacrifice in the name of principle, human weakness, revenge) also get high points from me.

Idea refers to a cool or interesting setting or macguffin (wondrous or incredibly important thing that enables or is one of the cornerstones of the story). Sometimes, the story is more about the exploration of the setting rather than a strong or intricate plot, or is about revealing the layers beneath the surface of the macguffin, and I find this interesting too.

These may engage my interest, but will never be the only factors in determining how satisfying the story is to me.

More on that... another time.
Reading RPGs

Eskatonic RiteIt's a sad fact that I don't get to run many RPGs these days (though I'm prepping for a return to the Fading Suns campaign and for my series of Pulp Hero adventures).

Instead, I browse through many RPG books and documents that I've accumulated over the years. There are a lot of systems and setting, a lot of layouts and images that instruct or confuse or enlighten.

I've learned about the effects of radiation and the timelines of the 1920s through the 1940s. I've read about various scientific superstructures like Ringworlds and Beanstalks and Dyson Spheres. I've slogged through theories on magic, the supernatural and the preternatural.

I've also exercised my imagination trying to image the light patterns against the face of a dark-skinned tattooed alien watching a space-battle outside the viewports of a starfrigate, a twin sunrise on a crystalline sea, and the view of the arching Ringword above me.

It may not be playing, but it relaxes, entertains and educates.
Industry Watch: RPGs

I'm talking about the original RPGs, the table-top variety! I've been reading the columns and message boards about the terrible state of the industry (RPG publishers).

The picture is hazy, but apparently sales are down, and publishers lay some of the blame at the feet of the distributors or the Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLGS). I suppose it's of note that I can think of almost no gaming store that supports itself solely with RPGs. Gamescape of the San Francisco Bay Area was a store that supported games of all kinds: traditional board games like chess and go, board games and war games, collectible card games, and of course, RPGs. Other stores I went to were a comics / CCG / RPG mixture.

The brick and mortar stores are tricky because there are a wide variety of RPGs our there, and the chance that someone in your area / neighborhood wanting your stuff was good to fair in terms of the "evergreen" RPGs like D&D, but indy and off-the-beaten path games like Over The Edge were hard to find - very hit or miss.

Now many RPG publishers have gone the online route to distribute their stuff, sometimes opening up their own online store! An example is HERO Games, which apparenty doesn't charge for shipping. Even more folks have made their games available in PDF format!

More and more tools are coming out to allow gamers to play these once-tabletop-only games online using chat tools, groupware that allows map sharing and character placement, and other neat stuff.

Is this the changing shape of the RPG industry?
Science Fiction & Spec Fic Sites

I've renewed my interest in writing over the past year, and I've been reading a lot more thanks to Dean's Lit Crit Nights, which have a short lecture and about four (4) stories that we now have to critique each week.

As I attempt to put together stories, my websurfing (ooh, is that term even current anymore?) takes me to a variety of places. Let me share some with you:

1. Phil Spec Fic Message Boards - an interesting site, though the traffic is currently limited to a few notables. Hopefully more conversations will spark interest, especially on the topic of writing or encouraging a local Spec Fic community.

2. Orion's Arm - a website for the the Orion's Arm world building community, it has a lot of resources for people attempting a hard science fiction story, but are hard-pressed to do all the research and relearning of science. It has a timeline, excellent details on travel, transhuman technologies, personalities and other aspects of the setting.

3. Grading Science Fiction for Realism - a webpage that lists criteria for grading Hard Science Fiction (Ultra Hard to Medium) and Soft Science Fiction (Soft to Mushy Soft).
Side-response: Fully-Rocked & Doctors

Let me make the following statements before I tackle the "doctors cannot judge other doctors" issue:

1. If you had been more polite, you might not have been banned.
2. If you had read posts more carefully, you might not have lost your temper.
3. If you had attempted to explain yourself more completely, you might not have been so thoroughly ridiculed.

Now, you've been polite in the comments so I will respond. Hopefully you will read this response carefully and if you choose to respond, please explain yourself clearly in either English or Tagalog. Clarity is important, or we may go off on some tangent.

