Alive and Well

Zombie stories are back (at least in my life). You know, there actually was a point in my life where I actually liked stories about the undead. Back in freshmen college I used to hang out with this friend and she was awfully obsessed…really obsessed with zombies. She got me watching all kinds of zombie films in all kinds of genre from the dark and gritty (Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later) to the lighthearted and fun (Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead). She made me watch the whole series of Resident Evil and she even made me play the videogame which I believe I talked about here. She was there when I was watched The Walking Dead for the first time. And guess who was with me when I watched Warm Bodies when it premiered (I would have been there when World War Z premiered had it not been for the fact that we weren’t on speaking terms because of some conflict that we had at that time lol).

I haven’t even told you weirdest part.

In our long walks around the city, she’d call dibs on every structure she would find sturdy or secure in case a zombie apocalypse comes. And then she’d go on and talk about this elaborate plan of hers on how she’s going to survive that first day of the outbreak.

She’s that weird which is why I don’t hang out with her anymore.

I’m kidding. I still tolerate her. She’s someplace faraway though, probably shoving her zombie obsession down on other people’s throats. Now that I think about her and where she is now, I don’t think she’ll survive the zombie apocalypse. For one thing, her ‘training’ in taekwondo is useless on zombies. The use of just your limbs to kill a zombie is not really practical and it consumes the energy you will have to conserve in order to survive the rest of the day. Another reason why she’ll die the first day of the outbreak is she cannot go outside the house without her make up on. And I don’t think make-up is the most practical thing to scavenge on a zombie apocalypse. I think she would rather die than go outside the house without her fake eyebrows.

Anyway, there was a point in my early college years that zombie films are EVERYWHERE. So there really was no reason not to be involved in this kind of genre. And like any other trend, it comes and goes. One moment it’s on every medium of storytelling and then everyone’s sick and tired of it. And the hype dies down.

And I won’t think about zombies for another five years.

So I was searching for podcasts on Spotify when I came across this radio drama called We’re Alive: A Story of Survival. I was caught up with work so I didn’t have the time research about it so I didn’t know what to expect. The premise was the same as any other zombie film–just another day at work and then BAM! commotion and confusion. The only difference in this story is that there were no visuals to guide me. My only source of information were the sounds of the actors, the background music and the foley.

In the first few minutes it was an okay story. It didn’t excite or interest me that much but I didn’t bother to change it because I was too busy with other things. It wasn’t until I was about to go home when I realized I’ve been listening to it the entire day. That’s when I decided it’s one of those stories you’d stick to until the very end.

It took me a marathon of almost 3 weeks to finish it. And in that 3 weeks I’ve come to love the characters just by hearing their voices. I’m so happy that I get to finish a story while doing work! Podcasts saves a LOT of time!

Now let’s move on to the actual reason why I’m here: It’s review time so SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

So the story is about these three soldiers Michael, Angel and Saul finding themselves in a zombie outbreak. As the story progresses, more characters are introduced until the whole show is an ensemble of emotions, issues and complicated decision makings. But it’s a fun ensemble and I found myself loving ALL the characters (except for Michael but let’s talk about him later).

There were problems in introducing the main plot–which is about finding the source of the outbreak and defeating the main antagonist (guy named Ink). First of all, the information about the main plot was stacked in one season making it too much for the audience to absorb. Second, it wasn’t given much importance until the very end of season 3. The build up was so abrupt, the climax didn’t really affect me. Yes, there were hints in the first few seasons but there wasn’t enough mystery for me to hold on to ‘the man with markings’.

But despite the problems with the main plot, the subplots compensated it. Each season’s plot were interesting and exciting and it really drove the characters to grow.

Another thing I found difficult was how time moves in the story. Sometimes I’d be surprised how long they’re stay in a particular place was and it desynchronizes (lol I’ve been playing too much Assassin’s Creed) the whole experience.

The use of journal reading was…okay. But I kinda wish they avoided that. Sure, it’s easier to convey emotion through narration (especially when a story is limited visually) but it removes the tension and it moves the audience further away from the situation.

My favorite thing about the series is the fact that it revolves around the people and not the outbreak. It talks about how it affects each individual and what it does to the community. The action scenes were great but there is something about the conflict among the characters that made me stick around. It was all about the people put in a situation that happens to be a zombie apocalypse.

Now let’s talk about of some the characters.

