Haven

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I love the horror genre. I grew up with it, staying up late, watching bad horror flicks and even badder ones, sometimes alone, sometimes with my grandma. “Alien” had been my first real taste of horror, when the chestburster blew out of John Hurt’s heart. Last night, the wife and I watched “Aliens” and it was her first time to, and she was terrified. That’s a timeless piece there, folks. It’s not much data, but to me, it’s proof why “Aliens” is highly regarded as the best in the entire damn franchise.

Tom Deady, winner of this year’s Bram Stoker Award for his debut novel, “Haven” has that timeless feel swirling in me. Anybody who’s new to this might say it’s reminiscent to Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” which is, to me, a tribute to some dude named Stephen for his stories “It”  and “Stand by Me” (Originally, “The Body”). Both are excellent stories that should become required reading in schools.

The story begins with Paul Greymore walking out of prison as a free man, where he returns to his hometown called Haven, the place where he was arrested 16 years ago, accused of murdering children.

Let’s not kid ourselves here. We know Paul is innocent all along and it’s just a matter for us to find out what’s really happening. Deady drops hints early in the book to confirm that, so we don’t overthink things through.

What I loved about the book was the depiction of the monster. Better yet, monsters. A lot of people in Haven are pissed that Greymore has returned, and many of them are wary, paranoid, and ready to kill.

While in a way book feels like “It,” “Haven” is much shorter, and points you toward the action without introducing too much backstories from random people that would no longer be breathing and be in one piece by the chapter’s end.

“Haven” is a story about family. Yes, there is a monster in the book, and don’t be surprised by that. But it plays more in the sidelines, always hidden in the dark, compared to the real horrors humanity may inflict on to each other: The horrors what an angry lynch mob can do, domestic abuse, police brutality, and bullying.

I love this book. I gorged through it in two nights. And it’s exciting what other things Tom Deady can come up with.

To wrap things up, here’s “Dead Memories” by Slipknot. Cause, Paul Greymore reminds me of Paul Gray.

5.23.17

This day was one the darkest times the world has seen. Widespread bombings all over the world, in less than 24 hours.

A bombing in Manchester, during an Ariana Grande concert.

A bombing in Thailand.

A bomb went off in Syria.

And then, in Marawi City, Philippines, a group has taken civilian hostages, torched institutions. Military has said to have dispatched and the government has urged citizens not to tweet when spotting operations within the city. Some people have taken this badly, believing the government is trying to hide the situation. At this point, there is no hiding it. The point of not tweeting about it, is to prevent the attacking group from knowing where the military is. People forget that even these people have their own social media accounts.

This day is so so sad. What can we do, but post in twitter with hashtags. And pray for the world. Words and sympathy cannot bring back those the people have lost. Tragic. And heartbreaking.

It makes you think if this era is worth having and raising children.

LG plays safe with the G6

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This 2017 there is a spectrum in flagship phones. Both Samsung and Huawei have recently played their cards and are topping the Android industry. Sony is about to show off their newest contender, while HTC just announced theirs in high hopes to make a comeback in the hall of smartphone champions.

What about LG? Year after year they have been giving us excellent phones, though with gimmicky features. The G2, for instance, rocked the industry by placing its home button at the back. (Something that has been replicated in more recent phones, like Asus and Huawei.) The G4 gave us a leatherback with a somewhat curved design. I don’t know what the G3 brought to the table, despite having owned one for a while, I’m guessing it’s the 2K screen. And of course, the G5 introduced modular features that absolutely went nowhere, and that last one was a bad hit for LG.

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So what about the new LG G6? It’s safe to say that this is LG’s safest phone yet. A simpler design and well-built. It comes with hardware you’d expect from a flagship device. Though the chipset used here isn’t the latest one, which is quite a head scratcher, really.

Let’s break things down, rating each of them.

Design: 4/5 

If you ask me, I love the simpler design the G6 has over its predecessors. It has no curved screen, no disgusting leatherback, no modularity with expensive modules, no nothing. Just a great-looking phone with nice specs and other staple things.

