Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

A month ago, Russia sent some war ships to Venezuela for joint military exercises and some weapons dealing talks. And before that, we all know how Russia's temper tantrum caused a number of Georgians to flee their homes. Recently, U.S. Ambassadors to Venezuela and Bolivia were sent home packing, Russian and South American boot prints still fresh on their behinds. What did the U.S. do? They spent no time in kicking out their Bolivian and Venezuelan counterparts. Things are starting to heat up. The Latin Americans are banding together with mostly anti-U.S. sentiments (i.e., "Go to hell, s---, Yankees!", said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez). Temper, temper... With the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty's expiration date looming closer and Washington's hazy replacement plan calling for less strict verification requirements, Moscow is right to be on guard. Who wouldn't be when the U.S. has defensive weapon systems staged just a stone's throw away in Poland and the Czech Republic? Oh, right, the U.S. says that these systems are in place in case of attacks from Iran. Huh. That's comforting. These recent incidents call to mind age old wisdom passed down from generation to generation in almost every culture around the world --- never sh*t in your own backyard.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Update from the trenches

I'm looking forward to watching the McCain-Obama debate. Since I've been busy the past couple of days, I wasn't able to catch it on TV. I read in the papers that although the organizers refrained from proclaiming the winner for that round, various polls showed that a number of viewers considered Obama as having presented the most valid arguments. On the topic of economy, Obama was said to have argued clear and convincing points. McCain, on the other hand, was seen to have a firmer grasp on the topic of Foreign policy. Anyway, I'll write more about the debate after I've watched it online.

The political arena, is at best, a noisy market place. To be heard, it is sometimes necessary to adopt sleazy tabloid tactics. McCain's camp has clearly shown that it is an expert in that field. McCain's ad hominem attacks have lately been finding their mark. Obama's earlier pronouncement that he will concentrate on real issues has given way to the typical GOP-Democrat finger-pointing. Obama, with all his honorable intentions of engaging in a clean fight, can't just ignore the half-truths being said about him. So, interestingly enough, the presidential campaign trail has started exhibiting shades of sensationalist politics.

From a fence-sitter's perspective, Obama's espousal of change appears to be gaining an edge over McCain's offer of strong and tested leadership. McCain has largely focused on his opponent's lack of political experience and depicts Obama as an all-talk-no-substance self-proclaimed messiah. McCain, being the way he is, does not need Obama to paint his picture. Known for calling out corruption and inefficiency in the Bush administration, McCain is seen as tough-talking and reactionary. But Obama does try his best to equate McCain's leadership as a clone of the Bush administration, even as McCain has tried to distance himself from Bush.

With the recent spate of events from the financial mess in Wall Street to the volatile international political climate, the candidates are under intense spotlight. So far, from what I've gathered after watching a number of press releases and reading a couple of news articles about the candidates, Obama's main strategy of "Change we can believe in" seems to be working. He initially capitalized on the flawed economic strategy employed by the current administration, an administration espousing republican values; recently, however, perhaps after getting a clearer picture of the dire state of the market, Obama relented, saying that he is willing to extend any help to the Bush administration's efforts to address the financial crisis. Painted as one of the guilty parties, McCain has tried to show that for once, he is rising above the blame-shifting and is willing to heed the calls for bipartisanship in order to solve the financial crisis. So bipartisanship it is, both candidates agree.

Unusual as it is for both candidates to be invited by Bush to take part in negotiating the bailout plan of the government, it is important to understand that continuity in government is essential. The November presidential election is fast approaching and the new administration, with either McCain or Obama at its helm, will have a pretty fine mess in their hands.

Anyway, more on this later. I have to get some sleep.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Race Towards Virtual World Domination

It all began with Sputnik. After the first artificial satellite was launched into space by the U.S.S.R. in 1957, not wanting to be left behind in the technological race, the U.S. counteracted with an aggressive development of its science and technology. U.S. President Eisenhower issued a directive for the creation of two agencies tasked to develop state-of-the-art space technology, communication networks and weaponry: the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). ARPA coordinated with some of the most brilliant minds in the military and academe for the development of an experimental network of time-sharing computers, which was later to be called ARPANET. Before the creation of the ARPANET, different computers could be connected to each other through a hub, or a central computer. The challenge was to connect all of these central computers to each other through the means of a host-to-host network. It was in 1969 when the first host-to-host connection was established between and among four universities in the U.S. ARPANET’s first international connection was made in 1973 to Norway and England. From then on, the ARPANET served as the packet switch prototype for TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, the backbone of the internet as we know today.

ARPANET was originally conceptualized as a means to keep communications between key departments of the government open and free from interception in case of nuclear or space-based attacks. Through the years, internet technology gradually morphed from a purely text-based platform for the exchange of information and research sharing networks, into the World Wide Web utilizing Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) and ushering in the era of electronic commerce.

Seeking to exploit this brand-new, almost limitless territory called the internet and to milk the proverbial cash cow, companies were born and operated in the virtual sphere --- the dot-coms. Confident that they could capitalize on profits by focusing on brand awareness first and reaping the rewards later, these dot-coms expended huge sums of money in advertising. The dot-coms relied too heavily on a cash windfall through venture capitalism and initial public offerings. This marketing strategy proved to be fatal for many dot-coms as the expected profits from its customer base were not enough to salvage the huge losses incurred. The bursting of the dot-com bubble (or the dot-bomb) put a number of internet-based companies out of business., said to be the most popular of the dot-com bombs, launched a wide-scale advertising campaign, even shelling out $1.2 million for a thirty-second commercial during the 2000 Super Bowl. Although the puppet enjoyed a cult status, the company itself faced liquidation in the latter part of 2000.

