2005 July | baratillo @ cubao : www.baratillo.net

baratillo @ cubao : www.baratillo.net

My Cyberpunk & Dystopian Country

Posted in Politics and Culture by juned on the July 29th, 2005

When Neil Gaiman was here he described Metro Manila as a huge cyberpunk sprawl. Coming in from Singapore - which he described as compact and gleaming, a country where everybody follows the rules and where there are plenty of rules to follow (one of these would be the infamous law against chewing gum) - it comes as no surprice. The chewing gum law would be emasculated and laughed at by us denizens of Metro Manila, the Philippines for that matter.

I never thought of my country or the national capital region (NCR)as a cyberpunk sprawl. Are we really?

Sprawl…yes. The NCR is had expanded geometrically. The population at the center of NCR doubles during the day of the work week. People migrate from the fringes to the center to work.

The word cyberpunk conjures up images of Akira, the Matrix and Blade Runner.

Yes,How about cyberpunk?

A quick search on the net and through Wikepedia brought me the following quotes:

From Bruce Sterling describing the cyberpunk ethos as:

Anything that can be done to a rat can be done to a human being. We can do just
about anything you can imagine to rats. And closing your eyes and refusing to
think about this won’t make it go away.

That is cyberpunk.

Cyberpunk is fiction. It is a genre of science fiction. Cyberpunk describes a dystopian world in the future where corruption and pragmagtism of government the visceral nature of corporatocrcy is shown and the battles against them seem never-ending. Gone are the bright-eyed heroes like Luke Skywalker, in the genre we see heroes like Bladerunner’s Dekker - a disillusioned cog in the wheel of this dystopian society.

Is cyberpunk then noir science fiction? It must be. There is no clear lines marking the wealthy and the unwealthy, riches and poverty live side by side. Authority is corrupt or at the least pragmatic. People have their own agendas. And the hero or protagonist turn out to be cogs of the wheel, a regular Joe Schmoe the mundane man. The main difference between noir and cyberpunk may be in cyberpunk the element of futuristic technology and industry is prevent. Some have described cyberpunk as the dystopian part of SF.

Fiction they say can be used to mirror reality. Often time the grittier it is and the more visceral it is the closer it comes to reality, heightened reality of life plagued with problems. It then becomes a satire or a morality play of our time. A social mirror that can be used as cautionary tale or an outlet.

Yes. I think in general we live in a dystopian society. We are the manifestation of the cyberpunk tale. But we should also remember that origin of the word dystopia.

Dystopia is the negative word of utopia. Dys from the Greek word “bad”. But what of utopia. This is a pun from the Greek word ou (meaning no) or eu (meaning good) with topos (meaning place). So the word Utopia both meant a good place or a no place. Henry VIII’s Chancellor, friend, martyr(beheaded on the orders of Henry for Moore’s loyalty to the Catholic Faith)and saint (a direct consequence of the beheading)Sir Thomas Moore coined this word to describe an ideal place.

So reality is in general dystopic were all living in a cyberpunk world.

Well at least I would like to think that and despite living in a dystopian place we do have our moments, often in the mundane and in the un-news worthy category but they are there. Nobody writes about the ordinary men and women from different times.

And we encounter dystopian tides in our life I think we behave most of the time like the unlikey heroes in a cyberpunk take. I think the poet Edna St Vincent Millay said it eloquently:

I know.
But I do not approve.
And I am not resigned.

On Comic Books

Posted in Readings by juned on the July 28th, 2005

I used to remember when comic compilations or lengthy comics were called trade paperbacks. I was not an avid comic collector till I was introduced to it by my friends in high school. And even then did not get into to it till my late college years.

Before my serious comic collecting days. I bought comics that were on sale. My first comic book was the Spanish version Katzenjammer Kids trade paperback. There were of course the B&W comics revival of Tom & Jerry, Little Lota, and company. Majority of my comic reading came from the comic strip section of the local paper The Bulletin Today. Of course local comics with the exploits of Zuma, although I was only able to get to read those comics seldomly. My first serious collection was Nonoy Marcelo’s Ikabod. And of course Mad Magazine.

