Sunday, May 25, 2014

Like Someone In Love

I really wanted to like this movie, but there were some aspects that left me troubled. What caught my interest was this all-Japanese cast in all-Japanese medium movie was directed by an Iranian. I was not familiar with any of his previous works. So, without delving into the synopsis or any review beforehand, I just went ahead with the movie.

The whole movie involves a lot of still camera, no soundtrack, a lot of ambient sounds, characters sitting around and talking, a kind of minimalism reminiscent of movies like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset that I really adore. The first scene was interesting because you hear someone talking but the person wasn't on screen, and the whole frame was just a slew of people minding their own business in a bar. It's as if the camera was shot from a person's point of view sitting at one of the tables in the bar and you're tuned in to someone's phone conversation. Much of the other shots were also composed of "close" shots such that you feel like you're in the personal space of the conversation itself, , but at the same time, you're separated from it by window panes and others feel like you're eavesdropping. There's no panning shots typical of movies, no rolling hills or city skyline sweeps whatsoever, everything is experienced as a human observer or passer-by perspective, and yeah I guess I've been watching super hero movies lately, so I'd really notice the change of cinematography.

The premise itself was pretty interesting, but I felt with the relatively short run time, I really wished the whole movie was a lot more..finished ? I tried hard to be invested in the conversations, but some didn't really get to the point, although the character interactions are really interesting, especially the ones with three characters in the car, I felt that it was well done. It was tense. The first encounter between the female lead and her "client" felt like it didn't reach its potential, I wish there was a lot more to it because whatever they were talking about didn't feel like it established any dynamics between the two characters. 

Yes, the ending just blew it for me. I don't know if the ending was a deliberate artistic decision, but the way the movie ended left me wanting more, and it makes me wonder what the director wanted to achieve by making his audience elicit such a reaction, because a movie like this, in my opinion, doesn't need and most likely will not have a sequel. You will never know what happen in the end.

I'm usually fine with cliffhangers and open endings, but this ending just left me wondering what the director wanted to achieve with something that was barely establishing.. anything ? Was it just on a whim, yeah, I just don't want to finish this movie, or was there a purpose behind depicting the incompleteness of the narrative ?

Despite that major gripe with the ending, I did like how the scenes were composed, the character interaction and the story-telling, as well as the mood. It made me feel a little melancholic for some reason. It's just sad that the melancholy wasn't justified or explained or rewarded at the end.

Warning : Spoilers ahead. 

If I were to take a stab at the central themes in the film, I'd say, from the beginning to the end, the most stark would have been on the female lead's alternate identity. She's trying to hide it from her jealous boyfriend, and I was wondering if that was also the reason why she hesitated in seeing her grandmother since the voice messages that her grandmother left for her that she didn't respond to also mentioned seeing her picture, or a picture of someone who looks like her that suggested something of an escort service, I suppose. The scene where she was driven around the station, but not going ahead to meet her grandmother left me a little sad.

The second most stark thing would have been the roles each character played, or at least, the expectations of what each character would have if they were playing the role. I didn't know what to make of the purpose of the client, Takashi's wish to call on the female lead, Akiko. I didn't expect him to explicitly say it, but due to the really short single conversation that happened over night, which was barely even a conversation cuz the girl went straight to bed after (what the hell??). There was hardly any background on him either, to what led him to the decision to call on her. There were lots of comments about how the girl looks like his wife or something a few times throughout the movie, but it didn't say much to me. Was he just lonely ? Did he want a relationship ? Did he want her as a romantic companion or did he just see her as the "granddaughter" that people mistaken her for ? Not answered to the end, so I didn't know what to feel about it, although I felt sorry for him that she ended up not having any of his food. Yes, that's also another weird thing, he took the effort to make her food and buy wine and play music, in fact, I think, the only soundtrack throughout the movie. 

The only character played straight without any change in role-playing was the jealous boyfriend, Noriaki. From the beginning to the end, he was the constant variable, as the relationship between the old man and the girl changed from being client and call girl (and it's not even the conventional way such a scene played out too) to fake grandfather and granddaughter. 

I guess, in a way, the title Like Someone In Love, sort of makes sense, if you put the emphasis on the word "Like". It suggests that it only appears to be, when in reality, it is not. Who is the "someone" that is "like" in love ? Akiko ? Takashi ? Noriaki ? Akiko is in a relationship, but she doesn't seem too sure about it anymore, with her secret identity on the line and the possessiveness of Noriaki, and Takashi himself, who knows what's he really feeling inside. Only Noriaki is the only one to explicitly say that he is in love, with Akiko. It was as if Noriaki was the single character rebelling against the whole concept of the movie's vagueness and concealing identities. Who knows, if that was what was intended. There could be details that I didn't go too deep into. 

