Boxing Day rush

This year, Raquel and I didn’t take our annual leave this Christmas week to save it for later. That meant that our days off work during this week and the next only include the weekends, December 25, December 26 and January 1.

As you may well know, December 25 is Christmas Day and January 1 is New Year’s Day. But if you are originally from the Philippines like me, you may not know that December 26 is also a holiday here. It’s a holiday called Boxing Day.

No, it has nothing to do with the sport of Boxing. It has more to do with actual “boxes”, as in the thing you put gifts in. Here is a short introductory excerpt of what Boxing Day is about taken from Wikipedia:

Boxing Day is the day after Christmas, a public holiday in most countries in The Commonwealth. It originated as a day for giving gifts to employees and poor people. It has sporting traditions, especially fox hunting, and is the day when stores launch the most significant sales period in the retail cycle.

It is usually celebrated on 26 December, the day after Christmas Day, but can move to 27 December or 28 December if 26 December is a Saturday or Sunday. The movement of Boxing Day varies between countries.

The public holiday is recognised in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, as well as many other members of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Most shops in Australia always have the Boxing Day sale where you can buy their left over Christmas stock for real cheap. We have never gone Boxing Day shopping before because we were either out of the country or just too lazy to bother. However, this year we decided to go.

We have nearly no Christmas decorations at home this year but we plan to change that for next year. Since everything will be cheaper on Boxing Day, specially the Christmas decors, we wanted to buy all the decor we’ll need next year on Boxing Day.

The original plan was to wake up early and get to the mall early to make the most out of the all-day sale. Come December 26 morning, we were too sleepy to get up at our pre-designated wake-up time of 8 AM. We ended up waking up at 10 AM and leaving the house at 11 AM. That was a big mistake.

By the time we got to Highpoint (shopping centre), all of its various car parks were already full. We circled around and tried different parking locations for about half-an-hour be we finally chanced upon a car that was about to leave its parking bay. Finally!

When we got in the mall, the place was packed with people! As in Christmas-shopping-in-Asia packed. I couldn’t believe it. Where did all these people come from? Well, I couldn’t exactly blame them. There were sales of up to 50% off in lots of shops that day.

We had our lunch soon after arriving at the mall, which proved to be another mistake. By the time we got to do our shopping for Christmas decors and a Christmas tree, the shelves for these items were half empty. There weren’t even any decent Christmas trees left! All we found were red-brown trees and black trees. Black trees? Who buys Christmas trees with black pine needles? Well, my officemates suggested that maybe those were Goth Christmas trees or Emo trees.

So, no sale on the trees that day. But we were able to buy some Christmas decorations, at least. We also got other things that were equally on sale like a couple of pots and a monopod for Raquel’s camera. The only thing I was able to buy for myself was a new headphone set with a microphone and that thing wasn’t even on sale that day. Ah, well.

I almost did buy a discounted Gears of War game for the PC but changed my mind about it at the counter. I probably won’t play it as much in the end anyway. I would rather get Call of Duty 4, Bioshock or Titan Quest.

Even though we weren’t able to get a tree and I wasn’t able to buy any discounted goodies for myself, I still thought we got the most out of the Boxing Day sale. We’ll probably go again if we are in the country next year’s Christmas season.

On a side note, we just wanted to rest our heels after all the walking and shopping. We went back to Werribee and met up with a friend to watch a movie: National Treasure (2): Book of Secrets. There were a lot of so-so reviews of the movie so we didn’t expect much from it but I end up really liking it. If you are a fan of Indiana Jones-type adventures and you have some knowledge of American history, I think you’ll like the film, too.

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Published in: on December 28, 2007 at 12:08 am  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  

The Simpsons Photo-op

When we went to the movie theatres a few weeks ago to catch the latest Harry Potter flick, I, Raquel and a couple of friends of ours noticed a tangible little-larger-than-life-sized versions of the Simpsons family on display along the hall leading to the cinemas. There was a vacant seat beside Homer so it must’ve been meant to be for fans to sit on and have their photos taken with The Simpsons.

