1. Thoughts on The Conjuring

    So I watched The Conjuring the other day. For the first time in a long time, I enjoyed being scared.

    I don’t usually like horror. I refuse to watch most horror movies because they’re either just too creepy, too cliche or too gory (though I’m always up for a good zombie movie). I’m also not a big fan of horror that puts the emphasis on shock and gore, like the Saw series or the recent Evil Dead reboot. Gratuitous violence and blood. Ick. Though if the gore is less of a focus and more of an element tempered by other core pieces like good music, brilliant acting or an enthralling plot, the film can become one of my favourites.

    Anyway, back to The Conjuring. This is a classic old-fashioned ghost film. Creepiness without resorting to disgust and blood and guts. This is the kind of horror I could get into. The kind that makes you squirm in your seat, or cover your face with your hands so you’re peeking through your fingers. Where your imagination is allowed to run wild. Where you’re often creeped out more by what you don’t see rather than what you do. 

    For days after, I was thinking about this film and my favourite scary scenes. I can’t even pick one, there were so many. Oh, and that damn doll. Nightmares, I tell you.

    If you like good simple horror, check out The Conjuring.

    Oh, and this too.

     

  2. Back to Writing.

    A friend asked me why I don’t do any long-form writing anymore, and I simply replied that I didn’t see the point of expressing my thoughts and opinions in blog form anymore.

    But thinking more about it now, the art of long-form writing is an increasingly lost practice outside the realm of journalism, novels, essays and academic research papers. No one really writes much anymore, and it’s an effect of the evolution of how we consume our information. We’re so used to taking in bits and pieces and tweets and messages and all the little status updates. We see and hear and read the world in bite (byte?) sized chunks, and even when we consume, we often do so without much output. And any output we do produce emerges in a similar staccato bits-and-bobs format.

    If you say that people don’t read anymore, you’ll get a bunch of mildly offended literati who passive-aggressively point out that hey, I still read, thank you very much. But they do so with hesitant conviction simply because they realize that they are a dying breed. An endangered group that enjoy the look and feel and even smell of a good book—or at times, as in my case, even the idea of a good book—and how it can conjure entire worlds of colour and sound and depth and emotion, all without getting up from one’s comfortable chair. And they swear up and down that they will teach their children the love of a good book. So maybe there’s hope?

    So people may not read as much anymore. But they write even less. Input is oftentimes much easier than output. It takes time to conceive an idea, put it into words, and then mold the way that idea is expressed in the arrangement of those words, their sound, their pronunciation, the way people read them in their heads. And how do you write your emotion? How do you make your words seethe with anger, or leap with joy, or writhe in pain?

    I used to ask myself why I wrote. Why I blogged. What was the point? Early on, it was a means of expression, but it was also to write for an audience. Like their acknowledgement and agreement with my thoughts and opinions meant validation. Cogito ergo sum. And you agree with me, so you agree that I am.

    And when I decided that I didn’t need that validation, or that I would find it elsewhere, I stopped writing. And other blogs I’ve kept seemed to have fallen by the wayside. But lately, I’ve had people tell me they want me to write again. They want to see what I have to say. 

    So here I am again, writing. Pouring my words and thoughts out on paper. “Paper”. Let’s see where this goes.

     

  3. To be sin for us

    I am ungodly. I am unrighteousness. I am a sinner in the midst of my sin. I face it everyday and some days it threatens to overwhelm me with the simple truth that I’m sick and twisted and no good.

    But I have a conviction. A deep, rooted, certainty. A juxtaposed certainty that despite my depravity, my failure, my weaknesses, I have a Hope. Despite my lack of willpower and wanton disregard of what I know I should do and doing what I should not, there is still Redemption for this evil I have wrought. There is still Grace for these stained hands.

    And in the end, He’s all I’ve got.

     
  4. My first (partial) cover on my uke, which I just got two weeks ago. I’m not that good at strumming yet, so it’s all just simple chords. Sorry for the subpar video and audio; recorded this on my laptop.

     
     

  5. Cover of David Crowder*Band’s Let Me Feel You Shine by my semi-band, Seeds To Three. 

    Lead Guitar: Sheng 
    Rhythm Guitar, Other Instrumentation, Mixing and Track Editing: Shan Wee

     

  6. EAT ALL THE FROYO!

    A bunch of friends and I decided to have a froyo run, mostly because one of them had never tried froyo before. Shocking, I know.

    We went to most of the main froyo places—Blitz, Bakerlyn, Coffee Bean, and Mochi. We decided against Tutti Frutti because of the outrageous pricing-by-weight. I mean, c’mon… $3.50 per 100 grams?! Highway robbery.

    First on our list was Blitz, since it’s at Mabohai and thus the only place not situated at the Airport Mall area. Overall, this place has been one of my firm favourites because it usually has sugar-free froyo and a nice selection of different toppings. I find the froyo light and not overly sweet, and their topping choices include fruit, candies and cookies, and multiple varieties of syrups. Also, instead of just one flavour of froyo, you can choose to have a double-flavour swirl, though the combinations depend on what’s loaded into the dispensers.

    Afterward we headed to Bakerlyn at Citis Square and ordered our froyo with strawberry curls and mango. I’m not sure whether it was the froyo, the curls, or combination of all the elements, but it was awful. The froyo was bland and tasted oddly metallic, and in combination with the strawberry curls tasted inexplicably like fried chicken; the mango was a godsend and was the only saving grace. I’d heard good things about Bakerlyn’s froyo and I guess I expected more. I don’t think I’ll be going back. 

