Elevating the quality of public discourse


At one point, we complained that his answer to the traffic question during the live interview was too long. He quipped: “But otherwise I’m just giving you two-second sound bites. What’s the point?”

Rappler published an assessment of Mar Roxas before the official start of the campaign for the 2016 elections (see Mar Roxas: His own enemy). This part of the article struck me:

But campaigns are basically passionate, emotional endeavors. Brave and admirable is the man who decides not to dumb down and merely entertain his audience. But woe to the man who will defy the wisdom of the crowd: it’s all about connection – in words and in gestures. To put it simply, Roxas has yet to connect.

I find it odd that Glenda Gloria made that conclusion – that Roxas has yet to connect. Odd because the same article said before July Roxas was only getting like 3% in surveys, and jumped to 20% in very recent surveys. How do you explain the jump? A connection must have been made somewhere, right?

Second, we keep on hearing complaints that campaigns are just entertainment gigs, that we should elevate the quality of our political campaigns. Yet here we have a journalist who thinks what Roxas is doing won’t win him elections. Is Gloria basically telling Mar to dumb his thoughts down? Here is a candidate who is willing to elevate the quality of campaigning by explaining what he thinks needs to be done, that he has a plan, and he’s being told to dial down things? I think it’s time that things change. It is ok to be emotional, but we should be more rational, now.

Third, is there an implicit claim that the general public does not and will not understand what Mar Roxas is saying? Is it a reinforcement of the common theme being shared in social media, that the general public are basically “bobotantes?” I refuse to believe that. The public will understand, if they want and choose to understand. No amount of song-and-dance nor policy speeches would convince a voter who has already decided.

I am for candidates explaining their plans. Enough of platitudes. Enough of pandering. Time to decide on what’s the best for the country, not what’s best for our pockets. Or, enough with That’s Entertainment of Politics.

Image from here.

(This is originally a Facebook Note.)


A guide to social media during Philippine election season

It’s election season again. It is a colorful, enervating, annoying, tiring, and confusing time for every Filipino. Everyday, the news is all about candidates and campaigns and scandals and intrigues, with substantial news like campaign platforms buried or lamentably unreported.

Social media is an interesting addition to the quagmire that is election season. Its simplicity, ubiquity, and pervasiveness can add more to the noise. Every news organization utilize social media to spread the news and gather feedback. Every campaign team use social media for propaganda. And the netizen is left to his wits to sort through the mess.

Social media is best suited for propaganda. All it takes is a catchy post, a funny image, and a believable story for a propaganda item to be liked and shared. Propaganda expressed through memes are mabenta to the masa. All propagandists need is basic knowledge of social engineering to make a propaganda viral.

Unfortunately, black and negative propaganda are almost as indistinguishable as news. Yes, sometimes news are written as propaganda. That’s how hoaxes are usually written – as news. I am sure you have relatives who had unwittingly shared something that turned out to be false. Expect a lot of those during election season.

First, it is best to know that black propaganda is not as we know it.  There is a difference with black propaganda with negative propaganda ( which is sometimes known as mudslinging). When one side claims that the other side said something false and attributes it to someone, that is black propaganda. Or when a political party puts out information and ascribes it to the opposing party, with the end goal of humiliating or putting the opposite party in bad light, that’s black propaganda. For example:

There’s gray propaganda: source is unknown and accuracy is questionable. White propaganda is clearly sourced, clearly attributable to someone, and purpose is clear. This tweet is an example of gray propaganda:

I am not sure if this is news or propaganda: prop.

Once passed, the new salary standardization law will not benefit the incumbent elected officials.  So to say that Aquino’s getting a Php280000 increase is just plain wrong. The goal of this tweet is to either make you click the link so that you’d read the article (therefore increasing page view and hopefully will lead to earnings) or make you angry and retweet. This is what I call meme-ification of news (see The meme-ification of news). It can also be negative propaganda, but it’s up to you to decide.

Here is a good primer on different kinds of propaganda: The Difference Between Gray, White And Black Propaganda.

So, you saw something on Facebook. It’s too good to be true. So how do you check if it’s true or not?

