Thursday, April 26, 2007

Penny Brown

Penny Brown is this shop in Glorietta and Robinsons Galleria that serves cookies and ice cream (or combine them to form an ice-cream sandwich). What I like about them is that they use Fruits in Ice Cream for their ice cream. =)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Truffles at the Shang

2nd Floor, Shangri-La
A mix of chocolates and cakes

A closer look at the cakes

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Manga Review: Scary Book by Kazuo Umezu

The first thing that comes to mind with Scary Book is that it's a weaker Museum of Terror. Both share the same concept after all -- a collection of short stories from a renowned manga horror writer/artist. But that is an unfair comparison. Kazuo Umezu predates Junji Ito and that is perhaps the series's biggest problem: it's dated.

Honestly, the Scary Book series isn't bad. It lives up to its namesake: it's scary rather than horrifying or terrifying. And on its own, it ain't bad, especially if you read it two decades earlier. But the problem is that you're comparing it to modern times or better yet, modern mangaka. Reading Museum of Terror and then reading Scary Book for example simply puts the latter in a bad light.

Still, Scary Book is a monument to what's been done in Japanese comics and the possibilities of the medium. If you must get one horror collection, this isn't it. But if you have the budget to explore manga's horror history, Scary Book is a great footnote.

Rating: 3/5

Manga Review: Museum of Terror by Junji Ito

For me, Dark Horse acquiring Junji Ito's Museum of Terror series seemed intuitive--I didn't know why they didn't do so sooner. Junji Ito is currently one of Japan's masters of horror and perhaps is best known for his titles Uzumaki and Gyo (which Viz will be reprinting later this year).

Museum of Terror is a collection of Junji Ito's shorter manga work. If Uzumaki was a three-volume epic, Museum of Terror packs several short stories in one volume. In the case of volumes one and two, Musuem of Terror deals with stories revolving around an enigmatic woman named Tomie. For those 80's kids who were raised watching the cartoon Inhumanoids, Tomie is like a sexier and crueler version of the villain Tendril. Volume three on the other hand are simply independent horror stories with no unifying theme (which isn't necessarily a bad thing... one can only read so much Tomie stories). Unfortunately, those looking for more will be disappointed as Dark Horse has put the rest of the series on hiatus.

The stories and the art are classic Junji Ito. They're creepy and bizarre and each story has a certain twist. Unfortunately, because of the format, there's only so much build-up that can be done and Museum of Terror is no Uzumaki. That's not to say that they aren't good--they are--it simply didn't match my expectations and I think there's more that could have been done.

While Museum of Terror isn't as tight or as edgy as his longer work (namely Uzumaki and Gyo), it still has that morbid and creepy feeling to it that can undoubtedly come from Japan's maestro of horror.

Rating: 3.5/5

Viz Media and Manga in the US

Here's an interview I managed to scrounge from Publisher Weekly: Viz Media and Manga in the US.

Manga Review: Buddha by Osamu Tezuka

Osamu Tezuka has been known for his work on the likes of Tetsuwan Atom ("Astroboy") and Jungle Tantei ("Leo the Lion" and "Kimba the White Lion") but those aren't the only titles in his repertoire. Thankfully, Vertical was able to release Tezuka's epic, Buddha, both in hardcover and softcover.

Buddha, of course, is a rather liberal interpretation of the influential man's life. Tezuka, however, manages to make every moment interesting and while the first volume was over 400 pages, it never seemed enough. Of course while slapstick humor is injected in this interpretation of Buddha's life, Tezuka does not shy away from the tragedies or portrayal of the times (much of the women for example are naked). My only complaint is the attempt by some of the extras at witty banter, citing modern-day events, and I do not know if this is Tezuka's failing or that of the translator.

The series is eight volumes long and I've managed to read three out of the eight. So far, each one is as compelling as the book preceding it and features a cast that continues to grow with each volume. If I have any complaint, is the fact that the manga was reversed--that is the images were "flipped" to suit an American audience. Flipping comics, of course, is never a perfect solution and problems crop up occasionally. Buddha is no exception and there were times when the panels could be confusing (because of the flipped nature). I wish Vertical stuck to being faithful to the original format but you can't win every time.

The softcover is priced at $14.95 so that might be out of the budget of manga readers who patronize the likes of Naruto or Full Metal Alchemist. Still, it's a worthwhile read and perhaps this is where Tezuka's "classic-ness" comes into play as the story appeals to both young and adult sensibilities.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, April 23, 2007

Call for Submission: Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol 3

From Dean's blog:

I am now accepting submissions of short fiction pieces for consideration for the anthology "Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol.3".

