Alternative Media (Part 2): Beating Back Stupidity

After noticing that a lot of readers seem to have appreciated my first article about what else they can watch asides from the mind-destroying shows that seem to infest our airwaves, I decided that I can perhaps provide additional reviews and recommendations on some other noteworthy programs and films.

knowledge_dreamscapeLet’s get this straight, I believe that people have a right to watch what they want to. Unfortunately, I will also say that watching too much of the same thing is never good. For a moment, let’s compare the media to food. Food is sustenance for the body while media is sustenance for the mind. Food is important for survival but remember also that nutritious food like vegetables and fish makes one healthy while junk food will do more harm than good to your body. The same can be said about media. Watching brainless shows like Tom & Jerry, Showtime, Oggy and the Cockroaches, The Legal Wife and Sergeant Frog might have their merits but watching nothing but them probably won’t be very good for your social life and mental health.

So here is another line-up of things worth seeing or playing if you want to keep your mind sharp in a country that seeks to dull it into oblivion…

Science of Stupid

Hosted by Ramon Bautista himself, this is a show that focuses on the laws of physics and what happens when you try to argue with them. To all the people who Ramon Bautista offended in Davao, I’m not saying that you should like the guy himself, just watch the show. Of course, I know that it was sort of insulting but I, for one, would rather listen to the jerk who knows what he’s talking about rather than the idiot who spouts only sarcastic but nonsensical quips that are allegedly “funny” (I’m looking at you Vice Ganda).

Anyway, Science of Stupid deals with physics and how working with it can improve what you’re trying to do and how defying it will end quite badly in your part. For instance, in one episode, they showed the laws that governed powered flight and how one can make rudimentary flying machines from one’s own home. They also showed that without the help of professionals or people who actually know what they’re doing, your rudimentary flying machine can cause the unwanted destruction of private and public property as well as considerable amounts of personal injury. As a side note, I have seen quite a few people on the internet who have attempted to imitate Batman from the Dark Knight series with his cape-glider. The results, needless to say, are mixed and often lean on the negative.

Beyond the funny quips and slapstick humor Science of Stupid offers us, it also shows the right way of doing things and why flying vigilantes aren’t all that common in real life. So if you’re the experimenting sort who’s out to try out a new sport, an inventor out to make a name for yourself or a simple bystander that needs to do something, perhaps you should try watching this on the National Geographic Channel. Also, if you’re still unable to overlook or forgive Ramon Bautista, I believe the show has a British version with a different host.

Ink

Ink is a strange and artistic film that is very different from the norm. An indie film released in 2009 with a small budget of just about $250,000 or roughly 1,000,000 pesos (I know it’s still quite costly, but it’s probably nothing compared to the budget of the new Panday film, Braybeyt Benjamin or the horror that was My Big Bossing), it was an urban fantasy film that reminded me somewhat of an old fantasy show on ABS-CBN called Hirayamanawari (one of the better local shows of my childhood, I should say). The film was directed by Jamin Winans and had a cast of fairly obscure actors and actresses.

Nonetheless, the film had some very interesting themes and concepts that are certainly worth exploring, especially in our society. Anyway, the film features three factions of spirits called storytellers (angelic beings who give people good dreams), incubi (demonic beings who give people nightmares) and drifters (who are mostly neutral and take no sides). Both storytellers and incubi interact with humans indirectly on a regular basis by whispering ideas to them or causing subtle influences on the environment to cause a chain reaction.

The film possesses a more symbolic premise than a solid one with more “implications” than actual facts stated so don’t expect a coherent plot and expect quite a bit of fridge logic. Nonetheless, the ideas it presents are quite interesting and deserve some exploration as they provide some insight on human nature.