However, the small area was cordoned off to the public. Although it may seem campy, we still wanted to have our photo taken beside the Simpsons on display. I asked the nearby usher if it was Okay to do so. She said no. Apparently, a few weeks earlier, the public were allowed to pose beside the figures but some inconsiderate individuals thought it would be fun to damage and vandalise the display. From then on, the area was off-limits to anybody. Great! It must be them darned kids!

Just when we thought we would never get a chance to have our photos taken beside the iconic characters, we saw an identical display at the Hoyts cinema in Fox Studios in Sydney when we visited there earlier this week. This time, the display wasn’t off-limits to anybody. And it shows, too, because the cardboard seat was starting to show signs of wear and tear.

We don’t care though. Here was our chance and we took it.

Published in: on August 9, 2007 at 2:38 pm  Comments (4)  

What if we were in the Simpsons?

We are big fans of Matt Groening’s The Simpsons cartoon series so we are looking forward to watching the Simpsons Movie coming out soon to cinemas. That might be a sign that the Simpsons are coming to an end (some would say “at last!”). That’s probably fine with me as long as they bring back Futurama, a funny sci-fi cartoon series also created by Matt Groening.

Back on topic, with a movie coming out, there is of course the obligatory website associated with the movie. I usually just ignore the official websites for movies but not this time. According to a podcast I listen to, you can make a Simpsons avatar on the movie website. To put it simply, you can design a version of yourself if you had appeared on the TV series.

Here are the avatars Raquel and I made:

The selection of facial features and hair was a bit limited to features found on current recurring Simpsons characters so it can’t be helped that the avatars created might end up looking like one of the characters on the show. Still, there are a lot of options to choose from to make your avatar unique (or at least different).

While waiting for the movie to come out, you can go to the movie site now and give the “Create Avatar” feature a go.

Published in: on July 10, 2007 at 6:49 am  Comments (6)  

Lost vs Heroes

We are long time TV junkies. Unfortunately for us, not a lot of people we know are so we don’t get to talk about our favourite TV shows with anybody that much (but hopefully, that’s about to change as we just met another couple who are also into TV shows). Anyway, not having a lot of friends to discuss our favourite shows didn’t stop us from watching.

In months past, our favourite TV show was Lost, which was co-created by Alias creator JJ Abrams. Since we were also fans of Alias, we decided to give Lost a go when it started showing here in Australia. We almost didn’t even watch it because it was advertised as a Survivor-like drama. Although we both enjoy Survivor, I wasn’t interested in watching a non-reality-TV version of Survivor. Fortunately, it wasn’t anything like that at all. It was actually a mystery/sci-fi show and we both loved it. Personally, I love it for the mystery and the numerous arcane references.

It started with a group of people in an airplane flying from Australia (funny enough) to the US. On the way, the plane crashed in a desert island in what could be somewhere in the Pacific. Soon enough, weird things started happening such as a wild polar bear on a tropical island, a mysterious black smoke, dead relatives appearing, people with sickness were healed, and a lot more. I was hooked with the show because I kept on looking forward to answers to the mysteries introduced in previous episodes.

The need to know the answers to the mysteries seemed to be Lost’s way of hooking people to keep watching the show. However, it’s now in its third season and a lot of questions are still far from being answered. Raquel has already started to get tired of it all. And unfortunately, so am I. I really wanted to see it through but the very slow pace of the story is starting to get to me.

Well, now we have a new favourite sci-fi TV show: Heroes! It’s a story of different ordinary people who suddenly gained superpowers (like comic book super heroes) and their ordeals in handling their newly found gifts/curses. The characterization is just as good as that in Lost and it has a lot of mysteries and cliffhangers in it too. But unlike Lost, Heroes at least doesn’t keep a mystery hanging for so long. Although it doesn’t reveal all the answers to questions it brings up, it dishes out answers enough to keep viewers from getting tired of waiting for some resolution to loose threads.

So, I’ll probably still continue to watch Lost because I’m always still hoping to get answers to mysteries it had presented in the past despite my growing impatience with it. But I no longer look forward to it as much as I do Heroes.

Published in: on March 23, 2007 at 7:45 pm  Comments (4)  

NCIS and Pinpin Pula

Raquel and I are both avid fans of NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service), an American TV series about an criminal investigative branch of the US Navy. Although it might first have been mistaken for a CSI wannabe, NCIS deals more with cases that involve Navy personnel and Navy assets. They not only do forensics, but they are also federal agents so espionage and counter-terrorism action is also to be expected.