Speculative fiction is the literature of wonder that spans the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror and magic realism or falls into the cracks in-between.

1. Only works of speculative fiction will be considered for publication. As works of the imagination, the theme is open and free.

2. Stories must cater to an adult sensibility. However, if you have a Young Adult story that is particularly well-written, send it in.

3. Stories must be written in English.

4. Stories must be authored by Filipinos or those of Philippine ancestry.

5. Preference will be given to original unpublished stories, but previously published stories will also be considered. In the case of previously published material, kindly include the title of the publishing entity and the publication date. Kindly state also in your cover letter that you have the permission, if necessary, from the original publishing entity to republish your work.

6. First time authors are welcome to submit. In the first two volumes, there was a good mix of established and new authors. Good stories trump literary credentials anytime.

7. No multiple submissions. Each author may submit only one story for consideration.

8. Each story’s word count must be no fewer than 2,500 words and no more than 5,000 words.

9. All submissions must be in Rich Text Format (.rtf – save the document as .rft on your word processor) and attached to an email to this address: Submissions received in any other format will be deleted, unread.

10. The subject of your email must read: PSF3 Submission: (title) (word count); where (title) is replaced by the title of your short story, without the parentheses, and (word count) is the word count of your story, without the parentheses. For example - PSF 3 Submission: How My Uncle Brought Home A Diwata 4500.

11. All submissions must be accompanied by a cover letter that includes your name, brief bio, contact information, previous publications (if any).

12. Deadline for submissions is September 15, 2007. After that date, final choices will be made and letters of acceptance or regret sent out via email.

13. Target publishing date is December 2007/January 2008.

14. Compensation for selected stories will be 2 contributor’s copies of the published anthology as well as a share in aggregrate royalties.

Kindly help spread the word. Feel free to cut and paste this on your blogs or e-groups.



Friday, April 20, 2007

Bizarre Strategies

The Philippines, I think, is in a unique position when it comes to manga. I mean sure, we're near Japan and Hong Kong (or Taiwan) so it's theoretically cheaper for us to acquire manga (be it in Japanese or in Chinese). Unfortunately, we aren't really fluent with either language. So if the majority is interested in legitimately reading manga, it should come from the US.

In terms of popularity, I think Viz right now is the king when it comes to English-translated manga. When it comes to quality, however, I think Dark Horse is easily a good runner-up. There's one thing wrong with them however--they don't seem to be aggressive in getting their titles out. And it's just not in the case of the Philippines. But locally, the status of Dark Horse manga is that the supplier doesn't really export those titles unless you happen to own a comic store in the US. These days, I only see them in either Fully Booked or at Comic Odyssey.

Of course Dark Horse isn't the only one to adopt this policy. Lately I can't get my D&D books for the same reason. The supplier only gives it out to the licensed distributor, which is all well and good except for one fact: the licensed distributor hasn't been releasing those D&D books in the past eight months. As to the reasons why I can only speculate. But lately it seems that I'm the only person missing them so it might not be such a bad business decision.

In other news, I'll be saying farewell to Dragon and Dungeon issues at the end of the year as Paizo wasn't able to renew their license. Makes me wonder what Wizards of the Coast has in store for D&D.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pulp 2007

Work has been a busy year, period. Of course to those who've been following the magazine I'm working in, I'm not exaggerating when I say we have lots in store for you.

Next week will be our Pulp Summer Slam and that's simply one of the biggest music events in the country and I'm not saying that simply because we're responsible for it (it's not the only big music event but it's probably in any rock fan's top five events you must attend). April 28, 2007, Amoranto Stadium. Perhaps the best highlights I can mention is foreign act Death Angel and the triumvirate performance of Queso, Slapshock, and Greyhoundz (all three will be playing at the same time in a 3-stage setup).

The Pulp Summer Slam is just the beginning, however. In the semi-official news, we'll be handling The World Battle of the Bands and this time, the bands will be getting airplay at NU107 on weekdays. We're still working on the details and mechanics but in the meantime, if you're an unsigned band, you might want to start working on that one song you think will impress the rest of the country. Again, as soon as the details are finalized, we'll inform you but for now, it's probably best to start cranking out those creative juices and make plans for recording.