Take for instance the incubi who are the villains of the film. The typical incubus looks like your typical sharply-dressed businessman with a tailored black suit. However, what makes them different is the presence of a flat-screen-like mask that obscures or distorts their faces. The screen-like masks all depict a face with an unsettling smile that is supposed to imply a sense of apathy to them as if they’re trying to show that everything is alright even though it’s clear that it is very far from it, not far from the way that Pinoys like to smile as a defense-mechanism. Another thing to note about the incubi is their use of pride to worsen people’s lives. In the story proper, an incubus can often be seen with the protagonist, tempting him with ambition, angering him with a sense of entitlement and drowning him in fits of despair and self-pity.

I would certainly like to tell more but that would be spoiling the film. So, if it seems interesting so far, I strongly suggest you go see it. You can even download it for free as its director seems to think this is a good way to get the word out for a good film.

Mass Effect

Mass Effect has a lot of fun stuff to it and listing them all here might make this article too long so I’ll just try to focus on its more important aspects. For those not in the know, Mass Effect is a game where you take the role of a soldier named Commander (insert name here) Shepard who lives in a galaxy that looks like a combination of Star Trek, Star Wars and just about every other famous space opera. The whole game is praised for being very customizable as you can make Commander Shepard male or female, have a specific area of combat expertise and even make him or her look like you! But now for what makes is so special:

A lesson in empathy. The thing is, especially in our society, people who are different from the norm often become victims of discrimination. Due to insecurity and immaturity, we tend to divide ourselves and try to place ourselves in what we believe is the “moral high ground” in almost every argument even when we clearly are not. Mass Effect deconstructs this concept mercilessly with the idea that even some of the villains of the piece are just people who are only doing what they think is best. It even goes on to show that even some of the hostile alien races of the setting also have a reason for the bad things that they do and, when given the chance, may even choose to change their ways and become better people.

Acceptance of homosexuals. Despite what the media may claim, shows like My Husband’s Lover, Praybeyt Benjamin or Zsazsa Zaturnnah do not deconstruct society’s perception of gays, it enforces it. In the end, these shows only depict gays as something to be laughed at or reviled instead of being accepted as common people. Mass Effect, on the other hand, have individuals like Steve Cortez who is a simple but efficient gay mechanic/engineer who misses his dead partner and the bisexual Kaidan Alenko who is essentially just another marine that is tough, reliable, deadly when it counts and is willing to love people of both genders. There are others also like Samantha Traynor, a lesbian officer who seems like any other woman save for her quirky hypochondriac reactions and her allergy to curry. The Mass Effect series has been lauded almost all over the world because of the way it presents homosexual and bisexual people in the most humanizing way possible instead of portraying them as flamboyant or devious individuals.

The weight of decisions. Created by the company Bioware who is responsible for other renowned titles like Neverwinter Nights and its sequel as well as the ever-controversial Dragon Age series, Mass Effect offers players a wide degree of dialogue options with other characters as well as what actions to take during some conversations. However, the game also expounds that every decision you make holds weight over the whole course of the game or even the entire series. If you give into your emotions and hurt a group of people in a certain part of the game, don’t expect them to help you later on when any kind of help is crucial for victory. If you were you kind enough to help a troubled man even with just a word of encouragement, he might come around near the end to provide you with much needed aid. If you decide to put your foot down and stand up for what’s right despite how difficult it is, expect to earn the respect of even the most stubborn of people. Considering the fact that Philippine history is filled with so many bad decisions and over-emotional reactions, Mass Effect might just offer you some insight on how best to approach a crucial choice instead of letting your overblown emotions take charge.

Happy watching and gaming everyone!

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40 Comments on “Alternative Media (Part 2): Beating Back Stupidity”

  1. It’s nice to take a break from politically-themed articles that I read so far.

    Anyway I would like to recommend this hugely popular anime series from my childhood: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X). I think it’s better to watch the whole series than the 3 live-action movies.

    Aside from the fancy swordplay we saw throughout the series, it also has themes that is relevant to our society today. The series’ antagonists are people who are unsatisfied with the Meiji Gov’t and wanted to take over Japan and govern it like the old Shogunate. Like the antagonists in the series, we are unsatisfied with the current gov’t and the older generations that I encountered argue that the Marcos era is better that the current era.