Michael is not my favorite. Aside from the fact that most of the story comes from his point of view, he wasn’t a very interesting character. Sure, there were details about his past but it didn’t really do much for me to empathize with him. And how he treated Pegs was really shitty.

I do appreciate his pressure and weight of being a leader of a community though. I love how the series portrayed him as a good but ineffective leader. Like, how he cared for the people not because they’re people but because it’s his duty as a soldier to protect them. And I love how that evolved as the series progress.

Angel was the type of character you’d be into for no apparent reason other than you pictured him in your mind as cute. I love how he started off a arrogant and learned to cool down and just be reliable. I didn’t like the way he died, though. It didn’t make sense keeping him alive and THEN just shooting him. His history involving Scratch was blurry and useless.

Saul and Lizzy were few of my favorite characters. I find them really cute together and their story arc was the most intense. I loved how far they’d go to keep each other alive (which was ironic since both of them died, eventually). I also liked that they had to die and leave behind a child that everyone feels protective of. They remind me a lot of Tonks and Lupin of the Harry Potter series.

Pegs was like the Sansa Stark of the story. She started off as this whiny, anti-gun gardener girl to this bad-ass helicopter pilot who stopped giving two shits about this guy who treated her poorly.

Riley is bad-ass. There’s not much to say except I didn’t really understand why she had to go on this fruitless effort with Burt to find Scratch. I didn’t expect her to reach this low point where she cared nothing but revenge. Revenge that didn’t really get to have a closure in the end.

I have this love-hate relationship with Burt. Although I didn’t approve some of his random decision making, he was really funny and I wish he could’ve had more sarcastic moments with Kelly. She’s another favorite because of her sarcasm and how much she’s changed in the series.

I guess I will have to criticize Datu’s character from a Filipino point-of-view. First of all, I loved that I felt represented having a character someone from my own country. Second, I kinda wished Datu was given more depth. That he’s not just some convenient maintenance guy who saves the day when something is broken. Third, I wish the series gave much thought on the fact that he is a father working overseas for his two children and doesn’t get to be with them in this end-of-the-world zombie apocalypse shit. Because Filipinos are all about family. Especially when one is working abroad. Fourth, his accent was a bit distracting.

Also, I din’t get why he had to choose Michael as the one to shoot him in case he’d turn. I don’t recall his significance in Datu’s life or any moment that these two characters shared.

Finally, let’s move on to CJ. She’s absolutely my favorite character. I love her attitude, her fierceness, her leadership and most of all I love how much she cared about her people. I love that behind the scenes, she get to spend time with them and get to know their story. Her reliability and leadership reminds me of Hermione except this girl has got attitude.

At first, I was sort of conflicted with her choices but as the story progress, I get to see where these choices come from. She understand the current situation but she also sees the bigger picture of it.

There was even a point where I shipped her with Saul. Not ship to the point I want them to end up together in the end but I just found their dynamic really endearing. It was on those Dunbar episodes with Victor and you know, for the first time ever Saul get to take a break from all the stress about Lizzy and his friends. And CJ gets to have people to watch movies with after being alone for months. Plus their sarcastic exchange was cute.

Speaking of, I kinda wish the series showed more mundane activities. Just those quiet moments where the characters are doing the most boring stuff. Just to give audience a time to breathe from the stress of the story.

Anyway I guess that’s about it. It was a great series–the kind of series you’d think about unexpectedly in the middle of the day. And really, I was glad I found it.

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Summer ’18

Well now, it’s been a while. Stuff happened so let’s talk about them before I get preoccupied with even more stuff.

PART I: THE FUN THING ABOUT NOTHING

I went on a trip to an island somewhere in Sorsogon. I was there with some of my co-workers and we all have that understanding among ourselves about how much we needed this break away from the office. It was a few hours away from my parent’s hometown so the whole experience was new. No, it’s not the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen clearer water and finer sand. But it was definitely one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. You know why? Because that was the only vacation where I actually get to do NOTHING!

And by “nothing” I mean just staying inside the cottage and waiting until it was okay to swim under the sun.

I used to believe that in order for a getaway at the beach to be worthwhile, I had to stay in the water for as long as I can. And I would just end up extremely tanned and nothing much has changed within me. I finally understood that delightful feeling of watching the waves as I breathe the fresh air of the ocean. I finally realized, in rare moments with nature like these, how important it is to pause for a while and reflect on life. Without plans and without other places to be. It was as if I was stuck in another space and it was just me and that horizon. And everything was at peace.

