Thursday, April 30, 2009

Name That Toon!

Last month Ailee put together an interesting quiz regarding a number of old sitcoms from the 80's and 90's: Given an excerpt of their opening theme lyrics, you had to name the sitcom... and for added points, you had to give the continuation of that set of lyrics.

I'm proud to say that I managed to peg ten out of her twenty selections, with an added bonus for remembering how the theme songs for Perfect Strangers and The Greatest American Hero went. That said, I also managed to remember almost the entire Baywatch theme, and I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing.

The whole exercise did get me thinking, though. While I admit that I do have a soft spot for some of the sitcoms of my youth, I don't look back on these shows on a regular basis. The last time I checked, I'm a testosterone-laden, flea-bitten guy... which means that I'm also an immature young kid at heart. What that means is that, whenever I look back on all the TV that I've ever watched, it's the cartoons that I inevitably remember.

Of course, cartoons were different back when I was ten years old. Most of the animated stuff on TV existed solely for the purpose of selling as much merchandise as possible, and as bad as that may sound, they were effective enough to spawn a fringe collectibles industry. However, some of them also had remarkably adult-oriented plots and fully-realized characters; There are very few contemporary cartoons on the picture tube nowadays that I would have liked to have had when I was a kid.

We've seen minor revivals of some of the most popular of these cartoons recently. He-Man and Ghostbusters both came out with "modernized" treatments some years ago, for example, and we get stuff like Transformers and G.I. Joe in theaters. There are quite a few shows that don't get as much attention but are still remembered fondly by their fans, and you can still find the occasional DVD collection or discussion group out there.

Given all that, I went ahead and tracked down the lyrics to some of the opening themes that I remember. Then, because I don't like making this easy on people, I pared these down to some of the less popular (but hopefully familiar) series, and laid out excerpts of these lyrics below. The first of these came out in the early 80's, the latest came out in the mid-90's, and I now present this challenge to you: Given these pieces of their opening themes, name these shows.

1. ...And you know there's a long long way ahead of you...

2. ...But bad guys are out of luck...

3. ...High in the mountains, or deep in the sea...

4. ...Let's watch the clouds go far below...

5. ...No one knows what lies behind the masquerade...

6. ...Powers of mind, strength, skill and speed...

7. ...Soaring through the highway of the heavens in their flight...

8. ...The music's contagious...

9. ...Two times the fun, wrapped up and rolled into one...

10. ...You're the only one who can scratch our wrists...

I'll have the answers up in a couple of days or so, along with some commentary from my end.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Still Busy

Yes, it's been a while. I did mention that I would be occupied for at least a couple of weeks, after all.

The strange part is that, while I did expect work to take up a good amount of my daytime, it's also taken up a significant amount of my evenings and my weekends as well. This is a bad precedent; while I do think that the job is interesting, I don't want to get reduced to spending every waking moment fiddling around with job-related tasks.

I suppose that I should have noticed something wrong when I was told that I would get some regular vacation leaves after my six-month probation period... but that I wouldn't be able to use them for at least another year. I'm pretty sure that there's some law against that. It's not a question of indentured servitude as much as it is the prospect of working oneself to death.

That's a misconception, by the way. I don't think it's possible to work oneself to death. It is, however, quite possible to be a miserable human being who is practically working himself to death.

I haven't written any fiction for quite some time now (due to my hectic schedule), and it looks like I'll miss the Palanca Awards this year. I have too many things on my plate right now, I think, although I do have at least a couple of interesting plots in mind. Strangely enough, I'm thinking of horror stories on the verge of May, although that's probably my inner manager talking.

I'm not afraid of losing my touch. I did put down the pen for a couple of years before, I think, just before I picked it up again and started writing where I left off. That's another paradigm shift right there — you shed whatever insecurities you used to have, and fill the gap with all those things that you picked up over the last couple of years. Peel the first layer off the onion and you'll see that it's full of words.

Someone asked me what my motivation was the other day, and I did wonder about that for a few seconds. It's just strange, how things shift and turn at the drop of a hat nowadays. Maybe I'm in it just to see what lies around the next corner. Or maybe I'm just looking for material for my next pieces.

