Gone to Armageddon!

I’ve always envied my friends who live in the US because they can easily go to the numerous science fiction and comic book conventions that take place there. Although they have conventions here in Australia, there aren’t that many and I haven’t been to one until recently.

I went to the Armageddon Expo last Saturday. I tried to convince Raquel to tag along but she would rather sleep in than wake up early in the morning just to be at some convention for geeks. Anything that makes her happy is fine with me. So, I ended up going there by myself.

When I got to the Exhibition Centre in the CBD, I was surprised when somebody called out to me. I looked around and saw Nino, a Pinoy friend I haven’t seen in a while. He had his fiancee, L, and high-school friend, J, with him. I was glad I met them there. It made the whole day much more fun than it would’ve been if I was just by myself. I’m also glad to discover that he was also into comics. I’m always in the look out for friends with geeky passions, like myself.

It was great. I was able to shake hands with Billy West, voice of Fry, Dr Zoidberg, Zapp Brannigan and the Professor from Futurama. I was able to be in close proximity with Alan Tudyk (from Firefly, Serenity, Knight’s Tale, etc) and Connor Trinneer (from Startrek Enterprise and Stargate Atlantis) during their Q&A session. It was amazing to see in person these science-fiction personalities whom I have admired and liked. For me, just being there to see these folks was well worth the $16 entrance fee I paid.

I didn’t buy a lot of stuff at the convention though. I did buy a Superman and Batman animated action figures for $1 each. Yep, that’s right! A dollar each! I couldn’t let that pass. I also bought something called Stickfas, a customisable fully poseable and articulate humanoid toy. I’ll be using it for my drawing as posing reference.

I left the convention three hours before closing time. I was just too tired by then. I got what I came for by then, anyway. I wish there were more shops though. Still, I had a lot of fun. I’ll definitely go again when next time Armageddon comes town.

As for photos, well, I only have a few and you can find them here:

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Published in: on October 16, 2007 at 11:42 pm  Comments (1)  

For the win!

After about a month of waiting anxiously for the outcome of my company’s Melbourne Artist of the Year 2007 art competition, the winners were finally revealed in the art exhibition launch at our offices last night. Some of my friends at work were there at the event to cheer me on. I was also able to get Raquel security clearance so that she could come up to our offices that evening.

I was feeling very nervous during the couple of hours leading to the official announcement of the winners. I had barely enough strength to grip anything with my hands and I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. Since, my friend Jo also went to last year’s event, she told us that the actual announcement would likely take place about 30 minutes into the event like last year. I wished that the organisers would just announce the winners and get it over with instead of just hanging around eating kebabs and drinking wine provided for by the company.

I got my wish. Fifteen minutes since the event started, the company Partner in charge of the event decided to announce the winners. My heart rate must’ve jumped a hundred and fifty percent. She asked everybody to gather near the podium. When everybody had settled, she informed us that there were three winners and two honourable mentions. I truly hoped I was at least third place partly because only the top three get iPods as prizes.

The Partner started with the name of the third place winner. It wasn’t my name. Whew. It was a guy who submitted something about being in the sea. Apparently, he had to catch a boat leaving for Tasmania that night so he was in a bit of a rush to leave. Maybe it was because of this that the organisers decided to announce the winners earlier than we expected.

I was now hoping that my name get called. Winning second place and the iPod Nano wasn’t such a bad deal, I thought. And maybe it was the new video iPod Nano and not the older version which I already have. But no. My name didn’t get called again.

It was now down to the announcement of the first place winner of the competition. I was more nervous than ever. And then the name of the first place winner was called out by the Partner. It was my name. I couldn’t believe it! It didn’t immediately sink in. Raquel and Jo who were near me at the time were telling me that I won.

I accepted the award which was made of glass (very heavy glass) with the name and logo of the company, the words “Artist of the Year” and the names of the winners for the two previous years and my name at the bottom. I was also handed a big paper bag that had the 80Gb iPod Classic and an Altec Lansing speaker system for the iPod. Cool! That must’ve been the most I ever got in exchange for doing an art-related thing. It was probably the happiest I’ve ever been in a while. Winning the iPod was cool but I think getting the recognition for my art was even cooler.

Anyway, after I’ve accepted the award, my friends congratulated me. Some of them told me that they kept telling me I was going to win. I wanted to believe them, of course, but I just didn’t want to keep my hopes up too high just in case I failed to win anything. If any of them is reading this blog right now, I just want to thank them for all their support and encouragement.

