Monday, April 14, 2014

Pascal: Mathematician and Philosopher

Going To The Darker Side: An Introduction

In the course of revising my M.A. thesis, I came across one possible way of once again going back and enriching Pascal's philosophical thought and insight. This not-so-small endeavor is something that I thought of when I was doing two important things.

1. I was in the middle of reading Simon Singh's Fermat's Enigma, which gave sufficient background knowledge regarding the famous Last Theorem of Pierre de Fermat, which remained as a mystery in the mathematical world until Andrew Wiles found a proof for it (or at least where the book is leading me to). I was drawn by the many crucial moments in the history of mathematics that Singh presented, especially with Pythagoras, Euclid, and Diophantus, and how their problems influenced the development of mathematics, especially in the 17th century. But more than that, what I find appealing with Fermat is not exactly his last theorem but his relationship with Pascal, with whom he shares a correspondence that soon became the foundation of modern probability theory.

2. One of the concerns raised during my Masters' Thesis defense was the integration of the different orders by way of raising the value of self-love from the point of view of charity. I answered the question by saying that self-love is by no means against charity if it is in view of loving the personal and the absolute Other as such. But what this question really awakened me to is the fact that it is possible that despite the distance between the three orders of the flesh, the mind, and charity, one can still speak of Pascal's point as a philosopher by the mathematics and the sciences that he is so passionate about. Basically, my thesis is an articulation that comes from the perspective of the third order. But is it possible that this way of articulating the primacy of charity is hinted at, if not foreshadowed, by Pascal's mathematical and scientific works?

This is the question that I would like to explore and wrestle with. My objective is to basically find out how Pascal's way of doing mathematics and science influence and even lead to his insight regarding the charity of primacy as the highest foundation among three orders of possible living, thinking, and acting. It traces the different proofs and arguments used by Pascal regarding mathematical and scientific truths and see how they are also applicable to the things that he points out in the Pensees. Given these, some reminders:

A. I hope that this develops into a journal article or two. As of now, I set my sights below expectations: publish marginal notes in this blog and attempt to draw connections between Pascal's mathematical/scientific and philosophical/Catholic arguments.

B. I am going to publish bits and pieces every now and then, and I hope that those who can read this project can at least comment and raise very significant points (yes, Math experts, I'm calling on you to help me on this one). The knowledge of expert mathematicians are needed here, and it would be helpful if these mathematicians would share the little knowledge that they have.

C. Some texts of Pascal will be considered, which include but are not limited to the following:

-Essai pour les coniques (Treatise on Cones)
-Traite du vide (Treatise on Vacuums)
-Traite du triangles arithmetics (Treatise on arithmetic triangles)
-Correspondences with Pierre de Fermat
-Some notes and comments regarding Descartes and his mathesis universalis (from various sources)

As for his philosophical insight, we still remain within the bounds of the Pensees and his various lettres, and perhaps a few passages from his famous Lettres Provinciales.

1. Pascal's mathematical proofs are going to be analyzed as they are. If necessary, historical references are going to be drawn out in order to see more clearly how Pascal proceeds.
2. Draw any associations with the way Pascal argues for the primacy of charity, especially in the Pensees, taking into mind the different themes that he discussed.

I admit that I am not well-versed enough in mathematics to figure things out, and I believe that friends and readers who know more maths than I do may be able to contribute in this endeavor. Hopefully, this is a project wherein minds mathematical and philosophical can work together to bring out perhaps the things that were left unsaid for over hundreds of years ago.

Moreover, I am not saying that I am definitely arriving at some new knowledge regarding Pascal and his philosophical thought. In fact, there is a huge possibility that I am going to end up with what he exactly said regarding the infinite distance between knowing and loving. However, I think that this endeavor is of significance because we can see possible connections within one Blaise Pascal, namely the connections between his mathematical mind and his religious and philosophical mind. I hope that in one way or another, this endeavor could have shed light regarding this matter.

Up Next: The orders as the "frame" of the Pensees

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ponder Points: Seeing The Light of Faith

A Quick Look at Lumen Fidei

Members of the Roman Catholic Church have been impressed with their new pontiff Francis starting from day one, and so it would not be surprising if these same Catholics would also respect and revere him all the more as he gets his first encyclical published for all the faithful to read. Entitled Lumen Fidei, the encyclical is Francis' own effort to complete what has been started by his predecessor, the Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI,  as a draft. Eventually, he ended up with a relatively short work composed of four chapters which tackles faith itself, completing the trilogy of the theological virtues. In here, Francis has somehow presented a grand synthesis of the faith that the Church hangs on to and lives with, linking it with the two other theological virtues of hope and love, and bringing to light all the figures and ideas of the Church as part of the faith that it lives.