But the main draw of the show for us is the humourous banter between the lead characters and the common geeky exchange of the more geeky characters (such as Abby, Agent McGee, Palmer and Ducky). I gave this show a try when it was starting out only because Donald Bellisario is the executive producer of the show (as well as an old TV fave of mine, Quantum Leap).

Okay so it’s obvious that we love NCIS. But that’s not the reason why I wrote this post.

The second to the last episode of Season 3 titled Hiatus (Part 1) was shown on Channel Ten last night. Yes, for you Americans out there that are already into Season 4, Australia is usually behind on TV episodes so we only got to watch it last night. Anyway, at the beginning of the show, the NCIS gang were at a pier inspecting a ship and its crew.

One of the crew members showed his passport and guess what? It’s a green passport with the words “Pasaporte” and “Pilipinas” on the cover. Yep. It was a Philippine passport. It turned out that the passport was forged so the guilty “Filipino” made a run for it. Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (just think of him as the Optimus Prime of the group) gave chase. Thankfully, it turned out that this seeming Pinoy bad guy was actually an informant and the chase was only for show.

It was a good start but I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief later on due to some of things shown in that particular episode. The main one is that the NCIS is after a Filipino terrorist that goes by the name of Pinpin Pula. What kind of Filipino name is Pinpin Pula? Okay, given that this supposed Filipino terrorist probably lives in Mindanao and not in Manila, maybe the surname Pula is popular in Mindanao but it certainly isn’t in Manila.

And the first name, Pinpin? From observation, most Filipinos would either have an old Spanish-sounding name (such as Gabriel, Mariano, Jose, Manuel, etc.), an Anglicised name (such as Peter, Jason, Dexter, etc.) or an Arabic name if he or she is a Muslim (though I don’t personally know a lot of Filipinos with Arabic names so I couldn’t give you a list of common examples). Pinpin sounds more like a Chinese name and Chinese-Filipinos would probably give their children Spanish names (to make it sound more Filipino) or Anglicised names.

Well, according to Dr “Ducky” Mallard (of the NCIS team), the name Pinpin Pula is supposedly Tagalog for “rice paddy dike”! Really? Where did they get this? Is it that difficult to find a Filipino in the USA that they couldn’t get a more authentic sounding Filipino name and get its meaning correctly? We had to laugh out loud when we heard the supposed meaning.

And so that one bit of inaccuracy sort of ruined the episode for me. I couldn’t take it seriously after that.

It was a bit funny that they pronounce Abu Sayyaf as Abu Sayyif but I guess Sayyif could be a more accurate pronunciation in Arabic. Locally, Filipinos pronounce and spell it as Sayyaf so it was just a bit weird to hear it pronounced another way. However, Agent Ziva David (an Israeli Mossad agent assigned to be part of the NCIS team) pronounced Sayyaf as is. And she also pronounced Pula as you would expect a Filipino would. Looking at the actress’s bio, I found out that Cote de Pablo (who played Agent Ziva David) was born in Chile and grew up in Miami. I suppose it’s because she speaks Spanish that she got the pronunciations “correctly”.

There was also a fun tidbit in the show. While the team was looking for leads, it was suggested that they talk to all the Filipino sailors. Then Agent McGee pointed out that there are over 250,000 Filipino sailors! I tried to verify the numbers but couldn’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true though as most Filipinos know at least one person who became a seaman.

Part 2 of the two-parter would be shown next week. I hope that I could suspend my disbelief again by then.

Published in: on October 19, 2006 at 12:34 pm  Comments (15)  

White and Nerdy

While listening to one of my favourite podcasts, Geekson (a podcast by four geeks for geeks like me), I heard mention of a supposedly very funny music video by the famous comedian singer Weird Al Yankovic. The song is called “White and Nerdy” about this white guy rapping about being, well, white and nerdy.