One scene that felt out of place was the short conversation, or rather, lecture, by Takashi's estranged neighbor who confesses to Akiko that she wanted to marry Takashi but didn't have the chance and is now only reduced to watching him from a small window. I didn't know what this scene wanted to establish especially when it is the final scene before the ending took place very abruptly right after. Who knows, she may have called Akiko Takashi's granddaughter, but then she went ahead and talked about marrying Takashi, maybe she suspects that Akiko is really not the granddaughter. 

Well, that was all I could get out of a single viewing. It's not all bad, just a little frustrating at the lack of resolution at the end wasn't worth the investment.

*Aside: I have time to watch movies now. Not sure if I like this or not.*

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Truth About Stories Book Reflection - class assignment

Thomas King’s The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative Book Reflection
Nurul Matkamil 1160337

At the beginning of every chapter, Thomas King would start off with a story of the earth riding on a turtle’s back. The point he wanted to drive home with this is that when circumstances deny you of having even the right of identity, all you really have are your stories that you must tell to assert your individuality. It just goes to show that sometimes circumstances have not been kind to certain parties and some voices will go unheard if no one spares a thought to consider all interests equally. In the last chapter, he talked about the story of the wolf taking away the ducks’ feather after promising them “protection”. He relates this with the behaviour of the government making treaties with the native people to “protect” them, but in reality, the legislations were there to monitor them, strip them of their land and erase their race by setting regulations to define who is or not an Indian. This is a profound illustration of how societies seek to control who gets access to what privileges or to resources creates an invisible majority.
This issue is especially prevalent in the health industry as some patients are made to go on a waitlist while some are denied treatment or access to diagnosis due to limited resources and having to prioritize who gets medical service first. Usually, either the legislation or the medical institute administration would have to make the call on how to distribute their resources for their patients. Sometimes there aren’t as enough drugs or imaging devices or doctors or beds in the hospital to cater to a growing line of patients, who may or may not need immediate treatment and diagnosis. So the hospital administration, too, cannot simply follow their best interests, and have to follow certain rules set by the government and think about the patients that they have to serve and treat. Since it is difficult to acquire enough resources to treat all patients, most regulations resort to putting certain criteria on the patients who will be treated first, which may not be fair, as whose rights is it to determine who deserves the first in line in getting treatment ?
As a biomedical engineer who works for a medical device instrumentation company who comes up with solutions for biomedical problems either by designing equipment or operating medical technology, one cannot simply turn away from the moral dilemma of catering to the best interests’ of the patients or users, but at the same time, certain legislations or protocols or conflicts of interests may hinder your efforts. This is because most of the time, the design you come up with has to comply with the constraints on the costs and the number of units that can be produced for a particular proposed design. Another complication that arises is the fact that for medical devices, especially implants, is difficult to find a one fit solution as it might have to be customized to each patient, this will increase the cost and not all patients can pay for it. Some government policies can have subsidies for such devices, but that is not often the case and government policies differ from one country to another. How one would resolve this conflict is by going back to the ethics code that both engineers and health care providers adhere to. The engineer, the PEO code of ethics and the health care practitioner, the Hippocratic Oath. In both codes of ethics, the main purpose is to serve the public interest and avoid doing harm to the people. If these interests can be conveyed cross-profession, they might come to an understanding of what is the priority in resolving these ethical dilemmas. In
some cases, due to a lack of communication, medical devices fail because both the health care practitioner and the engineer don’t appreciate the different requirements for the medical devices and this will endanger lives. Both professions should constantly communicate with each other and call attention to any unethical decisions. At the same time they should also listen to what the patient has to say and understand the predicaments the patients have to best serve them. Cost analyses to ensure that the medical device instrumentation is feasible can be done with economic evaluation techniques, and must be done with participation from all professions and input from the patients’ needs to ensure that it meets requirements. What the government can do is to make the policy-making process more inclusive so that they can get input from all the stakeholders as they go about it.
Of course, all of this would only happen if all parties are willing to listen to each other and to respect each other enough to not infringe each other’s’ rights. It is important to know what the different interests of each stakeholder are and find common ground for a win-win situation. After all, we don’t live on this world alone. If we stop listening to others and exclude them from the policy-building process, their voices will go unheard, and all they have left are just stories which may or may not even be heard.