I talked to the organisers of the event afterwards. They told me that they were really impressed with what I’ve done and so on. One of them told me she had a son who was also very into comics and would like me to take a look at her son’s work. They told me that there might be a charity auction in the future and if I was interested in offering my work up for it. Sure, it’d be my pleasure.

They also told me that the judge of the competition left wonderful comments about the winning entries. I felt honoured to have had a curator provide a positive comment about a piece of art that I did. Here’s the curator’s comments for my work:

Principally this is a really terrific rendering. It’s informed by both perspective and the direction of light, and yet loose enough to give a sense of the artists hand and their quality of exactness, but also a quality of personal inexactness in this work. I appreciate how the artists mark sometimes comes through — it makes it a very personal rendering.

It absolutely addresses the topic. You can immediately feel the passion from the depiction. I get a sense of exactly what this person is passionate about, and the overwhelming sense of drive that encourages their passion, and that level of obsession, it’s clearly depicted in all the little objects that make living this passionate existence possible.

Out of curiosity though, I also asked the organiser whether only the winners got the email saying that we were short-listed as finalists for the competition. She said yes. She wanted to make sure that we were there to accept the prizes. So, that means, if I join next year’s art competition and I got short listed, I would know that I would at least win third place.

When all was said and done, I’m glad I joined the competition. I thank Raquel for urging me to join up even when I thought of not doing so due to time constraints (I found out about the contest pretty late). I also thank Raquel for helping me with naming the piece. The organisers loved the name “Geeky Pursuits”, which was her idea.

Thanks to yesterday’s win, I have more confidence in my art work than ever before. It certainly encourages me to work on my art some more.

To view the photos Raquel took of the event, go here:

Published in: on October 13, 2007 at 9:34 pm  Comments (10)  

The Poser

While I was surfing this afternoon, I got an instant message from a friend in Manila, VV. Although logged into the messenger, I’ve set my status to invisible so nobody could really see that I am online. Her first message asked me if I’m online. I said yes. However, her next message had me worried. She asked for the time! If you’ve read about my previous post about being phished, the con artist also asked me for the time of day.

So when I encountered the question again today, I was wary to answer. Instead of answering, I asked her why she asked. Nothing, she replied. Uh oh, maybe VV’s account has been hacked into too. Then she said that she wanted to call her sister who lives in Sydney and wasn’t sure what the time here would be. To tell you the truth, that was suspicious too because I’m pretty sure VV would know what the time difference is and if she doesn’t she would be resourceful enough to Google for it instead of asking me. This time though, I told her the time difference, not exactly telling her the exact time. Then I asked her about her pending application to migrate to New Zealand. She replied that it’s progressing and that the NZ immigration department has requested additional documents from her. Hmm… not exactly a specific answer and so I still couldn’t tell for sure if I was really conversing with my friend.

I was still thinking up of what to ask her next when she asked me which of my email address addresses was hacked. You see, when my username and password was conned out of me several days back, I promptly informed my friends that someone else is now in possession of my email address and to ignore all communications coming from that account. Apparently, VV forgot which Yahoo account it was. I told her which one it was.

She then told me that someone is using my hacked account at that very moment and that the con artist has asked her to purchase Globe pre-paid cell phone cards and to email the codes to him. She asked the poser for a mobile phone number to send the codes to but he said there isn’t one and just to send it through the messenger. VV told me that alarm bells were ringing in her head by this time and she also noticed that “I” was becoming insistent, as if “I” wanted her to buy the mobile reload charge cards then and there. The poser is saying that I would be selling the recharge cards to other Filipinos here for a profit. VV asked him for the time and he quoted 10AM. By this time, VV has almost confirmed that it wasn’t me she was talking to. It was 1:30 in the afternoon in the Philippines and unless Earth has started spinning in the other direction, the time here in Australia should be later than that, not earlier.

My friend asked me about the phishing incident and I told her all about it. I was really tempted to redirect her to this blog to avoid having to repeat myself and just let her read about my previous entry. However, I wasn’t fully convinced that I was really talking to my friend, who knows it could still be a con artist that has gone through her email before chatting with me. If that’s the case, the poser would know a bit about me and my friend and would thus be more convincing in trying to persuade me to do something. And if it really was someone other than my friend, I wouldn’t want him/her to know more about me than he/she already did.