Watch and listen to it now:

I think it’s hilarious. But only maybe because I’m a big nerd myself. It’s so funny because it’s so true. Most of the things he mentioned about being a nerd applied to me or to most of my nerdy/geeky friends. To name but a few geeky traits I possess that is mentioned in the song: I play D&D, I program JavaScript and Pascal (way back when), I used to collect X-Men comics, I love Star Trek, I have two of Stephen Hawking’s books in my bookshelf and I even used to own a soldering gun (I studied Electronics Engineering in University, after all).

So, yeah, I’m guilty of being a big nerd. And proud of it.

Published in: on October 6, 2006 at 12:54 am  Comments (2)  

The End Is Near

I don’t want to be an alarmist but it seems very much like it is near the end of the world. Literally. Raquel and I have recently watched Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth over the weekend. It’s a documentary about global warming and climate change.

But don’t let the fact that it is a documentary put you off. Al Gore, who is the film’s narrator/lecturer, was pretty entertaining while he gets the message across to his audience. And what is this message? Well, if we don’t change now, our planet Earth may not be livable in 50 years.

Here is a quote about the film from its website:

Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world’s scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.

Although it may seem like just a lot of fear-mongering, when you see the facts presented in the form of raw data, charts and photos taken of places a few years ago compared to today, you wouldn’t be able to deny that we are in fact destroying ourselves due to our apathy towards the environment.

I think most of that apathy is due to the fact that caring for the environment means living a more inconvenient life. Turning down the thermostat 2 degrees lower to cut down on carbon emissions means that winters would be slightly less comfortable in the house. Switching to green energy means paying more for electricity. Driving the car less means walking more and taking the public transportation available. But what is all that convenience gained today if there our planet is unlivable tomorrow?

Trailer of An Inconvenient Truth

There are rumours in the media that the jury is still out on whether this global warming thing is even actually happening. Well, according to scientists it is happening and it’s happening fast. Meanwhile, the government implies that not all scientists agree on this. But it just isn’t so. This is just the government’s way of appeasing the corporations and the people who have a stake on carbon emitting technologies such as coal and petrol.

I can understand why these people may feel threatened by people wanting to take action toward reduction of carbon emissions and some such. After all, if we stop using coal tomorrow, there would be a lot of unemployed workers from the mining industry. But if we don’t take action, the farmers will be out of business as the continuing rise of temperature annually will cause yearly droughts. So, on top of not having enough food to feed the planet, we all have to contend with the rising heat. The miners could find other jobs. We can’t find another livable planet.

And with the rising heat, that means the glaciers of the arctic will melt. It’s actually already melting at an alarming rate. With all that melted water added to the ocean, cities near the sea will be submerged in up to 20 feet of water. That would affect a lot of major cities in the planet.

And once this happens, there is no turning back. There would be nothing we could do to save the planet and ourselves. So, while we still have a chance, we should definitely do something about it now. I’m sure some of you reading this are still skeptical about the whole global warming issue. Why don’t you go to the cinemas and watch this film and see for yourself?

As for me, I’ll try to do my part. Also, I’d like to help spread the word on this very critical issue. I want there to be a livable and sustainable planet Earth for my children-to-be and my grandchildren-to-be.

Speaking of the end of the world… Recently, Pope Benedict gave a speech in Germany that angered a lot of Muslims. Now, they are calling for the Pope’s head because of the apparent slur against their prophet. This reminded me of St Malachi’s Prophecy of the Popes. St Malachi was 12th century Irish archbishop who listed 112 future Popes. And guess what? Pope Benedict is pope 111 on the list.

So far, the predictions for all the popes on the list have been accurate specially with Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II. As for Pope Benedict, well, the description given by St Malachi “Glory of the Olives” for the 111th pope on his list could be considered close enough for now. The Benedictine order has an order called the Olivetans and Saint Benedict (the saint whose name Ratzinger chose to adopt) founded that order. Some people interpreted the phrase to mean that the 111th pope would be a peace maker much like St Benedict. So, the current pope could still probably earn the “title” of “Glory of the Olives” later on.

However, the thing that stuck to me was that the 111th pope’s reign would supposedly be a short one. I’ve read this somewhere when I was young but I wasn’t able to find reference to it on the Web. And with the radical Muslims wanting the Pope dead, this might just turn out to be true, too.