Check who shared it. If it is shared by a news organization, it might be true. Might, because what was shared can be false, too. A social media manager is human, after all. And apparently you can manipulate the title of a news post when you share it on Facebook, like this one:


The PDI report is titled ‘Wrong to fault Mar for Yolanda housing’. When you click on that link, the title is way different. So if the post purports to be from a news org but shared by someone not connected to that news org, check and read. The above example is an obvious negative propaganda.

If it is shared by an organization, and the post makes a claim, you might have to search online for verification. For example, this one:

You can check the Senate web site to see all the bills filed by Senator Marcos. If you don’t find any bill pertaining to contractualization, then the Akbayan claim must be true.

If it is posted by a relative or friend, check if they really posted it. Did they take the photo themselves? Did they really experience what they described? Even here you have to be careful. Take this one, for example.

Mag ingat po sa vigil taxi na nasa pic ang plate no. Kagabi lng oct.29 muntik ng madali ang kasamahan kung seaman…

Posted by Julius Niel Habana on Thursday, October 29, 2015

The problem here is that we can never verify this experience. First, he said he reported the taxi and taxi driver to LTFRB, but the LTFRB has just absolved the taxi driver and cited the Facebook user cited above in contempt (see Seaman in hot water over ‘tanim-bala’ claim on Facebook). Second, he claimed he reported the matter to the police, but he failed to state if he did by calling the hotline or going to a police station. Whether it really happened or not, we cannot tell.

So you saw one infographic/meme being shared. How to check if black propaganda or not? Check the source. Check if quote is attributed. Check if you can find the source and verify the claim yourself. If the source is dubious, or source not stated, beware.

If the source is a politician, beware. Period.

I subscribe to a simple code of ethics when I am online: THINK BEFORE YOU CLICK. I suggest all netizens to do the same. So if you found something that you want to share, think first before clicking that Share/Retweet button.


The meme-ification of news

Earlier today, Rappler issued the tweet above. There was some minor issues yesterday when Rappler tweeted an image with a quote from Mar Roxas, which, according to supporters, were taken out of context. It is not my intent to argue about whether the quote as shown and understood was taken out of context. What was surprising was the poisonous and toxic reaction AGAINST the Rappler apology. It is very rare for a news outfit to apologize for an editorial decision. For decent broadsheets, they usually publish errata but those are almost always never published on the front page; they usually place errata on the inner pages, and sometimes, in small font. Some broadsheets even have internal ombudsmen where readers can complain about news reports. But never has any organization apologized in such an upfront manner, and for that Rappler should be commended.

The detractors of Roxas, as expected, zeroed in on the apology, alleging that Roxas and/or the Aquino III administration twisted arms so that Rappler would apologize. In an election season, that would be tantamount to suicide. No news organization with respectable reputation would allow itself to be censored, and such actions would only cement the resolve of the target news outfit to continue reporting. Nothing ignites the imagination of a David fighting a Goliath. Also, Rappler said it was an editorial decision to apologize, and I take it as it is.

The problem stems from the tendency of netizens to pay attention to memes instead of reading. Nothing attracts the attention of people with short attention span than a spiffy graphic with pithy text. And with Twitter and its character limitation and again the tendency of people with short attention spans to not click, you need to express in 140 characters what you need readers to understand. To somehow overcome the character limit, social media managers use graphics to show more information, and hopefully entice readers to click on the link.

It’s plain social engineering. You want page views and impressions, so you design your social media post so that people will click on your link and hopefully read your long post/news report. With shrinking bottomlines, news orgs now have social media teams to design their social media posts to earn page views and clicks, which will hopefully lead to ad clicks.

Here is a good example: P3.8-B MRT deal awmisleadarded without public bidding. By reading that title alone, you might cry “ANOMALY!” But if you read the content it states that there were previous failed biddings, and the procurement law allows the government to negotiate a contract without bidding due to emergency and failure of bidding. You have to read the news otherwise you will be misled.

With the limits of social media, news orgs have to adapt. In the process, something has to give. And that is context.

The problem is simple. Netizens do not really like to click links. If they agree with what they had seen (graphics) or read (tweet), they’d automatically share without reading the news. If they are rankled by what they had read/seen, they’d automatically share with rage-filled texts of their own. Things can be taken out of context – what was quoted can be incendiary but might actually be benign if the story is read.