PART II: SUCH FOL-DE-ROL AND FIDDLE-DEE-DEE OF COURSE IS

I also went on another musical phase. I got obsessed with Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (2013). I guess it all started with watching Broadway Princess Party on Youtube. The whole event was fun enough–you get to see Broadway actors singing classic Disney songs. And one of those actors was Laura Osnes. Some of her performances was this beautiful medley of Disney songs and this wonderful rendition of “I See the Light” with Zachary Levi (guy who voiced Flynn Rider from Tangled).

In my everyday experience with music, I get to listen to beautiful voices by beautiful people from beautiful songs. But there are just some voices where you’d want for more. Laura’s was one of them. And I scrambled my way through Spotify and looked for her just to satisfy my ears. And that’s when I found myself drowned in this classic tale of glass slippers and fairygodmothers and dreams. And even though Cinderella is not my favorite (part of that is her passivity towards her so-called dreams because it shall be taken care of by karma and her deus ex-fairygodmother), she has become part of my childhood. And man, the songs were catchy and magical.

PART III: CUTE NAMES LIKE HIMIKO AND EZIO

I stopped playing Skyrim. And did that make me a more productive person? Nope. It was only replaced by more video games, Tomb Raider (2013) and Assassin’s Creed II. 

I’d like to start with Assassin’s Creed II since there’s a lot to talk about in Tomb Raider (2013). My first experience with this game was back in 2014 when I got this laptop from my cousin and there was Assassin’s Creed: Revelation installed. And I’m pretty sure I mentioned a little bit about it here. Anyway, it was a fun game. The parkour was awesome and having that liberty on choosing what kind of kill you’d do for a target was an exhilarating feeling.

Let’s move on to Tomb Raider (2013). I am in love with Lara Croft’s character in this particular game. Well, she has been part of my childhood but I didn’t quite relate to her. She was just, at least for me, a badass Angelina Jolie character and nothing more.

Then this game came along and suddenly, Lara Croft was like this girl you see in school but never really know and you never really cared. And then you two got stuck in a situation, like a lab partner in Science class or something. And she turned out to be a really cool person and you two become really awesome friends. And you’re sort of torn between jealousy and attraction because she’s really hot and really badass and she has everything you do not have. You either want to make out with her or push her in the hallways just to check if she’s vulnerable to embarrassment because seriously you can’t be all that perfect what the hell, girl, there has to be a flaw!

Anyway, Tomb Raider (2013) is an awesome game. Sure, the graphics and gameplay was already good enough but the thing that I really loved about it is the actual story of how Lara came to be. She started as this selfish, curious explorer who cared more about uncovering answers than the welfare of the people around her. Which then led to consequences and she gradually changed into this human being who is determined to save her friends despite the danger that comes her way. Then again, it may be because of guilt. I mean, if I were her, I would want to save everyone knowing the fact the I was the reason they were there in the first place.

Whatever she was, it didn’t really matter. I was inspired by her determination, resourcefulness and care for other people. To be honest, I see so much of Nancy Drew in her. I guess that’s the reason why I love her.

PART IV: SHORT MENTION OF NON-EXISTENT STUFF

Now, I have been made fun of for being attracted to video game characters. First of all, I am not attracted to video game characters. Second, even if I was, which I’m not, video game characters are no different from film characters or book characters. Sure, these are non-existent characters but see, there’s this thing in philosophy about universe of discourse and y’all guys should check it.

My point here is that I have come to relate to these video game characters more than the people in real life and that makes them stood out. That makes me interested and engaged (or maybe even attracted) to them.

Art Journal #10: Flame Yo

04-01.jpg

I’ve moved passed the airbrushes and tried out a harder and rougher texture. I was really happy with the result! Thank god I saved the brushes I used. I will experiment more until I’m satisfied with the look. The key for controlling the colors is a chiseled eraser which is a default brush in Photoshop. Another development here are the highlights. This is why my past pieces looked dull and dark.

I guess one thing I didn’t really like are the thick outlines (I’ve been trying line arts for a while now and I still have a long way to go!). Don’t get me wrong I’ve seen pieces with outlines but I still have to figure out how they work.

That’s about it. I’ll see you on the next piece!