However, not everything ends with tragedy, as the launching of Sputnik showed us. Around fifty percent of the dot-com bombs survived or were restructured and bought by more established companies operating on traditional business models: Paypal and Skype were bought by eBay; Geocities was bought by Yahoo, a fellow dot-com bomb survivor; and Network Solutions was acquired by VeriSign which further trimmed out the fat by outsourcing peripheral services to companies operating in low-cost areas such as India and the Philippines.

Eight years have passed since the 2000 dot-com bubble phenomena and internet businesses are still sprouting up like mushrooms. The top three players today, as cited by TIME Magazine’s Josh Quittner, are Google, Facebook and Apple. These three behemoths, unlike your stereotypical Starbucks-toting, Gen-Y dot-com executives, operate on different principles on how to corner their respective share of the market. Google focuses on the sharing of information and tweaks its ever-expanding services to cover everything that you will ever use the internet for; Facebook focuses on social networking and interaction by providing virtual replacements for things that you can do in the flesh --- like poking, hugging, kissing, gaming, watching videos or listening to music; and Apple markets its products to ensure that consumers will use its platform to access different applications on the internet..

The most aggressive of the three, Google seems to be plotting a full-scale domination of the internet, acquiring rivals of Facebook and encroaching on Apple’s domain by developing cellular phone-based platforms for internet services. With $ 16.5 billion in revenues, Google is a formidable opponent capable of pureeing its competitors into mushroom soup at a mouse click. With its awesome power, Google should step into the shoes of Jim Carrey as the erstwhile-God in Bruce Almighty and ask itself this question: How would you handle the most awesome responsibility in the universe?

An exercise in SEO. Keywords: state-of-the-art, weaponry, hub, prototype, God, cow, Starbucks, Philippines, mushroom soup, Jim Carrey.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ergo Proxy

The Visuals

woooow. Ergo Proxy visuals are sooo pretty. So episode after episode of thinking whatthehellishappening couldn't stop me from lapping up the eye candy albeit rmvb version of it. I can only imagine how prettier it would look in a different format. Apparently, the creators used a combination of 2d, 3d and other digital special effects to achieve that industrial future look.

Anyway, it's soooo pretty that it's hard to miss its flaws --- there were parts where visuals degenerate or become sloppy, where Real Mayer ends up looking like a molten voodoo doll. After watching a couple of episodes, I started noticing how the once clean-cut rendition of the characters got fuzzy around the edges, except for some close ups and select scenes. Like Vincent Law's split personality, one moment you ooh and aah and the next, you wonder if someone changed the channel; then you realize, hell, the cable's got nothing to do with it, you're watching it on real player!

The Plot

Reminiscent of this Gundam movie (Garoad and those blasted newtypes) that I watched last year, there were parts which were mostly gibberish... you were left with crickets in your brain trying to figure out what the outpourings of emo-ness were for. The series can also be faulted with raison d'etre overkill. It's like they discovered this fancy new french term and went apeshit bandying it about. Despite that, the plot does unfold. By episode 9, you'll learn what the fuss is all about. And yes, it IS about raison d'etre or Rene Descartes' Cogito Ergo Sum with a smattering of Plato. Rich in philosophical ramblings, themes of the movie also employed Derrida, Lacan and Husserl, if not in name only.

The Verdict

Interestingly, Ergo Proxy, in terms of characterization and scenes, has a lot of strong symbolisms and can be best described as a factoid-lover's wet dream. For that alone, Ergo Proxy is worth watching twice. The second time around, learn to block out raison d'etre and keep a copy of Philosophy for Dummies within reach. You might just find yourself saying, "COGITO ERGO SUM!"

*edited and reposted from author's personal blog.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007



It was spectacular! All those hot Spartans with eight packs...

All the swirls, slow-mo and freeze frames. The freaks, the jocks, and only ONE, yes ONE hot woman who served as pretty meat for rancid and diseased old fogies.

Although I missed the first five minutes of the movie, I was blown away, no, annihilated by the visual assault of the remaining 1 hour and 90 minutes. It was almost perfect... it almost made me cry. Now if I ever get the chance to watch it on an iMax screen, i would probably drool and froth at the mouth for 2 hours.

F#ckin beautiful. Even Xerxes, although evoking thoughts of homoeroticism and B&D, was pretty.

Of course, I admit, there was hardly any dialogue or even depth to the movie. But that's what's so perfect (or almost perfect) about it.

I love action flicks. One of my top 5 favorite movies of all time is a zombie flick (go check out 28 days later ). Which is closely followed by Resident Evil, another semi-zombie flick. Although I appreciate movies which show a greater social dimension and/or pedagogical (ugh, a law school term!) value, at the end of the day, I'd choose an entertaining, non-draining action flick crawling with hot guys over a tear-jerking, life-altering movie starring an old woman who most likely dies before the film ends. If I should find any flaw to the movie, then that would be the drawn out scene between the Queen and her son, right after she got Leonidas' necklace back, and the Queen's audience with the council. But like I said, I'm not in it for the story. I'm in it for the eye-candiness of it all.

I loved the graphic novel quality of the film. I love blood, gore and violence depicted in a manner close to artistic as possible. I loved the colors (the sepia, crimson and blue-gray tones of the stills posted above). However, there were scenes which missed the mark, if we were to talk about perfect execution of slow motion employed in action flicks. The hot babe/oracle obviously looks like she was gyrating in water. But then it IS a huge improvement in film making, and I've never seen any movie coming close to having bright cotton candy value according to my standards (The Promise, Crouching Tiger... and House of Flying Daggers, although pretty in themselves, don't come close). But then again, I haven't watched a lot of movies and I'm hardly Roger Ebert. ;)

Anyway, who the hell cares? Half nekkid men thrusting their spears out and shouting ah hoo, need I ask for more?

Madness? This is Sparta!
- King Leonidas to the Persian Emissary