    Desperate to get the taste out of our mouths, we walked over to Coffee Bean at Times Square. Their froyo comes in two flavours: Original Tart and Classic Vanilla. If you’re looking for a non-tart froyo, their Classic Vanilla is the way to go. We chose the Classic Vanilla Caramel Macchiato topped with marachino cherries and it was brilliant. With the splash of espresso, it tasted almost like an affogato. Good stuff. Moreover, we ordered the regular size and it was quite a sizeable serving, so you get value for money too.

    All that was left to try was Mochi at the Airport Mall. Honestly, I don’t really enjoy their froyo as much as Blitz’s. Their toppings seemed to cater more to those with a sweettooth; there were multiple flavours of mochi (natch) and other more unique toppings such as popping balls and coconut jelly. Not bad, but I prefer either Blitz or Coffee Bean.

    Though we had decided not to try Tutti Frutti, I ventured over later to check out the place. There has to be a reason why people like it despite the crazy prices. Judging from what I saw, I’d say it has to do with their selection of flavours. At a glance, I saw choices like ‘Orange’ and ‘Death by Chocolate’. Plus there’s the novelty of dispensing your own froyo and adding whatever toppings in whatever amount you want. But I’m not sure whether novelty and variety are worth $8, which I saw some lady shell out for her average-sized froyo. She didn’t seem too happy about it either.

    Honorable mention: Sharetea (next to KFC at the Airport Mall), the latest bubble tea craze. Fresh and tasty, and a nice way to end the night. Try one of the Rock Salt and Cheese teas, preferably with wintermelon tea, if they have it. Sounds like a gross combo, but it’s brilliant.

     

  7. Film Thoughts: The Dark Knight Is Risen

    For those of you who haven’t seen it, caveat lector. I will be discussing plot points, characters and twists, so spoilers abound.

    Christopher Nolan has certainly proven himself a capable handler of the Batman mythos. Batman Begins demonstrated how gritty ultra-realism was an apt tool for portraying the Bat, if only because he’s so human and the comics also have similar atmospheres and elements. The Dark Knight set Heath Ledger’s Joker loose on the world and in doing so showed how darkly cerebral things could really get. It also established Christian Bale’s gravelly Bat-voice as the go-to way to say “I’m Batman”.

    So things were set up for The Dark Knight Rises to be the culmination of all those things—a film that is equal parts emotional, physical, and cerebral; twists and revelations, some which leap from the shadows whilst others slowly creep into the light, bit by mind-blowing bit; an antagonist who is as much a deeply and disturbingly intelligent sociopath as he is a character of tragedy, complete with a grippingly villainous voice and ‘kill-you-if-you-look-at-me-wrong’ presence.

    Hardship Builds Character

    One of Nolan’s challenges after the second movie was to find some way to match what Heath Ledger had brought to the table with Joker. His darkness, his raw amoral insanity, the uneasiness you felt as you watched him lick his lips for the umpteenth time or listened to him recount yet another version of his scar story.

    I’d say Nolan succeeded in his re-imagining of Bane. It’s interesting that although Bane’s built like a small tank, this iteration doesn’t have superhuman strength; Nolan instead chose to focus on the mental capabilities of Bane. In my impressions of Bane from film, TV, video games and comics, I’d always thought of him as a hulking brute who is more akin to someone like Fantastic Four’s Thing than anyone smart and devious like Dr Doom.

    But in reality, Bane is highly intelligent, strategic and devious. It helped that Tom Hardy was dedicated to the character, packing on the required muscle and affecting a gruff filtered accent (which I personally thought was brilliant, if a bit challenging to decipher from time to time).

    Anne Hathaway also contributed a great performance as Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman, though she is never referred to as such, save for a few smart visual references such as a visor mimicking the shape of cat ears). She captured the sultry yet dangerous playfulness of Catwoman well. I honestly fell in love the second she said “Oops” and later backflipped out a window.

    Twists and Turns

    A friend mentioned how Marion Cotillard tended to always seem evil in movies, citing her role in Inception. Although I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as that, her character did seem to have an air about her that hinted at more than what seemed. I found myself wondering if I’d ever heard the name ‘Miranda Tate’ before. Imagine my surprise when she revealed who she really was! Having recently finished Batman Arkham City for the second time (in which Talia al Ghul plays a prominent role), I found myself wondering how on earth I could’ve missed that twist. Even though I knew Ra’s al Ghul had a daughter and not a son, there was so much misdirection and focus on Bane that the character of Talia was able to slip in right under my nose. This made the turn of events all the more masterful and violently sudden. In one fell stab, Bane became a tragic character and the real evil stepped out of the Shadows.

    Another pleasant revelation occurred with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. When I first heard that he was in TDKR, I wondered what his role was. The trailers were intentionally vague on this, and even during the film he seemed to be just a cop with good detective skills, and simply someone normal who was there to fulfill a role. So I really appreciated how even though Nolan has stated this would be his last Batman movie, he threw in a nod to future possibilities with the small reference to Blake’s real name near the end of the movie, and the passing of the bat-torch, as it were, from Batman to Robin. 

    You’re Only As Deep As Those Around You

    If you notice, I have not really mentioned Batman much. The most interesting part of all this to me is that since the second movie, I found myself drawn in by the other characters. It wasn’t Batman who gripped my mind, but the darkness of the Joker (the ‘disappearing pencil’ trick will forever be a classic). There’s also the poignancy of Alfred, the menace of Bane, the tragic duality of Harvey Dent, the difficult courage of Commissioner Gordon, and so on. It strikes me that in some ways, the whole story isn’t so much about Batman as it is about these people and how they fit into his world. It’s about how we get a glimpse into the mind and mythos of Batman through these characters, their interactions and his reactions to them.

    Thus, if Batman himself is only as deep as the characters surrounding him, I can honestly say that this trilogy stands as the finest films of Batman ever made, by which all superhero films can be measured, particularly those that aim to dig deeper into the depths of what makes a hero a hero.