Either way, I'm still around.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Next Two Weeks

The previous week marked a huge paradigm shift for me, as I suddenly disengaged from my position in a high-profile multinational company and moved into a new role with the local office of an international marketing network. I'm still getting over the culture shock, mind you, because the two workplaces are very different from each other. (Not to mention the fact that I traded in a position that gives orders for a position that takes orders.)

In addition to that, there's also been a slight complication. Because I left my previous employer quite abruptly (due to the fact that I'm not allowed to hold two full-time jobs at once), I still have to spend some time with them on turnover requirements. This wouldn't necessarily be fair to my new employer, of course, as this brings about a few hiccups for my schedule over the next few days.

As a result, I've agreed to remain on contractual employment for my new company while officially resigned from my previous one. While this means that I will get paid within the two-week period for which this arrangement will be in effect, this also means that my employment status and benefits are somewhere in that magical realm where the vaguaries play. I must assume the worst, of course — while the company might be generous enough to pay any medical bills or accommodate any legal issues of mine that may arise during this time, I can't immediately guarantee any clean resolutions.

Ultimately, this means that my larger plans will have to be put on hold for a while. This will be bad news for my factories in that unexplored portion of the Swiss Alps, as they've already reached stage three of the long-suffering Project Epsilon. We've put no less than eighteen months into this grand effort, but until my current status can be resolved, I'm going to have to put the slaves on retainer for a couple of weeks.

This new delay, of course, will have long-standing ramifications. I suspect that this may force me to move my expectations by at least half a year; the latter stages of the Subliminal Dominator aren't doing very well by themselves. In addition, I had those same slave factories contracted to start building my Intergalactic Death Ray in late 2011, so those plans will need to be shelved, too. The speed has been a vital concern for me over the last few months, really — I've been thinking of ordering a mass execution of the offending peons, but it would be too expensive to kidnap, brainwash and train a new team of experts at this time.

Fortunately, the other projects have been coming along fine. The Morphological Replica should be in its last stages of testing right now, which means that we'll soon have a good number of sleeper agents on active duty. The engineers of Project Iota were able to figure out the intricacies of the high-pressure cryogenic engine last week, so apart from the fact that we're now preparing the clones for long-term germination, we can probably start issuing threats to the world's governments in September. Best of all is the news that Project Theta — the Weather Control Satellite — has finished ahead of schedule; I've already promised Dr. Sivaramakrishnan that his wife and children will be returned to him unharmed.

All in all, these two weeks shouldn't be too inconvenient for my plans in the long run, as long as I can make a few adjustments. I fully expect that my employment status (and turnover) will be finalized before the first of May this year; otherwise I'm going to have to figure out what to do with those fellows in Switzerland. The notion of random executions does come to mind as a motivating factor, but I'll see what comes up in the next two weeks before I actually do anything.

For anyone out there who's contacted me on my current situation: Thank you for your concerns on my well-being. Moreover, I promise you that when the time comes and I become Supreme Overlord of Planet Earth, you will be among the last to be mind-controlled and enslaved as hiveminded drones.

Have a nice day now. All hail Sean.

Friday, April 17, 2009


It looks like my cross-posting problems from the last few days were not restricted to my blogs alone; more than a few people have encountered the same issue, and Multiply is now having a look. So far I've noted at least one possible solution, to be found here. The excerpt below comes from Jen of Multiply support:

Thanks for bringing this to our attention... it's being looked at now. In the meantime, you can reset your Blogger cross-posting by following these steps:

1) Initiate an import from Blogger (Post --> Blog --> Import Blogs (Blogger))
2) At the login dialog, check the Enable cross-posting between Multiply and Blogger box. Click OK
3) Once you've logged in, exit the dialog so you don't re-import all your blogs again.

This will reset your cross-posting. We'll let you know when we've fixed this issue properly.

I've followed the above steps already, and I'll be testing it shortly. Once I'm sure that it works, I'll get back to our regular scheduled programming.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


And now I have accounts on both Facebook and Twitter. I haven't hung around long enough to set up shop in both locations, but I'll get to that eventually. (The default Twitter page that I have, mind you, deserves all the redesign it can get.) Plurk and LinkedIn are probably next.

If you're wondering what suddenly brought this on, it's because I'm raising my exposure to the various Net services and trends. Within a month, I'll probably be making YouTube videos and LOLing along with the rest of them... which will most likely do wonders for my English. :)

That, and I'm testing my Multiply connection through a series of short posts. But you probably knew that.


