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Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Transformers

I took my old man to catch the latest Transformers movie ("Age of Extinction") yesterday (3D IMAX version) and he kinda nodded off after just 10 mins in .. though, admittedly, that has more to do with his age than, say, the Robots-smashing-everything-in-their-way CGI fest. For what it is (err, it IS a franchise based on a toy...), I thoroughly enjoyed the 180-min of action, bar a few annoying things, like, product placement. It really was pretty blatant. 

I'm surprised they actually try to squeeze a bit of drama into this fiction tale of alien-invasion (dad-daughter relationship) and it kinda worked and it didn't; the dialogues aren't that great but this is no Shakespeare, but Mark Wahlberg (in his more physically deflated than pumped up form) plays the dad who looks far too young to have a 17-year-old daughter whose boyfriend doesn't look that much older than he is, the father... a bit confusing there. Even more confusing though are the various kinds of Transformers featured in this latest instalment. To say this is mindless entertainment is a bit unfair since I did have to think -- and think hard -- about who's who doing what, when, how and why.

Mark Wahlberg is pretty cool
in Transformers 4

SO (and I'm looking at Wiki for help here) Optimus Prime is the Good Robot (you see, I kinda forgot about that ... since he is so mean looking I mistaken him as Megatron, which is the Bad Robot that led the Decepticons); and Optimus Prime and his pals are all Autobots who are nice to humans (and ultimately betrayed by them). I kinda figured this out, like, half way through the movie (at the beginning I was like, why are these baddies on the run? Oh, never mind). Then there is Lockdown (a Transformer bounty hunter I learnt later reading Wiki). Like, who the hell is this thing? And there is also the upgraded version of Megatron called Galvatron (created by a human scientist) ... by the time he appears, my brain was, like, okay, just focus and keep this really simple: Optimus Prime and his mates are all GOOD, the others are all BAD. Once over that hurdle, the rest is kinda fun: the scenes in HK are fabulous, I thought (esp when Li Bingbing's trying to borrow a motorbike from Ray Lui using her cute Cantonese); I didn't realise Stanley Tucci is also in this movie so another pleasant surprise. You can kinda tell the director Michael Bay and the crew didn't take things too seriously (and were able to take the piss out of themselves) but just seriously enough to keep the movie from descending into some horrid farce. 

I'd recommend this movie to anyone who are suckers for sci-fi CGI action flicks like me. But tickets for good seats are all but gone for the next week or so. Oh, my dad did manage to stay awake to watch his home city being totally smashed up by alien robots... the Convention Centre getting sucked up and then spat out by a spaceship is just Too Awesome to be missed!!! 

New Games

Gone a bit crazy buying new video games lately ... and am thankful I'm bilingual cos more and more of these (Japanese) games are localised into Chinese than English. Well, I guess Greater China/Asia is a much bigger market than, say, US and Europe combined (?) 

Anyway, here are the new titles I bought in the past couple of months or so: Natural Doctrine, Danganronpa 2, Sword Art Online Hollow Fragment, Legend of Heroes: Ao No Kiseki Evolution, Legend of Heroes: Sen No Kiseki (Trails in the Flash) and Nobunaga's Ambition: Souzou.

Type-0? No, this is more kawaii
Danganronpa 2 was a disappointment not least cos it is quite an expensive but I just didn't get the game (which was, apparently, voted by Japanese gamers as the best PS Vita game of 2013). Investigating into murders of fellow students just isn't my thing. And it's "trial system" is just very, very lengthy and hard to grasp. So having played one chapter I'm giving up. Natural Doctrine I really enjoyed/loved -- it is so challenging I rage quit quite a few times *lol* and the voice acting is really cool -- but have reached end of second playthrough so am pretty done with this game/title.  SAO and Evolution I bought cos of the beautiful graphics (and cos I was desperate to play some new games after Natural Doctrine) but SAO is a bit like Ys - hack and slash - which isn't really my cuppa; while Evolution, though is turn-based (my favourite genre), it's in Japanese and looks a bit dated compared with Sen No Kiseki. So I'm playing its sequel Sen No Kiseki right now -- beautiful anime though difficulty-wise it's child's play compared with Natural Doctrine. What I like about this latest (localised) LoH title is it's a bit like Persona 4 Golden and Final Fantasy Type-0 rolled into one (both my all-time fav games). It's set in a school and has a turned based battle system (P4G) and the story revolves around this group of nine specially hand-picked students who are gonna, like, save the world (Type-0). Actually, Type-0 is experiencing a re-surge of interest cos its fan-made English patch is finally released. It's nice to see gamers discussing and sharing tips on their favourite characters and strategies etc. on forums. I, unfortunately, didn't have that during my three playthroughs cos the game still isn't officially localised and I enjoy a game a lot more if I could discuss it with other online gamers. Anyway, I think this game deserves to be widely played and recognised! I'm still annoyed that the Vita system doesn't support the demo of this game hence I won't be able to get the summer uniforms to unlock the "what if" ending, which I kinda want, being a completionist ... boo-hoo.

