Europe 2015: Rome and Vatican City

Previously: Overview | Barcelona Part 1 | Barcelona Part 2

Wednesday March 11th

It’s early in the morning when the shuttle picks us up to take us to the airport for our flight to Rome. When we first planned the trip a few months back, only Spain and France were on the itinerary. But due to a last-minute change in circumstances, we decided to add Italy to the trip. We had also acquired a railpass and were planning to travel by train between Spain and France, but given the change of plans we decided to refund the railpass (up to 85% of the cost can be refunded) and we literally booked inter-Europe flights during our layover in Singapore at the start of the trip.

We had booked all of our inter-Europe flights on Vueling, a Spain-based budget airline. I was a bit apprehensive about it since internet searches led to some stories of people having trouble with lost baggage, but luckily they were able to get us and our luggage to Rome safely and without incident.

Upon arrival at the Rome airport, we went to a tourist information kiosk to get some maps and whatnot. While we were there, this Italian man kept wanting to talk to us, offering free information about a shuttle service from the airport. We already had instructions on how to get to the hotel by train, so we ignored him at first and tried to figure out ourselves where to go. Eventually we gave up and just took the shuttle service with a few other travelers. We were the last to get off the shuttle, so we got something of a preview of the different places in Rome as the other passengers were dropped off at their hotels.

We were dropped off on a cobblestone sidewalk in front of a four-or-five-story building with a 12-foot tall metal gate in front. We walked in cautiously and found ourselves in a short hallway with a doorway at the end. The old lady who popped up from behind the doorway told us we needed to go up one floor when we told her we were looking for our hotel called Migdal Palace. Another large door on the right side of the hallway led to a stairwell. At the bottom of the stairwell was an old-timey open-air elevator made up of rusty metal bars. We only needed to go up one floor, but what the hell. We rode the small elevator up.

At the reception desk, we were greeted by a pretty Italian lady named Alina who spoke with accented yet clear and understandable English. She was very friendly and told us there was a room ready but we would have to wait a bit for the beds to be set up. We had not yet had breakfast at this point, so we asked her the most relevant question: was there a nearby place where we could eat some good pasta?

She directed us to a small restaurant at a corner a few blocks from the hotel, the Montecarlo, saying that she ate there all the time. We were a bit early for the lunch hour so we had to wait a few minutes for them to be ready. We were seated at an outdoors table; I ordered some carbonara, since Marco from Freehostels had recommended it, while my two companions ordered cacio e pepe, recommended by Alina at Migdal Palace.

While waiting for the meals to be served we pored over the maps to plan out our Rome trip. We only had 3 days in Rome, so we allocated today for walking around a bit and seeing nearby things, then the next day we would visit the Vatican, and on the third day the Colosseum.

Carbonara!

Carbonara!

The carbonara was very good and very cheesy; the sauce was egg-based without cream (as opposed to the cream-based ones I’m used to) and luckily no mushrooms (I dislike mushrooms). I also had a few bites of my friends’ cacio e pepe and it was a strange combination of tastes but also very good.

After eating we headed back to the hotel where the beds had already been set up. We rested up for a bit before heading out to explore the city a bit.

We made our way through the city, passing by a couple of plazas with small fountains surrounded by a maze of irregularly-arranged cobblestone streets. Rome was easily way more crowded than Barcelona and was very much a tourist city, made obvious by the abundance of shops and street stalls peddling magnets, keychains, miniature roman helmets and other random souvenirs.

We visited the Pantheon (an ancient Roman circular domed structure adorned with various exhibits including the remains of the ninja turtle Raphael), the church of Saint Ignatius de Loyola (which would turn out to be the first of many well-decorated churches we would visit) among other places. We made our way to the well-known Trevi Fountain, but unfortunately for us, it was undergoing renovation at this time and was drained of water. We walked around a bit more and late at night we ended up eating at this kinda fancy Italian restaurant which charged us an extra 5 euros for the tablecloth (or at least that what the chef’s gestures looked like when we asked him to explain the bill)

Not too much detail to talk about here, but here are some pictures I shared via Google Plus: Wednesday afternoon in Rome.  (You might need to be logged in to Google to access, I have no idea how this works)

Thursday March 12th

Next day we availed of the free breakfast served by Migdal Palace, which consisted of bread, croissants, eggs, goat cheese and no meat, which ranks it below the breakfast from Free Hostels. Nonetheless we had our fill before heading out for the day’s walking around.

We made our way west towards the Tiber river, then followed it north until we crossed the river at the Angel Bridge towards the Castel Sant’Angelo. From there we walked westward along the Via de Conciliazone which would bring us right in front of Vatican City.

As we approached the Vatican, a blonde lady started walking with us and offering us details about a tour package she was offering. I wanted to ignore her, but my companions started listening to her so we stopped to hear her spiel. The way she told it, the tour involved us paying 46 euro each and included a 26 euro entrance fee for the Vatican Museum and the tour groups would also have access to a special passage from the Sistine Chapel to the Basilica of St. Peter. While there was no entrance fee for the Basilica, going with a tour group would allow us to skip the ridiculously long line of the tourists waiting to enter the Basilica. However, the fee the lady was offering seemed too rich for our blood so we passed on it and carried on.

We reached the border to Vatican City and stood there for a while contemplating how to proceed, and we were approached by another person selling tour packages. This time it was a man of South Asian descent who reminded me of Community’s Abed. He got our attention by calling out in Tagalog “pinakamura dito!”

The tour package he offered us was similar to what the blonde lady had, except he was was offering us a price of 36 euros each, or 10 euros less. While we were contemplating it, we also met with a couple of Filipino expats who were referring people to a nearby souvenir store they were involved with, and they told us the price Abed was offering was already pretty good. After some discussion, we decided to go with it.

