2012 and what the Math monkeys have to say . . .

So I haven’t been around much this year, I know. Hence, blogging is among one of the activities that I vow to get back into for the coming year (which, incidentally, is about 4 hours away).

Anyway, the ever reliable WordPress stats helper have provided the following numbers for all of us to be reminded of how I did this year. Check out the summary below.

I know it’s not much, but I’m still glad that Angled Vista has managed to stay afloat the entire year. And I have all of you to thank for still visiting my page even in its semi-coma state.

For you, I would do my best to revive my writing and this site.

Cheers to a happier–and more word-filled–2013! Keep reading and writing, everyone. 😀

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Wear, express, you

Wear your thoughts, express your feelings, scream individuality.

These are the first words you’d see from the Facebook fan page of my friend’s new online business, Shirts Shop.

I was busy rummaging through my closet for, ironically enough, a shirt when Fiona texted me and said she already had the FB fan page up for her new online business. Of course, I went and checked it out.

Technically, it looked the way most new fan pages are. There were welcome messages for everyone and photos to get your attention snapping at a moment’s notice.

I asked her how much would a shirt cost and how soon would I get it if I were to order one. And she just gave me the best answer possible: for free! 😀

Hey, I don’t mean to get your hopes up. The shirts are for pay. No worries, though, they’re really affordable. You can get the white shirts for only at Php350 while the colored ones are priced Php370.

But she’d be giving me one for free, like a treat, mainly because we’re friends and she’d like to give away one shirt just to check out how people would react about it. So, as she’s very much insistent, I agreed and told her I’d just post a blog about it. To help her let others know about the Shirts Shop, yeah.

And just yesterday, my “order” arrived! It was just a couple of days’ worth of waiting.

No hassle!

Everything was so convenient that I did not have to do anything but stay at home, text her my address, and wait. I even don’t think it would make a difference whether I paid for it or not because even the modes of payment were so convenient: GCash, remittances through LBC or Western Union, and deposits to a BPI or a UCPB account.

You might wanna try giving bulk orders as well. Although, of course you’d have to wait for about a week for all the shirts to be done and sent to you. But just the same, the Shirts Shop can very easily be your next-door solution to having that uber comfy shirt you just need.

The shop also offers more choices for a shirt design. You can even draft out your own design and have them make the shirts for you. Periodically, there are also design contests and themes in their FB page. They’re all very current so you would really have fun choosing what you want on your shirt front.

Me, I preferred to get one of those she’s already offering (more because of the fact that I don’t really know how to design my own).

Here’s what I got:

Design’s really good 🙂

I know, it’s a bit big for me.

The shirt’s material is also cool and comfortable, so I could wear it almost anywhere.

So the Shirts Shop is just like any other online shop that sells made-to-order and customized shirts, right? Erm, I don’t think so. It is indeed an online shop that sells shirts. But it also is that shop you can run to every time you’d need a shirt for any event or purpose . . . pronto.

Like the Shirts Shop Facebook page now. And start stocking up on all those shirts you have ever wanted!

Challenged: The Host

Well, finally, a book-related post!

Seriously, it had been so long since my last book-related blog post that I had sort of forgotten already how to do one. Yeah, it’d been a tough time for the reading–and writing–me. I have so many pending articles on the books I had read (Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, The Catcher in the Rye, and A Visit from the Goon Squad among others) that I think I should already be rereading them before I take time to sit and type out my thoughts.

With this said, I would be writing about the latest book I was able to finish: Stephenie Meyer’s The Host.

The Host (photo from goodreads.com)

I had reservations reading my borrowed copy of The Host (yes, despite the fact that I did borrow it). One, it’s sort of sci-fi and that’s something I’m quite unsure if I could like. Another thing, I doubted it because I liked The Twilight Saga so much that if The Host became not-even-close-to-exemplary, it would be quite difficult to forgive.

But still, curiosity and the bookish side of me got the better of these reservations. And well, I couldn’t tell myself I did the wrong thing after all. The Host is a unique story, with lots of crazy ideas and amazing takes on humanity. It was written in first-person view but was taken from a perspective that could be easily translated to third person. In other words, Meyer had so wonderfully crafted her novel that readers were all over the story without difficulty.