    The irony is that anime which supposed to be childish offers more insight than the current teleseryes that is on TV.

    1. Saw that one. Pretty nice actually. Very historical. Nothing like the garbage our people consume on a regular basis.

      A current site/story I’m working on called “Islanders” takes inspiration from Gintama which can be seen as a slapstick comedy version of Samurai X.

    2. Rurouni Kenshin is memorable for me because it helped me practice my listening skill in English when it was still aired in ABS-CBN in English, without subtitle.

      Great anime.

  2. Another good example of a “thinking man”‘s anime is Psycho-Pass.

    The story centers around a Blade-Runner-esque Tokyo where society is judged by computers called Sybil which implements an arbiter system in the form of psyche hues. When one commits a crime, the hue changes color in relation to the degree of said act so for example a person who commits murder will have a muddled, darker one compared to a clear Psycho Pass of an innocent person.

    The anime focuses on a team whose job it is to deal with these criminals. They are equipped with guns that switch modes depending on the judgment of Sybil. It can either act as a non-lethal stun gun or an explosive energy shot of death based on how far gone the criminal is. The kicker to this is this team’s organization also employs criminals labeled by Sybil to serve as hunting dogs to their handlers. It deals a lot of themes such as morality, justice and complacency all of which are current issues happening in the Philippines.

    As a fun tidbit, Philip K. Dick, of Do Androids Dream if Electric Sheep fame, is referenced in this. I also highly recommend that.

    I’ve also heard good things about Ghost in the Shell and from what I’ve read has several similarities with Psycho-Pass.

  3. Please try watching CODE GEASS,it have two season 25 episodes each,don’t be fool by the mecha fighting,it not all about senseless mecha fighting.

    The show have many philosophical,ethical question about our current situation that we can relate and ponder to, what are the best solution for our society’s to improve,to destroy it first and rebuilding it again or we can change it from within?

    1. I’ve seen a bit of it myself though not all of it. I, for one, would think that changing it from within is safest but, considering our pacing, destroying and rebuilding is our best bet.

    2. I completed that, and it’s more of a plot twist playground. You really have to watch every episode, or you’ll be confused about what happened. Not a favorite, but certainly an interesting series.

    3. Ah, Code Geass. Really a great series. I remember watching it on TV5 (one of the few channels to have the balls to show “non-mainstream” programs back then). A must-see for new anime fans.

      Damn, I wish TV5 brings back Animega. It’s been years, damnit!

      1. I heard it was an entrepreneur from Malaysia who used to own TV5 and distributed funds evenly to allow foreign shows, thus allowed Animega to air and tokusatsus like Kamen Rider Hibiki and other older shows.

        But whoever A-hole who forced that Malaysian guy to give up his ownership because of moronic 1986 Corny Constitution should shoot himself on the foot.

  4. We can’t build a nation on fantasy programs alone that teach only abstract ideas.

    China became a monster economy because of manufacturing: light to heavy industries, biomedical industries, tech, agricultural, etc. China is a manufacturing monster. It would be interesting to find a country that is not a Chinese customer.

    Many would probably say that Chinese are just tech pirates, producing inferior products. That’s just not true anymore. It takes a lot of work to learn a new trade – And Chinese techs have invested a lot of brain hours on these. Sadly, the typical pinoy techs are just not up to flexing their brains as much.

    Can we fight off the Chinese invasion with just abstract ideas? For this, we’d need other kinds of media programs – ones that teach a new skill, a new trade/industry. Programs that could actually help this country earn some money.

    (Was I off-topic? Sorry, didn’t really have time to read through the whole article.)

    1. Yes, I am sorry Justin, but you are off-topic. However, I will commend you on what you said.

      Indeed, fantasies and ideas alone will not save a country, but actions will. Dreams are useless if one cannot fight for them.