We were introduced to our tour guide Angelica and handed phone-sized receivers with earphones that we could use to listen to her while she talked about stuff on the tour. We started in front of the Basilica, joined by some white people, and Angelica described to us the history of Rome and Italty and Vatican City and Pope Francis and all that jazz. Pretty informative stuff, but nothing I need to repeat here. After a bunch of these introductions, we would go over to their tour office to pay the fee before heading off to the Vatican Museum.

As we were walking towards their tour office, I saw Abed calling me over away from the group, and I walked over to him and he told me that the white people that were part of our tour group had been given a higher price so that we should avoid mentioning how much we are paying. Felt a bit shady, but I guess we were getting a better deal so we ran with it.

After paying at the tour office, we headed over to the Vatican Museum. At that point we found out that the Vatican Museum entrance fee was actually only 16 euro, so I’m not sure why both the blonde lady and Abed said it was 26 euro. Whatever.

The Vatican Museum was filled with exhibits featuring statues depicting Roman emperors and other events from Roman history, including statues of Roman gods (which I didn’t expect from a Catholic institution). There was also a section filled with Catholic-focused murals and ceiling paintings. Angelica would stop at various exhibits to give us a brief background and history. We stopped at a corner of the pinecone courtyard so that Angelica could give us a briefing on the history of the Sistine Chapel – apparently they were not allowed to give briefings inside the Sistine Chapel itself. Naturally she had to give us the joke about the missing first fifteen chapels.

Afterwards we went into the Sistine Chapel itself. No photography was allowed inside so we spent most of the time staring upwards at Michaelangelo’s masterpieces on the ceiling (being a tourist in Rome apparently meant looking up a lot).

After the Sistine Chapel, Angelica took our group through the secret passage reserved for tour groups. It brought us to the front entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica where the tour ended. Angelica gave us some last words and left us to take a look at the Basilica at our own leisure.

I’m finding it difficult to find the words to describe the Basilica itself, I guess the most appropriate word to use is grand. We spent one hour walking separately around the Basilica just looking at things (although I did spend some time sitting down since we had been walking through the Vatican Museum for around 3 hours before this). There’s just a lot of history and statues and paintings and chandeliers and tombs and relics. As a Catholic it was well worth the visit. On our way out we took some pictures with some Swiss Guard standing by one of the side entrances.

We left the Basilica at around 3pm and had a late lunch at a restaurant along the Via de Conciliazone. After that it was still early so we spent a couple more hours walking around checking a few more sites and running into some weird yet entertaining street art. We wanted to visit the Villa Medici, but it was closed on this day. Eventually we got tired and decided to take a taxi back to the hotel and rest.

Some pictures from this day on Google Plus again: Thursday in Rome.

To be continued

I was hoping to cover all of the Rome leg in one post, but this post is already long enough as it is. It may take at least three more posts to cover everything else, I hope the audience doesn’t get tired.

Europe 2015: Barcelona Part 2

Previously: I went to Europe, decided I should tell you more about it and started talking about Barcelona

Monday March 9th

For today, we had decided to visit Park Güell, a Barcelona tourist spot created by this old-timey big shot to display the works of well-known Catalanion architect Antoni Gaudi. I say “well-known” but I’ll be the first to admit that my culturally-ignorant self had not heard of him before, but he’s kind of a big deal in Barcelona with many souvenir shops sporting some thing reminiscent of his works. My travelling companions seemed to know what they were doing, so I generally deferred to them when we planned out the day during breakfast.

The park was some 4 to 5 kilometers north of our hostel by foot, though as usual we took a more leisurely pace. One of the interesting things we saw along the way was a park-like area near a major thoroughfare where we found a number of old men (and one young man apparently playing hooky on what should be a school day) playing some sort of game which involved tossing metal balls around in a sand-covered lot.

Googling "barcelona street game where old men throw metal balls" tells us this is called Petanque. Photo credit - Ryan Liwanag

Googling “barcelona street game where old men throw metal balls” tells us this is called Petanque. – Photo credit: Ryan Liwanag

There were benches nearby so we sat there for a while observing the game and trying to figure out the rules. As far as we could tell, first they toss a smaller ball that then acts as a target, and they have to lob the larger metal balls as close as possible to the target.

After watching the games for a while, we decided to continue our trek. From this point on the path we were following (provided by Google Maps) started to tread uphill and I started to get a bit tired. Eventually while my two companions were taking a break and looking at something I vanished for a while as soon as I saw a supermercats so that I could buy a bottle of water and recharge a bit. Supermercats are something like a combination of a small grocery store and a convenience store (they’re everywhere, and they don’t have 7-11s), and they seem to be often run by people of South Asian or Arabic descent. Whenever I see a supermercat, the name makes me visualize some combination of a cat superman who is also half-fish.

We continued along the uphill route, through winding paths and eventually up three flights of stone steps at a 45 degree incline, by which time I was pretty tired and was complaining a lot. I was told we were close, so we trucked on and eventually we turned a corner and found a series of outdoor escalators that would have saved us a lot of effort with those stone steps. I glared at the person guiding our route before we all laughed out loud. The entrance to the park area lay just ahead.

We climbed up a hilly area that afforded a good view of the city of Barcelona before eventually coming upon a tourist area overlooking a sealed-off area that was actually the roof of the columned area of the park. The park was the first tourist attraction we would pay for, and though my stingy self balked a bit at paying 8 euro for the entrance, it would turn out to be one of the cheapest tourist spots we would enter anyway.

I have not much to say about the Park itself, given my lack of architectural and artistic vocabulary. There’s a large columned area where the roof is lined with what I could describe as shattered plates, an impression which would turn out to be typical of Gaudi’s work.