It’s the nature of the Internet beast, and the adage “Think before you click” is relevant more than ever. But based on what’s happening, we’re quite trigger happy. Or should I say button click happy?

And with a loooooong election season, expect more #MeltdownCity moments, all because someone made a rather controversial tweet without context, and netizens react with such fury that even barbarians would stay away. Brace yourselves.


Magtanim (ng bala) ay di biro

It’s been (insert adjective here) Halloween for Filipinos.

The ghost that haunted the country is known as “tanim-bala.” Basically, it’s a way for extortionist to forcibly take money from travelers by planting bullets into their bags/luggages to make it appear that the bullet has been there before inspection. The governing law regarding unauthorized carry of live ammunition is Republic Act 10591 (full text), and the punishment is rather severe. Scammers take advantage of the law and the fact that the victim might miss his or her flight.

The netizen reaction was negative, and rightly so. But it went beyond the usual outrage. It went viral, like a frenzy prior to an orgy, to the point that foreign news outfits reported on the issue. See Airport Security in the Philippines Have Been Putting Bullets in Luggage to Extort PassengersPhilippine legislators angered by Manila ‘bullet scam’“Airport officials in the Philippines are suspected of planting bullets in passengers’ luggage”.

Sonny Coloma downplayed the issue (see Palace downplays ‘laglag-bala’: Put issues in proper context), and it only added lubricant to the orgy.

In a press conference, Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Jun Abaya,  Office for Transportation Security Administrator Roland Recomono, Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Angel Honrado, and PNP Aviation Security Group Chief Francisco Balagtas presented relevant data on number of incidents of ammunition detected and cases filed. (Read the full transcript here.)

The data shows that, relative to the number of passengers who flew out of NAIA, the total number of  cases is only 0.008%, making Abaya state that “it appears that cases have been blown out of proportion.”  Abaya took pains to state that despite the small number, “a single case of any passenger wrongly charged, extorted upon, victimized by planting, unjustly charged in court, is unjust.”

Most of the media reports highlighted the “blown out of proportion” bit but not the “unjust” part. See this Inquirer report (Abaya downplays bullet scam but asks lawmakers to review law), Philippine Star (Abaya: Only .004% of travelers nabbed), ABS-CBN News (No NAIA syndicate behind ‘tanim bala’: Abaya).

Most of the netizens reacted negatively to the presented data. The presentation, netizens said, is just a way of belittling and downplaying the issue. Some strident netizens even asserted that contextualizing through data just shows that the government is callous and insensitive.

All that without even taking a minute to analyze the data.

The data was presented because the outrageous outrage online claimed the tanim-bala scam is widespread and prevalent. There are only 3 or 4 cases wherein victims legally complained of extortion and declared they are victims of tanim-bala (previously called laglag-bala). See American nabbed for carrying a bullet at Naia seeks new probeJapanese, OFW arrested at NAIA for bullets in baghttp://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/538896/news/metro/4-naia-x-ray-screeners-suspended-over-alleged-laglag-bala-extortion-activities (also shows that the government acted by suspending screeners, contrary to perception that no actions were taken), and Traveler tells how ‘bala’ works. (ABS-CBN has a list but the Japanese admitted owning the bullets so it’s not a tanim bala case. See LIST: Passengers allegedly victimized by ‘tanim-bala’.)

Everyone of my generation know who Kuya Bodjie is. And his tweet days ago is very relevant and very true:



So. Because data isn’t sexy and “irrelavant” to most people, the goal post has been moved.

Now the netizens are crying “Callous!” “Insensitive!” Like the people when Pontius Pilate presented persons to be let go.

Has the government not done anything at all? OTS says they’ve changed procedure. Screeners won’t touch your bags. They will take pictures/snap shot of the x-ray. Bag will only be opened by passenger in the presence of lawyer/third party or OTS supervisor.

For those cases of extortion, screeners involved were relieved (as due process dictates) and are being investigated. NBI is already involved in the investigation.

Netizens are not impressed. They were calling for heads to roll, like people chose Bar… OK never mind. Bongbong Marcos told the Palace by the Pasig to sack the NAIA GM (Marcos: NAIA chief accountable on Tanim Bala). The senator and the people betray gross ignorance of the organizational structure and airport operations. All the cases involved x-ray screeners, who are all under OTS. MIAA is only involved in management of the airport and is no way involved in security screening.