      However, the power to dream, to hope, to believe in something greater than oneself is also important, as Pope Francis stated during his visit here. One of the biggest problems the Philippines faces is that the dreams of its people are dead or stillborn. With the many politicians seeking to rape and leech any industry they can find, is it any surprise that a lot of people have simply lost the ability to dream.

      Once, in a visit to Iligan City with a friend, we saw an abandoned steel mill. My friend shook his head when he saw it, saying that such a great foundry could have been immensely profitable had it not been forced to closed down due to the government demanding a cut from its profits.

      Now do you understand what is happening? The government has resorted to extorting wealthy companies and our media is killing our ability to dream of greater things.

      We will not get anywhere if we can no longer picture a better future for the following generations.

    2. Chinese are probably coming full circle or returning the favor. They invented things like the printing press and gunpowder, which the west “pirated.” The Chinese of today turned pirates, but it may also be because the older, more intellectual culture, was badly affected by Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution.

      When you mentioned new skill kind of media programs, two things comes to mind. Gerry Geronimo’s Ating Alamin, and Japan Screen Topics. We don’t have that many features and documentaries as we used to.

      1. I’d like to add Coursera and EdX to your short list for sources of learning media. These can be addicting and consuming too, just like escapist fiction. Programs like these, I’m sure, will help wean the masa away from pinoy telenovelas if only these were available on local tv.

        My concern here of course is balance. Over-emphasis on escapist programs, while it may feed the souls of our masang pinoy, will not be enough to empower them to break free from mediocrity.

  5. I was very lucky, when my Uncle from the U.S., a retired , U.S. Marine; sent me VHS tapes of: George Lucas’ Star War Trilogies. He sent me also some VHS tape series, of Star Trek, The Next Generation; and the Original series of Star Trek.

    I was then, nine years old, and was in grade three. I was fascinated with the Technologies and Science of the films. At early age, I decided to pursue , a career in Science and Technology.

    Who would not be fascinated with the leadership of Starship Captain Jean Luc Picard and Starship Capt. James T. Kirk. The rationality of Mr. Spock, the half human and half Vulcan, with pointed Ears. Or the calculating prowess, of Lt. Cmdr. Data, the Android, who has Artificial Intelligence and a synthethic man.

    In the Star War Trilogies. I was fascinated by the courage of Luke Skywalker…the beauty and talent of Princess Leia; the piloting skill of Hans Solo. And , the treachery of Darth Vhader. I wanted also to become a JEDI.
    People who keep Peace and Justice in the Galaxy, above nationality. They are : teachers, philosophers, warriors, etc…

    So, GHrimwald, I give my Vulcan salute to you: “Live Long and Prosper!!!”…

    1. While I appreciate both Star Trek and Star Wars, my favorite Star Trek character is Mr. Quark from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine whom I loved for his wanton ways.

  6. I’m sorry maybe I cited a wrong example, Indeed anime,and games cited is more a realm of fantasy than reality they only ask the question, show the problem but give no actual solution .

    But I like to add, many believes most of us held are too Idealistic to work in reality,we are accustomed from a young age to be told thing in the world are only black and white,good and evil,but reality is not simple as that.
    There is a term call relativism it can explain more about what is going on.

    I think Media program that teach new skill, new trade/industry. Programs that could help this country earn some money are second priority.

    There should be a show, that shows how the world really work ,how a person/country attain power, without power we can’t live in peace we can’t develop because outside forces is meddling in our affairs.

    Before china develop it economy, it first develop an nuclear weapon during the late 50’s and their defense industry, china learn from history that even if you have money but no power they can just take the money/resources from you or intimidate you to giving it to them using unequal treaty,and we can’t do anything about it.

  7. While I do commend the recommendations here, since I too an a fan of foreign media than anything else. We shouldn’t easily dismiss all of the shows our dear country men make. I can name a few ways to find engaging local media that people should consider looking.

    For example, a majority of the films released in Cinemalaya should be worthy of being checked out. Gone are the days of Indie films being concentrated on homosexuality and poverty porn. Personally I’ve enjoyed films like the Janitor which is one of the titles in the Indies and Bwakaw (2012) that stars old time actor Eddie Garcia. Check the IMDB ratings if you have doubts.

