October musings

As a beat writer for a small, community-based newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was given a task that required me to take a crash course in local politics. Of course, we all know who the all-too-familiar celeb-politicos are, but this given assignment required me (and two other writers) to contact every local candidate running for office from different districts, cities, and school boards.

Needless to say, it was a difficult task. We had to deal with difficult people, playing a little game of hide-and-seek as we tried to contact every single one of them for an opportunity to publish a statement for free at our newspaper. After grueling weeks of follow-up emails and calls, finally, the task is done.

This grandeur gesture is part of what I love about our small, community newspaper. The intent of doing so is to give service to the community. Being the political aficionado that he is, my editor in chief attends to as many candidate forums and city council meetings as he can, at his ripe age of XX.

And after reading and editing (phew!) the candidate statements that we received, I can’t help but raise an eyebrow on some of them. Every single one holds promises (often too good to be true) to their constituents. Some of them have years of experience to add to their repertoire, but the number of years don’t often correlate to the number of achievements. Some of them are new to the playing field, and although you want to root for the underdog, sadly, the materials and statements that they present are too weak to garner much-needed support. In spite of these agendas, every City has its own mess that needs to be cleaned.

As the November general election draws near, I hope that these candidates practice the age-old art of door-to-door campaigning. After all, what’s the use of advertisements if your constituents have no idea who you are, whose name is on the ballot?


Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

poster-6Ten years have passed since the apes escaped the hands of exploitative humans inside a medical lab, where experiments to cure Alzheimer’s went awry. The “cure” wiped the human populace, instead, and left only a handful in distraught places. It was a bad case of good intentions that backfired, and the sequel shares the same sentiment.

The apes have settled themselves in Muir Woods. They thrived and established their own family with Caesar (Andy Serkis) taking the lead. But as it turns out, their contact with humans is far from over. The two species found themselves needing (and helping) each other, but conflict arises when betrayal gets in the way of their newfound peace.

What triggered this betrayal are people wanting to connect. They needed to access a hydroelectric dam to restore power; thus, they wanted to penetrate ape territory so bad. Whether intentionally or not, that was one underlying theme, which I thought mocked our thirst for power (literally and figuratively).

Let’s face it: it’s hard not to root for the apes. But the movie did not antagonize the humans entirely. Just like us, apes are capable of betraying their own kind. And it goes without saying that this movie has heart. The most heartbreaking scene was definitely the one where Caesar finds an old video of himself with Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco), the person who raised and taught him well.

And I know Serkis is awesome and all, but we have to recognize other talents as well. I can only imagine how hard it is to act with wires attached to your face, so kudos to the actors!

I’m sure a lot of reviews have given this film the praise it deserves. To sum it up, it was a great cinematic experience.


Movie Review: Deliver Us from Evil

Deliver-Us-From-Evil-PosterThe movie is based upon real life accounts of former New York police officer Ralph Sarchie, whose encounter with the possessed tested his beliefs. Along with an unlikely servant of God, he works on a case which involves three U.S. veterans, who went berserk supposedly after being possessed in Iraq three years ago. These men resorted in bizarre acts of violence toward their loved ones; thus, investigation ensues.

I first heard about this film from my co-worker, who’s a horror-movie junkie and, coincidentally, a fan of The Doors. Although I did enjoy the quick reference in the film, I did not think it was relevant at all. Without giving much away, the plot would have been fine without it. But since it’s based on a true story, then I guess it would make sense to include it.

That said: if the story was, indeed, based on real life experiences, then how much of it can you take to create a good enough film? Although the story, itself, was gripping, the movie was weak. Eric Bana’s portrayal of Sarchie wasn’t so bad, but it was clear that this is not his genre.

The animal references were too much to bear. Just like The Doors, these subtle “clues” eventually led to nowhere. The use of animals did not really give significance to the plot, but I guess when evil is upon us, there’s no saying what the possessed are capable of doing.

I was surprised to see Joel McHale in this film who, of course, provided comic relief as Sarchie’s wingman. McHale as a macho, NYPD sergeant with a sense of humor? Yes please! Edgar Ramirez plays Father Mendoza, who indulges in vices and has a dark past. He later performs the exorcism; as with any other exorcism scenes, it was exhausting to watch – but hey, that’s a good thing.


The Leftovers: A new HBO Series

the-leftoversWhen I first heard about the show, I was a bit skeptical because of its premise. How long will a rapture-themed plot sustain itself? I mean, I think we have seen enough movies and shows that have pretty much given us an idea of how a post-apocalyptic world looks like. It’s depressing and grim to say the least.