A Short History of Progress Book Reflection - class assignment

Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress Book Reflection
Nurul Matkamil 1160337

Ronald Wright poses three of Gauguin’s questions: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? He then proceeds to answer them by telling society to learn from past civilisations that fall victim to “progress traps”. These progress traps are a product of the obsession for the advancement of technology which in the end, caused the very down fall of the civilisation as these advancements proceed with little to no consideration on the impact it has on nature and society.
One such example of a progress trap is the Mesopotamian civilisation that improves its crop production and soil fertility by using the advancement of irrigation technology that diverts the river flow of the Tigris and Euphrates to water other barren parts. So, due to more coverage of area that they can water, the civilisation grew. However, because of the design of the irrigation went against the natural flow of water, this resulted in disruption of current and leaves behind salt as it is not drained properly, making the soil more basic and eventually destroying crops as the soil is no longer suitable for plantation. The Mesopotamians tried to remedy this by substituting wheat for barley, but eventually, they ran out of land space because at the same time, ziggurat construction was on the rise as a symbol of status. This obsession to control nature with the advancement of technology and the flaunting of status from grandiose constructions is part of the human hamartia. Human beings bring about drastic landscape changes as they build cities, the same way the Mesopotamians change water flow with their engineered irrigation system. In rapidly growing city-scapes, constructions occur at a fast rate due to the demands of an increasing population inflow into the city and an abundance of resources. However, some of the construction could suddenly be halted due to a lack of resources, or the project’s financing has been stopped, or that the construction posed a danger to surrounding communities. In the end, these constructions ended up being abandoned half-finished until someone decides to tear it down. Not only is the surrounding community and environment affected by the pollution that the construction produces but it also does not make good use of the land since the abandoned construction will be there for a long time when the land could have been used for something else. Debris from an unmaintained uncompleted edifice will also lead to more pollution and become an obstruction that leads to uncomfortable living environment. Such projects show that there is a lack of long-term planning and a failure to consider unexpected circumstances as well as a lack of consideration of how the project would affect the surrounding community and nature. As an engineer, when one is tasked to design an edifice or for any general projects, one must come up with multiple designs and compare their feasibility. At the same time, all these designs must put a lot of stakeholder interests into consideration as possible. So, before making a call on which design will the engineer will follow through with, the engineer must ensure that the decision is well thought out. This can be done by understanding the different interests of the stakeholders and how the proposed design will affect these interests. According to the PEO code of ethics, it is most important that the engineer must prioritize the public’s safety when practicing their profession. The design must also be sustainable and produces as little pollution as possible. However, these interests would often come
into conflict with the client’s interests as well, since most of the time, there is a limit on how much money they can pump into financing the project and the deadline for the project. At the same time, the project must also comply with local laws and regulations. In order to resolve these conflicts of interests, the engineer must actively consult the stakeholders to understand as much as possible what their interests are. The engineer can also consult the PEO code of ethics to ensure how to prioritize obligations and come up with the best ethical judgment, or what is the right thing to do in times of conflict as suggested by the code of ethics. Any unethical judgment should be called out to the clients and discussed to find a better alternative that would come to a win-win situation. Other than that, the engineer can also come up with as many design alternatives as possible and use analysis tools in both engineering and engineering economics to find the most cost-effective, yet well-rounded solution to a problem. After proceeding with the project, there must also be consistent follow up to address problems that crop up as well to ensure that the project goes to completion while adhering to ethical guidelines throughout the whole process. In conclusion, an engineer must bear in mind that the obsession with the advancement of technology can fall into progress traps if the process goes unchecked and does not consider the effects it has on all stakeholders. This inability to foresee potential unexpected consequences will lead to a large scale undoing of the environment and the society. Therefore, it is important to understand how each stakeholder has different interests and how these interests come into conflict and come up with a solution that could resolve this conflict the best way possible.

Postdated Letter -class assignment

December 31, 2013
Dear Joel,
Before I tell you why I got an A in your class, I’d like to reminisce the first day of class. It’s always good to see where you began to appreciate how you got to where you are now.
I came to the first day of class, expecting what would be a typical ethics course. Supposedly it should add value to my personal conduct as an engineer and make me a responsible future engineer who is in tune with societal issues and one who designs for sustainability. I’ve had other ethics courses before, but memorizing a list from a textbook wasn’t really all that memorable.
However, your mouse trap fetish on the first day did make an indelible impression on me, and as I had hoped, you didn’t let my expectations down for the whole term in terms of serving up new perspectives and interesting lessons. My experience in your class was indeed a memorable one, if not, a personally life changing one. It certainly made me think about a lot more issues that didn’t occur to me to think about. It was interesting to see how these diverse issues finally tie in together like puzzle pieces at the end of the day to what makes up the society today. It was amazing to see how small things you’d shrug off or took for granted add up. This had made me perhaps a little bit more mindful of my actions and more appreciative of the people and the resources around me. I don’t dare say that I now know how the world works after this course, but it did help me understand it a little more from different perspectives, which was refreshing and a much needed change.
I didn’t only get an A in your class because I did all your assignments and handed them in on time, nor because I attended all your classes. I got an A in your class because I made an effort to internalize the lessons. I made an effort to make every moment I spent in the class to be meaningful, although I had initially said that my expectations of the class was “I’d wanted a break from engineering once a week”. This class surely had to make a meaningful impact on me, before I could make a meaningful impact to the rest of the society. Thank you, Joel, for giving me the opportunity to be part of a wonderful unconventional classroom experience.
Yours truly,
Nurul Matkamil