This is an era where we are getting regular-sized phones with larger screens. The bezels of the G6 is almost nonexistent, a testament to the screen’s durability over years of development. It’s a tall phone with a tall screen and a width so much slimmer than the G5. It’s a great phone to binge on Netflix and just chill the F-Out.

While the frontal design of the G6 is nice and swell, the rear, should be smooth and, well, nice to touch. The G6 unit I managed to get my hands on was covered with a protective film, and that could only mean the darker colored G6 is a fingerprint bitch. As far as I know, without the protective layer, the back is an all glass panel built with Gorilla Glass 5. And as far as my experience goes with LG, they have sturdy phones. My G3 unit had a lot of bad drops. So did my LG G4 Beat. And before those, I had an LG L70, which underwent a ton of accidental waist-high drops. Oh, there were scratches and some dents, but the fact remains, the screen was intact and fully operational.

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The volume rockers are found in the left side of the phone that allows left-handed users to thumb through the volume. Right-handed users can go finger them with the index finger. SIM tray goes to the right side, a Type-C USB port for fast charging and fast transfer speeds, and a headphone jack. (Go suck it Apple, we want our wired headphones!)

Specs: 4/5

Display: 1440×2880

Screen size: 5.7-inch

Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
RAM: 4GB

Memory: 32GB and 64GB

Dual cameras: 13MP (Both)

Front camera: 5MP

Battery: 3300

Water and dust resistant with IP68: Hell yeah!

If you look at it like that, it’s not so bad, right? While some phones kick balls with six gigs of RAM, the G6 maintains a stronghold for 4GB, and that’s not really a bad thing, as the phone is blazing fast as it already is. The difference would have been only fractions of a second.

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What bothers me here is the chipset. While most flagships use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or an 831, at least, the G6 uses an 821. Phones that use this are: Google Pixel and Pixel XL, Xiaomi Note 2, OnePlus 3T, and Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe. All of those phones are well regarded with excellent performance, so I wouldn’t think twice about how well of a performer the G6 is.

That wasn’t to say the 821 chipset is bad. It’s just a little outdated. But make no mistake, the 821 fires up all the G6’s cores and runs all the apps you’ll ever need without flinching.

Software: 4/5

Who cares about software? It runs on Android 7 Nougat. LG’s own Knock-On has returned without a doubt. If you’re unfamiliar with that, you just double-tap your screen to awaken the phone. LG has this since the G2 and it’s been a nice addition. Though, I’m not sure if it’s the unit I have right now, or if there’s some flimsy code on LG’s part, but the Knock-On feature doesn’t always respond. The same goes with my pressing of the rear home button.

The Always-On Display, which is seen in some phones today, is present in the G6. So if you rely on your phone to check the time, you no longer have to open your phone to view it. Other notifications and battery status are always on the screen despite the phone being locked.

Camera: 3/5

Let’s get this down before the initial knee-jerk reaction. The G6’s camera is excellent. The colors are accurate, vibrant, and sharp. It has nice gestures that allows you to take selfies without pressing the shutter button. You can switch between its two rear cameras to get different aspect ratio contrasts and depth. It has the usual staple: Time-lapse, filters, slow-motion, among others. The dual rear cameras firing at 13MP each and the frontal 5MP, are absolutely fine and deserves to be in a flagship phone. However, compared to other phones out there, the G6 lags behind by a hair.

Here are some sample shots.

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Conclusion

Unlike other phone makers: Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and OPPO who all introduce their flagship phones alongside a bigger “Plus” version, LG sets aside their big-ass phone for a couple months. I’m talking about the LG V series. Last year the LG V20 received a warmer and more loving welcome than the main G5 had. While I do love the simpler G6, it’s hard not to hold my breath for a few more months before making up my mind, the next LG V phone is just across the horizon, after all.

The Press

The press used to have so much power that people tremble at the sound of the word. As if it were some bad juju, like blurting out Voldemort. They have the attention of countries across the world and have the power to influence people’s thoughts. And you know it’s true! I’m a dumb person and I know it’s true. It’s such a great responsibility to become journalists.