Your statement that "doctors cannot judge other doctors" on another blog is simplistic and consequently wrong.

You state that

If a patient was misdiagnosed by Dr. Cruz, I cannot tell the patient that Dr. Cruz is a lousy docotr. BUT I can tell my friends and colleagues. Again I CANNOT announce this to the press, an audience, blog that Dr. Cruz is a lousy doctor who can't even write a good prescription.

First off, this argument is a bit clearer than your broad initial statement, but it does raise moral issues. According to this example, if Dr. Cruz had horribly misdiagnosed his / her patient, you wouldn't tell the patient, but you would alert your friends and colleagues? I certainly hope that includes the medical board who should stop that doctor from practicing. Otherwise, the poor patient who has been misdiagnosed and may end up dying. And if you could've done something to prevent that, isn't it still your moral responsibility to do so?

Second, it is fine in certain professions not to announce to the press, to an audience, on a blog that so-and-so is a lousy doctor. It does NOT apply to the entertainment industry however, where EVERYONE is allowed to express their opinions as readers with all sorts of biases. Professional and Amateur Reviewers and Critics abound in the U.S. and the Philippines and there is no ethical question about printing your opinion about someone else's work, especially work that has been released to the public. The ethics of the medical industry do not directly translate to other industries, and certainly not to the entertainment / literary industry.

Third, doctors DO judge other doctors under very specific circumstances. There is some peer review (doctors being evaluated and rated by other doctors)among physicians, which is usually done by the medical societies themselves (thus the importance of consulting only with accredited fellows of medical societies). In the US, there is Healthgrades, which rates doctors and hospitals based on their track record. (This, however, has a negative effect. Doctors and hospitals, to raise their success rating, will refuse to treat complex/difficult/dying patients.)

Finally, your logic does not apply to the evaluation of contestants in a writing contest. If it were in a medical arena, and various doctors were competing for a prize, you would not select judges who were from unrelated fields. You would select doctors who are qualified to judge the merit of the work of the competing doctors and most definitely these judges should be specialists in the specific field being tackled. Why put someone specializing in pediatrics or neuro-surgery when the competition concerns the future of gene therapy?

This was the concern of Dean in that none of the three judges (with the exception of Greg Brilliantes) struck him as writers of works that are "primarily speculative fiction in nature (as in short stories - not plays or films or poetry)."

Before you get angry again, please read the next few words that followed that comment: "unless Tony Perez and Peque Gallaga have collections of short fiction that are fantasy, scifi, horror, etc. that I am unaware of (and if so, then apologies again, that's plain and simple ignorance on my part)." (italics mine)

I certainly hope this makes things clearer for you, and I hope you continue to remain polite and attempt to express yourself more clearly.

When I go searching for a book to read, I naturally gravitate towards the Science Fiction / Fantasy sections. Or perhaps the Young Adult section. These books get lost sometimes, you know?

Hunting down stuff in that genre section increases the chances that I'll find something I'm looking for: interesting scientific extrapolation, a space opera or cosmic science fiction story, perhaps an epic fantasy novel that breaks out of the mold of Tolkien, and so on.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), these days there is a thinning of the walls between genres. Stories that could be considered fantasy or horror or science fiction tend to crop up in the general fiction section these days. Novels like The Club Dumas, Practical Magic, The Historian, and the like.

It may make it harder to find these things, but one is hopeful that it also means more (good?) writers are writing material that can be considered mainstream, that science fiction and fantasy elements are becoming accepted as part of that mainstream, and the memories of an imagination-starved trip to the bookstore will become a thing of the past.
Philippine Speculative Fiction (or Phabulism)

I've been thinking about the nature of local fiction, especially concerning the possibility of a Philippine Science Fiction or Fantasy genre of books. One of the questions is - does anything in it necessarily have to be Pinoy in nature?

Is a Philippine writer obliged to insert aspects of the culture, language, or history into fiction? Is it really, as my friend Dean says, a bit of guilt that spurs us to do so as Philippine writers?