And because the story of The Host is a bit lengthy to narrate even in summary, forgive me for offering this synopsis from Goodreads instead:

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed.

When Melanie, one of the few remaining “wild” humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Wanderer probes Melanie’s thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer’s mind with visions of the man Melanie loves – Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love.

I Liked Best

The best, most amazing thing that could be said about this Meyer novel was that it had taken the issue of humanity to a level that people would be able to comprehend only with an open mind and whole heart. Since the lead character was a mix of two species–human and otherwise–the story took turns describing, hating, loving, and continuously wondering about humanity.

Life was taken as a complex existence, with warring ideas and conflicting emotions that were conspicuously difficult to handle. It was certainly hard to understand or even accept especially from the point of view of a soul like Wanderer, who knew and tolerated nothing but positive emotions like love, care and trust.

But when she came to live with the humans, understand their thoughts and courses of action, she began to realize that there are grey areas to a situation. That there could never be just simple choices like yes or no. That humanity was never pure evil, nor was it ever purely golden. That there were moments when violence, pain and hatred were actually the right things to feel even if they were repugnant emotions. This was very much helped by Melanie’s character, who had so much humanity within her that she was able to make Wanderer see reason however shrewd.

I also liked how such arguing thoughts were debated by other characters than Wanderer herself. There was the all-understanding nature of Ian who had so much care for the souls as opposed to Jared’s human-survival priority. Then there was Jeb with his deep curiosity, Doc’s acceptance and even the straight-backed resistance of Sharon.

All of these attitudes were necessary for us to understand the complexity of the issue. Meyer had seen to it that we had them, without the conveniently humans-thrown-together plot that seemed to be so obvious at first.

Finally, I appreciated Wanderer’s omnipresence and, er, eavesdropping abilities. Since the book was written in first person, it was necessary that we as readers were given a good account of what could be happening in places where Wanderer was not part of. It was then necessary that Wanderer, true to her name, was everywhere to hear conversations that were never meant for her.

I Liked Least

I might be a bit partial with this. But I never did appreciate much reading two different works of an author that had so much of each other’s characteristics that they could just as easily be branded as the writer’s signature. Didn’t know how to phrase this one better, I hope you did understand. I’d try to explain . . .

Hmm. You knew how Bella Swan of The Twilight Saga sort of had this different type of mind? The one with the “wall” inside it that it was impossible for Edward or anybody else to read her mind? It felt like that with all those mental argument scenes of Melanie and Wanderer.

Even some of Melanie-Wanderer’s traits were so like Bella: self-sacrificial, motherly and hopelessly in love.

I couldn’t really say it was a bad thing, having this sense of déjà vu in terms of character development. But I still think Meyer could have done a bit more tweaking with her female characters so they would not be so like each other. Apart from all other reasons, it would at least give a distinction in the personality aspect.

Chapter/Part I Liked Most

Definitely, this goes to the final pages–the ones that took place after Wanderer woke up in her new body. Not because it had this sappy happy-ever-after feel (because, well, it was a tarred form of sappy) but because it tied ends, however quite loosely.

Kyle was the best part, with his acceptance of Sunny even if she was a soul. There was reconciliation. There were changes that had me thinking all could be well even if they were far from it still.

My Personal Rating

*sigh* Always, always difficult to rate. But I’d say this one’s a 4 out of 5 pages. The story was uniquely great. Character development was defined. Even the conflicts were progressive in that it did not feel as though the characters were thrown into a quicksand of issues.

Regardless of what others thought of Stephenie Meyer, largely due to their impartial and sometimes prejudiced take on her more famous Saga, I still recommend The Host as a good read. It’s different and very interesting, if ever those words even suffice.

*** P.S. This one’s still counted under my unfinished 50 Books Challenge, okay?

Princess No More

It is quite easy to like a film that promises to stay a bit farther off the original icky-sweet plot of the fairytale on which it is based. The 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland is a testimony to this. Such movies give you the impression–and the satisfaction–that fairytales can indeed grow up. And that their stories can be told another way without losing its general plot.