As for the last Pope, this is what St Malachi has to say:

In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oves in multis tribulationibus: quibus transactis civitas septicollis diruetur, & Judex tremêdus judicabit populum suum. Finis.
(In extreme persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep through many tribulations, at the term of which the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the formidable Judge will judge his people. The End.)

A bit scary if it came to be true. But with what’s happening with global warming, freak weather patterns, famine and pestilence, it may not be too far fetch to imagine that the end is indeed near. Well, unless we take action against climate change, then, whether you believe in prophecies or not, the world will definitely end anyway.

Published in: on September 19, 2006 at 7:43 am  Comments (3)  

Sukob

Last weekend, Raquel and I went all the way to Chadstone (we consider this far despite the car travel time of only 40 minutes) to catch a movie. Not just any movie though. It’s a Philippine-produced horror film titled Sukob (translated as “The Wedding Curse”) by Chito Rono and starred by Kris Aquino and Claudine Barretto.

I only discovered that this film is currently being shown here in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago entirely by accident. I was looking at the Hoyts website for films coming out this year. I was then surprised to see a film titled “Sukob” on the coming soon list. Sukob is a decidedly Tagalog sounding word so I drilled down further to find out that it was in fact a Filipino film.

The film was only going to be shown at the Hoyts Cinema in Chadstone for one week which started last Thursday (August 31) up till this coming Wednesday (September 6). So, we had to watch it last weekend or end up not watching it at all.

I’m not that much of a fan of Philippine cinema when I was still living in the Philippines. But now that I’m living abroad, I’m more appreciative of anything that reminds me of my country of birth. That meant, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see a film in Tagalog shown in a cinema that’s here in Melbourne, whatever the quality of the movie may be.

Fortunately, it was a relatively good film. Certainly scary. I must admit that I haven’t been that scared after watching a movie for a long time. I found it better than Chito Rono’s other recent horror film, Fung Shui. It reminded me of other Asian horror flicks such as The Ring, Gu-on and the Eye. Well, the horror-feel was similar, at least. As for the story, it revolves around the Filipino superstition that it is extremely bad luck (as well as bad form) to get married in the same year a family member died or to get married in the same year as another sibling got married. In the film, the offenders weren’t just unlucky, but were pursued by a supernatural entity that exacted punishment upon those who break the Sukob rule.

It was too bad that there weren’t any English subtitles. Otherwise, I would’ve recommended my Aussie friends to give it a fair go. But then, I’m not sure they’d understand the superstition behind the story. I’m also unsure how to explain to a non-Asian how easily we believe someone claiming to have psychic powers of some sort. In the film, the protagonists sought the help of a niece who is tuned in with the pretenatural world and an albularyo (a shaman). I just thought that it might ruin the suspension of disbelief of a Westerner. I guess that’s why in the American remake of The Ring, they didn’t make the kid’s father a psychic unlike in the Japanese original.

Anyway, if you are interested in watching a scary horror flick, can understand Tagalog and live in Melbourne, you have until Wednesday to watch it at Chadstone. So, you better hurry.

Published in: on September 4, 2006 at 11:13 pm  Comments (3)  

Do You Like Watching Movies?

Calling other Pinoy Melbournians. Okay, maybe you don’t even need to be a Filipino. Anyway, I’m wondering if there’s anybody here whose hobby is to watch movies like me. I’ve been thinking of an activity that I could invite other people to join me on a regular basis (like weekly perhaps) and make it as an excuse to socialise.

So, I thought, hey, I like watching movies! And maybe there are others out there who similarly like watching movies. If there are, then maybe we can all go out and meet at the city and watch a movie there on an almost weekly basis. And after watching the movie, we can hang out somewhere for refreshments and some story-swapping.

What do you guys think? If you’re interested, just leave me a comment and I’ll try to get back to you. The we can arrange when we’ll meet and so on. And if there are more than a few of us, we can even make this into a sort of social group or something. I can create a mailing list where we can discuss what next movie we’re gonna watch and when and discuss about the movies themselves.

Okay, so I’m thinking ahead too much. If you are interested, please let me know. I’m always eager to make new friends.

Published in: on August 17, 2006 at 11:36 pm  Comments (8)