I can't speak for everyone, but I do feel that guilt. I feel that there are few representations of Filipinos in international media, so if I'm writing something that has a chance of hitting the international stage, I'd like some remnant some small sliver of pinoyness to make it as well.

Yes, I am one of those people who was tickled to discover that Johnny Rico, the main character in the Starship Troopers novel, was actually Filipino (we find this out in the last few pages). I love seeing Filipino comic artists sneak in the Philippine flag on a shirt or a Jollibee store in the background of a comic.

On the other hand, if writers from the U.S. can write about far away places and about us in particular, why can't we do the same? Why can't we write about strange alien races located beyond the reach of our solar systems? Why can't we write about magical realms with little basis in our world or history? Why can't we write about world-sweeping disasters that affect everyone on the planet?

We can.

It's just that we tend to stop ourselves from doing so.
Dragonlance - The Movie!

Well, check out the list of alleged cast members of the Dragonlance animated movie and see if their actors match your imagined voices for each of these characters:

Tanis Half-Elven
Michael Rosenbaum

Raistlin Majere
Kiefer Sutherland

Lucy Lawless

Flint Fireforge / Fewmaster Toede
Fred Tatasciore

Tika Waylen
Michelle Trachtenberg
Greetings All!

Sorry I've been away for so long!

Renewed interest in blogging? Perhaps. It's more of getting back into the discipline of typing and putting ideas down into words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs.

The subject matter of this blog will probably shift a wee bit. I'll be focused on my hobbies and other interests, less on the details of my personal life. I'll be shifting those stories and opinions elsewhere.

The promotion of Speculative Fiction (I'd argue for Phabulism! The Ph is for the Philippines, and the Fabulism is for the genre of writing!) is one of the primary goals of my friend Dean Alfar, and so I'll be talking a bit about my readings in that genre and perhaps some of the difficulties I'm encountering in making my own contributions to that body of work.

Comic books are another interest of mine, though I've begun focusing on collecting the TPBs rather than on the one-off issues so this may be rather rare.

Movies may be reviewed here as well, Role-playing games (settings & systems) along with musings on the industries that surround each one of these hobbies of mine will appear in this blog in the future.

Stay tuned, fearless readers!
Silent Laser, Deadly Laser

I once got into a conversation regarding lasers as an assassin's weapon in a science fiction game world. I remember arguing then that lasers aren't silent weapons. The reason is that the ionization of air causes a loud crack (think an electrical arc or a lightning bolt).

I was reminded of this when an almost-argument took place on a message board I frequent. Here's the post:

Oh dear. It appears that I must dispel someone of the illusion that weapons-grade lasers are silent. Trust me, they're not. Once a laser hits the multi-kilojoule range they are in fact very loud. I used to work as a signmaker and one of the tools we used was an etching laser. If used on a human being it would have caused nasty burns, but would not be lethal in of itself. A friend of mine worked for the Dept. of Main Roads and used an industrial laser (which after it interpretted fire for 2 seconds at 20% power while traversing 9cm left as rotate 90 degrees left and fire at 100% power, they refuse to operate it under Windows) that even at the lower settings was quite loud.

You see, when a laser of that intensity burns a path through air (or anything else for that matter), it flash vaporises that path and ionizes it, creating a loud *CRACK* that can be heard for quite a distance. The lasers that most people are familiar with are millijoule range, from television remotes to laser target designators.

Here's a corroborating statement by someone else:

Yup. I once witnessed a CO2 laser punch a hole through a two-inch-thick block of seasoned oak. It was only a split second firing of the laser, resulting in a very neat hole drilled right through the oak, along with a very loud, very sharp BANG!. Not the same "bang" as the firing of a standard powder-propelled ballistic weapon, but very audible and very distinctive all the same.
Pinoy Power

While going through some webcomics this morning I chanced upon this particular Multiplex strip. I do like the humor in the strip over all, and while only a few might get the humor in this particular strip, I'm posting it because I like seeing Filipino visibility in U.S. media.
Mazingkaiser Toy Line Commercial?