My comic collecting in late college because of two reasons. A friend, Gobbie, introduced me the hobby and I had an income. I mainly collected DC comic stuff, Batman and a couple off-the mainstream titles - like Etrigan and Sandman, some eventually became DC/Vertigo titles.
Two things I like for when choosing a comic book. The story and the art. Maybe that is the reason my collection expanded to other comic books within and outside of the DC universe.

Then I stopped.

This was the day when Neil Gaiman’s run on Sandman ended. I still buy from time to time, months will go by till I buy a new comic book, trade paperback or what they call now graphic novel.

My favourite comic books:

Ikabod, Dagang Sosyal
Barefoot Gen (lettered in Tagalog)
Batman: The Killing Joke
Bloom County
Sandman: Ramadan
Sandman Vol 6: Fables & Reflections
Grendel: Devil by the Deed
Ranma 1/2
Crying Freeman
Illustrated Classics: Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary
Baron & Rude: Nexus

A great number of these comic books I still have and while the others seem to have slipped through the curtain of time. Borrowed and never returned or went missing or sold.
Still some recovered or re-bought, if such a term exsists.

I did buy a graphic novel during Neil Gaiman’s visit. Maybe I will look again in a month or two or even three.

Comics are a wonderful and informative form of fiction, a blend of art and literature. In the past I used to encounter people who viewed comics as something juvenile and pedestrian, oh well that is their view on it. My take on it is they have not yet sampled the works of Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller or Alan Moore or Nonoy Marcelo or Keiji Nakazawa. Well, as they say to each his own. All I can say is they are missing a lot.

DVD: Love Actually & Moulin Rouge

Posted in Arts and Entertainment by juned on the July 27th, 2005

DVDs worth the wait.

For the prices to drop that is. In buying DVDs it would seem at least for those released in the Philippine market it is prudent to wait a while before one buys.

DVDs are not essential products. They do fill in a need but not a direct need. Hence you can afford not to buy it at once.

And again, at least for me, these DVDs are worth the wait.

Love Actually DVD (2003)

The DVD release of Richard Curtis’ Christmas Romantic Comedy. This ensemble movie is quite well-known and its eitheir you hate or love it. I bought it so that means I love this movie. And the repeatability factor, x amount of times I will be watching it, for me is quite high. Suffice to say its a movie filled with stories of romance, comedy, friendship, relationships, complications and love.

It has all that and now the nice thing about this DVD version is the extra features. Now what I was able to purchase is not a double-disc set. Frankly, I do not know it there is one. It comes with the standard extra features commentary from the actors and the director, a commentary on the soundtrack and the best extra feature were the deleted scenes.

The film was supposed to originally run around three hours. Curtis was forced to trim it down to two hours. And because of this a lot of funny plots and acts were taken out. No they were not restored to the film, but a special featured was added to showcase these scenes and each scenes comes with an introduction from Curtis. The deleted scenes were funny and touching.

Moulin Rouge (2001)
The other DVD that significantly dropped its price was the double disc DVD of Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge.

Moulin Rouge will probably be remembered as the best example Luhrman’s red curtain cinema. The term was coined by Luhrman to describe his techniques of using theatrical conventions in his film. His other films, Strictly Ballroom (1993) and William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (1996), closely followed the red curtain cinema technique.

Luhrman’s highly stylised worlds uses theatrical conventions, and breaks formal storytelling technique. To heighten the participation of the audience and remind them that this is an imaginative world, despite the familiar storyline. So anything goes.

“Once you agree that you’re always watching a movie, you’re happy to
accept a moment of high comedy, then tragedy - then break out into song.”
Baz Luhrman

When I first saw this movie I was mesmerized by it. The use of popular songs of our era to tell the story of the pre World War I society and the environs of the Moulin Rouge, Monmarte. Luhrman even has Ewan McGregor singing songs made famous by Julie Andrews and Jim Broadbent with Richard Roxborough dancing and singing Madonna’s Like a Virgin.

For a long time the DVD version was of this was priced at 900 pesos. Only now did the price drop to 299 pesos.

Moulin Rouge is a double disc set and crammed with a lot of features.

My nephew likes the “pitch” scene, this is the scene where they try to sell the musical to the Duke. And he also likes the song and dance number in the Moulin Rouge. I still like Broadbent and Roxborugh’s
take on Like a Virgin.

Now I have to wait for the price of the Incredibles and Shrek’s DVDs to drop.