The Best Things In Life are Free - and Weird

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How funny that the last entry I made five years ago was also about the Japanese Film Festival. Nice to know I still enjoy doing the same things with the same people :) 

Anyway, we caught the Eiga Sai 2015 about a week ago. It was free and that meant a long line of students and film buffs fighting to get in. Luckily, we managed to get our collective butts into good seats. 

They even played the new Star Wars trailer before the feature presentation which was a pleasant surprise. As for the movie itself, Parasyte was a thoroughly entertaining twist on the body invasion genre. 

There was enough original material and a dash of good-old Japanese WTF-ness to keep me watching until the end. The plot centers on high school boy Shinichi whose hand is taken over by an alien symbiote after failing to take over his brain (fortunately he had his headphones at the time). 

Of course, he’s not the only one, but the other not-so-lucky humans are completely taken over by their extraterrestrial parasites. As a result, they’re turned into killing machines who have no problems feeding on human flesh to sustain their hosts’s bodies. 

parasyte movie

Since Shinichi’s human concept of morality is still intact, this puts him - and his strange bedfellow - at odds with the other parasites. 


This basic conflict fuels the story - and the expository dialogue that poses a lot of interesting questions about the implications of an invasion scenario. 

Like any good sci-fi, viewers should be left to wonder about the “big picture”, and this film did that without hammering people over the head or getting too preachy about it. 

What I liked most about the film though, was how well it was translated from the manga it was based on. 

After watching the movie, I read the source material (currently halfway through the series) and the film adaptation wisely departed from the books in a good way. 

eiga sai 2015

They dropped some sub-plots altogether and changed some key elements to make it work as a two-hour movie - all without sacrificing the quality. 

In particular, certain sequences of events and the dialogue in general were optimized to give the movie a more grounded feel. It’s easy for comic-based movies to jump the shark, and I’m guessing the filmmakers didn’t want this one to cross that line. 

After re-watching Parasyte at home, I was able to better appreciate its differences from the manga. More importantly, I saw how well the movie and books worked in their respective mediums because of those differences. 

I also learned that the sequel was released this year in Japan, so I’ll be reading the rest of the manga while waiting for it to creep into local theaters :)
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The Power of Perspective

Yesterday, I attended a Japanese film festival (called Eiga Sai) which is a yearly event held across different venues in the country. This year's theme revolves around eye-opening documentaries which brings to light social realities that are often taken for granted. In particular, I saw two films which focus on the human condition to varying degrees.

The first one we watched is entitled "A Permanent Part-Timer in Distress", a film that takes an in-depth look into the life of a part-time worker suffering through the soul-crushing drudgery of a monotonous job that offers no benefits or security. Iwabuchi is a young graduate who dreams about having a more fulfilling career as a full-time employee. However, he feels powerless against circumstances which, from his point of view, cannot be changed for the better.

The other film we saw was "Basura", and this too deals with the matter of suffering. This documentary follows the lives of Filipino families who make a living from wading through heaps of smoldering garbage. For the people living through the daily horror of scavenging just to survive, dignity takes a backseat.

It could be argued that the people featured in both films feel just as bad about their respective situations even though they're experiencing different levels of difficulty. But you could also say that the part-timer from the first documentary wouldn't be so desperate about his plight if he knew about the kind of lives the garbage scavengers lead.

It's ironic to think that the people who are forced to hunt through trash have the capacity to find humor in spite of their circumstances. It's funny that they can laugh about their situation while Iwabuchi - who lives in a dormitory provided by his agency - can't afford himself the same sense of humor, even for just a few moments.

It was in this context that made me recall something I read from a book called "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. The author is a psychologist who was forced to endure sub-human conditions at a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust. Drawing upon his personal experiences, he derived a number of important lessons about the human condition such as the passage below:

"The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is possible to practice the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent. To draw an analogy: a man's suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the "size" of human suffering is absolutely relative.

It also follows that a very trifling thing can cause the greatest of joys. Take as an example something that happened on our journey from Auschwitz to the camp affiliated with Dachau. We had all been afraid that our transport was heading for the Mauthausen camp. We became more and more tense as we approached a certain bridge over the Danube which the train would have to cross to reach Mauthausen, according to the statement of experienced traveling companions. Those who have never seen anything similar cannot possibly imagine the dance of joy performed in the carriage by the prisoners when they saw that our transport was not crossing the bridge and was instead heading "only" for Dachau."

So what I'm really getting at is that your own biases and psychological filters matter a great deal when you talk about suffering. If other people can rise above such conditions, we can certainly do the same in our own lives. It's really just a matter of approaching things in the most constructive way possible. More importantly, we're often presented with the choice to simply react to a situation or do something about it instead.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
On Getting Older

I turned thirty more than a month ago, but I've never once posted any thoughts about breaking into a new decade of my life.

So what does it feel like to be 30? Obviously people older than me would say how cool it would be to be my age again. But why would they say that unless there was some lingering regret or issue(s) in their own lives?

I suppose most of us would like to rectify these things if we had the chance. Wouldn't it be wonderful to undo all of our past screwups, much like hitting CTRL + Z and starting anew?

Of course, we can't do that - the most that can be done is learn from these little hurts and hope we're better equipped to handle our future problems.

However, I'm straying from my original train of thought here. What I really would like to ask myself is: have I become a better person or not?