This might be, I was really not that sure, the same ground on which Snow White and the Huntsman was anchored on. In this so-called dark and twisted version of the originally bright fairytale, we were made to watch the princess literally battle against the evil queen.

Snow White was still the beautiful and pure princess of Tabor. Her skin as white as snow and her lips as red as blood, she had a happy life as a child. But things changed when her mother died and her father decided to save an equally beautiful woman named Ravenna from the Dark Army. Ravenna, though, did not have the heart as beautiful as her face. She killed the king on the very night of their wedding and took over the whole Tabor. The kingdom instantly died, poisoned by their new queen’s ruling. Powerful as she was, Ravenna and her brother Finn sapped the kingdom and its pretty women of their beauty and youth. Snow White was locked away at a secluded tower of the castle for years.

There was only one threat to the Queen’s reign–Snow White herself who managed to escape the castle. The one face fairer than the Majesty, Snow White’s heart was what the queen’s Mirror spoke of as the regimen Ravenna needed to be immortally young and beautiful. It was on this objective that Eric the Huntsman was sent to find the escaped princess.

What followed was a series of chase scenes when Eric decided to deflect the Queen when he learned that the other could not actually keep her side of the deal (which was to bring back Eric’s dead wife). Over different lands and so many other people, Snow White was chased until finally the Queen, disguised as Snow White’s childhood friend William, caught up with the princess and imposed the famous apple-biting scene.

Of course, as the story had it, Snow White was revived. Although, it was not by a Prince Charming but by the Huntsman himself! With her renewed life and strength, Snow White led her father’s people to a battle against Ravenna’s army. The battle ensued with an epic touch like any other ancient wars until at the end of the film, it was still a happy ending.

What’s Good

The cinematography managed not to be lackluster. There were scenes and graphics that were neat enough to carry a picturesque film. It was, after all, a fairytale so the scenes had to look and feel magical even if you erase the castles and the gowns.

Part of the opening scene (screenrant.com)

Capturing of certain parts of the movie was also beautifully and artfully done. To cite, there was the great shot of Ravenna sinking below a pool of what looked like milk. Focus was important in the scenes and it was given a good tap by the crew.

The Evil Queen–Before (spinoff.comicbookresources.com)

The Evil Queen–After

Although and definitely a bit lacking in color, the movie was able to capture what it meant: dark and twisted. The general atmosphere was hard to miss: this is a fairytale but there is something wrong in here, yes. It highlighted well how the kingdom was drained of life because of Ravenna and the battle scenes were effectively shown.

I also liked how the basic elements of the original fairytale were still there, if only to remind us that what we were watching was actually lifted from the same story our mothers read us at bedtime when we were younger. In fact, the film started with almost the same premise as the fairytale did. The dwarves were still there as well, finding Snow White and providing her happy times against the Queen’s wrath.

The famous “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?” was not left out, too, which might be because of its important role in the unfolding of the story. How the mirror was also depicted was quite cool as well. It was not comical and definitely not the talking mirrors other Snow White shows had.

The Evil Queen and the Mirror

It was just as good that the depictions in this film were wholly different from, say, the picture books and cartoon shows of the same tale. We had Snow White in a different and ultimately more disenchanting gown that made her character as strong as she was supposed to be. Even Ravenna’s ensemble was not as sickeningly imperial and villainous. At the very least, the movie tried its best to divert from the fairytale from its story down to its portrayal.

And What’s Not

There were several problems one as a viewer could experience while watching the movie. For one, cuts were not fluidly made. One scene changes into another and you would hardly understand why. It was saved time and again by the chase scenes but if one would delete one or two of those, you would realize that some cuts were better not done at all.

Another seeming problem with the film was how much it tends to tell when there should really be one solid plot. Understandably, there had to be a different focus of conflict (or conflicts) because the movie aimed to deviate from the usual. But putting together character development stories, a general chase plot, and a tinge of love story was not a very good idea for this film.

It might have something to do with the storytelling but a lot of the movie’s parts were not fully developed. They seemed to have happened out of nowhere, no foreshadowing and definitely no reason behind them. This was evident in the kissing scene of Snow White and the disguised William as well as in the development of the Huntsman’s back story.