And regarding this synthetic approach, three things can be said:

1. In its content and form, the whole encyclical seems to be a return to the basics of the Church, touching on the very foundations of the life that it lives. A Catholic might not be able to find something new in the same way that a non-believer desiring to know about the nature of the Church's faith would, but I think both would be filled with wonder as to how the two popes dealt with faith, coming from various points of view within and outside the Church. This can be seen in the various references that both popes used, ranging from Nietzsche, to William of Saint-Thierry, to T. S. Eliot, in which they presented different ways of seeing the faith that Christianity regards as a foundation. All of these perhaps serves a single purpose that, for Benedict and Francis, is very clear: to provide a response to the view of faith in a secular world that has lost an appreciation of it, to let its light shine bright again.

2. Connected to the first, one could see how interesting it is that Benedict and Francis tied everything around faith, which stands alongside hope and love. They were able to talk about not only the crisis of faith in a secular world, but also other issues that have to be dealt with, including the question of other faiths and ecumenism and environmentalism among others. What seems to be emphasized at this point is that faith is not just a matter of private and subjectively held truths, but a commitment that is at the same time a perspective of the whole, which in turn leads the human being to act in a certain manner. But what sets the difference is that it does not come from the initiative of the human being, but is granted as a gift by that whom faith enables the human being to see.

3. I think it is apt for the encyclical to end with the model of faith, the Blessed Virgin herself, who, through his unconditional 'yes' to Christ and to the salvation of humanity, led a life of faith. It started with light and ended with light, the light we receive from the beacon reflecting Christ's life and love herself. And perhaps what Francis would want to point here is not just the fact that the Church as a whole is invited to walk the path of her Blessed Mother, but also and more importantly, to seek her motherly love in the times when we cannot see the light.

Indeed, Lumen Fidei has allowed us to receive once again the light of faith that penetrates our whole existence.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Random Thoughts: Post-Election 2013

There are a lot of ways to comment, critique, and talk about the recent elections that we've had, but allow me to start with something that's not-so-obvious: liberal democracy.

Our history has shown that we are a nation who values our identity as a liberal and democratic one (think of EDSA and you will get what I mean). Liberal democracy indeed granted us the right to vote, to choose whom we want to be in the crucial positions that dictate our country's future. It granted us the right even to talk about it, especially through the social media. It allowed us to talk about our choices, discuss our opinions regarding them, and evaluate how the whole process has been so far. Heck, it even granted us the privilege of laughing about the whole process, to the point that we have created hashtags that are so funny because of their sexual undertones.

But it is also in being a liberal democracy where everything gets nasty. We are granted the privilege to choose anyone to be in those privileged positions, and even the right to privilege our choices over others, even pointing out that others have chosen wrongly. We have the right to recant and refute our neighbor and judge him to be irrational and uneducated. We even have the privilege to say that we could have wanted people to think, act, and be like us because we think that our view of things are the true and good ones. In fact, it is this liberal democracy which runs in our blood that enables us to put our own selves in our own intellectual and pragmatic pedestals and shun and demean all those who have not seen and understood the way we do.

Despite the bleak situation, I still believe that hope still lies because we are a liberal democratic nation, and I believe it to be so because it also grants us the right to change our view and see things differently. It grants us the right to see others differently and not to condemn or demean them but instead listen to them. It grants us the right to ask why the poor have chosen to vote this and not that. It grants us the right to formulate our strategies and procedures in such a way that they will neither eradicate nor absorb those others who are completely other to us, but instead listen to their concerns and understand their view of things and motivations for action. You see, the liberal and democratic setting of this country allows us to see what politics really is about: negotiation and consensus-building. Liberal democracy allows us to understand that the concern of politics is not the imposition of our own musts, but the effort to respond to the question "what CAN be done?" It allows us to see differences encountering and trying to understand each other, in view of formulating actions and responses that will be for everyone. It allows us to strategize and work our own way as a people. It grants us the right (and responsibility, which I think is more important) to negotiate with each other, to explain and discuss our stand, and hopefully to understand and work with others as well. Indeed, liberal democracy makes us free, and yet it bears the challenge of using this freedom to what suits ourselves and others most, without leaving someone behind unperturbed and "un-understood" (and yes I'm inventing because it's different from being misunderstood. In the end, it does grant us the right to be a nation composed of individuals bound by their differences and similarities alike).