While Senators Grace Poe, Bongbong Marcos, and Ralph Recto called for investigations, Senator Bam Aquino and Representative Leni Robredo filed bills to decrimininalize carrying limited amount of bullets (see Leni Robredo Files Measure vs ‘Tanim Bala’ GangRobredo wants to decriminalize possession of bullet). While no one called the calls made by the 3 senators as grandstanding, the Aquino and Robredo bills are not yet even available online as of this writing yet the idea is already being criticized. People did not get the brilliance of the filing of bills.

Poe, Marcos, and Recto called for an investigation “in aid of legislation,” hopefully with the end goal of amending or drafting a new law. The cynical me says ASA KA PA. Aquino and Robredo filed bills. And if you know the legislative process, you know that committees will conduct hearings about the proposed bills. You already have the end goal, and you only need to refine it by conducting hearings and investigation. But that brilliance is lost on many.

Again, I refer you to Kuya Bodjie’s tweet.

So in the end, we Filipinos created a fire out of farts started by friction from all that orgiastic rage, and then the world noticed, and we wept that the world noticed. We shot ourselves in the foot but we pretend there’s no wound.

What should Abaya and others do? Aside from what they had said, to build trust and establish accountability they should:

  • Give a timeline for each action.
  • Identify persons who will complete such task.
  • State the expected results and how to determine success or failure.
  • Specify how to hold government people accountable.

Citizens, for their part, should:

  • Report all violators of the law immediately, specially if victimized by unscrupulous people at the airport. Nope, making a Facebook post is not reporting.
  • Stop adding to the problem by posting unverified social media posts and sharing incendiary memes. Humor is OK but if memes make untrue assertions in guise of humor, they are not helping.
  • Know your rights. Know the process during screening at the airport. Arrive way ahead of your scheduled departure time.

It’s time for rationality to return and decency to govern our discussion of the topic. Let us let the government do its job, bring justice for the victims and jail the guilty. Netizens should be more circumspect of what they post and share, but should also remain vigilant and call the government to task if it fails to clean up its act.


SickSky Launcher for Android

SickSky settings panel

SickSky Launcher (Google Play Store link) is a very simple Android launcher/home screen, with no widget support. If you love your widgets, this launcher is not for you. But if you just want access to your apps, calendar, and weather, you might want to check this out.

When launched, the homescreen is divided into three panels. The top panel shows the current temperature for your location, and the date and time. The middle panel is mostly empty unless you do some actions. The bottom panel has two buttons.

But where are your apps? Click on the button on the right of the bottom panel, and you get to see all your apps at the middle panel. You swipe to the left or right to access apps in another page (16 icons are shown per page).

SickSky apps panel

To show more information about the weather, just click on the temperature at the top panel, and more information is shown in the middle panel. But I have found one quirk with this panel. See screenshot below.

SickSky weather panel

As you can see, the locations shown in the top panel and middle panel are different. Anyway, you are shown temperatures, 5-day forecast, and current condition.

To access your calendar entries, you need to access the settings by clicking the button at the left of the bottom panel (see topmost screenshot).

There isn’t much customization options. This is a simple, minimalistic, no-frills launcher that works fine if you are not fond of customizing your home screen. I like this launcher, but I do like having a panel showing my frequently used apps – it can be tedious swiping around if you have tons of apps installed.

Power users will not be fond of this launcher, but for those who like their home screens simple, this app is worth their time.


Sungha Jung in Manila!


Sungha Jung played his greatest hits and some popular tunes last night, and oh boy it was a glorious night of guitar music.

I was so excited when I found out months ago that Sungha Jung would be performing here in Manila. When the official dates were announced, I was even more excited. When the tickets became available I was disheartened when I logged on to Ticketworld only to find that the cheapest tickets were sold out. Good thing I checked back 3 weeks ago. When I saw that tickets were still available I immediately booked one. I will not miss it, definitely.

And so last night, I found myself at the lobby of the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila, lining up to buy a CD. If you buy a CD you could line up to have it signed after the show, but I find the time to be a wee bit late, and as I live up north I might have problems going home. Besides, there were 300 CD buyers who’d line up. I consoled myself that at least I get to hear him perform live.