The roof of the columned area looks like shattered silverware - Photo Credit: Ryan Liwanag

The roof of the columned area looks like shattered plates – Photo Credit: Ryan Liwanag

The columned area is surrounded by a gardens area on one side and on the other side an overhang held up by a series of earthy stone columns one of which is carved in the shape of a washer-woman (which took us a few minutes to find). There’s also an actual school inside the park (I’m not sure how that works with the entrance fees) so we get to see a playground full of children enjoying themselves as we walk around the side area to get to the actual front of the park.

The front gate of the park features two guardhouses that give me the impression of gingerbread houses (though one of them was undergoing renovation). The gate opens to an intricately decorated walkway leading up back to the columned area. By intricately decorated, I mean there’s more of the shattered plates designs everywhere.

This lizard is kind of a big deal, souvenir shops often have keychains featuring it. Photo credit: Ryan Liwanag

This lizard is kind of a big deal, souvenir shops often have keychains featuring it. Photo credit: Ryan Liwanag

After touring the park we were kind of beat, and we had not yet had lunch despite it being late afternoon. So we decided to take a taxi back to the hostel and rest a bit before heading out to search for some paella.

When we were ready to head out, the person at the hostel reception desk recommended to us a nearby fancy restaurant a couple of corners down that had some good paella so we headed over there. However as our first lesson of how European restaurants actually work, we found out that we were too early as the place would only open at 7:30 pm. This would turn out to be typical in Europe – most restaurant type places would only be open a few hours during lunch time and again a few hours during dinner time, which was bad news for us since we tended to skip some meals and eat at irregular hours.

Undaunted, we walked around a bit for an alternative before settling on a small bar that advertised paella at less than 10 euros each. The proprietor turned out to be a Chinese person affording us the opportunity to miscommunicate with him in two languages as he did not speak English. Paella is a Valencian dish although it’s also common in Catalonia, so I went with Paella Valenciana (okay, it’s also because I eat meat and not seafood)

Paella!

Yummy paella!

After partaking heartily of the delicious paella which took a while to cook, we also ordered some churros with chocolate dip before heading back to the hostel and crashing for the day.

Tuesday March 10th

We would be having our fourth breakfast at the hostel by now, so we’ve kind of gotten to know some of the other guests. One of them is a Japanese woman who speaks clear English; she often brings in fruits from the nearby supermercats during breakfast time. She’s apparently a frequent traveler who would be visiting a few other European countries before heading back to Japan. Another person we got to know was Marco, the owner of the hostel. He’s a talkative Italian man and upon finding out where we’re from and our travel plans he talks to us about how he plans to visit Boracay soon and gives us some tips for visiting Rome.

We headed out Tuesday with the intent of visiting the Sagrada Familia and not much else planned. This meant a leisurely walk along the Diagonal road, one of the major thoroughfares running across Barcelona. It’s called the Diagonal because it cuts diagonally across what is otherwise Barcelona’s orderly-structured regular square street blocks.

The Sagrada Familia itself is a church designed by Gaudi, a large somewhat out-of-place structure occupying one of these city blocks. One of the hostel people had told us its’ history, about how it was started back in the 1800s and that construction was still ongoing up to now. There’s a fee for going inside the church, with the funds contributing to the construction.

Sagrada Familia - Under Construction

Sagrada Familia – Under Construction

We opt not to go inside, as the facade of the church already offers a lot to see. There seemed to be three different facades and numerous spires, each lined with decorations and statues of a different theme.

South facade of the Sagrada Familia  - it looks like some sort of Nativity scene

South facade of the Sagrada Familia – it looks like some sort of Nativity scene

We spent some time admiring the structure, and even a few minutes in an FC Barcelona exhibit right across the street. Afterwards, we headed up a slightly-inclined street towards one of the tourist spots highlighted on our map before deciding to have a late lunch in one of the open air restaurant areas in the middle of the street.

We managed to arrive at the Sant Pau hospital knowing nothing about what it is other than it was a nearby spot on our tourist map. The sign outside tells us it’s a UNESCO world heritage site, but it doesn’t look too impressive from the outside. Nonetheless we paid to go inside and we were surprised to find that it’s actually a rather large complex with a number of elaborately-designed buildings inside.

Hospital Sant Pau - Photo Credit: Ryan Liwanag

Hospital Sant Pau – Photo Credit: Ryan Liwanag

2015-03-10 15.06.41

Another view of the hospital

This place was a hospital during wartime. It’s no longer a hospital though, the hospital was moved to a modern site. It’s currently a museum and cultural center and some of the buildings are being used as UNESCO offices. There are almost a dozen buildings lining a central plaza dotted with orange trees. Each building has a different facade, though all in the same style, designed by the Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. There was some sort of media event going on though, and we were only able to visit a few of the buildings. The thing about visiting these types of architectural displays is that we’re always walking around with our heads tilted upwards.

We roamed the grounds for a while before deciding to head back and prep for our flight early the next morning to Rome. Our visit to Barcelona was very relaxed, we weren’t too worried about hitting too many tourist spots because we planned to be back here for a few days before flying back to the Southeast Asian side of the world.

Next: We travel to Rome! Or do we?!?

Europe 2015: Barcelona Part 1

My previous post only skimmed my trip to Europe. I did not want to write too much, partly because I was uncertain at how many would be interested to hear the sordid details and partly because while I was writing the post, the words did not flow as freely as I would have wanted. Despite this, I have received good feedback and more than one person had asked for more details. So here we are.

Saturday March 7th

My first impression of Barcelona (and hence my first impression of Europe) was that it was a very… brown city. Most of the buildings were shades of red or brown.

The three of us arrived at the Barcelona airport around ten in the morning and from there took a metro train to the Barcelona Sants station. One of the first things I noticed (aside from the brownness of the buildings as the train rode into the city proper) was the vast amount of colorfully-lettered graffiti that can be seen on many walls as the train passed by. This sort of graffiti would turn out to be common not only here but in Paris and Rome as well (though not as much)

From the station our hostel would be a short walk, but first we hunted around the Sants station for a place to eat. We looked at some signs for the McDonald’s inside the station before deciding we wouldn’t be having any American fast food for the duration of our trip. We ate at the adjacent restaurant instead, taking in an assortment of breakfast foods on some sort of combo plates. We didn’t have too much language trouble even though the staff spoke no English. Although the local language is Catalan, most of the locals will speak or understand Spanish, and we spoke and understood a bit of Spanish ourselves.