This freedom, then, leaves us two paths. On one hand, you can just leave this country and not care for it. After all, this nation does not need the good yet unmotivated ones, so by all means, they should pursue their greater ambitions and work towards what they believe as the highest good for them. Go on, no one is forcing you to help your country. Liberal democracy, right? So by all means, then relax and sip on some gin and juice in some other country's beach.

But for those who believe that this archipelago of 76 or more million people has a bright future ahead, then this is where the challenge lies. It would definitely take more than distinguishing what counts as a reasonable vote or not. It would definitely take more understanding, seeing, and most importantly responding to what this country and its people demand from us. It would definitely take more than just thinking, for it involves both our reason and will.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It Is Love Which Shatters Us

Love, and do what you will
- St. Augustine

Love promises happiness for those who wait and work for it.

The promise that love brings is precisely that which propels each and every human being to look for it. It is what drives us to search for those whom we will pledge our whole life to, knowing that only in determining who "the one" is can we actually be fulfilled. And because we find this to be an important part of our life, we look forward to it, anticipate it, plan it, and tie it up with other areas of human living. Furthermore, there is this tendency to look at love as if it is something that "adds over," that is, granting an even greater happiness to our once satisfied lives as if it is a fairy tale waiting to happen.

What happens, then, is that love becomes a part of a system defined by categories. One erects standards and preferences, the qualities that the beloved should possess in order to be loved. One creates an image of how love will occur, perhaps the best possible condition and situation where love will happen. One already looks forward to finding and being in love as if what lives in fantasy would exactly happen to reality. All of these seem that love, in its entirety, can be controlled, anticipated, expected, designed for one's own comfort.

But isn't this all empty fantasizing, which drifts us away from what we are supposed to be open to? Isn't love supposed to be something which happens, in the purest sense of the word? Isn't it the case that the most genuine expression and experience of love comes in the ways that we least expect it to be?

Indeed, it is true that in one way or another, love involves a sort of planning and anticipating, and that is perfectly normal, for love remains to be an important part of our lives. Who or what we choose to love would be an important part of our lives, and we wouldn't want to decide on it haphazardly. However, no amount of planning and determining could prepare or even pave us the way for love to happen. Unfortunately, love, despite all our ways to steer it, comes when it does. Moreover, it does not place itself as a mere supplement or accessory; rather, it is that which takes over and lies at the center, capturing our very own selves. It rampages and tramples  us down, brings us to our knees, as if it is something that completely surpasses our control. Such is love, so violent that drastically shatters our whole being and leaves our own destiny to itself.

Love can only be measured by love .
-Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Violence occurs in the different instances in the life of one who seeks for love. The cracks and crevices of a human being's existence is exposed once he realizes that he cannot live in this world in solitude, understanding the world on his own terms, proceeding with life on his own will, being once and for all the captain of his destiny. He might have everything that the world offers, and yet, it seems that none of these would finally grant him rest and consolation. Such emptiness leaves him wounded in the furthest recesses of his own being, as he realizes that there is nothing he owns and determines that would fill him and close his wound.

In his search, he comes to find the beloved who captivates him. The beloved appears to the lover as if she is someone he did not expect or anticipate, and could never look the same again. She comes at a surprise to him, and he begins to see something in the beloved that he did not see before. For him, she becomes the beautiful, the attractive, the desirable, and the incomparable. Perhaps, it happens that the beloved becomes captivated by the lover's own being, and he also comes out as a surprise to her, in such a way that he ceases to be someone she has used to know. He becomes different for her, and such difference captivates her so much that she cannot do anything but to be open to the whatever he might be in the times that they are together.

At such event, the walls and the barriers of both the lover and the beloved crash down, allowing both of them to recognize each other as distinct, precisely as a complete "you" to each other. The expectations and conditions that they have determined suddenly disappear, as if they do not matter and would have to be dealt with a later time. The past, the present, and the future that both the lover and the beloved has for themselves have now been redefined. And at that moment in their life, they learn to embrace each one's own possibility, including a possibility of being together for each other, a possibility that has not been considered in their solitude and that each of them does not expect or anticipate to happen.