And there is Nobunaga's Ambition: Souzou which I downloaded just yesterday. It reminds me of  Sangokushi 12 (Romance of the Three Kingdoms XII), which I really enjoyed fiddling ~ "fiddling" as I didn't know how to play it properly -- it's in Japanese. It's a strategy game so involves a lot of micro-management, which I love in this genre. 

So much to play and so little time -- it's tough to relive one's teenage years ... LOL

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Yogic Breathing

Rainy and thunderous this morning best to practise at home than trekking all the way to the studio. So decided to try out the Ashtanga sequence in David Swenson's The Practice Manual. I chose the 45-minute version (with slightly extended Surya Namaskara A and B). Even this shortened sequence is quite challenging as it has a number of hip opening poses (e.g. Upavishta Konasana or wide-leg forward fold, holding both feet..), quite impossible for me as my hips are extremely narrow.

What I find equally challenging is how to match the breaths with the movement; sometimes I find myself breathing in while doing the cobra/up dog pose, other times breathing out (it should be the former). So I can a little confused when doing the sun salutation. I'm hoping the more I practise (I should really practise a lot more at home), the more I will be in tune with my breathing. 

Including a short meditation, my session was around 45 mins though I think I rushed through a few poses cos I was sweating so much! It really is amazing how a few Surya Namaskara can heat the body up.  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Back Bending

This is one partner pose that really works the back ... we did that yesterday and I FEEL the effects as I type. Feels great. Nice ~

The guy can actually recline all the way down
into Hero Pose (our instructor did that yesterday)

Natural Doctrine (Part Three)

Half the Natural Doctrine crew
Jeff (silly name), Vasilisa, Anca, Zekelinde and Mel
Just gotta show, with a bit (or should that be plenty in this case?) of patience, even the harshest game is enjoyable. Finally finished my first playthrough of Natural Doctrine and I've already jumped right into my second playthrough. It is a surprise hit (for me) because I really hated it at the beginning but I soon realised this is the sort of turn-based, strategy game that I just cannot have enough of! I love it when you really have to think before you make a move (bit like playing chess, really) and the game sure is not a walk in the park. As said before, it is the most unforgiving game I've played but that also makes it one of the best! 

It took me days to figure out how to beat the final boss battle, with full ending. And it really was worth it. Apparently there was a way to snipe the Queen Bug down before her hp reaches, like, 8,000+; so the trick is to kill its first form (only around 1,000 hp), then its second form (around 2,500 hp) and final form (around 5,000 hp) before the spewing bugs begin to spew... once that happens it's guaranteed Game Over ... or at least with part of the team dying. Boy, it took me awhile to work this out since there is NO walkthrough for this game (most gamers give up after the first chapter I think).

Elsewhere, kinda given up on Final Fantasy X-2 (for now, Natural Doctrine is more challenging), have tried Danganronpa 2, which I couldn't get into... the gameplay (and the whole murdering your classmates to survive) is too weird for me; Sword Art Online Hollow Fragment I find a bit childish; and Legend of Heroes VII I bought only cos I made the wrong order but I'm looking forward to the local release of Legend of Heroes - Trails in the Flash, which looks kinda fun (Persona meets Natural Doctrine lol) OH, and am playing, on and off, Final Fantasy IV (the complete collection) ... think this one I will get back into eventually (the soundtrack is beautiful) ...

Monday, June 9, 2014

The 8th Asia Yoga Conference

Once again, I'd decided not to take any classes during this year's AYC because the year before last, I found practising inside a carpeted hall (which, in turn, is inside this city's convention and exhibition centre) a bit weird, especially I wasn't entirely sure when the mouldy-looking carpet was last vacuumed and cleaned. @.@

Nonetheless, I've always enjoyed going to the annual event because I can pick up yoga CDs or books that are otherwise not available in local bookstores, and certainly not at a discounted price. So this year has been great because I could truly take advantage of that by buying all these set texts for the teacher training programme. The first day it was buy two books get one free and the second buy one get one free. Fantastic. So on Day Uno I bought The Bhagavad Gita (a "spiritual work that forms the cornerstone of the Hindu faith"); B.K.S Iyengar's Light on Life; and Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual (cos, I guess, the teacher training course instructor, Patrick Creelman, is Anusara trained). Next day, I bought the remaining set text Anatomy on Movement and, for free, David Swenson's Ashtanga Yoga ~ The Practice Manual. I really like the last book because it shows you all the modifications to "standard" Ashtanga poses (some of which are extremely difficult) so to avoid injuries. So Swenson really encourages a mindful practice, which I think is vital. 

Though the teacher training -- a 200-hour foundation course -- isn't until October, I think I will start reading the set texts now ... and maybe blog about my thoughts ... I think my doing so I may be able to remember more (and perhaps properly digest) what I'd read. Will probably start The Bhagavad Gita first before moving onto Light on Life ... it's like going back to college and it's a good thing I like reading, especially classics. 

Meanwhile, I'd recorded a demonstration by a group of students who practise at my local yoga studio, and they are quite amazing (above). They move so beautifully that, watching them makes me feel like jumping on the mat straightaway! Very inspiring. Enjoy...