We stepped out of the station to a crisp windy afternoon, with the temperature a bit under 10 degrees. I was worried that my hoodie might not be able to handle the expected cold Europe weather but I held up fine so far. We walked around a bit a midst crowds of skateboarding, rollerblading and scooter-riding youths before figuring out where we were supposed to go for the fifteen minute walk to our hostel. We walked through what a quaint area with a wide open space in the middle of the road for pedestrians – such a thing seemed impossible back in crowded Metro Manila. Many of the storefronts were closed, probably for the weekend, with their metal security grills lined with the same style of colorfully-lettered graffiti I saw from the train.

For this leg we would be staying at Free Hostels Barcelona. The lady at the reception was very friendly and her English was quite good. She answered most of our questions and handed us a few tourist friendly maps that highlighted many of the places we could visit in the city before showing us our rooms. It was a dormitory-type room with four beds and storage units, a bathroom and not much else. One of the beds was already occupied, she said, so the three of us would be sharing a room with a stranger that night. (Spoiler: we did not get murdered in our sleep)

After resting up for a bit, we went out to spend the afternoon taking in a bit more of the city. We made our way towards the nearby Plaza España; the friendly hostel reception lady told us the mall there would give us a good view of the city from the top floor. On the way we passed by what one of my companions called out as a “giant penis”:

Photo credit: Ryan Liwanag

‘Dona i Ocell’ Sculpture at Parc Joan de Miro – Photo credit: Ryan Liwanag

We climbed to the top of the Centro Comercial de las Arenas, which I found comparable to a small mall back home with mostly high-end shops. The circular rooftop was an open-air area that gave a good view of the nearby city and some fancy restaurants that we thought of eating at but never managed to get back to.

The view from atop the Centro Comercial de las Arenas - Photo Credit: Ryan Liwanag

The view from atop the Centro Comercial de las Arenas – Photo Credit: Ryan Liwanag

We decided to head towards that large building in the distance (I believe it was some sort of museum) since friendly hostel lady told us there was a nice fountain show there we could see. On the way we got distracted by this street performer doing bubbles.

Bubble Guy - Photo Credit: Ryan Liwanag

Bubble Guy – Photo Credit: Ryan Liwanag

Since we were a bit too early for the fountain show, we sat there for a while to take a break from all the walking and let ourselves be entertained by the large bubbles and the little kids enjoying them. He was using two short sticks with some rope entwined to catch some of his soap solution and he would let the brisk wind create the large bubbles. “I should try this back home, the niece would enjoy it.” (Spoiler: I haven’t tried it)

Shortly before 7 pm we went to the fountain area where there was already a large number of people gathered around the nearby steps and other seating areas in anticipation of the show. There were street performers entertaining some sections of the crowd with some sort of dance-off, but the fountain show began before they could come over to our side.

Fountain Show - Photo Credit: Ryan Liwanag

Fountain Show – Photo Credit: Ryan Liwanag

The fountain show was some sort of preprogrammed series of lights and changes in the fountain heights and angles against a backdrop of someone who sounds like Freddie Mercury singing something that starts with “Barcelonaaaaaaa~” The show was very good, I don’t believe I’ve seen anything like it locally (but then again I don’t see fountain shows too often). Imagine, I said to myself, somewhere out there are people who design these shows for a living.

We enjoyed the show a bit longer before deciding to head back to the hostel to get an early rest after the long travels.

Sunday March 8th

I woke up earlier than my travelling companions and headed out to the hostel’s common area to check out the free breakfast. Breakfast was cold cuts of ham and sausage, slices of cheese, bread and croissants with various spreads and some juice. Nothing too fancy (i.e. no bacon), but there was lots of food for us to enjoy. The spread would be the same every morning, and it meant we could load up on breakfast so that we don’t have to spend too much on lunch and dinner.

It was Sunday and as a Catholic I was planning to hear English mass. As far as I could tell from the internet, the only place to do that was the Parish of Mary the Queen at 10am. One of my companions wanted to hear mass in Spanish and the other one was planning to attend a football match around noon, so we separated for the first half of the day.

The church I wanted to go to was around 3.5 kilometers away, a 40 minute walk according to Google Maps. I allocated an hour and a half to walk there at a more leisurely pace. It turned out to be a good call, as Google Maps didn’t tell me I’d be walking up a bunch of inclined roads (these wouldn’t be the only inclines I’d have trouble with in Barcelona…). I passed by mostly residential areas, with small parks every few blocks letting me take a few minutes break when I needed it.

Maria Reina Church in Barcelona

Maria Reina Church in Barcelona

I was greeted at the church entrance by some white folks who were waiting for the mass to start. The church itself wasn’t too large, it was maybe a third the size of where I usually hear mass back home. There weren’t too many attendees, maybe around 50 people at best, which is less than I would have thought given the large Catholic population in Spain, though I guess most of them hear mass in the local languages. Most of the attendees seemed to be locals instead of expats; for some reason I was expecting a larger Asian/Filipino presence, maybe based on when I heard mass in Hong Kong or Singapore. The priest was very friendly and would greet each mass-goer as they left after the service. He even gave me a “good job!” with thumbs up as I went out, not sure why 😀

Friends know I enjoy a good quiz night, and my travelling companions were no different. So for Sunday night, we planned to attend an English pub quiz at the Black Horse Pub, roughly an hour’s walk from our hostel. We met up again late into the afternoon and headed out on foot (we liked walking, apparently). Along the way we enjoyed the fancy-looking buildings that lined the major roads. There are apparently no skyscrapers in Barcelona, most of the buildings we saw were maybe five or six stories high at most, with most of them being old-timey buildings lined with fancy ornate facades and some with random minarets or towers at the top. Any time we passed by an obviously modern-style building it looked hilariously out of place.