Finally, character delivery was also unstable. There were characters with so much gusto that their delivery was superb and powerful. Others, on the contrary, were a bit laidback if not at all forgettable. These contrasting factors made the film keel dangerously sideways that by the end of the movie, you would not really remember anybody at all except for the three main characters:

Charlize Theron, Queen Ravenna

The Evil Queen

Queen Ravenna made Hollywood. Yes, it was Charlize’s Evil Queen. She was less menacing and more commercial in the way she portrayed her character. It was not as brilliant as, say, Helena Bonham-Carter. But for a movie villain, it did not at all defer too low from the usual.

An outraged Queen (lookingcloser.org)

It was then a good thing that Charlize had the looks of a Queen. True, she also had the regal stance and the plausible accent of a royal. At least, she had enough of the facial expression to convey her feelings. This meant that she did not rely on the way she delivered her lines–because she had a tendency to shout when she meant to be scary.

Chris Hemsworth, Eric the Huntsman

Eric the Huntsman

You be hunted by this man here and you really would be dead scared. Crazy Chris Hemsworth seemed to have overdone his being a huntsman a bit but you could say he really was into the part.

I just did not like his slurred lines but overall, Chris had it in himself to be more than just a fully physical action man. He was dirty as he should be. He ran well, sturdy and fast. And best of all, his Thor-self made him the great fighter that he was in this film.

Kristen Stewart, Snow White

Snow White (filmofilia.com)

Seriously, Kristen as a princess? Kristen? That big-voiced, heavy-stepping, sturdy girl? A princess?

Well, yes. The movie’s greatest defiance of the sweet and princess-y tale that is Snow White came in the form of their lead actress. Kristen was not known for her soft antics or girly acts. She did not even have the sweet voice of a princess. And this was just the right mix for the battling princess that the film aimed to show.

At the battle (all-things-andy-gavin.com)

The only problem with Kristen’s portrayal was (and because I could not phrase it any other way): she had so much Bella Swan in her! I know it would sound rude to compare how she acted Bella and Snow White because the two had so much differences. But it was so difficult to separate the two especially if you see the same old expressions. The way she acted when she bit the poisonous apple was quite the same way she did when she was bitten by a vampire in the Twilight. Even the delivery of her lines was like deja vu.

Crazy.

Oh well, you could only hope so much.

Overall, Snow White and the Huntsman was not a bad choice if you wanted a film that deviates from its own norms. But maybe, just maybe, you could do with lesser expectations so that you would not have the tendency to look for things that are not–and would never be–there.

Not a pin drop

My father has this almost-habit of going through different YouTube videos, watching recaps and audition performances of various singing competitions all over the world.

Well, Dad isn’t that tech-savvy but he likes good auditions and even better singers so he really took my sister’s how-to-browse-YouTube sessions by heart.

It is in one of his browsing days that he found this 16-year-old finalist at last year’s The X Factor UK. Janet Devlin.

She hits, man. Her sweetness and innocence and continuous blossoming all takes backstage when her voice comes out. In Kelly Rowland’s frequent expression, one can hear a pin drop in a room where Janet sings.

That’s what happened during her audition. Here:

See what I mean?

Throughout Janet’s time in the competition, you would see how people can change themselves from hair color to perspectives because of the desire to fulfill a dream.

Here are some more of Janet’s performances (my personal favorites). Watch them, see her grow and believe in the power of dreaming.

Janet singing “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith

Janet at her Judges’ Houses Audition singing “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera

Janet’s Final Performance, “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol

As my heart begins to shatter

First heard this song via my younger sister’s phone. It struck me because the music’s surprisingly and ironically relaxing considering the pain that the song contains. Oh well, listen and feel it yourself.

12:51, Krissy and Erika

Cause it’s 12:51 and I thought my feelings were gone 
But I’m lying on my bed, thinking of you again
And the moon shines so bright, but I gotta dry these tears tonight 
Cause you’re moving on and I’m not that strong to hold on any longer

(See full lyrics here)

 

PS. I’m not a big fan of the music vid. But the song’s cool just the same.