In the official-but-I'm-not-sure-if-I-should-say news, Pulp will also be handling a big music event soon. I'll divulge when I can but you know, if the Pulp Summer Slam is #5 on your list of music events you must attend, this other event we're handling will make it on your list.


Anyway, here's my good deed for the month as I'm plugging two things:

Social Circles is inviting you to its first ever mixer which features great food, great drinks, great sounds, and great company. It'll be on April 28, 2007 from 6 pm onwards at Kapitolyo Park 6, Bgy.Kapitolyo, Pasig, and the entrance fee is P650. For more info, you can email or contact them at 0916-5271174/-015-4691328.

If you need a photography studio, you can try Gray Area Studio which is based in Makati. They're located at 5th Floor, 116 Rufino Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City (UCPB at the ground floor, access and more parking via Rodriguez St.) and can be reached at 815-8632.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Food Post!

The first post is regarding what's confirmed. I passed by Greenhills the other day and I found Cello's donuts. That's sweet, dip-soaked donuts within walking distance (no need to go all the way to Katipunan or -gasp- Taft).

The second is regarding something that hasn't quite materialized yet. It's Truffles de France in Shangri-la Mall. Desert Comes First covered it but the shop sadly hasn't opened yet. But it will come. We're working on Shangri-La's magazine and Truffles sent us some of the actual stuff for use in our pictorial. And just to make sure it's the real deal, we tasted it afterwards. =) Don't worry, it didn't kill me... But anyway, Truffles will be available at the 2nd floor of the Shangri-la Mall soon (hopefully sooner rather than later).

Because someone out there has a sense of humor, Truffles de France just opened today. They're at the 2nd floor, opposite of Hagendas Ice Cream. There weren't Truffle cakes today but some will arrive by tomorrow. The truffles are packaged with Therma Freeze packs so they don't end up melting while being transported. Chocolate freaks should go there now and buy.

Where Is My Internet?

The past two weeks (and the next week will be too) has been quite busy. Juggling four publications and making preparations for our upcoming concert has been far from easy.

I'd like to update more except when I get home, my Internet goes wonky (I can still download stuff but when it comes to actually blogging it "coincidentally" dies on me). Sure, I can update at the office but you know, the office is for work time and not for personal time.

Don't hold your breath and hopefully I'll see more of you in May.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Height, Weight, and Storage Space

It's probably not so far-fetched to imagine that some time in the future, aside from vital statistics, people will be measured by the storage space they have on them: "iPod Video? 80 GB. iPhone? 8 GB. Flash Drive? 1 GB. Digital camera? 1 GB. 90 GB total. Okay, let him through."

D&D Video Games

To prepare myself for the long Holy Week (stores and malls are closed for two whole days and the other two days are the busiest days even if they're open for half the day), I got two games for my PC. It was only last week that I remembered hey, my computer's not the ancient PC I was using four years ago. I could actually play games with it!

Since I was staving off my D&D addiction (I couldn't find the latest books locally!), I decided to try out two D&D PC games: Temple of Elemental Evil and Dragonshard.

The first is your straight-out RPG from the now-defunct Troika, the same people that gave you Arcanum. It uses the same engine as Arcanum albeit heavily modified to suit the 3.0/3.5 rules of D&D. While the game started slow, I soon got engrosed a few hours into the game. Honestly, Temple of Elemental Evil is based on one of the early modules of D&D. Don't expect much plot or complexity compared to Arcanum. It's a pure hack-and-slash complete with seemingly inane quests: it's an old-school game. I was surprised, however, how much the game was faithful to the original module. Oh, and the game's a great port of the pen-and-paper rules (not perfect but you're almost there).

Of course it's probably foolish of me to be playing a game that's nearly four years old. For one thing, there was a bug because of Windows XP Service Pack 2 that prevented me from picking up loot (a fan-patch fixed this). The other problem was that it kept on prompting me to insert the original CD of the game because of a Securom error. Unfortunately, despite this country of ours where pirated games are prolific, I did insert the original CD-ROM (I even argued with the salesladies at Datablitz how come the game was so expensive when it was several years old). Oh, and I wish the game had grids so that I actually knew if I was taking a five-foot step, flanking the guy, and other tactical judgments that I actually make in the pen-and-paper game without having to always use the radial menu. It's otherwise a great game.