Carbon Footprint Challenge - class assignment

Reflection: I have honestly never done an ecological footprint of my lifestyle, neither considered doing it. I have vaguely heard of the idea, but I didn’t see any importance or urgency to do it. So, as I was doing the assignment, I was actually forced to consider every little thing I do in my daily life which I never really thought of before. Even small things like recycling, or the amount of meat you eat, and turning off the lights could contribute so much to your ecological footprint. I feel that if I had known everything in detail, it would have been more accurate. Based on the quiz results, my first reaction was well, “it could have been worse”, but it’s not exactly great either. Since we only really have resources from one earth, and already, my daily lifestyle is doing harm to the world, if everyone on earth decided to adopt it. That’s not even considering other people’s lifestyles that might be more exhaustive than mine. I guess it’s due to the fact that we live in a consumerist world which is demand-driven, using a lot of space, resources and energy, and where most of the stuff we buy is manufactured and easily available off the counter.

Two things suggested to reduce my ecological footprint: A lot of things are listed to help reduce carbon foot print, which I will keep for personal references. If I had to pick two, it would be to reduce animal products by half and purchasing products with less packaging, since I’ve pretty much tried my best to do the rest like recycling and energy-saving habits. In terms of setting up solar panels and energy efficient appliances that pretty much depends on the state of finance and at my landlord or household’s discretion. Traveling short distances is do-able. However, reducing animal products by half and purchasing products with less packaging would be the most difficult to do, as I do enjoy my meat products, egg and dairy, but this, in fact, was the most resource taxing as it requires large areas of land, resource and energy for farming, manufacturing as well as energy consumption in long distance transport. Eating food higher up on the food change requires a lot more energy and resources because you have to produce food to feed the animals you rear before you could eat it, and that requires even more resources and energy as compared to simply eating vegetables and fruits. Although it’s pretty much difficult to suddenly change your diet for something more sustainable, I guess, it doesn’t hurt to try. I could google alternative recipes for low impact food that could potentially be delicious. As for purchasing products with less packaging it’s also quite a challenge since most stuff come in packages nowadays for mobility and preservation or marketing purposes, but I guess that means that, if let’s say I’m buying groceries, then I could try to go buy fresh ones that don’t come in packages, as non-local produce has a large carbon footprint due to the fertilizers, land use and transportation, or I could put in a little effort keeping an eye out for biodegradable packaging.

Why I would/would not do it: Well, I did mention that I would give it a try. It wouldn’t be easy since you’re accustomed to your own lifestyle, but looking at how much my activities and consumption can affect the environment, I guess I have to give it a try. I also looked at the ecological footprint trends for other countries and I realize how important it is to adopt sustainable lifestyles as resources decline very fast while at the same time, ecological footprints are increasing. I would like to help reduce it, as I would want a sustainable environment for future generations.

Social Media Challenge - class assignment

Introduction: I decided to go for this challenge because my friends and I agree that I am a social media addict. I post at least 10 status updates on my Facebook and Twitter every day, and I never logout from both accounts. My mornings are spent checking Facebook at the waking hour. I’ve also had multiple social media accounts. I was hoping that going 7 days without social media would help cure me of this addiction and hopefully teach me how to use social media in moderation, as well as gain some form of insight.

Report and reflection: 7 days of going without social media for me drove me into an existential crisis. Well, no, that’s exaggerating it a little bit, but the impact was felt because I was so used of having social media being an integral part of my daily routines as well as my interaction with people. It gets kind of frustrating when I can’t get the updates I want really fast and when I watch a funny video, or thought up of something interesting and I couldn’t share it with people. Haha. I’ve only had Facebook for about 4 years, and Twitter for two years, and Instagram for only a year, but within that short time, the two social media became so intertwined with how I live my life and communicate, or relate to others. I decided to go off Facebook, primarily, along with Twitter, Instagram, DeviantArt, Blogspot, Skype, imessage, google+, linkedIn, as well as texting from Sept 14, 2013 at 12:01 am to Sept 21, 2013 at 12:01 am. I didn’t put the cap on emails and calls because I still needed those for school work, but I tried my best to limit interaction as possible, only emailing or making calls for really important matters. What I realized was that I had so much free time without having those time spent on social media. I was more productive in getting things done; I stayed on task because there were less distractions. However, after I was finally done, I’d get bored out of my mind, and I didn’t know what to do on my own. On the downside, my time spent on youtube watching cat videos increased, and left me to wonder if I should have included youtube as social media. I stopped going on youtube the next day, but due to the free time I have, I started to actually hang out with some of my friends and talk, and I also signed up for stuff to do after school, like attending extracurricular meetings. I started on SELECT Tier 1 on Tuesday evening. I felt that I don’t really need social media to interact with some friends that I could actually see on campus. Face-to-face interactions made it feel more personal, although energy-draining for an introvert like me. However, it’s kind of bothersome when I couldn’t send a quick text to someone as I didn’t want to call them in the middle of a class, and I kind of had to go without Facebook to contact home, which is, Malaysia, but I tell myself, it’s only for a week. Overall, although I felt inconvenienced over some aspect of not having a really quick and easy way to communicate, I like the fact that I stayed on task and filled up my time by doing meaningful things. I also realize that some of the things that I post or do on social media aren’t really a necessity, but it’s more out of habit and for the sake of spending time on social media. I also spend a lot less time hung up on the laptop, so it spends a longer time being switched off, saving electricity. Social media is a relatively new thing, as I went through high school without any social media activity, it was only recently when I started Grade 12 and started university that it became so integrated in my life that it’s hard to imagine life without it, although I did actually live without it in my earlier years. It’s not so much that I can’t use social media in moderation, but it’s just a matter of mind over matter. If I set my mind to it, I could do it.