Love has already broken down their barriers, but it would go further as to break down their whole selves in the process. In choosing to remain for each other, the own selves of the lover and the beloved break apart, especially when they experience the joys and the pains of remaining with each other. Both the lover and the beloved lose control of their own selves, for they live not just in terms of their individual choices, as if they will everything to happen in their own way; rather, they are being led, not of another force but of their own will, to make choices for both of them. The lover cannot just act as if he is the only one who matters in this world, instead his love for the beloved draws him, in a quite involuntary yet unforced way to do something for her, to think of and do something for her always. In the same way, the beloved can let herself go and be free from the demands that come with being with the lover, yet her happiness and fulfillment that she finds in him stops him from doing so. In the end, the beloved stays with the lover in the same way that he chooses to stay with her.

And in such decision to stay, the thorns of love spring out and bring forth another wave of destruction. Not only are their past, present and future as beings in solitude destroyed, love has tied the lover and the beloved together in a quite cunning and deceiving way: love gives space for one to make a decision, but love ties such freedom with that which makes us happy, with that which we cannot resist, and leaves us in such a way that we can only choose what makes us happy, or to be more precise, what makes us ourselves.

This is how love violates us and leaves the lover nothing but be with the beloved, not in a hopeless and desperate way but in such a way that both of them fully choose to be with each other even though they need not be. Both of them, as wholes, as beings who can live in themselves, who have their own determinations, plans, and definitions, are destroyed and one is thrown into each other: confined to pasts that cannot be changed, to a present that can only be embraced, and a future that would always remain unknown. And such experience of a kind of determination into the unknown makes it more difficult to love, for love breaks all forms of assurances and promises of happiness and leaves the lover and the beloved nothing except the assurance of being one with the other.

Such is the violence of love, which moves into its own space, determines everything in its own time, and lets things happen according to its own flow, its own will, its own plans, that both the lover and the beloved can only freely respond.

Where the danger is, there lies the saving power.
-Friedrich Holderlin

The pursuit of the lover to move toward the beloved leaves him impoverished, with nothing to hang on to except his fate with the beloved, as two persons left alone to themselves in the world. However, it is only in love that both the lover and the beloved is drawn into a path towards finding what they look for: the happiness that springs forth from the greater possibilities that are presented, definitely excessive and overflowing, more than both of them can handle or understand.  In being thrown into mystery, both the lover and the beloved find themselves thrown into infinity as well.

That is why in the end, love liberates. Love sets us free from the walls and the barriers that cover us, from our own expectations and anticipations that will only lead to misery and despair. It crushes our very foundations only to build a new one, that which is based on the dynamism of our very own being, filled with uncertainty yet overflowing possibility. Indeed, such destruction comes at the expense of losing our own conception of ourselves, with all the pain and disappointment comes at it, but it reforms us because it takes away those that prevent us from seeing us as ourselves, as to who we actually are.

But this liberation will not be possible as long as we let ourselves be freely taken by love. And in this regard, freedom is given space to operate and let one be taken by love. In fact, it is only in freedom which lets love do its work. But how does one decide in this regard? Simply, it is to be taken by love, to decide according to love, and such involves not only deciding to respond to love by loving back, but also and more importantly, affirming the meaning of one's responses, wagering that things in fact would be make sense and bear fruit through my free action. Such decisions would involve a movement, whether it be in the form of letting go, where love ends to pave way for it to happen differently, or in committing to love another, in which one fully embraces the surprise and mystery of what is to happen after deciding.  This affirms that indeed, the meaning and work of love can be understood and pursued only in freely and continuously deciding to love.

Such is the violence of love, which shatters us and builds us anew, but only if we are willing to be so.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Tracks: #TheReturn

The second of two parts on the music of Fall Out Boy and the much-awaited return.

After 2009, the punk-rock/ pop-rock phenomenon that was Fall Out Boy slowly receded into the background, with no trace at all and no indication of an immanent return. A few months after, each one of them had their own solo projects quite apart and different from the project that was Fall Out Boy. Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley joined some of the guys from Anthrax to form a new band called The Damned Things. Patrick Stump, on the other hand, put a lot of effort to trim his body down and craft a new music and therefore a new image, starting by releasing a solo track with Lupe Fiasco, eventually coming up with a new album called Soul Punk. Pete Wentz, at that time married to Ashlee Simpson with a son they peculiarly named Bronx Mowgli, formed electro-pop band The Black Cards.