I'm not sure what this is... but it sure is cool. Mazinger Z, Great Mazinger, God Mazinger, Getta Robo, Grandizer, etc.

Voltes V!

The Original Sequence

Live Performance

Life on the Border

The recent lit crit nights have revived my interest in my old books and anthologies.

One of my favorite shared world fantasy anthologies series was the one set in Bordertown. Looking at some of the fan sites, I'm happy to see I have three of the anthologies and one of the novels. My cousin Franco a.k.a Tyke has the first volume of the series.

I believe that one of the best stories that established the setting was "Danceland". It was a murder mystery, and the course of the investigation gave a great excuse to introduce the various aspects of the setting, establish the tensions between the Pureblood Elves, the human gangs, and the laws and the politics of living on the Border of our world and Faerie. It provided motivation for the characters to go out of their usual haunts and explore without having some sort of major situation that would change most of the scenery. So what if one Elflord was murdered in the alley behind the bar named Danceland? Life goes on for everyone else in Bordertown.

Some of my favorite characters are there: the human named Orient and his dear Elf friend Tick-Tick, the semi-tragic Wolfboy, the runaway Caramel, Farrel Din and all the rest.
Daniel is Blogging Tonight on the...

Okay, I'd like to welcome my good friend Dan to the Blogosphere. He certainly projects a different demeanor from the Dan I remember, but then again it's been YEARS since I've seen him.

I applaud his efforts and concerns about education - it's very admirable and reminds me of the sorry state of affairs of the educational system in this country as well.

Everyone, visit his blog and say hi!

Ground Control to Major Tom

While I'm at it, I'd like to mention my best friend Tom's home-made blog! Tom's been trying to quit smoking, so let's all traipse over there and encourage him...

... friends who smoke, be nice.

Also, I hope that his fingers will heal enough for him to play righteous guitar licks... and some mellow stuff too!
Spiderman. Captain America. Santo!

Long before Spiderman got his current movie streak, he had to pimp himself out in cheap flicks alongside buddies like Captain America!

See here.
Living On Your Own

A friend of mine has recently begun planning his life on his own... a life away from his family after a long number of years living under the same roof as them.

I remember how when I first had a taste of that in dorm living at college, I ended up keeping myself to stricter schedules as far as home life was concerned... I got up early on Saturday mornings so that I had first crack at the washing machines and dryers, I tried to go to sleep earlier and wake early. In my defense, I did indulge in much wilder escapades (for me, anyway) on the days or nights that I had an Event or Outing of some kind, since I wasn't too worried about comments and questions from my family.

It is a time where you exercise your self-discipline, and begin re-defining your boundaries and interests. It's a time where you learn, not in the heat of a crisis, but in the warmth of a place you can call your own, who you are... and what things you'd like to improve.

Good luck, friend!
In addition to the Justice League DVD set...

Ultimate Avengers: The MovieI want this! Yes, Ultimate Avengers: The Movie! It looks cool!

The storyline promises to run similar to the Ultimates TPB one and two, but veering off in surprise directions. Or so I hear.

Update: Thanks to El, I've been alerted to the presence of a trailer. I found it on the Ultimate Avengers website!
Hating Math but Loving Games

For some reason in my youth, I developed a dislike for math. One theory is that it was because it didn't come as easily for me as other things did (reading, comprehension, etc.). Another theory is that it just wasn't as INTERESTING in application as other things.

I did find, however, when the math problem was interesting (and not presented as a math problem) I really broke out the mental tools and kept at it till I solved it. Some of the old RPG systems I was involved in spurred revitalized interest in math, probabilities, and algebra.

There's been a recent spate of TV shows and movies that have prominently featured mathematicians as the protagonists and emphasized the hidden wonders of mathematics at work in every day life. One of those is the TV show numb3rs...

Interested in following up some of the mathematical theories and methods found in it? Check out this link.