And it is a power that is easily abused. I’ve not been a journalist long. Five years and counting. I can’t speak for the experiences of others, especially the veterans who have devoted their lives reporting. But in my case, you do feel you have that kind of power. I’ve been pulled over at least three fives by traffic enforcers and upon seeing my reporter’s ID hanging around my rear view mirror, they dismiss me without checking my license. While riding with my boss, he was able to take an illegal left turn, and my other boss ran a red light, and the police didn’t bother to come after us.

I’m a technology reporter. I never tried to abuse my status over others. It would be a great disrespect to the profession. I hear stories about beat reporters going out to find stories on their own, with strict deadlines. There are quotas as well that must be met, a certain number of articles that must be submitted before 2pm–2pm because that is the time where editors gather around in a tiny circle and discuss among themselves what articles they are going to use–whether or not it will be published. And it has to be considered “good” articles, so you can’t just pick some random stuff in police reporters.

These days, how our paper runs, reporters are urged to seek out more interesting stories. Oh, standard reporting remains. Politics and business. Other stories, drama is needed. For instance, I read a slug about a drug bust and it turned out, one of the drug dealers was the son of the officer in charge of the entire operation. That’s some drama shit. I can’t confirm its authenticity though and I don’t know if it was even published.

In any case, I have great respect for field reporters. They seek out stories, charm the right people, gather information, in span of hours, to write a comprehensive article that would/might engage readers. They go into battle zones to document the events that unfold. They go to dark places and talk to dangerous people. They put their own lives at risk. In case you haven’t heard, journalists in Mexico have a low chance of survival.

It’s scary shit, alright. Far as I know, it’s not common for reporters to get shot in this country. But still scary.

As I was told, once a story is done and over, the reporter rushes back to the office, sits in their desk, and demolishes the typewriter in minutes. Can you hear the typewriter sound? Chik-chik-chik-chik-chak-chik-chak-DING! Beautiful.

The video above doesn’t even do justice to what older typewriters can make. Anyway, desperate cases, which I was led to believe, stories were dictated over the phone. These days you just got to find the nearest Starbucks, get yourself a Java Chip venti, and get their Wi-Fi.

But you know, there are good journalists, and there are bad journalists, those with no ethical standards. Maybe they had, once upon a time, when they were starting out, believing that they are being the eyes of the public, the watchdog of the fourth estate. And yet, when an article is published, usually political, these journalists or the paper itself is harassed and being called out for bias reporting, while these people themselves do not see their own biases.

I’m edging too far from my original point of thought. The media has a lot of power. They know it. The public knows it. It’s a scary thing.

Again, I’m a technology journalist. I don’t go out and seek stories. I get invited to events, sometimes fancy ones where everyone lady wore a dress and men in coats. I’m lent smartphones and gauge it, if it’s worth anyone’s time, and once in a while I do get bashed and called out. Writers do develop thick skins. It’s a necessary survival skill. It’s the first thing any writer should learn. That, with charm, patience, and perseverance.

In short, I’m a little bit pampered at my job. I do my best to meet people halfway, because as a journalist I don’t want to shove people around. The pay is really shit though. And benefits have been cut out, in response to declining newspaper sales.

So, to finally get across what I’m getting at: It baffles me in a way that I stare at a killer clown swinging a big-ass ax onto my face, lodging it deep into my skull, and drag my twitching corpse around, that some technology reporters have the balls to complain.

I have met some reporters and some bloggers who, unsatisfied with the event they have just attended or crashed in uninvited, to flail like a spoiled child at event organizers and public relations agents about: “The food sucks,” “Why didn’t you arrange my parking?” “Oh, you’d have me fall in line the buffer?” “I know I arrived late but I expected to have my meal ready,” “Don’t you know who I am?” “Why does he/she get a loot bag, where’s mine?” Those are direct quotes, among a few more.