The doors opened at 7PM. After finally getting Paint It Acoustic, I went to the doors, had my bag checked (cameras were allowed to be brought in but not allowed to be used during the performance), and wondered at the place. It’s like a large cinema with carpeted floors and red upholstered stadium seats (lesson learned – don’t wear red when watching at Newport Theater – see image below). The stage is so wide you could probably put in an IMAX screen in there. (Look at the image above.)

I was actually afraid that not a lot would come and watch, but I was glad that only a few seats were empty by the time the opening act started. I was a bit amused and annoyed, though, that Filipino time reared its ugly head. Halfway through the first set, you could see people still streaming in.

As I have said, Sungha played some of his original pieces plus covers of popular songs, including songs by Bruno Mars and Maroon 5 and a KPop singer/group whose name I wasn’t able to understand (Sungha speaks English, but his pronunciation is heavily Korean accented). His ukulele rendition of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme and music from Super Mario Brothers (see live performance video of the two here) got cheers from the audience (I admit I was looking forward to him playing the Super Mario music using ukulele, and I was quite happy when he did). He started the second set by playing Pachelbel’s Canon in D using an electric guitar.

The audience appreciated the technicality of finger style guitar playing by clapping on very technical parts of the music. As a non-player, I could see the difficulty in playing, but Sungha is a prodigy and played with ease.

Probably the highlight of the night was the last piece of the second set. In the middle of the “brief” intermission (the only slight I could cite for the night – really, how long is brief?), I thought maybe he should have planned on playing a Filipino song. When he announced that he was about to play The Eraserheads’ classic Ang Huling El Bimbo, the audience roared! (I am having goosebumps right now as I remember that part). Some of the audience sang while Sungha played. You could just appreciate that he took time to learn the piece, and I am sure the transcription alone took time. He did not play it perfectly, but for me it was a fitting climax to the set. UPDATE: Youtube video!!!!

He did two encore pieces together with opening act Alyza Barro, which I found to be anti-climactic after El Bimbo. The two pieces were technical in nature, and the audience knew those pieces were hard to play.

Two screens were set up at both ends of the stage. It was a good thing since I was seated the second to the last row and so I couldn’t see much. The stage was almost bare, with a chair over a carpet, plus guitar stands, amplifiers, and lights. I found the addition of the carpet to be tacky. The backdrop of star lights was glorious, though they must have forgotten they had it installed, since they only turned them on on several songs, then on throughout the last parts of the second set.

But then again, it’s all about the music, and Sungha Jung did not disappoint, most especially this fan. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance, and I know he’ll get better with his guitar playing. I look forward to see him play again here.

Sungha Jung!


The big losers


Now that the grand circus that is Philippine elections is over, we know who won and who lost. Who are the big losers in this election?

1. The Enriles – The United Nationalist Alliance (or UNA) is composed of so-called three kingmakers – Vice President Jejomar Binay Sr., Senator Juan Ponce Enrile Sr., and former President Joseph Estrada Sr. Each of the kingmakers fielded their children in this year’s Senate race – Binay’s daughter, Nancy; Enrile’s son, Jack; and Erap’s son JV. We all know that Nancy and JV won, but Jack didn’t make it.

Framing this in terms of 2016, Enrile will have a hard time spending his political capital. This election proves that his name is not enough to bring his son to the Senate (though the negative propaganda against Jack and the Senate budget scandal last December may have helped cost him a Senate seat), and so his political capital might not be enough to influence the 2016 elections. It is now important for Enrile Senior to retain his position as Senate President in order to increase his political capital. Sure, he can make sure he’s relevant as leader of opposition, but with so many senators with political ambitions, he has to fight 22 of them – including the children of his pragmatic allies Binay and Erap.

As for Jack: he has a lot of options at this point. He can return to the House by 2016, or take another shot at the Senate, or run for governor of Cagayan. The House is the safest bet.

(Enrile has resigned as Senate President – a day before Congress adjourns sine die).

2. The Liberal Party – As much as most media people and pundits call this election as a victory for Team PNoy, I have to disagree a wee bit and call this a loss for the Liberal Party.

The 2010 elections was probably the first elections since 1986 where no major coalitions were formed to carry candidates. Each of the major political parties at that time fielded their own candidates on national level. This time, two major coalitions were formed to battle for 12 Senate seats. The Aquino Administration framed this election as a referendum on the current administration, banking on the unprecedented popularity of the President. The field of candidates was so thin that neither of the two coalitions could form a complete slate – both had “guest candidates.” However, due to pressure on both sides, the guest candidates were forced to exclusively join Team PNoy, while UNA had to make do with 9 candidates.

In the Team PNoy coalition, three candidates came from the Liberal Party, and only one made it to the winner’s list (all the Nacionalistas in Team PNoy won, BTW). As the majority party this is a blow to the Liberals. Bam Aquino will join Franklin Drilon, Ralph Recto, and Teofisto Guingona III as the Senate, making 4 Liberals – definitely not enough to gain the leadership without coalescing with other parties. As these coalitions tend to be fragile, the Liberals cannot afford to antagonize its partners or else it loses control of the Senate.

If the NP decides to field a candidate for president in 2016, I don’t expect the current coalition to last.

3. Mar Roxas – While LP retains majority of the House, and its coalition about to take control of the Senate, Binay has one advantage against Roxas – Binay has made his daughter win. This election validates that the Binay brand is bankable and durable, and his grassroots network can deliver.

Roxas, on the other hand, seems to be drifting. He has nothing to show in his stint at the DOTC, and his performance at DILG lackluster. He tends to be slow, indecisive, and too careful, hence after three years all infra projects under DOTC have yet to be started. If this continue, and Binay becomes more aggressive, Roxas can kiss 2016 goodbye.

4. Isko Moreno and the city of Manila – Isko scored a landslide win against Lou Veloso for the post of Manila’s vice mayor, so why is he a big loser? Because once again he will have to break with the would-be incumbent mayor in order to fulfill his ambition to be mayor of Manila. Why? What made him think Joseph Estrada will honor his word that he will only serve one term? This, coming from someone who promised never to run again for any public office only to run twice? Erap can either run again or field one of his children (some are already salivating on the idea of Jake Ejercito as mayor of Manila).

The city of Manila is the biggest loser here, because it now has a convicted plunderer as mayor. Erap may be able to improve the physical condition of the city, but a single term will not have any long term effect on the development of the city. If Erap is seeking redemption, he did so at the expense of the city. If he is really sincere, then he has no choice but to seek reelection and continue with his plans to make Manila a great city. This convinces me that Moreno has no choice but to do to Erap what he did to Fred Lim. I wish both of them luck.

5. Echiverri and the city of Caloocan – It seems that any attempt to establish a dynasty in Caloocan always fails. Rey Malonzo tried it years ago, fielding his common law wife and his son for mayor and councilor, respectively, while he ran for a House seat. All of them lost.

Then Recom Echiverri tried to build a dynasty by making his son RJ run as congressman – RJ lost. And as Recom’s term limit came, he made RJ run as mayor this year. RJ lost again. Recom will return to the House to represent the first district.

Echiverri must be so pissed off. After Oca Malapitan was proclaimed incoming mayor, all the blue boys (the Reformed Department of Public Safety and Traffic Management) are gone from the streets of Caloocan, as if telling the residents of Caloocan that they made the wrong choice. Now the residents of Caloocan have to pay the price – just look what a mess of a traffic jam is Rizal Avenue Extension from 2nd Avenue up to Monumento. Temporary vengeance, but a cruel one.


SPlay Launcher for Android


I have this app installed yesterday a week ago, and on its second day 2nd week, here’s what I think about this Android launcher.

The launcher (currently in beta but available at the Google Play Store) is basically a group of tappable texts. When you tap and hold on a text, another set of tappable texts are shown, and while still holding the text, you slide your finger to the text that you want, and the corresponding action to that text is launched. For example, to create a new text message, you tap and hold Diary, then slide up to New message.

There are four main text groups, and Apps is the customizable group. You can add up to 7 shortcuts to your favorite/most-used apps by tapping and holding Apps then sliding to Edit Shortcuts. You can also access Google Play in the Apps group. To show all the apps installed, you slide to Apps (you can also show all apps by tapping the context menu (at the top right).

As I am right-handed, the placement of the texts works for me. It should probably work for sinistrals, but I think there should be a setting so that the user can select where the ring is oriented.