With all of these lined up to emerge as distinct figures that are extracted from Fall Out Boy without a single trace of it, it seems that there would be no chance of returning. And for most, it seems to be the most bitter ending for the band that has mostly been the part of the life of a teenager of the early 21st century. For them to end like that would be tragic, unfortunate even, to the point that there was no even farewell show or "one last reunion" for them to formally say goodbye to their fans. This has been the general sentiment of those who have stuck it to Fall Out Boy, who at one point have already moved on with their lives.

Well, this was the case... until the news struck the Internet no less than a week ago.

There were those who already had an idea that the four-piece pop-punk/pop-rock band would return, but it was made final when they posted new material over First, this was what they said:
when we were kids the only thing that got us through most days was music. its why we started fall out boy in the first place. this isn't a reunion because we never broke up. we needed to plug back in and make some music that matters to us.
the future of fall out boy starts now.
save rock and roll...
Second, together with such announcement is a new music video entitled "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light 'Em Up)." The video features a group of people (led by rapper 2Chainz) starting a fire and burning everything which reminds us of Fall Out Boy past, and it ended by featuring four people, presumably Fall Out Boy, tied up with their heads covered. What was portrayed in the video was exactly the same thing the band signaled its return in a bonfire at Comiskey Park, announcing to everyone that they are indeed back and are working on an album to be entitled "Save Rock and Roll."

Many speculations again arose in the release of the video, inquiring whether there is anything symbolic at all from the video itself, or to the particular version of the song that the band uploaded in the Fall Out Boy YouTube channel, or even the presence of 2Chainz and what could be expected on "Save Rock and Roll." But amidst all this, one thing is clear: Fall Out Boy is already back on track.

But perhaps the more relevant question would be: Why? It would only be a few months, years perhaps, before their individual projects could have a claim to fame. Stump's Soul Punk went out pretty decently, while The Black Cards have been working on remixing songs after the departure of their female vocalist Bebe Rexha. What could have possibly gone wrong (or right) that Fall Out Boy decided that it's about damn time that they get themselves together. One could perhaps attribute it to Wentz's divorce with Ashlee Simpson, or Stump's failure to "return" to music after "quitting" as a response to all his bodybuilding habits and its relationship with the kind of music he makes. Or perhaps to the failure of all their solo projects, leaving it necessary to rebuild. Or anything that could have happened with all of them. Then again, one thing is important now: they're all set to release their album come May, and for those who have anything to say for or against them have to wait a few more months before they pass their judgment.

While the world waits, it can only think about this whole decade-long run of the band and realize that there are only two things that stay the same with Pete, Patrick, Joe, and Andy: the incredibly long song titles and the ability to surprise the world with their own ways of twisting their own style, most of the time drastic and even productive. Looking back at it, one can definitely say that this capacity to insert surprising elements into their music is what keeps Fall Out Boy alive and kicking after more than ten years, as the dynamic combination of its four members have always brought something new to the industry more than their usual selves. What they have made for themselves, especially the music more than anything, exceeded expectations, and the results as well as the reception of all their efforts have been nothing but phenomenal, but in such a way that they would never be forgotten. And perhaps it is because of that element of surprise that despite this long, long break, the world still welcomes and embraces Fall Out Boy.

Their return, however, would come clashing not just with the pressure of getting back on track as they were before but also with the situation of the music scene. A few years ago, one of Fall Out Boy's friends and one of the most beloved icons in the punk rock scene, Blink 182, returned, and they did not disappoint with the music that they have come up with, being a perfect mix between the old Blink and their own individual projects, namely Angels & Airwaves and +44. And maybe this could be the same thing that could happen with Fall Out Boy. They have burned the past, yes, but what they were would always be part of who they are, it's just that there could be some sprinkles and scoops of what they have been doing for the past few years in their hiatus. Moreover, they would enter the music scene that is way way different compared to what they left behind two years ago. Besides the pressures brought to returning bands, they also have to come to terms about the rise of the indie scene, dubstep, and The Voice, new things that they could take a hit on and even sing about.

All of these boils down to one thing: the way they can surprise everyone means that there will be something in store for all of the lovers and haters of Fall Out Boy. At this point, it really now sank in:


Tracks: Saving The Scene

The first of two parts on the music of Fall Out Boy and the much-awaited return.