Spurred on by a recent movie lent to me and Kate, I remembered something that always irks me: people claiming that something is true just because of their personal, and therefore anecdotal, experience.

It irks me because, one of the things I apply in life is the concept of mathematical proofs and scientific theories. A proof PROVES something is true. A theory is a model that might be true, and theories tend to gain adherents if it can explain and predict the behavior found in the real world.

However, scientific theories can only be disproven, never proven. Examples that show a theory appears to be correct is NOT proof.

More on this later... I've got a meeting to attend!
Manic Burst of Activity

I've been slacking in my blogging duties, and in an effort to jumpstart things, I've decided do some reactions to various news tidbits related to my various interests.

Science Watch: Tabletop Fusion?

It turns out that there's an (as yet unsubstatiated case) for tabletop fusion. In an article found in it's related that a technique "that some scientists claim generates thermonuclear fusion in a benchtop apparatus works even without its controversial neutron trigger" and this means a powerful and potentially cheap source of energy. Why cheap? The procedure argues that "nuclear-fusion reactions can occur in a vat of chilled solvent agitated by ultrasound."

That's right. All those old black and white films with bubbling liquids may have been right! They were the power source of those mad scientists!

However, because the researchers "used neutron pulses to trigger the process", other researchers have been highly suspicious of the results.


I don't know what that meant, but I believe it's because neutron pulses may have interfered with the results, or have not been adequately accounted for in interpreting the results of the experiment. The article lost me at this point so...

Comics Watch: Who Is Terra?

One of the most shocking betrayals in any comic book series occurred in the Teen Titans storyline titled "The Judas Contract". It had actually been set up earlier when a teenaged criminal supposedly being forced / held hostage by... bad guys... and eventually joined the Titans. She played her role well, and was criticized by comics readers as being a rip-off of Kitty Pryde from the X-men (especially since the New Teen Titans were seen as capitalizing somehow on the X-men's popularity). Then she betrayed them all after gaining their trust and love and learning most of their secrets.

Image hosting by PhotobucketAnd then the bombshell - she wasn't some poor brainwashed teenager who'd fallen under the influence of Deathstroke. Even before she'd met Deathstroke, she'd already been the vicious, deceptive, and vindictive girl that we saw... and that ultimately was her downfall.

It shocked me because the Titans had become the equivalent of a super-powered soap opera / action adventure story, where the lives of the characters mattered to me. It also intrigued me because of the way that the story had been put together, where hints of her dark side had already been made... if only we, as readers, hadn't been lulled into complacency by the "everything always ends happily" trope for superhero comics, we'd probably have guessed the sad truth long before it was revealed.

I wasn't alone in being fooled. In an interview, George Perez, the artist and co-plotter of the New Teen Titans at the time, said
People did not know where it was going. Not even the diehard Titans fans who I see at conventions, who have magazines about the Titans that I read. All of them speculated that Terra was going to reform at the last minute and turn on the Terminator. Of course we had that in there, too, but for a totally different reason. The cover was created specifically to let you wonder which side she was going to take, not realizing that she was going against both.

Ah Tara, you were my introduction to a part of the world that shouldn't be bad or evil... but is anyway.

Idol Watch: Out of Touch

It's fascinating to watch the try-outs of American Idol primarily to see how out of touch some people are with reality. Perhaps some have been misled by so-called friends, some have been crippled by nerves, and some are just there to appear on TV... but most would surely realize that they're nowhere near the caliber of performer that they need to be!

The reactions that some have when rejected are astounding: prideful anger, outraged denial, and personal attacks against the judges. At least some have the grace and focus to accept the criticisms and decide to either improve themselves, or dedicate their lives to another endeavor.
Quizola - Heed My Words!!

Take this quiz at

The secret's out. I AM the reincarnation of... gee... which God would I want to be the reincarnation of anyway?
Wasting Time: Interesting Links

Have time to waste? Stress giving you headaches? Need to be distracted?

Go to the following links!

- Batman's REAL Origin:
- Hyperspace Travel: