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.

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.

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.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ goes into orbit

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For this article, images of the Samsung Galaxy S8+ are used.

With a lot of love and support from people all over the world, I was loaned Samsung’s newest flagship phones: The Galaxy S8 and S8+. And impressions over it have far exceeded than what we had expected.

After the entire Galaxy Note 7 disaster, Samsung comes back strong and hitting hard with the Galaxy S8 and the S8+. During their Unpack event, which was held in March 29 at New York, Samsung executives spoke at length about the new screen.

They call it: The Infinity Display. It sounds like Samsung is cashing in on Marvel’s next year’s almost-guaranteed hit “The Avengers: Infinity War.” In reality, the Infinity Display is just a fancy name for an improved dual-curved, pseudo-bezel-less screen. It’s OLED, meaning the pixels popping out of that screen emit their own light, which, in paper and in the ears, sounds cool. And honestly, it is.

You can even configure the screen into three different settings: 720p (HD+), 1080p (FHD+), and 1440p (UHD). Samsung even warns you that tuning up the screen into UHD with increased brightness will drain battery life faster. Well, no shit Sherlock. That’s among the reasons for giving us fast charging and fast wireless charging, right?

Part of what makes up the Infinity Display is the absence of a physical home button. This allowed Samsung to design the new Galaxy S phones with a much larger screen without bloating them up to incredulous levels. The home button is not missed as much as I thought I would, as the basic home, back, and menu buttons appear on screen already. If you think about it, a physical home button that does the same thing as the one on screen is a bit of a redundancy, right?

In the right side of the screen is a virtual drawer that you can slide out and bring out some Edge features, like People Edge and Apps Edge, which acts as shortcuts. It’s something that I personally never found useful, as there are simpler and faster ways to reach your favorite contacts list, and apps shortcuts can be sorted out anyway. Suffice to say, the People and Apps Edge only gives you a nice-looking, more organized way of navigation.

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I am a huge fan of stock Android. Just plain, bland, boring vanilla Android, for reasons that should really be obvious if you know your tech. And it finally seems Samsung has started listening to people. The Galaxy S8’s UX is all Samsung. And yet it looks so much like stock Android, simple and clean, it makes it hard to let go.

You can bring out all your apps by swiping up or down, which is really damn nice. Again, everything feels so clean and simple, navigation has never been this smoother on a phone. Also, it’s nice to point out that Galaxy S8 has 3D touch features. Tap and hold on to the app to bring out a pop-up menu that allows you to do choose a couple of things. Though, there is still a lot of room for further developments here.

My major complaint about the Galaxy S8 and S8+, and this is something I’m not alone, is the placement of the fingerprint sensor. Look, Samsung, we understand you have your own thing here, and you refuse to join the club of putting fingerprint sensors at the back of the phone, right beneath the camera, so instead, you put your sensor on the right side of the camera. It’s rather brilliant really. Actually – it isn’t. It’s annoying. I’m a left-handed person and it takes my hand a bit of a stretch to reach the fingerprint sensor. This is an even bigger concern for people using the Galaxy S8+, which is a bigger phone. However, when using my right hand, I didn’t find any problem with using the sensor, at all. So I suppose Samsung expects you to meet them halfway, eh?

There are even concerns that before people will be able to hit the fingerprint sensor, they would end up smudging their camera with prints. This wasn’t the case on the unit lent to me. I squeezed out the grease between the microscopic creases of my fingers and rubbed them all over the camera and it didn’t affect the picture quality.

However, the unit, black, or whatever bullshit shade Samsung has decided to call their version of black, is a fingerprint muncher. Only mere moments of admiring the phone, running my fingers along its glass finish, it was smeared with prints all over. It’s quite a nasty thing to look at, which is a shame, cause when cleaned, the Galaxy S8 and the S8+ look fucking good.

It’s amazing to note that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ are the first phones to integrate Bluetooth 5.0.

Thus far I have not encountered issues with the fingerprint sensor, unlike my experiences on other devices, where it takes repeated tries for the phone to unlock. This is based on a single 24-hour experience with the phone. Nonetheless, I found the fingerprint sensor to be the most effective and convenient layer of security. I dislike the facial recognition and the iris scanner tech that Samsung is so proud of, simply because it makes you look like you’re taking a selfie. It might be Samsung’s way of gamification of things, but I just don’t like it. I’m not into selfies and it bugs me that Samsung is actually encouraging me to.

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Oh, speaking of selfies, picture-taking, whatnot, Samsung has integrated their own Snapchat-ish features onto their camera, both in the 12MP dual-pixel rear camera and the 8MP front camera. We don’t know why can’t you just use the other apps that does the exact same feature. In the light of things, I suppose it’s because Samsung is trying to save you time, effort, and memory space by providing something on the get-go instead of downloading them first in the Google Play Store.

It’s amazing to note that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ are the first phones to integrate Bluetooth 5.0. This means a lot of things for the future. This means your paired devices can have a much farther range from each other. It also means fast wireless transfer speeds. But the best of them lot, is having enough bandwidth to allow two of the same device to pair to the phone. For instance, you can pair two Bluetooth headphones on a single Galaxy S8 unit. No need to share earpieces with your significant other. You can also pair two different speakers. It’s a technology geared toward the bubbling developments of the Internet-of-Things.

One of my least explored features of the phone is Samsung’s own digital assistant, Bixby. It functions the same way as Google Assistant and supposed to be better than Apple’s Siri, and something to go head-to-head against Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. Bixby is like the old S Voice that everyone hoped would just die and Samsung buried it long before that happened, hoping no one would even remember it. But Bixby is different. So Samsung says. Considering Bixby is Samsung’s own design, the AI is designed to do a lot more in in your phone such as change settings. In the Samsung website, it listed Bixby as “It’s constantly learning your ways so it can get better and better.” That’s so vague and scary at the same time.

In the left side of the phone below the volume rockers is a Bixby button. For Samsung to go this far as to put a physical button to summon the AI, we get the sense that Samsung has the intention to blow minds here. I get the sense that Samsung here intends to create a smart hub, integrating all Samsung electronics: TVs, refrigerators, washers, etc… into your mobile phone, with Bixby at its heart. My concern with Bixby is, do we really need it? Anyone who might want to connect their Samsung appliances to their phones, maybe. But for other people? I doubt everyone will want to use Bixby, let alone any digital assistants, save for a few bored questions. And in such cases, I wish Samsung had allowed the customization of the Bixby button into another application that you’d rather use most of the time. Going in-depth about Bixby requires an article of its own, so we’ll let this simmer down a little and go back into admiring the phone.

Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the S8+ packs the best Android hardware you can have. Four gigs of RAM, Snapdragon 835, and 64GB internal storage that can be expanded using microSD card. It’s a flagship device, so of course everything in it was put together to give a full-throttle experience. It’s also IP68, so yup, take that phone with you to the pool.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and the S8+ is a great phone. Our local telcos will be happy to create promos and plans to rip you off when it launches in the country, which isn’t too far now, especially with pre-orders starting real soon. And if you pre-ordered, you can even get a wireless Bluetooth speaker. Give Samsung a clap folks. If the Galaxy Note 7 had damaged Samsung’s reputation, the Galaxies S8 and S8+ will redeem them.

The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree

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One of the few book covers of The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree by S.A. Hunt

Holy shit! Did I just do another self-published book review? Damn right I did. This one’s by S.A. Hunt, and this is another Western fantasy story, with bits of horror elements thrown here and there. To save some time, is it every bit as worth it as a lot of people say it is? Damn straight it is.

I have seen people compare this book to Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” and C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” and some have pointed out that it’s a bad thing. I don’t understand why, since dark western stories and people magically walking into another world are nothing new. If anything, S.A. Hunt traps us into a world that is rich in lore and ideas that matches a woman’s skirt: Long enough to cover the subject, short enough to be interesting. (I read that in a journalism book and I was blown away by it, the original unedited quote turned out to be from Winston S. Churchill.)

The early onset parts were damn good. From the prologue’s one-shot scene, to the protagonist’s arrival from the airport, and his seemingly increasing obsession to learn more about what his father had been doing before the event’s of the prologue happened, were total page turners. This entire sequence has been called out once as an “over exposition.” I disagree with that, I felt that this entire process moved too fast. Give or take, “The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree” would have been a better book if it gave us more time with the characters exploring the mysterious phenomenon they keep on experiencing. That’s not to say that this book wasn’t fun, because it’s full of it.

There were just two others things I didn’t like. First, there were times where S.A. Hunt tried a little bit too hard to be florid. I don’t mind a little poetry in writing, but you tend to run into one too many in this book, and many of them were awkward in a not-too-cool way.

The second thing I didn’t like in the book, is how the characters from characters easily accepted the idea that our heroes are from another world. I suppose that just shows how strange this alien world is, where inter-dimensional travel is something far more believable than someone who had lived their entire lives in a faraway country.

As the book progress, the more it edges into an epic fantasy with guns. We’re guided, step-by-step into this new world: We feast on one of the many cultures, see exotic sights and races that would freak out the next person on Earth. The story may start out dry at first, because of the protagonist’s strained relationship with the people around him, but just around the corner of this book, things do lighten up in a bright cheerful manner. (I am talking specifically about the “table scene,” which was hilarious.) I like to this that is a metaphor in some way, in how life is beginning to seep back into protagonist’s life.

Here’s the Amazon page of S.A. Hunt’s “The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree,” in case any one out there who read this post hasn’t read the book and is interested to check it out.

 

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review

Hurrah! First ever image here!

Hurrah! First ever image here!

A few days ago, Samsung flew me off to New York City — via invitation to the newspaper I work for — to attend their Samsung Unpacked event, where media people around the world got to preview the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+.

Along the way, they loaned us one of their sample units, the Galaxy Note 5. As much as I can say about it, it’s a well-built device. Probably something Samsung needs to step up from their glorious cascading down the waterfall. For one thing, the chassis is all metal, front and back are Gorilla Glass 4, with the latter having an extra layer of coating (or so Sammy says) that reduces fingerprints. My experience, the fingerprints are still ever present, though they don’t really get into your face as much. And I’m really glad they ditched the false leather used on previous Notes — premium-look my ass. The back paneled glass does its job right in making money’s worth, to the very least.

“premium-look my ass”

The one thing Samsung executives kept saying was the screen is bigger but the phone is smaller. It’s actually true, surprisingly. It doesn’t feel like a phablet, it feels like a slightly big phone, which feels damn good in the hand. And another surprise, Sammy finally decided to ditch all the stupid bloatware that everyone just takes off as soon as they power up their devices. No more crappy gimmicks, just straightforward boring with no additives whatsoever. They threw in the Screen Off writing menu, where you click out the S Pen and jot stuff down in the screen even while the Note 5 is asleep. I found this practical, and is probably the only cool and useful feature Samsung has ever put in their device, ever.

The last interesting thing for the Note 5, is the S Pen. They added a useless “click” mechanism in order to bring the spirit of a ballpoint pen as close as possible, and as useless it is, it just adds some “fun value” to it, which is kinda sweet honestly.

Galaxy S6 Edge+

I wish I also have a sample unit of the S6 Edge+, but that went off to someone else. But I did get to play with it for a while. The thing about the S6 Edge+ is it’s basically just the S6 Edge, only bigger. If you aren’t familiar with it, the S6 Edge and Edge+ have this thing called People Edge, where swiping the curved part of the screen will bring out your favorite contacts. The Edge+ amplifies this by letting you “poke” those fave contacts by sending them emoticons or doodle-stuff. Another thing the Edge+ has is the Apps Edge, which is this time around, your fave apps. It’s all for novelty really. If you wanted to text one of your fave people, there’s a good chance they’re all ready on top of your list of Message app. That “poke” BS only works if the person you’re poking also has an Edge+ device. Also, despite having two curved edges, only one side can be used as once, and whichever side is used is up to you if you’re a lefty or a righty.

“That “poke” BS only works if the person you’re poking also has an Edge+”

My verdict: The Galaxy Note 5 is an awesome device. If you think it’s about time to update, then sure, the Note 5 is a solid option, no questions asked. Get the Edge+ if you like a new Samsung device that’s pretty fancy. There’s other stuff to talk about with these two devices. The 3,000mAh battery for instance, with the ridiculous Quad HD screen and it’s power hungry specs sheet, of course the battery won’t last long — especially if you’re up for gaming and movie watching. But hey, at least they’ve got fast charging and wireless fast charging (wireless charger sold separately) — and for Samsung, that’s good enough to compensate for the battery.