The animated ring stops after a few seconds, maybe to preserve battery life, but I feel that it defeats the purpose of the animation. It should rotate infinitely. I am sure most Android users will have set up a screen timeout anyway.

If you are a creature of habit and only uses a set number of apps, this launcher is good. But for those who uses a lot of apps, the limited number of shortcuts is limiting, so this launcher may not be for you. Is the user experience enhanced? Some may doubt it.

Normally, when I test an Android launcher, I usually revert to Go Launcher after a few days. I am on my second week with Splay Launcher, and so far I have no urge to go back to Go Launcher (not a fan of the stock Android launcher). It offers a different experience unlike those other launchers that look like they’re no different from each other. We’ll see if this holds.


Shingeki No Kyojin


The weekend was spent watching new anime – Shingeki No Kyojin (aka Attack on Titan) and Arata Kangatari. Both are very good. Very, very good.

Let me start with Shingeki No Kyojin. Based on the manga of the same title, the premise of the story is that humankind has to live within 50-meter walls due to the Titans – large humanoids who like eating humans even though they don’t need to for sustenance. Humans no longer venture outside the walls except for a group of soldiers called Recon Corp, whose mission is to find a way to finally defeat the Titans. After a hundred years most people no longer wanted to be part of the Corp, and thinking of a life outside the walls is considered an act of heresy.

Eren is, however, not one of most people. He dreams of joining the Recon Corp, but only his half-sister, Mikasa, knows of this dream. When she told his mother, his mother vehemently objected, but his father was ambivalent.

Then the walls got breached by the Titans. Specifically, by a Titan so tall it can reach the top of the wall.

I have only seen one episode so far (there are five currently), and I must say I am intrigued by the premise. I can’t say more since it’s just one episode, but I am sure I am going to see the next episodes.

I find the Titans creepy (I am having goosebumps right now). They look like zombies, only that the “exposed” muscles are not as random (for lack of a better term) as that of zombies. They have this nasty, creepy, malicious smile in their faces, teeth exposed, ready to have a meal of human meat. The fact that they are huge and nude adds to the creepiness.

Eren is the typical young male lead character – bratty, opinionated, annoying, idealistic. He argued with a drunk gate guard, hit an old man who doesn’t believe in the Recon Corps, had a shouting match with his mom – all on the same episode. This kid has serious life issues.

Normally, characters like this annoy me (if I am annoyed by the lead character at episode 1, I stop watching and never bother with the next episodes), but I am willing to give this some more time before making any judgment.

Speaking of life issues, wait for my post about Arata Kangatari.


The Ballad of Narayama (1958)

The Ballad of Narayama

The Ballad of Narayama is the story of Orin (Kinuyo Tanaka), an old Japanese woman who willingly chose to go to Narayama to die, as expected of her due to her old age (this custom is known as ubasute or obasute). Her son, Tatsuhei (Teiji Takahashi), loved his mother so much that he wanted her to stay and defy the custom, but his own son had taken in a wife and was expecting a child. Living in poverty, they could not afford another mouth to feed, hence Orin’s decision to go to Narayama.

For a modern cinema viewer, this movie would seem quaint. The first thing the viewer would notice is the artificial look of the scenery, as the director Keisuke Kinoshita chose to film in a studio. The effect is beautiful but haunting scenes of rural life in feudal Japan, highlighting how poverty drove the cultural norms at that time.

The movie was filmed like as if it was shot as a play; in fact, some elements of Kabuki are present. The movie narrator is a kuroko, who chanted the story in the strains of Japanese musical instruments. There was a scene where each of the characters were lit in soft, green light, and as a character leaves the scene, the light turns off until the old woman was left.

The movie could use some cutting. Though not very long (only an hour and a half), there are scenes that seemed too slow for me; I think this was in compensation for the cramped space brought about by being shot in soundstages. The journey to Narayama, for example, was just scenes upon scenes of Tatsuhei carrying his mother, with some dialog added to break the monotony.

It is a bleak and depressing movie, a movie that not everyone would want to see for recreational purpose. But this is expected from a movie that dares to show the problems facing the elderly – after all, we will all get old, and we will have to face what Orin had faced, and I assure you that it will be depressing.