We decided to walk along the Via Laietana, a thoroughfare famous for buildings with different kinds of fancy architecture (I am too ignorant to name them). Aside from the buildings and their architecture which I am surely unqualified to describe, the street itself had a wide middle island for pedestrians, the island lined with trees that looked like they were groomed to look similar in branch structure, recovering from winter. The middle island held a number of outdoor seating areas for the nearby restaurants, a common thing in Barcelona. We debated having some paella right there, since that’s the famous dish in the region, but the menus here were a bit pricy so I suggested in Tagalog that we look for some cheaper alternatives later near our hostel. As chance would have it, one of the restaurant staff we passed by overheard us and I heard him say behind us we walked away “Mura dito!”, leading me to comment about the innate ability of Pinoys to find one another when in a foreign land.

It was night time by the time we found the pub among a maze of side streets, and the friendly British proprietor welcomed us for their quiz night. The questions were recited out loud in both Spanish and English (leading to one of my companions translating the Spanish instead of paying attention to the English one!). We took an early lead since we used our joker early, but fell behind when it came to the music-related categories (not an uncommon result for our quiz nights!)

Our quiz night results - who  knows what place we finished

Our quiz night results – who knows what place we finished

After the pub quiz, we decided to take a cab home since it was late. The cost wasn’t too prohibitive since there were three of us to split the bill. I think it came out to just 2-3 euros each.

As I expected, this post already feels way too long. I was hoping I could cover each leg of the trip in one post, but this feels like a good stopping point. In Barcelona part 2, we visit Park Guell and the Sagrada Familia.

Europe Trip 2015

My friends know how stingy I am with money, and my family knows I’m not much of a tourist, so some might have been surprised that I took the better part of two and a half weeks off from work to travel around Europe with a couple of friends. It was my first trip outside of Southeast Asia and the first time I took a long haul flight. Other than my concerns regarding the possibility of my luggage getting lost, the trip was relatively smooth and the Singapore Airlines plane had relatively decent food, service and in-flight entertainment.

The first leg of our trip was to Barcelona, Spain (aside from the layover in Singapore). My first impression of Barcelona (and hence my first impression of Europe) was that it was a very… brown city. Most of the buildings were shades of red or brown. Barcelona felt quiet, maybe even rustic. There were a lot of wide-open spaces making it very friendly for walking, with most of the city center structured in well-organised square blocks that made it easy to navigate. The first few days of the trip were very relaxed, we walked around a lot looking at ornately-decorated buildings and hitting the occasional tourist spot like Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. We even managed to do poorly at a pub quiz somewhere in between.

The second leg of the trip took us to Rome, Italy. As opposed to Barcelona, Rome felt busy, crowded and very much a tourist city, easily evidenced by the numerous souvenir stands and sellers of selfie sticks that littered the seemingly unpredictable maze of cobblestone streets interspersed with ruins and fountains and plazas and museums and churches and ornate sculptures and Egyptian obelisks. The city is pretty much an open museum – there’s always something to see around the nearest corner. Unfortunately, the famous Trevi Fountain was undergoing renovation during our visit, but we also managed to visit the Colloseum and the Palatino / Roman Forum (that place is huge).

We allocated one day of the stay in Rome to visit Vatican City. For the first and last time we hired a tour guide (and maybe overpaid) to take us through the Vatican Museum and so we could use the secret tour guide entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica. There was a lot of stuff in the museum, but the Sistine Chapel ceiling and the Basilica itself were the highlights of tour. Or maybe that’s just because I’m a Catholic.

The next leg took us to Paris, France. Paris was cold, very cold, with biting winds. Easily the coldest city I’ve been to. It felt more like a city than either Rome or Barcelona did, with long avenues and high-end shops. Not particularly tourist-friendly, given that there’s less English speakers around. Also the most expensive among the cities we’ve visited – with food costing maybe 1.5 or 2 times as much as it did in the prior two cities. The Louvre and the Eiffel Tower (especially the view from the top) were magnificent though, well worth the cost of entry.

After Paris we spent the last few days of the trip back in Barcelona, relaxing and decompressing. We walked around a bit, visited the beach and I even managed to hit a Magic prerelease the day before our flight home. I managed to get back into work immediately after almost an entire day of travelling, with minimal jet lag even.

There’s more to talk about that I won’t write about at the moment – the on-the-fly planning, the food, the hostels, the budget airline flights, etc. I signed up for the trip on a bit of a whim, but it turned out to be a pretty good trip for me. I’ve never been a culturally inclined guy, but I still found myself immersed in all the ancient sites and museums we visited. The company was good, it was nice to experience an entirely new continent, and it was a welcome break from the usual routine.

Grand Prix Manila 2015

One of my many, many loyal blog readers pointed out to me that I had yet to post about Grand Prix Manila, which took place in the first week of this year. I’ve been meaning to post about it, but it got lost in my backlog. So here we are.

Day-2-Opening_0

Yes indeed, I still play Magic, “on and off”, as it happens with most Magic players with busy lives and/or multiple other hobbies. I wouldn’t miss a chance to play a local Grand Prix of course, so I started getting back into standard as soon as Khans of Tarkir rotated in. I couldn’t stand the grindy midrange Abzan mirrors, so I’ve been playing Jeskai pretty much since the format started; Mantis Riders at first, then transitioned to tokens in December after I did poorly at a couple of GPTs.