Perspective Change - Ethics class essay

I am sometimes grateful for the moments of solitude in a life where there is a constant influx of deadlines and to-do lists, because that’s when I get to sit down and consolidate my own thoughts and experiences. Sometimes, you forget to “check” yourself once in a while, as you keep telling yourself to move on to the next thing. Having ambitions and chasing grades is not a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean your perspectives in life should remain stagnant just because you don’t have time to think about it. 4AO3 classes so far has given me that space to stop and think of other things in life. In engineering, we have a top-down and bottom-up approach. 4AO3 is sort of a bottom-up approach as you take a step back and see where the individual engineer as a module fit into the rest of the system, which is the society, or the rest of the world. I could suddenly see the bigger picture of my role in the society. How my slaving away in circuit analyses is not just for the sake of it, but it is to equip me with skills that will get the job done for the bigger purpose of serving the society. For me, some of the most significant perspective changes come from the fact that I have to reconsider my lifestyles and my habits. It challenges my sense of complacency in feeling that nothing has to ever change in my life. Whatever that I’m doing now has always worked for me and didn’t need re-evaluation let alone change. For example, when I did my choice assignment on carbon foot-print, one of the suggestions was that reducing consumption of meat could actually help reduce the strain on the demand for produce; hence reducing land used for farming and could conserve resources better. I am a big fan of meat and I eat it whenever I can. I never really considered how much of an impact it would have and until today, I find it really hard to give up that part of my lifestyle. However, reflecting on the significance of a little sacrifice in giving up something for your own good and the good of others, gives meaning to other aspects of my life. For example, I profess to a religious belief and some rituals require fasting, which is a form of a small sacrifice since you have to abstain from food consumption for a period of time. Giving up an aspect of your lifestyle to embrace change can be a form of “fasting”. This small sacrifice makes you feel grateful for the little things in life as you empathize with the people who are a lot less privileged than you when you experience the loss of that privilege or luxury as you abstain. At the end of the day, all these things will eventually build character and make you come out a more humane and considerate individual. Another noteworthy thing is the fact that due to the breadth of the course and flexibility in the course content, I am able to rediscover my lost interests that I most probably put away in pursuit of academic performance. I have a tendency to tilt my work-life balance towards work, such that I am willing to sacrifice time with friends and family and even time for myself to get things done, and I make work a convenient excuse to avoid social obligations. Since 4AO3 is part of my schedule I guess I was sort of forced out of my usual work to think about other things. From the range of topics discussed and the freedom of expression of opinions on whatever topics made me remember the
things I would once be passionate about, especially during the TEDTalk assignment. Initially I found it really hard to figure out what I wanted to talk about because I spent all my time and energy on work and not set aside any for the things I was passionate about. In this term as well, I took the time to get involved with the SELECT program, and 4AO3 ties in nicely with this because in both activities I get to hear a lot of ideas and learn about other people’s passions that inspire me to find or rediscover my own. It teaches me that there is a lot more to life than just work and I realized how much I have let grades defined who I am exclusively and how much working for those grades took up my time that I could have allotted to myself to pursue other interests and build other skills, or seek self-fulfilment in other areas or to engage in other social settings. The diversity of the topics covered in class, from both the TEDTalks as well as the guest speakers also made me realize that learning can happen from any person since everyone has different knowledge and experiences to offer.
All in all, I was thankful for this experience. There is definitely some change in the person I was at the beginning of the term and the person I am now. Even in my denial that I have better things to do than attend an ethics class, without a doubt, even being present in class and listening to the lecture or the in-class discussions, it does have an impact on giving me an awareness to self-reflect and expand my breadth of thoughts. That, in itself, is enough to give a small but significant perspective change in me.