It’s rather disgusting to hear those words so senselessly blurted out. It disrespects the profession. None of us are getting shot at. None of us interview grieving family members, which is, I imagined, a near-impossible task to do. None of the hardcore stuff that field reporters do. As technology journalists, we’re blessed.

A field reporter once came to the office to ask for help in some of his devices, asked how long was I in the field, before being assigned to a specialty area, which in my case, technology. A modicum of shame streaked my face when I told him none, that this was my first job, and it was where I was assigned on the spot. And yeah, he was vocal about his opinions that I should consider myself lucky then. They’re going through hell everyday.

Fallen Ghosts

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I am missing a lot of action in the gaming scene. I haven’t yet got a PlayStation 4, a Nintendo Switch, or a better gaming PC. And yet, all these amazing games are coming out really fast. When Sony launched the PS4 a few years back, I was pretty cool with it, since, hey, it just came out, and there won’t be any really good games out yet. But now is that time, when all the good stuff are hitting the market: Dark Souls 3, The Witcher 3, Persona 5, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, among other things. Then newer games just came out, “Injustice 2,” “The Surge,” and the improved “Mario Kart 8: Deluxe.”

Ah man. Anyway, Ubisoft is cooking up something new for “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands.”

The full press release follows:

HUNTERS BECOME THE HUNTED IN TOM CLANCY’S GHOST RECON WILDLANDS’ SECOND EXPANSION, FALLEN GHOSTS, COMING MAY 31, 2017

Ubisoft recently announced that the second Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands expansion, Fallen Ghosts, will be available to season pass owners simultaneously on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 computer entertainment system and Windows PC on May 31, 2017. The expansion will release for individual purchase for all players a week later, on June 6, 2017 for the suggested retail price of $14.99.

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Fallen Ghosts takes place after the fall of the Santa Blanca Cartel. With Unidad’s military force unable to maintain control over Bolivia, the country is in a state of civil war. To help restore order, the Unidad enlists cartel members, veterans, mercenaries and criminals from various nearby countries as volunteers. Together, they form a new brutal special unit: Los Extranjeros, which is ordered to track and eliminate all American agents.

In this chaotic situation, the Ghosts have one last mission: evacuate the last CIA members and American civilians remaining in the country. Shot down enroute to their mission, the Ghosts find themselves in the middle of the jungle, without external support, facing deadly enemies equipped with the latest gear and technology. These dangerous elite soldiers are separated into four distinct classes:

–      Armored: Equipped with heavy bulletproof plates, they are especially threatening in close combat.

–      Elite Sniper: Geared up with an advanced movement detector, these Elite Sniper are able to notice far away targets and never miss their shot.

–      Jammer: With a jamming antenna directly in their backpack, they are able to neutralize drones and interfere with all electronic equipment.

–      Covert Ops: Equipped with a new prototype cloaking device that makes them almost invisible and a powerful crossbow, they give a new meaning to the word “Ghost.”

GRW_DLC_FALLENGHOSTS_C_05152017_6pm_CEST_1494846535 The Fallen Ghosts campaign will feature 15 new missions in which players will have to take down four new bosses located in three different regions. In the expansion, players will start with a new character at level 30 and equipped with all of the main game skills. The level cap will increase from 30 to 35, and players will be able to unlock nine new skills including physical, weapon and drones skills.

Fallen Ghosts also features six exclusive new weapons ranging from new assaults rifles, sniper rifles and a crossbow that can be equipped with explosive arrows.

Finally, the more hardcore players will be pleased to know that the advanced and expert difficulties have been tweaked to offer an even higher challenge. By turning the HUD off players will get the most extreme and tactical experience possible in Ghost Recon Wildlands.

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In Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, players discover a fictionalized future Bolivia, a few years from now, in which players must take down the Santa Blanca drug cartel by any means necessary. Behind enemy lines, they hunt down targets and discover intel, using any of the more than 60 vehicles available, including cars, motorcycles and even helicopters that they can commandeer. To topple the cartel, players have to fight their way to El Sueño, Santa Blanca’s ruthless leader, by breaking down the Santa Blanca drug cartel’s operation piece by piece as they sever alliances between the drug lords and the corrupted government. A PvP mode for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands will be available in the coming months.