That's funny... for some reason, my Multiply account wasn't able to pick up the last couple of posts. More people seem to access this blog via Multiply nowadays, so this might be a bigger deal than expected.

I'll be doing some troubleshooting in the near future. Maybe I just hit some sort of post limit, or something like that...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Short Guide to Bargain Bookstores

I assume that any great reader out there has spent some time in bargain bookstores (or their close cousins, the garage sales). These are excellent places where one can pad out a collection, look for volumes that can no longer be found in the commercial libraries, or just hang around and see if anything cheap pops up. I estimate that about a good twenty percent of my current collection comes from the local bargain bookstores — and I'm not even much of a reader compared to other people.

That said, there are a few rules of thumb that I follow whenever I go through these places. One obvious expectation, of course, is that these bookstores almost never contain copies of the latest novels. Another is that the selections that you find here go through a certain shelf life (no pun intended) — a limited time of sorts, before they're packed up and "rotated" to other branches in search of buyers.

There are some less obvious aspects, though. For one, there's the fact that you can expect a bookstore's selection to cover only publications from the last ten to fifteen years, beyond which it becomes much harder to find a specific book. Bargain bookstores in major metropolitan areas are likely to see a faster turnover, perhaps covering only books from the last five to ten years. Provincial areas are more likely to see older volumes; you can even catch some original Mickey Spillane or Agatha Christie if you know where to look.

After that, it begins boiling down to the various genres and classifications of periodic literature, all of whom have certain discernible patterns if you spend enough time in these places. I'll put up a few of these observations from my corner of the shelves:

General Fiction - Every bargain bookstore's selection of novels is, by definition, a "general fiction" section, usually because the salespeople don't go through all the trouble of putting these things in the right bins. Be prepared for a generous helping of books that would otherwise belong in specific genres (in fact, if you read nothing but general fiction, this is a good opportunity to broaden your horizons). Expect a lot of Sidney Sheldon, Michael Crichton, and a bunch of authors that you've never heard of (and probably will never hear of again).

Mystery - The Mystery selection of any bargain bookstore is usually rather extensive, and for good reason: The essence of these novels lie in the mystery itself. Entire plot developments, secondary storylines and red herrings go into these books, which means that, although they may make for a good read the first time around, they're usually worthless for a second go. As a result, a lot of these books land on the bargain shelves. If you're looking for a specific Mystery novel, these bookstores are usually a better option than the high-profile branches. Anything that was published within the last ten years can probably be found somewhere here.

Horror - You're likely to find about as many of these books as Mysteries, because they share a similar weakness: A Horror novel simply isn't likely to be as scary the second time around. Another fact is that, realistically, there aren't that many popular Horror authors on the market, which means that you can probably call this the Stephen King section with some degree of accuracy. The fact that his works get reprinted on a regular basis doesn't help... although these are a great place to fill out your King collections with very little prompting.

Fantasy / Science Fiction - For some reason, bargain bookstores never seem to have any good selections of "imaginative" literature. My guess is that the people who buy these books are more likely to keep and reread these, which limits the number of volumes that make it to the secondary market. There's also the fact that some of the best examples of this genre were either written over twenty years ago (Weis/Hickman, Donaldson, Asimov) or only very recently (Gaiman, Martin), and the result is a fair-sized gap when it comes to bargain bookstore shelves.

Romance - Interestingly enough, there are quite a lot of Romance novels on the shelves, but this is not for a lack of rereadability. Instead, I blame a strange compulsion that comes over those who read Romance novels, one that convinces them to pick up books upon books from this genre, and results in bloated home collections that don't mature very well as one gets older. This gets a lot of people to give away or sell their "weaker" specimens, and gets a lot of bookstores picking them up for resale. As with Stephen King, only expanded to a range of authors that includes Steele, Lindsey, Brown and others, this is a good place for completists to look. Just remember that whatever you buy here may just as easily make its way back once you tire of it.

Self-Help / Inspirational - I find that the best self-help books never make it to the secondary market, which implies that the examples you see here are either excess copies of famous writings, or utterly useless volumes that couldn't find a hole in the ground even if they knew where to dig.