Dragonshard, a.k.a. the RTS that was panned by critics, was the other game I played (it's available locally in two prices, P900+ and twice that amount although both are original and the latter's edge seems to be better packaging). Many D&D fans were compaining it was too modern, with gears and such--unnecessarily bells and whistles that was probably taxing the computer and a far cry from your typical D&D setting (mainly because it was using the Eberron setting which is a semi-modern/pulp take on D&D). It was a ho-hum complaint of mine--didn't love it but similarly not that big a deal (it's Eberron after all and not Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms). The other complaint was that it wasn't faithful to D&D. And I think when you're converting something like D&D into an RTS, you need some leeway. D&D after all isn't necessarily about armies fighting each other but rather small parties saving the world.

I think Dragonshard did manage to convert the party dynamic into an RTS. I mean I can't use simplified strategies of simply building just one kind of unit (i.e. the Zealot/Zergling rush in Starcraft), I actually have to use a plurality of units to succeed in the game. There were also a lot of interesting experimental game elements such as extremely finite random resources, structure enhancements and limitations, and micromanaging two minimaps at the same time. In the end, I didn't spend much time playing it. One thing bit it for me and I think is essential for an RTS game--any RTS game: user interface. Let me say this flat-out straight, each unit in the game has special abilities. However, aside from attack, stop, and control groups, the game doesn't have any other hotkeys. Which becomes a big pain in the ass when you're commanding several units, each with unique special abilities (since the game emphasizes mixed groups). It's one thing to have a bad game. It's another to have a semi-decent game but not play it because of horrible controls. This is one of them and it's honestly a problem that could have been fixed.

Oh well, more of the RPG and less of the RTS...


So I've officially disappeared from the Internet for the past few days, isolated myself in my room and spent hours and hours playing video games. As a kid, I wasn't really a bookworm (although I did read lots of magazines). I was into cartoons, comics, video games, and TV in general. I'm catching re-runs of Seinfeld on Star TV and there was this scene where Jerry starts dating a police officer and she introduces to him their lie detector. And then she asks if Jerry watches Melrose Place, the adult equivalent of Beverly Hills 90210. Jerry of course denies it, thinking that a guy admitting to watching it was a very guilty pleasure. Of course back in the day, I was watching Melrose Place (and that's where I first saw Heather Locklear actually, one of my two crushes in the show).

Anyway, I try posting last Monday and Tuesday, but the Internet at home didn't want to cooperate with me. And when I got to the office, it's work, work, work! (Which is as it should be.)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Music Piracy

I think by now, each person has their own stance on music piracy (whether for or against it) and the stances/methods taken to promote their agenda. This blog entry isn't going to tackle that arena.

Rather, I'd like to show how music piracy occupies a unique niche different from all other pirated products out there. Pirated digital media is easily one of the mos prolific forms of piracy. There's basically little overhead and one doesn't spend for physical resources (as is the case for material pirated products). It's literally as simple as copy-and-paste. File sharing programs (in the loosest sense of the term) doesn't help either. I can easily send pirated media files over email, via private messenger, in chat rooms, etc.

When it comes to pirated digital media, I think there are currently four mediums which are prominent: videos, ebooks, photos, and music. The first two, in my opinion, are somewhat limited. The problem with ebooks is that they haven't really caught on. Honestly, I have a couple of pirated ebooks at home but there's only two or three that I've read--and I've bought the actual books. Video is yes, being circulated around the Internet. I think the limitation when it comes to video is that you can only watch it so many times. I mean say I have this favorite 30-minute episode (in reality just barely twenty minutes when you cut out the commercials and the credits). As much as I'm a fan of whatever show, I won't be watching that show every single day. Perhaps the most avid fan will watch it once a month, or watch it six times in one month and never watch it again. Now compare that to music. People have their favorite songs and it's probably only around 5 minutes long (we sometimes won't even finish the entire song and listen to it only halfway). But it's easy to imagine that a person, in this age with digital media players and mobile phones, to listen to that song every single day (and sometimes play it more than once).

I'm not a fan of music but I can't deny the impact music has in the world. If it didn't come into the world, somebody would have invented it anyway. And in a certain sense, music predates the written word (and perhaps I dare say without music, the written word wouldn't have come about in the first place). When I look at livejournal, I don't see tags that ask what movie I'm watching now or what book I'm reading, I see music (of course part of it is the fact that it's hard to multi-task when you're reading or watching something). And there's probably a good chance that the music that livejournal detected was an illegally downloaded mp3 (although I don't mean to claim that everyone out there supports pirated music).