    There is also other sort-of mainstream films, like Erik Matti’s On the Job which is worth of a nod to utilizing the its talents to its full potentials.

    I’m sure you have heard a lot of historical pieces like what ER is churning out of MMFF. While I there’s little much to say about those films. There is a historical piece that will be shown this year called Heneral Luna, which is a no-brainer to whom it is dedicated to. Just type the name in YT to see the trailer.

    As for TV shows, I can vouch a good shows as well. Go n5e.interaksyon.com and go to Programs > TV5 and find History, which is a show by Lourd De Vera about … History.

    While this is considered below average, I would also offer a nod on GMA’s My Husbands Lover for delivering a provocative piece on homosexuality and there is also Positive from TV5 for bringing AIDS into the mainstream spotlight. Not the pinnacle of entertainment yes. But it’s just proof that it’s the bandwagon not the writers that are at fault here.

    Lastly, for my foreign recommendations I would suggest looking at these shows: Blacklist, White Collar, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Last Week Tonight, Silicon Valley (HBO), Halt and Catch Fire, 12 Monkeys.

    1. I myself do not like Filipino movies in general due to lack of depth. Either you settle with romantic shows or comedy shows. Nonetheless, I still believe there are very few that are “watch-worthy”. One of them is OTJ which enjoyed watching, though the ending makes me sad ;_;.

      Also, I would I would love to see Bwakaw, something so simple yet wonderful.

  8. If you want alternative media, here’s a few recommendations:

    Steins;Gate – A story about a scientists who comes up with a way to send messages back in time and thus alter the timeline. Pretty much shows the power of choices and their long lasting effects.

    Mythbusters – A show that tests myths and see if they hold up to the laws of Physics. It is very entertaining and very educational as you get to see science in action.

    Angry Videogame Nerd – Yes, its an online review show. But hear me out. This show is about an angry nerd who reviews videogames. But unlike most reviewers who basically spout angry words and funny lines for the entire review, James Rolfe actually breaks down the reason why the game sucks (or why its good) and it helps that the actual show is entertaining. Its a great way to learn how to explain why you like something or you don’t.

    1. Ah yes AVGN. Gotta love his hilarious furiousfest especially his hatred again ljn who always make horrible games based from famous shows and movies. I also love Nostalgia Critic as well thanks to his funny acting after showing a cheesy scene in one of his reviews of a bad movie. The same with Cinema Snob in which he reviews horrible old movies and even porn that are only the ones ripping-off famous movie titles ie. Foreskin Gump. And since he already reviewed foreign ones (Turkish Rambo) I hope he even review some old horrible pinoy movies as well.

  9. From behind a VPN, st rea m -tv. me OR

    R ain ierl and dot com

    are some good choices but may require said VPN.
    or last but not least: put lo c ker dot is

    for the way it is not in the country right now. WOW-ow WEE they are not.

  10. While you people talk of Code Geass, Samurai X and other good stuffs then I will find my own too and I think you knew this and I am referring to this cult hit animé called “Akira”

    1. Yeah, Akira is cool, a nice look at what a dystopian environment would be like.

      Here’s the thing – mindfuuck stuff isn’t for our masses. They don’t want plots that require thinking, or ideas outside of their line of thinking. Show them Neon Genesis Evangelion, and by episode 26 they’d have gone crazy.

      When I was a kid (say 8 or 9-ish) I was into SeaQuest (DSV / 2032), and when I was younger, MacGyver was the shiz. I have yet to see a local series along those lines. Doogie Houser MD was also a series I was big on as a kid.

      Because of MacGyver, I got around to tinkering with lots of stuff, got interested with science and physics. I didn’t become a scientist nor worked for Phoenix Foundation, but it’s a start.

      I hope we’ll get more shows like these.

      1. NGE was aired by ABS around late 90s-early 2000s. I was really young back then, but that show left a mark on me.

        I really miss the 90s. Back then TV stations doesn’t give a shit about the programs they show.