After narrating the phishing incident to her, she said goodbye and I did the same. It would have been nice to have chatted with her some more but I was busy with something. Besides, it’s difficult to really communicate with someone if you’re trying not to divulge too much about yourself to the other party. Sadly, the time of asking someone what time of day it is where they are has taken on a more sinister meaning and the joy of catching up with friends via instant messaging has been somewhat marred for me. Perhaps this feeling of paranoia would pass in time, but I hope I never forget the importance always being vigilant.

UPDATE: Please see this post for information on how I regained control of my compromised account.

Published in: on October 13, 2007 at 8:56 pm  Comments (6)  

The curse of the mocha coffee cup

Mag Nation is fast becoming my favourite hang-out in the city during our hour-long lunch break thanks to the availability of the UK-made science-fiction and fantasy digital arts magazine, ImagineFX. I’ve gone back there almost every day this week just to browse through their issues of ImagineFX (which is perfectly Okay with the shop and, in fact, they encourage browsing).

There was a special issue of ImagineFX in the shop which was a compilation of the best bits of the first ten issues. If I remember correctly, the price tag says it’s worth $26 plus. It seems like a good bargain but I’m not too excited about spending more than 20 bucks for a magazine, even if it was a best-of issue. I held off buying it but I kept on coming back just to browse through the one and only copy in shop.

Then yesterday, I couldn’t find the special issue on their shelves. Someone must have finally bought it. Too bad, I thought. Maybe I should have bought it for myself when I had the chance. However, today, I got my chance. The magazine magically returned on the shelf but it looked a bit worn than I remembered it (probably my fault anyway) and the price tag was missing.

I went to the register counter with the magazine and asked, “Can you please tell me how much is this old magazine?” with emphasis on the word “old”. He consulted the PC by the counter then told me that the issue was now down to $19.95. Wow! It certainly pays to be patient sometimes.

Needless to say, I bought it. And when you buy a magazine at Mag Nation, you also get a coupon for a free coffee. Raquel and I wanted to use it right then and there. Last time I asked about the free coffee, the barista didn’t know what size is available for free with the voucher. Of course, I took advantage of this and ordered the large cup at the time. This time, the barista knows that I should only get a small cup. However, after I asked the barista real nicely if I can have a regular cup of mocha, he acceded to my request.

After that long digression, I finally come to the part of my story about the cursed coffee cup.

When the barista handed me my hot cup of mocha, I found the paper cup a bit too hot to hold. I asked if I could have serviettes (what Aussies call paper napkins here). They were all out so the barista offered to just put my cup in another paper cup to insulate my fingers from the heat. Sounded like a good idea.

After taking a few sips from the cup, Raquel and I decided it was time to return to our respective offices. As I crossed the street to get to the tram stop, then my cup that has a plastic lid on suddenly began spitting out the coffee from the tiny hole on the lid on to my coat’s right sleeve! Just great.

When I got to the tram stop, I placed the coffee cup and the magazine I bought on the tram shelter’s bench so I can take out my handkerchief and wipe the coffee off my coat. But as I was wiping my coat, I must have accidentally knocked the cup because it fell over and started to spill coffee on to my newly bought magazine! I immediately set the cup upright. Thankfully, the magazine was in a paper bag so it actually didn’t get wet. I had to chuck the paper bag though.

After catching the tram, I got off near my office. As I was walking towards our building, the coffee cup spat out more coffee but on to my slacks this time. Argh! I promptly wiped my pants dry and proceeded to get back to my desk.

As I was opening the door to my office floor, more coffee was spilled but I was able to avoid getting wet this time. The floor wasn’t as lucky.

By the time I got to my desk, there wasn’t really much coffee in my cup left. I’ve always been a klutz and I hate it. This must’ve been the worst case of clumsiness I’ve experienced to date. I strongly suspect that this series of unfortunate events was caused by having a second cup over the first one. Whenever I make a walking movement, the first cup could freely bob inside the second cup and make the coffee spill out.

Stupid coffee cups.

Published in: on October 12, 2007 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Art exhibition launch tonight

Tonight, my company will finally be launching the annual company art exhibition. In case you haven’t read my past posts, the company art exhibition will feature the entries for the annual company-wide Artist of the Year contest. My submission is called Geeky Pursuits.

What this means for me is that, tonight, I’ll finally find out if my entry will win any prize of not. I’m personally hoping for the first prize (an 80Gb iPod Classic plus extras) but I’m fearful that somebody submitted something that is more worthy than mine.

My work colleagues are all very supportive and excited. This actually makes me more nervous because failure to win will be much more embarassing, in my thinking.