The only thing that comes close (and perhaps surpasses) pirated music is pirated pictures. Of course while there is vocal outrage at pirated artwork (in whatever form they may be), it isn't as loud as the three other prevalent pirated media. You can put on your capitalist cap to ponder the reasons why.

Music has had a huge impact in the world. It's not surprising that pirated music is similarly making a big splash in this information age. (Whether that's good or bad, I leave it up to you.) I do think music occupies one of the top seats in the hierarchy of pirated material and it's no coincidence it developed that way. Videos may make me rich but the real money is in the music.

Reality TV Show Dynamics

I think lately, the stream of reality-TV has stabilized, at least here in the Philippines. I mean aside from American Idol and The Amazing Race, there's not much foreign shows airing. On the local scene, it's still a bit rich with the likes of Pinoy Big Brother and that talent show on ABS-CBN.

Of course I can't help but admire the paradoxical dynamics of reality TV shows. I mean with the exception of the last episode, there's a bigger excitement in finding out who's the loser in each episode rather than the winner (not that I don't look forward to knowing who won first place). Mark Burnett instilled in me the question who gets voted/eliminated/didn't make the cut?

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is only there for the last episode. The "minor" prizes at each episode before then is great (especially if I'm a contestant) but as a viewer, I care more about who I'm not going to see in next week's episode.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Read or Die is Alive!

I had dinner last night with "The Three Witches" (I label them so because when you invite one, you invite the other two) and Tin informed me that the Read or Die website is up again after a series of unfortunate "events" (such as a database crash deleting all the data). There's a couple of updates, including an interview with Kenneth Yu (Philippine Genre Stories) and Dean Alfar (Salamanca, Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 1 & 2).

Activities at A Different Bookstore

SUMMER FUN AT a different bookstore calendar of activities

Drawing and Painting workshop
- Serendra: April 17, 19, 24 & 26, 2007 - 11:00 AM to 12:00 NN
- Eastwood: April 17, 19, 24 & 26, 2007 - 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
- Fees - P350.00 per head, per session (P600.00 for the watercolor
session which happens on the last workshop date)
- Inclusive of all materials.
- Age: 7 to 12 years old.
- Modules: Crayon scratchboard, human anatomy and comic strip
creation, portraits and basic watercolor.

Arts & Crafts workshop
- Serendra: May 01, 03, 08 & 10, 2007 - 11:00 AM to 12:00 NN
- Eastwood: May 01, 03, 08 & 10, 2007 - 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
- Age: 7 to 12 years old
- Fees - P350.00 per head, per session / Inclusive of all materials.
- Modules: Batik-making, paper toile, soap sculptures & do-it-all dolls

Digital Photography for kids
- Serendra: April 13, 20, 27 & May 4, 2007 - 4PM to 5:30 PM
- Fees - P1,500.00 for the entire workshop (all 4 sessions)
- Workshop attendees are to provide their own digital cameras.
- Age: 7 to 12 years old.
- Facilitators: Photographers from "Blow Up Babies"

A Day with Ms. Lisa Macuja Elizalde
- Meet and greet the country's prima ballerina, Ms. Lisa Macuja
Elizalde, as she talks about ballet and signs autographs of her book.
- Serendra: May 18, 2007 - 4PM
- Eastwood: May 11, 2007 - 4PM

Book Illustration Workshop
- Serendra: April 18, 25, May 2, 9, 16 & 23, 2007 - 1PM to 3:00 PM
- Fees - P2,500.00 for the entire workshop (all 6 sessions)
- Inclusive of all materials
- Age: 7 to 12 years old.

Comics 101: Comic Illustration Workshop
- Serendra: May 7, 14 & 21, 2007 - 2PM to 5:00 PM
- Fees - P250.00 per head / per session
- Age: 18 years old and up
- Moderators: Artists from Nautilus comics

Creative Writing Workshop
- Eastwood: May 5, 12 & 19, 2007 - 4PM to 6:00 PM
- Fees - P300.00 per head / per session
- Age: 18 years old and up
- Moderators: Writers and authors from The Litcritters Group

For inquiries and reservations, please visit or call:
A Different Bookstore
Serendra, Bonifacio Global City - 856-0330 / 909-5078
Eastwood City - 687-3932

Krispy Kreme Greenhills

Now you know where the next branch will be. There was supposedly an activity in the parking lot area (beside McDonalds) and I saw the sign the day before.

(Anyway, I'm now off to work. Either I'm busy, busy, busy, or the Internet connection at home is wonky.)