        1. But because of deep psychological and adult content of Eva, EBAK-CBN forced to cut scenes. So I started buying pirate copies and fully appreciate the endless cryptic message of EVA.

          Now awaiting for the final 4th film

        2. @saboteur:

          You mean the Rebuild films? Because one who would watch it would made them think that everything you know about NGE is wrong. Dead wrong.

      2. Speaking of Akira and Guyver (sorry, it sounds too similar to “MacGyver”), while Darna certainly has a lot of fans around here, I can’t help but notice that she and her powers are just too… implausible.

        I don’t understand her powers at all. I mean swallowing an alien stone to turn into a superhero? Shouldn’t she turn into something like the Parasyte or at least a Witchblade user?

  11. In politics, stupidity is not a handicap. And from the looks of it all, Failipino politicians have all stupidity and no brains at all.

  12. Gotta love Science of Stupid. But aside on that, I recommend watching Air Crash Investigation as well. Thanks to that show, I got interested in aviation. But mostly on NGC, I watch any animal documentaries especially if it’s about snakes.

    For video games, to those who play JRPG, I recommend The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky FC. This JRPG is so intriguing because aside its nice gameplay, it has a huge narrative thanks to its rich plot and side stories that its whole script contains 1.5 million Japanese characters, far more bigger than any Final Fantasy game, making the English translator alone working for the game’s US publisher took 9 bloody months to finish the whole translation. And that’s just the first chapter (hence FC) because the upcoming second chapter (my guess it will be released this April) has twice the first’s whole script that it took more than 3 years to finish this time. Here’s a reference of the said games’ script: http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/17pv0smy9pnzqjpg/original.jpg
    Oh and be sure not to miss those hilarious empty chest messages.
    And see my avatar? It’s an Orbital Frame (a type of robot in the game) named Jehuty from the game Zone of the Enders HD Collection made by the creators of Metal Gear Solid. Both 2 games maybe short but the gameplay is so exciting and fast paced especially with grabbing an object or enemy and throwing them and my personal favorite, Zero Shift in which you move forward in a flash. Just prepare your ears to bleed with its horrible voice acting though.

    1. Ah yes, Legend of Heroes or Sora no Kiseki in Japanese. Another Highly acclaimed series by recent fan favorite Falcom, the creators of other classic series such as Ys. If you can understand JP, I also very recommend the Ao no Kiseki and Sen no Kiseki games which are set in different worlds but are under the Legend of Heroes title like FF and Dragon Quest.

  13. ABS-CBN still airs Matanglawin. It is commendable. It’s sad though that game/noontime shows and teleseryes are promoted more by this TV station and given more attention by viewers instead of educational shows.

    1. Yes. Sadly, no one seems to care about it. I even remember watching “Sineskwela” during my younger years.

  14. You know what educational video games Filipinos should play? The Portal series. This first person puzzle game from the creators of Half-Life involves using a portal gun that can make a portal in any floor, wall or ceiling that are colored white so that you can enter hard-to-reach places to pick up an item and using it for flipping a door’s switch in order to solve a test. This will make you use your head for doing problem solving skills and even do something resourceful to one of it’s game’s tests. You better love the quarrel of the game’s antagonist Glados to you as well. Portal 2 is much more better. I compare that game’s characters Chell, Glados and Wheatley to an ordinary Filipino, gloria arroyo and pnoy respectively. Just play it and see why.
    Another one is the Typing of the Dead Overkill for the PC. Well it’s basically another zombie shooting game but with a twist: you’re using your keyboard to type the exact words that will pop-up to an incoming zombie that will hurt you. This game can be ideal for those who want to type fast and accurate (even though words with a capital letter are still acceptable even without the need to hold the shift key).

  15. SoS. Ang corny na. In English…lame.

    “Nagteambuilding kami sa office…next thing I know…wala na akong trabaho!”

    Kwengk 3x

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