As I was talking to one of my work buddies, I received an internal email from the chief organiser of the event. She informed me that I was “short-listed as one of the finalists to win the title of 2007 Melbourne Artist of the Year!” That means my chances of winning has greatly increased. My colleagues here all wished me good luck after finding out I was a finalist.

I sincerely thank them for all their support. I just wish I actually win this thing. I’ll find out in few hours whether or not I win. I’ll just cross my fingers till then.

Published in: on October 12, 2007 at 12:02 pm  Comments (1)  

Phished!

It was five in the afternoon yesterday and I was waiting for quitting time when I received an instant message from AH, a friend here in Melbourne. I was quite distracted so when she asked what time it was, I answered with the time then asked why she’s asking. I thought she has gone overseas, thus the question with the time. I asked her where she was and she replied that she’s at home and that the clock in her PC seemed wrong. I just read her blog and her last entry was of her having health problems so I rationalized that she might be resting at home and might just have woken up from a nap so she might not know the time of day. She then gave me a link saying it’s a link to her Flickr/Yahoo photo album. I tried the link and was asked to login. I tried to but couldn’t get through. I told AH and she said “sayang” (shame) and when I asked her how she was, she replied that she might have to go off-line soon because she’s talking to someone on the phone.

I was a bit suspicious at this time and noticed that the link she sent me re-directed to Geocities. I was about to change the password to my Yahoo account when a work colleague talked to me. By the time our conversation was over, I have forgotten about changing the password to my Yahoo account and went home. It wasn’t until hubby told me during lunch today that he got a text message from AH that I remembered about the incident. Apparently, someone has hacked into her AH’s account and has scammed her niece to buy pre-paid mobile reload cards and had her niece email the codes.

Most Filipinos abroad retain a Philippine pre-paid SIM card and use this to send text messages back to friends and family in the Philippines. It may not be the easiest but it certainly is the cheapest way to keep in contact with people back home. As the credits in the pre-paid account runs low, the Filipino expat would ask someone back home to buy a reload card in the Philippines and send the code back to them so that expat could use that to add credits to the Philippine mobile account. Thus, it is not unusual request for someone overseas to ask someone in the Philippines to buy them a mobile recharge card and have the code sent. This scammer seems to know this practice and targets OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) and their family and friends.

I know it was dumb of me to fall for this kind of scam, I really should have known better. In my defense, I was distracted and this scammer conversed with me in Tagalog/Filipino, so it seemed like it was really AH that I was conversing with. I believe now that this scammer asked me for the time of day to determine my location. If I answered with the current time in the Philippines, I believe he/she would have asked me to buy him/her a pre-paid card. However, since I answered with a different time, he/she would have discovered that I’m located elsewhere and that the best thing to do is to get my Yahoo username and password and then log off as soon as possible.

A couple of hours ago, we received a forwarded email from a friend stating that another Filipino friend, WG, got victimised by the same scam. It looks like this scammer is having a field day with his victim’s friends list and address book and is milking this con as much as he/she can.

As for my Yahoo account, the scammer got to it and I have already requested Yahoo to disable it. I also had to change my email subscriptions and changed my passwords for other sites like banks and other financial institutions, particularly those that send email to that account. My only consolation is the phished account was an old one that I only use for correspondence from when I was still in the Philippines and that the scammer would have limited knowledge of my affairs through what has been contained therein.

As a warning to others, please be vigilant and beware when clicking on a link, even if it looked like it came from a friend. I told another friend today that if I asked her to answer a random question before clicking on a link she sent me that she should just humour me and answer my question. I have been burned and could be a bit paranoid now.

UPDATE: Please see my next post for more information on this incident.

Published in: on October 11, 2007 at 10:30 pm  Comments (2)  

Armageddon Expo this weekend

There will be a media convention this weekend called the Armageddon Expo. I’ve always wanted to go to a geek convention but have so far been disappointed with the ones I went to here in Australia. Makes me sometimes wish I live in the US so I can go to the different Comics and science-fiction conventions there.

Well, one day while at a comic book shop along Bourke St near the Parliament side (sorry I forgot the name of the shop), I saw these flyers about the upcoming Armageddon Expo. I looked at the events and guests and realised that it is a convention about a lot of things: science fiction, animation, comics and, uh, wrestling.

I went to their website to look at the list of guests who’ll be attending. I immediately saw the names of a few people that I really want to meet in person! Here they are in no particular order:

Alan Tudyk. I first knew about him in the movie A Knight’s Tale with Heath Ledger. I loved his character there and for a while I thought he was really British. But I like him best for his role as Wash in the Firefly TV series and the Serenity movie. If he is in a movie, I’ll probably watch it.