About the year 2005, one of my friends showed me over YouTube a music video about a lonely young boy with deer antlers, saying that it's from a band called Fall Out Boy, about to break out in the music scene with their brand new single, "Sugar We're Going Down." The band, as I thought, was really nothing new to me, as I have remembered watching "Saturday," their second music video (as far as I can remember, "Grand Theft Autumn" was the first one) that was all about card-wielding and set-wrecking as solid punk rock music was playing in the background. However, I have not paid much attention nor raved about it, primarily because there are a lot more served at the plate during that time: My Chemical Romance has just released Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, Finch is still caught up with the craze of "What it is to Burn" and is about to release their second major album, and New Found Glory still has everyone singing to old songs in their new tunes, with the more "mainstream" bands The Ataris and Dashboard Confessional having just contributed a few songs to the Spider-Man soundtrack. At that time, Fall Out Boy was nothing more than a band that waits for an opportunity to emerge and accommodate a wider audience, and with "Sugar," I've had that feeling that they are going to be big.

And grew big they did. A few months after, "Sugar" rose to the charts, and they immediately had to follow it up with "Dance, Dance." Their third full-length album From Under The Cork Tree rose the charts and Fall Out Boy eventually made some noise not just within the punk-rock kids, but even in the major music channels and websites like Yahoo! Music and, beating out . Slowly, the rag-tag punk-rock band that Pete Wentz, Patrick Stump, Joe Trohman, and Andy Hurley gained the fame and glory that many punk-rock fans think they deserved. Simply put, Fall Out Boy became the thing of the scene, singing about teenage romance and maturity problems coupled with hard guitars and occasional Wentz screams.

The band made the most of their success as they succeeded in releasing another music video while promoting their old material, both from Fall Out Boy's Evening With Your Girlfriend (their least mentioned mini-LP) and Take This To Your Grave. With the chain of tours, promotions, and performances, the followers of Fall Out Boy, whose numbers, looked forward to their promised third full length album.

As with all punk rock bands, many were actually hoping that the band would go with the flow and continue making those rough, punk rock songs that has gained the attention of the world. Will it be a better version of Cork Tree, as if it wasn't good enough? Would they return to their Chicago-style indie/garage look but with a touch of that catchy riffs and melodies that made them popular?

Indeed, there were a lot of speculations, but when Infinity on High came out, all of them were ruled out, much to the dismay of the majority. Come year 2007, Fall Out Boy brought out new music that has not been expected of them, starting out Infinity with an "under new management" message, as a few lines from Jay-Z started "Thriller," the first track of the album. They fired shots off the emo scene with their first music video, "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race," which was somehow read as a lack of gratuity for the scene that made them famous in the first place. From these, the message is clear enough: take it or leave it, Fall Out Boy is going to take things to a different direction. It's not that they are going to pull the plug on the past, but it's just that their creative energies took them to a different level.

Surprisingly, such shift in direction did not even lead to the decline of the band. In fact, they continued to rise with the new music, eventually reaching their highest point. Fall Out Boy eventually became a household name, thanks to endorsements and promotional tours here and there. The band also paved way for the rise of other acts signed under their previous label Fueled by Ramen, as well as Wentz's own Decaydance Records, such as Cobra Starship, the now-disbanded The Academy Is..., The Cab, and Paramore. Wentz later on established Clandestine Industries, his own clothing company, which basically highlights and makes available on the market the band's own fashion preferences. Advertisements, cameo appearances, and TV performances filled their schedules. Sure, punk rock kids bashed and labeled them "Sell Out Kids," but this did not stop the band's rise to fame, even dedicating their third video for Infinity, this time for "The Take Over, The Break's Over" for their fans of the past and present, with a message from Wentz's dog Hemingway telling everyone to give the boys a break, for, like all things, they do change.

The band waited and worked for more or less two years before releasing their fourth studio album Folie A Deux (just in case you missed, it's French for "a madness shared by two"), anticipated by an election-inspired demo album available for download. They pretty much continued from where Infinity ended, but one could notice attempts of going back to their old music in some of their songs,.as well as jabs about the showbiz culture that they have immersed themselves in. In fact, two of the music videos from Folie, the first single "I Don't Care" and "America's Suitehearts," were both subtle comments on the tabloid- and gossip-driven showbiz industry. Besides working on Fall Out Boy's music, Pete Wentz also promoted the song "Tiffany Blews" by publishing a six-series comic book loosely based on the song called Fall Out Toy Works. It seems that with the steady popularity of the band, springing forth from both their supporters and haters, Fall Out Boy still remained to be big, still steady despite all those changes as well as the individual affairs that they have to deal with.