Firstly, I should make my biases clear, but I'm pretty sure it's obvious. I've seen the Sam Raimi trilogy and of course, I will be comparing it to the reboot. After all, the reboot came a little bit too soon after the trilogy. Most of what follows will probably just be my personal preferences and gripes. Warning, spoilers abound.

1. Peter Parker

I liked the doe-eyed Tobey Maguire more as the day-to-day Peter Parker. He's the nerdy, unsure of himself, normal guy. Andrew Garfield's cheeky boyish look doesn't make me buy the Peter Parker-ness. Andrew Garfield looks like he belongs to some teen series.

2. Mary Jane versus Gwen Stacy

I hated Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane. She's completely helpless like the traditional damsel in distress and sometimes her whining about her relationship with Peter Parker, seems, idk, petty, and sometimes she seems to not understand his predicament of being Spider-man and not being able to be there for her all the time.

Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy is just perfect. She dresses fine, looks pretty, and she's smart and assertive and she makes her own decisions. She knows about Peter being Spider-man and she's okay with it and she compliments him well. She's not just some pretty face for the hero to save.

3. Spider-man alter ego

I liked the Spider-man in the reboot better because of the wise-cracking and the emphasis on him being the "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man". I don't see much of that with the Sam Raimi trilogy. The web shooters were supposed to be DIY and not naturally made by Peter anyway.

4. Green Goblin

I was disappointed the reboot didn't follow the source material and start with Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin, and what the heck with the non-existent medical condition that isn't even half convincing ? It's as if the narrative just dropped the term, hoping the audience would take their word that it's lethal without even explaining how it works, and just so that it serves as the single motivation for Harry Osborn's descend to the dark side. Well, James Franco's Harry Osborn wasn't that convincing either, although he had a better motive of taking up his father's mantel after finding out who "killed" his father. Either ways, aesthetically, both Dane deHaan and Willem Defoe look good as their characters. Norman Osborn was killed the cannon way too in the trilogy.

5. Romance

Well, disliking Mary Jane = it doesn't really work. She seems a bit shallow and to the end it's like the nerd guy who got lucky with a hot girl and hot girl hanging onto nerd guy cuz he saved her life as Spider-man kind of relationship. Although, the romance narrative is told better in the trilogy. In contrast, it's way more dynamic, and I guess they were going for adorkable, kind of relationship with Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker in the reboot, which, I think, is the only thing done well in the reboot, however, sometimes, it makes me feel like it's out of place, like it should belong in its own romance movie some place else, not in an action flick. I bet if you just made one movie out of that chemistry, it's gonna sell on its own instead of having it being mushed together in a hardly cohesive narrative, but I'll get to that. 

6. Villains

It always works best when there's only one villain per movie to focus on, or at most, only two, but once you cram in three, like Spider-man 3 and The Amazing Spider-man 2, it's a recipe for disaster. As important as it is to develop the heroes' character, the villains deserve attention too, so that you don't simply have a fight where you're only rooting for one side, where you just want the hero to whoop the villain's ass simply because he's a villain. If the villain has a really compelling motive, you may end up feeling sorry for him and perhaps have conflicting feelings about the hero beating him up, or on the other spectrum, feel so riled up by the villain's evil-ness that you're on the edge of your seat hoping the hero triumphs. Under-developed villains leave you feeling meh, and not as invested in the fight scenes as you should be. 

Both the trilogy had their hits and miss, but the worst has to be the three-villain combo, but my beef was with the reboot sequel's Electro. He started off as not being a terribly bad guy, and to the end, he didn't get a chance to redeem himself like the Sandman did in Spider-man 3. 

7. Action scenes

I generally have no problems with action scenes, I could enjoy most of them, and perhaps being the newer movie with the latest in CGI (although to be honest, it doesn't look that different to me), gotta give props to insanely beautiful action scenes in the reboot.

8. Narrative, plot and story-telling

I felt the plot was more cohesive in the trilogy because of the linear story-telling. Uncle Ben's death was more sad in the trilogy and it followed through up to the third movie. In the reboot, it wasn't focused as much, but the unifying element of the first and second movie was Peter Parker's parents. I was hardly interested in the approach and I'm really sorry, the spider injected with Peter Parker's dad's DNA doesn't convince me too much. I wasn't that much of a fan of The Amazing Spider-man when it came out because I was still hung up on Sam Raimi's trilogy, but the narrative wasn't as bad as The Amazing Spider-man 2. There were a lot of mood whiplash through out the movie, and too many things were going on, which were resolved in a rush. If the movie had only focused on only Electro it would have been fine. I hate how at the end, the movie squeezed in one of the most defining moments in Spider-man's life. It should not have been there. I felt that squeezing it in the last moment didn't give it the impact that it deserved. It felt like a footnote to the overall movie. I knew it was inevitable, but I didn't expect it to be in this movie. 