The list I ran, largely based off Yuuya Watanabe’s Player’s Championship deck (sideboard might not be accurate…I may have taken too long to write this up :p):

This was probably the GP where I was most prepared in terms of deckbuilding – I didn’t scrimp on card availability this time although my team pool hasn’t been as large as it used to be. Playtesting wasn’t much, mostly against Abzan variants and the aforementioned GPTs where I crashed and burned.

I did pretty well on day one:

R01 2-0 WIN vs ub control
R02 2-0 WIN vs ub control
R03 2-0 WIN vs temur
R04 2-0 WIN vs temur
R05 2-0 WIN vs temur
R06 0-2 LOSS vs abzan whip
R07 2-0 WIN vs monored
R08 2-1 WIN vs jeskai tokens
R09 2-0 WIN vs abzan midrange (terry soh)
That’s 8 and 1, my best Day One performance ever. My deck was running well, I was in the zone, I had some good matchups and luck was in favor a lot; I won at least 3 games against different opponents due to their mulligans to 5 or worse. I performed well enough to warrant a mention in the coverage even:
day1coverage
Unfortunately Day Two didn’t go quite as well; apparently the luck I had during Day One had to be paid back with interest. I lost at least three games off mulligans to five, and my lack of playtesting against some archetypes such as UW Heroic cost me some suboptimal plays.
R10 0-2 LOSS vs uw heroic
R11 2-1 WIN vs abzan aggro
R12 2-0 WIN vs jeskai tempo
R13 0-2 LOSS vs mardu
R14 0-2 LOSS vs monored
R15 2-1 WIN vs abzan aggro
Going 3-3 on Day Two means I finished the GP at 11-4, which was the same record I had back in 2012. That’s good enough this year for a 37th place finish and some cash:
2015-01-04 16.12.24
Not a bad performance at all, and it was a great weekend altogether: got to see some old friends again and it feels to do well at a high-level event. What next; should I go to GP Singapore this year too?

Text spam, mobile number privacy and arguing over the internet

Globe’s Spam Reports Policy

A few days ago I got dragged into a debate over Twitter regarding Globe’s policy on handling reports sent in via Twitter about spam/scam text messages. When you send in reports of text spams via Twitter, one of Globe’s representatives will ask you to agree that in case the spammer disputes the allegation, they would have to disclose your mobile number to them. For me, the policy seems completely reasonable: if you accuse someone of a crime, they should have a right to know what exactly they are accused of and who exactly the victim was. Apparently some people aren’t okay with this; they complain that Globe disclosing your mobile number would be an additional violation of privacy and opens you up to possible harassment by the spammer. Now, I can understand the concerns, but you have to look at things from the POV of Globe and consider why such a policy exists.

Allowing people to anonymously accuse someone of being a spammer could lead to abuse. What if you had a vengeful ex who sent in one of your texts or someone faked a screenshot to accuse you of being a spammer? I’m not sure what other ways there are to abuse this, but I know that not disclosing your number is like reporting a rape attempt and then refusing to identify yourself. How can the accused defend himself? Sure there is some possibility of harassment, but that’s true whenever anyone comes forward to report a crime. And note that Globe will only reveal your number if the spammer comes forward to dispute, which exposes the spammer himself. I’ve been reporting on average maybe 3-5 spam texts to Globe per week for the past few months (although I have serious doubts on the effectiveness of this – more on that later) and no one has ever come forward to dispute. And I don’t believe any real spammers ever will; the whole reason they use disposable mobile numbers in the first place is to so that they’re hard to catch. Coming forward to dispute charges only exposes them.

Arguing over the Internet

As an aside, Twitter is literally the worst sort of format for this sort of discourse. I got dragged into the discussion by a friend who knew I often reported to Globe, and for a while I was responding via my mobile and working with less than 80 characters per post since there were a number of people (that I didn’t know) involved. Sure enough I got a barrage of replies from some people, one of whom apparently wasn’t even aware that even screenshots can be edited (welcome to the internet!). I really shouldn’t have let myself get dragged into it, but now that I was there, as XKCD so famously put it:

The problem with debating on the internet in general of course (aside from all the trolls) is that a lot of people easily get aggravated and just lash out without even considering other POVs or the reason why certain policies are in place, which makes their arguments not very constructive at all. Instead of trying to understand the situation so that they could suggest possible workarounds or solutions, they just act indignant and insist on their view. Eventually, I finally quit replying via mobile and just waited til I got home so that I could post a longer response via twitlonger. I gave my opinions (stated above) and just said thanks for the lively debate and let myself out of the discussion.

On the effectiveness of reporting spam

As I said, I don’t actually think reporting spam texts to Globe is very effective; these spammers use disposable mobile numbers that they discard as soon as possible and there are literally billions of possible numbers, so disabling their numbers one at a time wouldn’t be very useful. Spam is an age-old problem (in internet years at least) that hasn’t even been solved in the email world, even by big companies like Google. A more reasonable answer would be spam filtering, the same type Google uses for gmail (not Yahoo mail’s filtering, that seems to be much less effective). However, this filtering can’t be done on Globe’s side, since that introduces the possibility of false positives. It has to be done on the client-side, that means on your mobile phone itself. A quick search tells me there are some android apps that claim to provide sms spam filtering, but I’ve never tried any of them so I cannot speak for their effectiveness. And where does that leave people without smartphones?

Another problem is that the default SMS applications for smartphones aren’t as sophisticated as email clients are: no support for folders or automated filters, etc. that would make inbox management a lot easier. On the email side, spam hasn’t really been solved yet but has been brought to manageable levels by filtering. On the SMS side, we’ll have to wait for phone software to catch up.