 

 

Best Mom

I love my mom. I love my grandmother, though it was she who raised me. And both did fine jobs in making sure to get to where I am today. I owe them a lot and they both made monumental sacrifices in their own choices in life only to ensure my well-being.  Just thinking about them pushes me forward and always do better. We’re all the best of friends and we each seek out each other’s counsel in this long, wayfaring called life.

Both are my Sarah Conners and Ellen Ripleys. They would have killed to defend their children, and they both are badass women in my lives. My wife is a recent addition to that, and we’re all looking forward to the day she becomes a mother, and me, a father.

However! However, I’d have to point out that the best mom, ever, should, fall under the shoulders of Ellen Ripley in “Alien: Resurrection.”

Spoilers for the films.

In the climax of the film we are introduced with the Newborn xenomorph that has embraced Ellen Ripley as its mother. And what did she do? She flushed it down to space in probably the most macabre and graphic thing I’ve seen on the screen.

Congratulations Ripley, besides the awesome catchphrase, “Get away from her, you bitch!” in “Aliens” before engaging in epic mecha combat, you launching your kid to space at such a young age, gives you that top-spot.

To everyone: Happy Mother’s Day and cherish every moment with your mother, grandmother, or any woman who has become a mother-figure to you or anyone you cared about.

For now, I’ll just leave this pretty neat scene from “Alien: Resurrection.”

Alien: Covenant

I didn’t know what to expect from “Alien: Covenant.” I had hoped it would be similar to the older films that were each directed by Ridley Scott and James Cameron. A friend and colleague from GameGulp, a gaming and film website I’ve helped a little to procure content, had claimed it was a good film.

In a lot of ways, “Alien: Covenant” pays homage to “Alien” and “Aliens,” by re-using old elements from both films. And these elements that played out were so strong, it’s impossible not to smile and think back about those moments that made the franchise fun and terrifying.

At the same time, “Alien: Covenant” feels so alien that it is more “Prometheus” than it is to the main series. And I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, or even be complaining about it. I imagine, studio executives, enforcing the call to slap the popular brand into the title rather than simply call it: “Covenant.” (Especially that, there was a film called “Covenant” released in 2006 and it was horrible.)

By the time the credits started rolling, it felt like a chestburster had come out between my ribs, leaving me in hollowed silence. What I’m getting at here, this is a pretty decent film, but it could have been better, had it been more intelligent and clever.

I understand that “Alien” and “Aliens” were galleries that shows in sequence the consequences of making bad choices. The characters’ panic and hysteria were so emulated in Covenant which, from the outsight, made them look the stupidest bunch ever. It was almost as if, these films are saying, you need to be punished for your bad decisions.

I have watched the first four films a small number of times. Covenant steers clear from this and has, instead, provided a series of answers. Though none of them bridges the gap to “Alien” as what people seems to be clamoring about. And if the internet is to be believed, Scott intends to bring out two more Alien prequels before bridging it with the first film. We’re so much closer now to the first film more than ever.

The first half of the film was engaging. You have a crew that is responsible for the safety of the entire colony. And the second half just falters with countless mistakes and random acts of stupidity. Were the characters afraid, which is why they made all these mistakes? In some cases, yes. However, there were those who were actually bold enough venture out into the dark and just be plain stupid.

“Alien: Covenant” at most, is a B film with triple A budget. I really wanted to like this film since I grew up watching these. Not to mention “Alien” had been my introduction to horror and space when I was a kid. But I just couldn’t find any more reason to. I’ll still be a sucker for all future films though.

UPDATE: Reflecting back on the film. Covenant doesn’t only take elements from the first two films, but also from the climactic scenes in “Alien 3.” I probably missed a lot more, so I’ll just wait for the Blue-ray.