Let's see - I'm a little older, a little more jaded, a little angrier and a lot heavier. Doesn't look too good now does it? Sure, I have a job and by the grace of God, am able to take care of my family's material needs. Yet, isn't there something else I should be doing?

Yes. There's a LOT more I could do to improve my overall well-being - physically, mentally and spiritually. I'm not a fan of making new year's resolutions for fear being a hypocrite if I don't follow through with them. In fact, it's FEAR that has been holding me back from making the most out of my life.

Fear of not making it if I tried. Fear of hating myself if I didn't absolutely excel at my chosen pursuit. But then again, I'm not getting any younger, and if I let this lifelong mental block get in the way of accomplishing more, then what does that say about me?

What does that say about the kind of appreciation I have for my parents bringing me into this world as best as they could? If I don't go after the things I want, wouldn't you think I'd be doing my family a HUGE disservice?

After all, they've provided with the means to make the most out of life, and it would be tantamount to a stinging insult for NOT using the privileges undeservedly heaped upon my ungrateful self.

I look around and see my peers as decades older than me. Not in the chronological sense, mind
you. I mean this in terms of being accomplished and passionate about living in this middle-class existence.

While others are gnashing their teeth from the lack of the most basic necessities, here I am having some inexplicable existential dilemma.

With that being said, I need to man up and get in touch with my masculine core. This has nothing to do with gender, but rather the qualities that define masculinity: ambition, direction, the resolute will to make something happen, and the inner firmness to follow through.

Thus, my goal for this year (and for the next decade of my life for that matter) is to embark on worthwhile pursuits that will help awaken these dormant traits within me.

I owe it to myself, to my loved ones, my friends and to my colleagues. Hey, better late than never, right?
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Since I don't have anything worthwhile to post lately, here's a video I took last year:

I've been thinking of taking daily snapshots of the things I see everyday, and add some of my thoughts as part of the text description. Since I haven't gotten around to that, this will do for now.

Anyway, I remember going to this event with Lyn, her bro and a couple of other friends. We arrived at the venue hungry because we were in a hurry and didn't have time for a bite before leaving. Jagermeister was one of the sponsors at this event, so they had girls handing out ice-cold samples in chilled test tubes to patrons.

Having nothing in my stomach at the time, I immediately felt the effects of the drink as it felt like it went straight to my bloodstream and to my head. Fortunately though, we had something to eat afterward and the buzz I got thankfully wore off after some time.

We got ourselves a bottle of the stuff about a few weeks later but it didn't taste as good when served semi-chilled. Sadly, we couldn't get our own Jagermeister cold enough to appreciate how it was meant to be taken.

As for that night however, we had fun listening to the music and getting buzzed from the booze. Good times.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Is this not the most surreal thing you've ever watched?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I am listening to the audiobook version of "Ender's Game", probably the single greatest novel I've read so far in my life. Though superbly written, I'm not sure I've read a great deal of other books to make a solid comparison. For all I know, there are far better books out there that I am unaware of.

But that is beside the point. Again, "Ender's Game" in itself is well-made, but the sentimental value I've attached to it weighs far more in my heart and mind than the actual skill that was put into making it. Anyway, I decided to download the audio version for the simple pleasure of having someone with a masterful command of spoken English to read the book to me instead. I find joy in hearing a voice other than the one in my head read a piece of literature that's beloved to me.

As I've read the book over and over since the fifth grade, I've committed select chunks of dialogue and passages to memory. Hearing a deep, powerful voice reading these favorite parts out loud sends chills down my spine and makes my hairs stand on end.

I am thankful that at the very least, my mind can find sanctuary in the imaginary worlds Orson Scott Card has created. There is bliss to be found in wandering the cold, metallic halls of Battle School or spending time aboard the space cruiser that took Ender to Eros, the blackened planet shielded from prying eyes.

I am glad that there is a place I can retreat to when the physical world can sometimes wear my sanity thin, as what is happening now.

Thursday, August 27, 2009
Perhaps it's true when they say that at the end of the day, what you do for a living doesn't define you. Yet, I'm beginning to realize that the qualities you espouse in order to DO well at your job (such as courage, integirty and respect) says a lot about your personality.

Take my Dad for instance. As a kid, I looked up to him because let's face it, flying airplanes is a cool job. The perk of being able to hang out in the cockpit is definitely something other kids would wish for. As I got older though, my sense of respect for my father only deepened when the other aspects of his work dawned upon me. Just imagine operating a huge contraption (and in the sky no less) as the lives of hundreds of people depended on the choices you made.

Now, that takes a serious pair of cojones to be able to do that for longer than I've been on this Earth. Can you imagine the kind of steely character it takes to pull that off?

As I was saying, maybe I know my dad as way more than a pilot, but the fact that he has the guts and brains to do such a demanding job says a lot about his personality in general.

I suppose the point I'm driving at is this: while your job is but a mere fraction of who you are as a person, HOW you treat your work is another story. The next time you tell yourself that your work isn't who you are, I won't disagree with you. So maybe it isn't as glamorous or as fulfilling as you hoped it would be - it's cool to feel that way.

Hell, you don't even have to emotionally invest yourself in the job. Just get it done and enjoy the rest of the day afterwards. But that isn't a reason for you to do a half-assed job or slack off for any reason.

Just remember that people will know you by the WAY you did it (regardless of what your type of work is). Even if you are not your job, the quality that you put into your work is what defines you.