On mobile numbers and privacy

A better question would be, how do these spammers get our numbers in the first place? There are many different types of spam, and I’m sure many of them just take advantage of unlimited text promos to spam numbers randomly by brute force. One type of text spam that’s fairly common (at least for me) is offers of some sort of loans from different banks. Aside from text spam, it’s actually happened that I received a call from someone offering cash loans from a certain bank. When I asked him how they got my number he just said it was “in their database” and wouldn’t tell me how it got there. I told him off angrily and hung up (I regret that now, I really should have tried to get more details like who his manager was and what branch he was working at so that I could complain to the bank later). What this incident tells me is that the sort of people who blindly push cash loans to people have a database of numbers they use. Some of the calls/spam text I got were from banks that I’ve never transacted with, so I suspect that these numbers are leaked/stolen by unscrupulous bank employees, since most bank account forms ask for your mobile number.  Or maybe these loan spamming operations are sanctioned by the banks themselves? It’s not out of the realm of possibility. If these banks had modern feedback channels like via Twitter or Facebook I’d definitely be asking them about it.

In conclusion?

If I don’t think Globe’s spam reporting policy isn’t effective, why do I still report spam on a regular basis? I don’t know, maybe it’s just a small token of fighting back against spammers, of fighting a war that can’t be won. Maybe every report I make reduces their address space by a teensy-tiny bit and there’s always hope we’ll get there someday. Maybe it’s just cathartic for me, I don’t know. I’ll keep doing it for the foreseeable future, and I’ll be suggesting any possible improvements to the policies where I can. I don’t want to be one of those people who rant on the internet without doing something constructive.

 

Thirty-Six

Thirty-six is a semiperfect number, meaning it is the sum of some subsets of its natural divisors.

 

Like thirty-six, life isn’t perfect either. But there’s still much to be thankful for.

I am grateful that I have a roof over my head and am able to eat at least three square meals a day (if I so choose).

I am grateful that I have wonderful parents and siblings who are always ready to support me no matter what shenanigans I get into.

I am grateful for friends who are interesting and who share my interests and are more than willing to put up with my particular insanities.

I am grateful for having a well-paying job that affords me luxuries and opportunities most people are not able to avail of.

I am grateful for the prospect of a possible brighter tomorrow.

 

For my birthday wishes:

I wish for clarity of vision.

I wish for serenity of heart.

I wish for less hatred in the world.

I wish for more honesty in the world.

I wish for less traffic in Metro Manila.

I wish for better internet in the Philippines.

I wish for good health.

I wish for more free time.

I wish for more wishes.

 

Let the future come and bring what it will.

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review!

Well, I haven’t written anything in a while, so I figured I’d write some words on the new Spider-Man movie. Spoilers abound!

Action-packed! The web-swinging is fun and looks and feels just like Spidey from the comic books. Spider-man moves and fights and banters pretty faithfully to the comic book version of our favorite wall-crawler, so that’s a definite plus. Peter’s Spider-sense is portrayed as a slow-motion bullet-time kind of deal which allows him to react quickly and save all the people while dodging everything. It doesn’t really translate exactly to the comic-book Spider-sense, but I suppose it’s better than having squiggly lines around his head.

Peter Parker, haunted by…the ghost of Dennis Leary? We get it, you’re breaking the promise you made at the end of the first movie and you’re putting Gwen in danger. What, did he become the physical embodiment of the Spider-sense? If I was Captain Stacy I’d haunt you too for stalking my daughter from the rooftops! Not even Uncle Ben haunted Peter like this!

And the deep dark secret of Peter’s parents is…what, is that it? Seriously, that was a lame reveal after all the drama at the start of the movie; it didn’t seem entirely too relevant and more like a subplot that didn’t go anywhere. The mysterious party who would’ve benefited from Oscorp experiments and was willing to hire an assassin to kill the parents on a plane was never elaborated on. Maybe it’s something they’ll explore in a future film, but for now it feels like they were just forced to create a link because of the mysterious disappearance of the parents from the first movie.

Norman Osborn, Spider-man’s greatest enemy! No? Decrepit old man on his deathbed? Dying of some weird goblinitis disease? Okay, at least Harry’s here, right?

Harry Osborn, Spider-man’s best friend turned worst enemy! Or at least we’re told they’re good friends, we just have to take their word for it. There they are joking like old pals for two minutes, surely we must be convinced they are best buds! BTW Pete, old-friend-of-mine-who-I-havent-had-contact-with-for-10-years-even-though-social-media-should-already-exist-at-this-time, can you get me some Spider-man blood? I’m dying brah

Max Dillon! Electro! Mild-mannered electrical engineer with low self-esteem who ignores safety procedures and gets bitten by radioactive electric eels! Seriously? I’m looking forward to the Sinister Six movie where Adrian Toomes gets bitten by a radioactive vulture. We get a high-power-level version of Electro here, he’s able to teleport around as electrical charges or something and he’s even able to magically generate underwear and later a bodysuit! But he’s no match for Peter Parker’s questionable movie science!

Not enough villains? Let’s add the Rhino! Well, just for a quick scene at the end to lead into the Sinister Six movie, maybe? A scene that we’ve already seen in the trailers too! I suppose it’s a blessing that they didn’t try to shoehorn a Rhino subplot, there’s already too much going on as it is.

Oh no, two airplanes might collide because there’s no electricity! How was this even relevant to Spider-man’s battle? It’s not like he knew what was going on at the airport!

“You need me, I know the specs to the grid thingy!” Uh, it turns out all you needed to do was know how to pick up a key from a dead guy’s hand and unlock a panel. And I thought her field was in biochemistry or something, not electrical engineering?

I have to admit, the death at the end caught me off guard. I knew it had to happen sooner or later, but given that they cut MJ out of this movie and had a subplot of Gwen flying off to England (which she did in the comics and she managed to come back to New York before the big deal at the bridge), I assumed it would be happening in the next film. Though by the time they had her falling from the tower, I would’ve been annoyed if they didn’t go through with it after the build-up. But now I’m worried that they’re going to rush the Peter-MJ relationship in the next movie the same way they rushed the Peter-Harry friendship in this one, since they didn’t get the chance to introduce MJ while Peter and Gwen were still a thing.