Overall, both franchises had their hit and misses. Some things were done well in the reboot, but there's still a lot to work on for it to, I guess, be more memorable than the trilogy to me. 

In my books so far, the worst super hero movies has got to be Green Lantern, Man of Steel, and the X-Men films still remain amongst the Best in my list. Batman ? Somewhere in the middle, but it depends on which of the Batman movies you watch.

Next, my cinema trip would be for X-Men Days of Future Past. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Short Poem

December 22, 2013 at 1:15pm
Like the setting sun against the gilded hills
Yellow, auburn, orange,
My youth is in its autumn
And with it, the waning of my heart’s eloquence
Could I have been all these while
Regretting every time unspent
And delaying the days to repent?


Tracing phrases from the dying flame
Stirring the ashes as the smoke wistfully retires
There’s no salvaging the passionate burns

Drawing quiet utterances with bowed eyelids
Drowning incoherence in the midst of purpose
There’s no salvaging bruised egos

Oh I suppose I could walk away with my head still underwater
Words are empty, but our bodies emptier still
Vessels of fleeting existence
Storm clouds of unmet intentions

The fool I played takes the curtain call
I will nurse my regrets silently
As I watch you take leave

Without my overdue apologies   

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Recap of Third Year

I just finished all my exams, I'm trying to get myself sorted. A trip to Vancouver happening soon in a few days woohoo. I'll try to find jobs after I get back from vacation, else, I'll probably think about what to do after that.

So far, to sum up my academic year:

First term left me battered, but I turned out fine in the end, and true to my track record, my second term is so much worse than my first term performance wise. I guess robotics and control systems is not my strongest suit. I should probably stick to programming and/or computer engineering courses.

I had 5 in a row first term, second term, they decided to give me 4 in a row, and it still wasn't easier. I did badly for both exams that I had on the same day. I was actually kind of disappointed, no, actually, I'm pretty depressed, that I did badly because I had a lot of fun learning those two courses, but I guess I was really burnt out at that point.

Anatomy wasn't as interesting as first term, but overall, I enjoyed the course. It's not everyday that an engineer gets a taste of what the medicine kids learn, and have an opportunity to ace it too. I was technically not as busy as I was in first term, schedule-wise, but I had  a lot more of outside class learning to do. Last term I struggled with anatomy, but this term I actually spent less time for anatomy and more time struggling for engineering courses. Now that I have no more non-engineering courses for fourth year I could hopefully focus all my energy on engineering, similar to what I did in second year, and second year turned out a success, so hopefully, staying true to that kind of track record, I could probably make up for this term.

Third year indeed was a whole notch more challenging than second year. At some point I was about to break down thinking that I won't make it to grad school. Well, I still kinda am, right now, but I still have one last shot next year.

Other aspects than school hasn't been particularly fruitful either, which kind of left me with a lack of source of motivation. I really do have to only rely on my own capability to internally motivate myself when everything else around me doesn't seem so peachy. (lol. peachy.)

All in all, content wise, this year has been pretty interesting had it not been for the horrible exam schedule, although I have to say that after having two ordeals of back to back exams in one week, although I got really mad at it at first, it helped to discipline me to actually make a working study schedule and sticking to task better if I had actually a week gap before each exam, and of course it further made my inner clock move at a faster pace and I get impatient really fast with people. I can't even stand it if I have to slow down my pace so I'd walk side by side with another person.

Content-wise, I had a myriad of subjects, anatomy, microelectronics, control systems, robotics, ethics, electromagnetics. It was a stark change from second year since most of the subjects are circuit analysis and programming and pretty much setting my brain into engineering mode at all times, to the point that I feel like I've lost my eloquence in writing. I actually toyed with the idea of volunteering for writing blog pieces, then I think of my own blog and how crappy my writing has been lately, I said, nope, but at the same time, if I were actually offered such a position this summer I'd probably take it, it's an opportunity to brush up my writing, and of course, something worthwhile to do.

Though I'm looking forward for fourth year, it'll probably be hardcore engineering subjects non-stop, though I'm debating if I should tack multivariable control systems as a technical elective looking at my performance this term, but then again, being the balls person that I am, I can't resist an academic risk to push myself, hence, that was what happened to this term though. I could've gotten away with 4 subjects comfortably, but nope, I just had to add another one to see how far I could handle it. Note to self, if there exists any conflicts, it's wiser not to go ahead with it because relying on your friends' notes suck. You can only rely on yourself to take good notes for yourself despite you being half asleep and your handwriting sucks.

I'm sorry, I've only been thinking of my academics really because I kind of have a one track mind set on accomplishing my goals owing to the fact that it's really nerving that my next five years seem really uncertain. Moving on from undergrad is not the same as moving on from primary school to secondary school and from secondary school to preuniversity and from preuniversity to undergrad. Hopefully I get stuff sorted out eventually. For now, let's go on vacation.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

First ever anime review, and yes, it deserves a review, and I deserve a distraction lol. One more until I'm done with third year.