Joe Flanigan. I’m a big fan of Stargate SG-1 and its spin-off series, Stargate Atlantis. It’ll be great to see Lt. Col. John Sheppard in person.

Connor Trinneer. Trip (Cmdr. Charles Tucker III) must be my favourite Star Trek Enterprise character. I also like his Michael the mutated Wraith character in Stargate Atlantis. He is definitely another sci-fi celebrity I’d like to see.

Bruce Timm. He designed the style of the later Batman Animated series. I so want to emulate his style that I even bought a how-to-draw book he made for kids only a few years back. Check out samples of his art here.

Billy West. I couldn’t possibly miss the opportunity to meet the voice of Philip J Fry from the Futurama series, my favourite sci-fi animated comedy show. He also provides the voice for the Professor (Hubert Farnsworth), Dr Zoidberg and Zapp Brannigan.

There are other guests there that I might be cool to see in person (such as John Wesley Shipp who plays the Flash in the old TV series and Dawson’s dad in Dawson’s Creek) but the people in the list above are who I want to see the most if I do go there. For a complete list of guests, go here.

I wanted to go on Saturday but Joe Flanigan is only available on Sunday. I still have to think about it but I’m now more inclined to go on Sunday.

Here are some details of the event:

Armageddon Expo
Place: Exhibition Centre, Melbourne
Date: October 13 and 14, 2007
Time: 9am to 6pm

Published in: on October 11, 2007 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Keeping it short

Even though I have some energy to put into my artistic endeavours, I don’t seem to have any to put into blogging. Maybe I’m just tired of composing my thoughts into words. Despite my desire to talk about a lot of things that have been happening lately, I find it difficult to write about. Actually talking about stuff doesn’t seem to be much of a problem though.

So, in future posts, I’ll probably just write it in a more conversational tone and keep the word count low. Brief and simple. That’ll probably restore my drive to post often again.

Published in: on October 10, 2007 at 12:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

My G.I. Joe file card

Since I’m in the mood to do art stuff in my spare time these days, I wanted to spruce up my profile in DeviantArt, an online community of artists. In DA (as we call it), there is something called the DeviantID. It is simply a graphical image that goes on top of a member’s biographical information section. It can be anything but most of the time, it is a graphical version of the bio info below it.

I got bored of my old one which is just a picture of me in black and white plus my name in white text beside it. So, I decided to change it to something a little more different.

I grew up collecting G.I. Joe action figures when I was young. Apart from the actual toy, I love the cut-out file cards that came with the toy describing the action figure’s character and background. So, I thought it would be cool to use the file card idea and turn it into my DeviantID.

I’m not too happy with the text and my image in it as it is. I’ll probably change it in the future but it will do for now.

Published in: on October 8, 2007 at 11:36 pm  Comments (4)  

A Little Siesta

Earlier this week, I went magazine-browsing at Mag Nation, our favourite magazine shop in the city. Raquel and I go there sometimes during our lunch break to read the various local and imported magazines. The cool thing about Mag Nation is that customers are absolutely welcome to browse. Kind of like Borders (another favourite shop). They also offer free Internet access via Wi-fi there, in case you are interested. I sometimes wonder how they can stay in business.

While there, I noticed that they also sold ImagineFX, a UK-based digital fantasy art magazine that has stories on current digital and traditional fantasy artists, tips on art techniques and art workshops. Even though I didn’t usually buy magazines at Mag Nation, I bought this one. It really inspired me to start drawing or painting digitally again.

I know I need a lot of practice since I haven’t really done a lot of artwork lately. So, I went through my old drawing books for some inspiration on what subject to play around with. Then, Raquel saw these series of sketches I did of her in a cutesy style in one of my drawing books. She liked the one where she was depicted as having a little siesta. She wanted to use it as an avatar for her MSN Messenger.

I thought it was a good piece to start with and to play around with Painter IX’s settings. I scanned in the old sketch first. Then I digitally re-inked the sketch in Painter IX. After that I coloured it. And here is the result:

A Little Siesta

It is a small piece so it should’ve taken me a short time to do. However, I was playing around with the different Painter settings and brushes so it took me a while longer to finish. I think I got it to a level of quality that is presentable.

I really need a lot of practice thought to reach the a professional level of quality. I’m hoping that if I can significantly improve my art skill, I can probably earn some money out of this doing commissions or something. One can always dream. Hope you guys like the piece above.

Published in: on October 7, 2007 at 11:24 am  Comments (6)