But as we know, HBO shows (e.g. Game of Thrones, True Blood) usually fare well and create a cult (so to speak) of their own. And by adding Liv Tyler and Justin Theroux (who was exceptional btw) to the mix, I think it’s fair to say at this point that “The Leftovers” will have a good following.

The story focuses on the town of Mapleton three years after the supposed “rapture” took place. It was October 14 when, in an inexplicable turn of events, certain people began to disappear. Nobody knows how or why these people were all of a sudden gone, kapoof. But what the story seems to focus on now is how the leftovers are coping.

Those who remained had different ways of coping. The mayor insists on celebrating “Heroes Day” to commemorate those who disappeared. High school-ers are partying like there’s no tomorrow. But not everyone seems okay. There’s a weird cult who are dressed in white, and they smoke, stalk people, and choose not to speak AT ALL. There’s another cult in another state that is less weird, but seem to have strange dealings as well. As with any pilot episode, we are merely being introduced to the plot and characters.

Is this enough reason to keep watching? It’s hard to tell at this point. It was a weak pilot episode, but the teaser for what’s coming up looks promising.


What’s App: Your Smartphone Photos Reimagined

A picture is worth a thousand words; if it’s done the right way, it can be worth even more.

As a wannabe photographer and occasional traveler, I am always fascinated by stunning travel photographs – thanks to these awesome photographers that I follow on Instgram (artchang) (benjaminheath) (johnthatcher). As much as I would love to travel more, budget constraint just gets in the way. But traveling doesn’t always mean booking flights or driving out of town. Sometimes, hidden gems can be found within a five-mile radius.

When inspiration hits me, I whip my phone out and shoot. Depending on the time of the day and/or the lighting situation, I post the photo as is (hashtag no filter). But for the most part, I use filters to improve my photos, reflect the mood that I’m in, or publish the photo the way I imagined it.

Filters are a hit-and-miss. Not many people like using them because a) it’s “cheating,” b) it’s hipster-y or c) they’re just haters. In my defense, I’m not taking these photos professionally, so I guess as the French would say, I can do whatever the fuck I want with them. (#sorrynotsorry)

So here’s my go-to photo app that I use on 90 percent of my photos on Instagram:


I never really liked Instagram filters. Whenever I try each of them, I cringe and end up posting the photo as it is. But VSCO Cam never disappoints. With its filters, I get to publish my photos feeling satisfied. What I love about it, too, is that it has built a community of its own.

So here’s a photo I took of the western span of the Bay Bridge.


And here’s VSCO doing its magic.


Filter: LV2 

Here are two other apps that I discovered recently. Give it a try if you don’t like to change your photos too much.



Photo Effects


Give hipster filters a chance coz they ain’t that bad!


Movie Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

The Autobots are back, and well, they never really leave, do they?

Five years after the Chicago War, the now extinct Autobots reemerge with dampened spirits. Optimus Prime took the form of a ragged, rusting truck – the sign of defeat and loss of hope. But when Prime crossed paths with Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), an inventor of sorts, circumstances changed. Despite being betrayed by the very species that they bound to protect, the five remaining Autobots save the humans once again from a seemingly inevitable destruction caused by greed and ambition.

Read the full review at The Chabot Spectator.


Lana is Pretty When She Cries

Lana Del Rey is in her element.

via lanadelrey.com

via lanadelrey.com

Now that the much-awaited follow up to “Born to Die” is out, I begin to question my obsession with her. Del Rey sings her fucked-up lyrics without reservations. If the song titles (e.g. “Fucked My Way Up to the Top”) aren’t enough indication of what the theme of “Ultraviolence” is, then this album is going nowhere.

Each song has its own story to tell. Whether it is about sinful seduction in “Money Power Glory” or an abusive relationship in its titular track, Del Rey makes it painful not only for herself, but for anyone who’s willing to listen to the tragic love affairs she sings about. As a fan, I want to see where her career is heading in the album’s aftermath.

It seems that the collab with The Black KeysDan Auerbach worked well for Del Rey. “Ultraviolence” is a stark contrast from her debut offering. Her voice is raw and beautiful as she sings in her usual style, only this time, she is not trying to sell.


And, let’s talk about the album cover! Compared to her dolled-up look in “Born to Die,” Del Rey is photographed here sans the glamour. Her vulnerable look perfectly depicts the “Sad Girl.” Is this a cry for help? Perhaps she’ll have the answers in her next album. The question on whether these songs are loosely based on her own experiences or not is left to the imagination – and it might as well be.

If you’re one of those who hate her with a passion, should you even bother to listen? I’ll give you a resounding “yes.” This is her ode (or satire, as other reviews have indicated) for herself and to those who share her sentiment.