6 Months

I just want to stop by and talk about work. I just realized I don’t really talk about my job much because I don’t think it’s…polite? proper? I don’t know, when you’re putting stuff out there in the internet, there are specific things that you avoid talking about. Things that may affect your relationships, your career and even your future. Also, there isn’t really much to talk about because…I don’t talk about the lectures that I listened to when I was still at school. It’s the same like that.

But something really divine happened. Nope, it’s not a promotion or an increase or anything like that. I just finished a 3D-animated video that explains how a certain machine works. I can’t tell you the details involving it but there’s a lot of things I can tell you about how it was like working on it for more than half a year. Yep, it’s one of the longest project I’ve ever had in my career.

At first, I was genuinely excited. I’ve had 3D projects before and they’ve all been fun and fulfilling. So at the beginning of August 2017, I was happily making assets and trying out different lights for the scene. There were revisions regarding the placements and the models but it was okay. It was part of my job. Until halfway through the animation process and the revisions started to go on a different path. It turns out that I failed to really grasp what my client envisioned. The final output was starting to get blurry. And the deadline was getting further and further away from what we had all expected. What everyone had expected of me.

Christmas and New Year came and went, I was still fixing a lot of things. I welcomed 2018 with more frustrations. I wasn’t able to help in other projects because I was stuck with this one. It wasn’t even supposed to be difficult. When you look at it in an animator’s point of view, it’s really just a simple 1-minute clip. The characters were simple stick figures, the cameras were placed in just one angle and the simulations were minimal. It wasn’t supposed to take this long.

That was when I started doubting myself. Maybe I wasn’t really that good. I never dreamed of becoming the best. But I sure as hell never wanted to be the worst. But that’s what it felt like. It felt like I failed my client, my boss and myself. Even if they were nice and patient enough to point out the stuff that needed fixing, there were voices in my head that weighed me down. Why do I keep making mistakes? Why do I miss the important details? Why am I taking so slow? And I started to compare myself to everyone else as they finish one project after another. Sure, it’s really about the quality over quantity but holy shit every output they produce were so good that I cannot even look at my own work anymore. And I started to think about how we all started the same way and how much everyone else has achieved and learned. What did I learn from the past year? And I started to hate myself.

Every revision became an ordeal. Every comment, no matter how nicely delivered, gave reasons for the voices in my head to start whispering awful stuff. Everyday, I carry this weight as heavy as the machines this project was about. I lost the passion for it and the drive to help my client. I was making the revisions with the mindset of wanting to finish it. Not wanting to create a fulfilling output. As much as I hated to admit it, I stopped caring.

And that’s when I started to see a light at end of the tunnel. It was just a tiny speck but I can feel it was out there. You know how when you’ve been on a really long trip on a bus or a car and you suddenly feel that you’re almost at your destination? And there’s this excitement in the air and people start to sit up straight. And they crane their necks and they press their noses on the windows. It was as if the energy came back to the same level it was at the start of the journey.

It was on that penultimate moment that I started to pick myself up and the voices started to fade. The excitement I felt was back as if the whole revisions and frustrations never happened. I got focused on fixing it and I was even making extra effort in making it better. Of course there were still a few mishaps along the way, but it didn’t bother me anymore. because I knew where the project was going.

And I did it.

The moment my boss gave the thumbs-up for the final render, I LITERALLY dropped and rolled on the floor because the euphoric feeling was too much for me to contain. Of course, I didn’t actually do it in front of him, I still had to go back to my seat and stuff.

And that was it. It was a roller-coaster of emotions before I got here. And I am left with nothing but feeling of gratitude for the whole experience. And I’m looking forward to more projects. Even the dreadful emotions that come along with it.

Art Journal #9: She Don’t Give A

03-13

I’ve been trying out characters with outlines. I realized I liked drawing people a lot. And most of them are drawn from waist up. Now I need to practice full body poses. This is supposed to be my version of Dua Lipa during her BBC Radio 1 performance. She’s such a gem.

Anyway I’ve done this like weeks ago and I am only posting it now because busy busy busy. Maybe I’d talk about it sometime.

Art Journal #8: Sky

03-11

My first piece this month. Man, I’m been really busy last February. But here we are. I recycled my old sketches again and in this one, I tried this technique called Chromatic Aberration. It’s not as fancy as it sounds, it just means that you move the channels a little bit so it creates this really cool, distorted look. Anyway, it’s a quick art. I’ll come back for more.