Educational - The vast majority of educational books in bargain bookstores are outdated, but less so than you may believe. Usually these books become outdated because 1) they rely on outmoded methods or tools, 2) more relevant historical events have occurred in the interim, or 3) renewed editions have emerged. As a whole, the basic learnings that they carry are usually still worthwhile, although you'll need to be careful enough to tell the difference. A book on graphic design will still teach you graphic design, even if we're now using Adobe Photoshop CS instead of 4.0. Programming languages are the primary exception that comes to mind, though, if only because the use of Turbo Pascal has diminished greatly in the last twenty years.

Health - I usually suggest that people try not to pick up Health books that are even so much as five years old, because you can never tell what surprises have been discovered in the meantime. Besides, why not just consult a doctor, nutritionist or personal trainer?

Religion - I find that most religious books land in bargain bookstores because they don't sell too well in ordinary places. Sadly, a lot of these books tend to be reactive — Remember all that literature that came out "debunking" The Da Vinci Code? — which really limits their shelf life. In fact, any religious book that relies heavily on its current status quo makes for very out-of-touch reading. (I once picked up a book that predicted that the Rapture would take place in 1981, just for a laugh.) If you must pick up a Religious book from the bargain bookstores, look for something inspirational; there's no shortage of them, and they usually never become outdated. Bible studies are very nice as well.

Children's Books - I see bargain bookstores as a great place to find good children's books, because kids will eventually outgrow their favorites at some point, and these can easily be passed to a new generation. Hardcover books are usually of far better quality than the paperbacks; Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein can be found among the shelves here. I would suggest avoiding the paperbacks entirely, if only because most of these seem to be little more than licensed knockoffs ("Shrek Counts to Ten") or series of dubious quality ("Animorphs", anyone?).

Magazines - There will never be a shortage of men's magazines and women's magazines inside bargain bookstores, because their circulation is so extensive that we end up with a ton of excess copies. What that means is that you can take this opportunity to fill out any issues of Cosmopolitan or FHM that you lack. Beyond that, the only other magazines that our favorite bargain places are likely to have in high supply are those titles that nobody reads. In Manila, it seems to be Hot Rod, or High Times, or Fangoria.

Comics - The only comics that show up on the bargain shelves are, strictly speaking, those comics that belong on the bargain shelves. Bookstores have it worse, since they usually get the throwaway dregs from the more qualified comic stores, which results in only the most obscure titles or the most banal single issues. If a bargain bookstore has comics available, that usually implies that there's a comics store nearby. I highly recommend that you find that other place instead.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Days Are Just Packed

I'm in the middle of a week's leave, and suddenly I'm beset by an unexpected development: the Internet's on the fritz. The last time my browsers were this slow, I had one or two viruses to worry about.

Now, however, it looks more logical than anything else: There's a lot of people in the Philippines who are taking this week off. Most of them are out on vacation with their laptops somewhere, but a lot of them are still at home... possibly because of our worldwide financial situation. (Who knows, really?) The immediate conclusion I can draw, however, is that there are a lot of people in my area who are accessing the Internet at this point in time — and what that means is that my Internet connection is likely to be slower than usual because of all the crowds.

It's either that, or I've got a couple of viruses nesting in my copy of Windows XP again. Frankly, I'm hoping that this possibility is out of the question, and that the reason I mentioned in the previous paragraph is the correct inference.

To be honest, I'm not sure how long my current connection is going to last; my siblings and I have been toggling our modem and router like mad throughout the last twenty-four hours. I'm rather certain that I won't have my existing access for more than a couple of hours, though, so I'll keep this post short and sweet. If anything, at least the people out there know of my current situation.

The irony, of course, is that I was and was not working on a completely different blog post over the past couple of days. It started out as your typical eight-hour conceptual affair, then got shelved over a short break. Afterwards it was a question of finding the right trigger to write it again, only for it to disappear in a rogue save operation. Ah well... that's life for you: Sometimes your thoughts just get lost in the shuffle.

I still owe this blog a couple of posts, so I'll try to re-establish my connection over the next couple of days. Somehow, though, I'm amazed at how our advancements in technology can so easily be eclipsed by the weight of our population. Welcome to the world, then. Welcome to our world.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Disclaimer: April 2009

...I admit that I was tempted to tick all three options for that eighth question, though.