However, despite all of these, the band announced that they were going on an indefinite hiatus in November 2009, just a few months after they have released a compilation album entitled Believers Never Die: Greatest Hits (that includes a new single, "Alpha Dog"), a separation that fans speculated to have been hinted by Stump and Wentz in the symbolism of their last music video for Folie, "What A Catch, Donnie." At that time, such announcement caught fans and supporters by surprise. How can this successful band, who continues to conquer the airwaves decided to just take a break and, in a sense, move on from what they have gone through? But at that time, the final word has been said. Indeed, it was an indefinite hiatus, meaning that the band does not give a definite date when they are set to return, or if they would return at all.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Flick Pick: Rurouni Kenshin Live Action Film

or "When There's Really Not Much To Expect At All From A Scarred Swordsman"

When it comes to adapting a famous literary piece or a classic film or TV series, the products of such efforts can only be divided into three: those who are faithful, those who are awful, and, in rare cases, those who create a different movie altogether that merely borrows names, settings, and perhaps some events from the original.

But are in-betweens allowed? Sure, and this live action adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin is, but unfortunately, such way of standing in between "awful" and "different" made the movie more terrible that it should be.

But one should note that as an adaptation of a long series, in fact long enough to generate a number of fans that would certainly have high expectations once any live-action movie of their favorite is out, can be seen in two different perspectives.

One can see the movie as a hardcore fan of the Rurouni Kenshin manga and anime, looking for the different details from start to finish, from the largest to the smallest detail, and seeing if it really is a near-perfect copy of what you have watched for more than a season or two (in this case, the live action movie covered the first 15 or so episodes of the anime. Apparently, this movie failed to do so, transforming Kenshin the man of many words and principles into a non-killing killing machine (yep) with foils coming out of nowhere, without any regard to the history that shaped them. While Kaoru and Megumi would be the closest to the anime version, Sano and Yahiko were empty personalities that seemed to be there for comic reasons, and Saito became nothing more than a police officer that has got all means to be cruel and relentless without that grit found in the anime.

Moreover, the antagonists of the film (which could perhaps been made by drawing lots or putting Kenshin's first villains in a blender) were the major disappointments, actually causing confusion about the storylines and plot elements that were derived from the manga & anime. Fine, it is clear that Kanryu the merchant is the villain of the movie, but in place of Aoshi's awesome gang, we have Jinei/Kurosaga, the former Shinsengumi, who impersonates the Battousai (which, of course, such event happens in the first episode of the series). And with Jinei, there are random henchmen, with one of those looking like Aoshi's gun-toting rip off of some sorts. Much of Saito's issues on Kenshin were reduced to nothing save for a swordfight in the rain, and we didn't really get to see much of what he can do (but wait, isn't Saito supposed to be not there in the first place yet?)

If anything at all, the live action movie's adaptation fails, and if taken as an original story loosely derived from the series, it wouldn't be that good at all. Characters have popped out of nowhere and lacked development, save for everything concerned with the Kanryu arc (in fact, just Megumi and Kanryu). The plot was messy and there were a few scenes that distorted the continuity of everything (the flashbacks didn't help). And in fact, without the association with the movie, everything is just like a bad kung-fu Hong Kong movie (no disrespect meant to martial arts greats Bruce Lee, (the early) Jackie Chan, and the great Chow Yun-Fat) that only featured a scarred samurai with a random adventure.

There are bright points, though, and the most important of all of them is the pure fulfillment of the fantasy of Rurouni Kenshin in live action, something that has become a reality in the most recent films and series that we have not just in the West but also in the East (think Great Teacher Onizuka or Hana Yori Dango). The fight scenes from the War to Kenshin and Kurosaga's confrontation are fantastic, and one can just be amazed by seeing how the Hitern Mitsurugi style works in the flesh (actually, I can go so far to say that what made this film are the very fight scenes themselves and not anything else). A bit of the comedy is preserved, with Munetaka Aoki's character Sanosuke taking much of the load. If there's something that has been kept by this live action movie that had moviegoers screaming for more (I heard that it will have a sequel which will feature all the other story arcs of the anime), those were these two very bright spots in a not-so-fantastic adaptation.

But then, I'd rather have Beat Takeshi's Zatoichi or Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai if I want good Samurai movies. I am not saying, however, that I'm eager to see whatever improvement they will have for Rurouni Kenshin 2.

Grade: C-