Sheer fabulousness

I've never read the manga, so I watched the anime without any background knowledge of what the gist was about. Instantly, I was captured. JoJo just pushes all the right buttons for a shounen anime and classic anime fan like me. I grew up with the likes of Dragon Ball, Speed Racer, as well as Western animations like He-Man and Conan the Barbarian, and this anime had it all going at the same time, with the story line and the characters, the art and animation. It was the very essence that I liked about old heroic cartoons that I held dear to my inner child.

In terms of art, the bold lines and bulky men that reminds me of Rambo was something you hardly see in modern animes. Shingeki No Kyojin came close with the bold line style, but its characters were slim and never beefy. And that splash of color seems like a surreal work of art. I've heard that the anime tries to be as true to the mange itself down to the art and panel, even to the narration. I've never read the original manga itself to compare, but all the artistic components work well together. I generally hate overly buff characters (save for Street Fighter cuz that's also another Untouchable Childhood Special Place in My Heart franchise) but heck, all that fabulous posing is so ridiculous that you just buy into it at the end of the day.

Usually with all the bulked up musculature suggests that the character is all brawn and probably wins all his fights with fists alone, and of course, the trope of the dumb jock, but that's not the case, especially for Joseph Joestar, the second JoJo. Though all the explanations for the battle turn outs can get really outlandish and a lot of times defy logic, the fact that he tries to win the battles through tactics and trickery is a different route from contemporary shounen animes, I'm looking at you, Bleach. When I was watching Kill la Kill I readily abandoned reason simply for the unadulterated brainless enjoyment, at the end of the day, the battles ended up being merely shows of power than a combination of power and wits. Also, expect from JoJo a more "bollywood-style" fights where the hero really gets beaten down until he draws his last card to defeat an overpowered but cocky villain.

In terms of plot, JoJo is a saga that spans over generations. It's kind of like how Doctor Who (I've never watched Doctor Who but I know at the very least what the gist is about) gets reincarnated and with different personalities. The JoJo's have very different personalities, and nationalities too. The first JoJo was a gentle giant gentleman. Naive and proper, like the Briton he is. The second JoJo was a wisecracking action guy, kind of like an American action hero you're used to see on Western television. I liked the second JoJo better, well, cuz who likes a goody-two-shoes, I'm looking at you, Captain America. The first arc seemed like an old fashioned soap opera where nothing but misfortune befalls the virtuous hero and you're supposed to sympathize with him, and it's from this first arc where the infamous WRRRYYYYY battle cry comes from too. Despite Dio being really hard to not hate his guts, he's such a fabulous villain. The second arc has more of an Indiana Jones feel with uncovering a mystical race among ruins and travelling the world to learn new tricks and beat the baddies. The villains aren't as delicious as Dio but their quirks make them distinct and memorable.

Next, another endearing aspect of this show is the multitude of cultural aspects melded together like ancient Aztec motives and 1980's rock bands. How can you take a show that names its three villains ACDC, Wham! and Cars seriously ? Its like the mangaka just ran out of names and just happened to be listening to a 1980's playlist while drawing his characters and decides to randomly name them that way.

ACDC, Wham! and Cars. Japonized as Esidisi, Wamuu and Kars

The soundtrack throughout the anime itself is a little, odd. Sometimes it's just random, but at certain moments, it can get really epic, especially when manly tears were shed, commemorating fallen comrades and even foes (damn, the body count was high too, I didn't expect myself to have that many anguished character death reactions, especially cuz the characters are so quirky they're just so easy to love). As for the OP and the ED, heck, I've been raping the replay button. It's just that catchy.

Lastly, I love this guy :

this guy. must have secretly loved JoJo(s)

His name is fricking Speedwagon. There's rarely women spectators of the battles that happens in the first two arcs, but if this guy is around, he serves the purpose of the damsel in captive cheering on for the hero, while giving commentary of the fight. He started off as a street thug, but then sort of became, strangely, in my eyes, the missing feminine touch in a supposedly testosterone-loaded show. 

these two. so much. fujoshi bait.
Currently, the third arc is airing and the third JoJo now is a half-American half-Japanese banchou. Like a samurai, he is a man of few words, compared to the second JoJo who runs his mouth all the while he's fighting. I've heard the third arc was the most popular, but so far I think I like the second JoJo better, but we shall see, because now they're bringing the delicious Dio back in action. 

Anyways, in summary, if you're up for flashy male eye candy and fast-paced action fun, JoJo is the thang for you.

Okay, now back to work. 

(Becoming more otaku day by day T__T and I thought I'd grown out of animes).