Where’s the scene where the New Yorkers come together to help Spider-Man? Isn’t this a franchise staple by now?

End credits sequence teases the Sinister Six lineup. Well, that was fine.

Overall plotting and pacing felt weird, with some scene transitions feeling like they could be better handled. The whole thing at the end with how Peter deals with Gwen’s fate felt weirdly out of place. They could’ve ended the second movie on a down note, and have Peter coming back strong in TASM3 (an Empire Strikes Back sort of thing), but no, they wanted to get the grieving out of the way quickly. Well, the movie was fun and enjoyable to watch, and had quite a few recognizable names for comic books fans (I’m sure all the comic readers noted the name of Harry’s assistant and Max’s boss), but all the nitpicky problems above pull the movie down especially when we just came back from the awesomeness that was Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Next: Days of Future Past!

2013 – Books and Games

It’s the end of the year, so it feels like a good time to look back at the books and games I’ve gone through in 2013.

I guess it’s my lack of focus really but my reading rate has really gone down over the past few years, I guess in favor of TV, comics and games. (I guess comics count as reading too, but I’m talking about full-length novels.

For 2013 as far as I can tell I only finished reading the following novels:

  • Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
  • Foundation Trilogy (Isaac Asimov) – I only read up to Second Foundation, I’ll get around to the later books sometime I guess
  • A Memory of Light (Sanderson/Jordan) – been reading the Wheel of Time for years and I’m glad Sanderson was able to bring it to a decent end
  • Shadows in Flight (Orson Scott Card)

I suppose I should make it a new years resolution to read more books. I have a reading list that I have stored on Dropbox that I’m trying to work through. I think getting more paper books helps – most of my reading the past few years has been mostly e-books but having at least one paper book around that I can pick up without worrying about a charger or something is also good. I’m around halfway through a copy of Dune I picked up at a used bookstore.

As for games, this is the hobby that takes up most of my free time, however my backlog is horrendously large. Inspired by a NeoGAF thread, I’ve started tracking purchases and finishes/completes.

Here are the game purchases I made in 2013:

  • Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm (PC retail)
  • FTL (humble bundle)
  • Humble Weekly Sale: Telltale Games (8 games)
  • Humble Bundle 8 (9 games)
  • WB Humble Bundle (9 games)
  • Borderlands 2 + season pass + mech/psycho dlc (GMG + Steam)
  • Civilization 5: Brave New World (GMG)
  • Morrowind GOTY (Steam)
  • Oblivion GOTY (Steam)
  • Legend of Grimrock (steam)
  • Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 (steam)
  • Tales of Graces F (PS3 retail)
  • Injustice (PS3 retail)
  • The Last of Us (PS3 retail)
  • Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix (PS3 retail)
  • Final Fantasy 13-2 (PS3 retail)
  • Tales of Xillia (PS3 retail)
  • Capcom vs SNK 2 (PS3 via PSN)
  • Ni no Kuni (PS3 via PSN)
  • Speklunky (Vita via PSN)
  • Guacamelee (PS3/Vita via PSN)
  • Marvel vs Capcom 2 (PS3 via PSN)
  • Shin Megami Tensei 4 (3ds retail)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds (3ds retail)
  • Persona 4 Golden (Vita retail)
  • Disgaea 3 (Vita retail)
  • Street Fighter x Tekken (Vita retail)
  • FF9 (PSN)
  • Persona 3 Portable (PSN)

And the games I finished in 2013:

  • Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm campaign
  • Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014
  • Borderlands 2
  • Injustice story mode
  • Mass Effect 3
  • The Last of Us
  • Tales of Graces F
  • Tales of Xillia (Milla side only)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds
  • Persona 4 Golden
  • Disgaea 3 main story
  • Civ5 BNW (I’m going to go ahead and count this since I’m sure I got more than a full game’s worth of it already)

So the count is at -41 or such. It’s pretty bad, but also around what I expected lol. I’m fairly close to finishing a number of those games (I’m at the SMT4 final dungeon and the last chapter of FF 13-2 right now). A lot of the backlog is due to me randomly picking up Humble Bundles which increase the count significantly. Hopefully I’ll be able to have a much smaller backlog in 2014 – but there are already a number of release I’m looking forward to, not to mention the possibility of picking up a PS4 early next year.

 

Movie Review: Man of Steel (Spoilers!)

Few people are really Superman fans, because let’s face it, Superman is boring compared to say, Batman. I wouldn’t claim to be a fan either, though I follow the history because of being generally a comic book guy (I got less than 50% of the answers in a recent Superman round in one of the local quiz nights =/) That being said, I did re-watch the first 2 Donner Superman movies and re-read All-Star Superman and Superman: For Tomorrow ahead of watching the movie. So, I look at the movie from the point of view of someone familiar with the lore, but not all the history of the character.

First the hype: before the release, there were people claiming that Man of Steel was the best superhero movie, with one reviewer even claiming it to be better than The Dark Knight. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m going to have to disagree; The Dark Knight was a clever movie with a terrific villain built upon a solid universe established by Batman Begins; Man of Steel is by no means a bad movie, but it’s pretty much just a straightforward action flick.

Second, the action scenes: probably the most entertaining part of the movie for me would be the fight scenes between Kal and the other Kryptonians. It probably helped that I had just watched Superman 2 the week before which featured laughable (by modern standards) fight scenes between Superman and Zod and his two henchmen. Compared to the older movie, the battles here are much more grand in scale and effect, with the final showdown between Kal and Zod taking down a whole lot of buildings in Metropolis (more on that later), giving the battle a Dragonball-like feel (I like Dragonball, so that’s fine). The opening sequence on Krypton was okay too, with kind of a Star Wars vibe going for it. (I noted that first Superman movie took 20 minutes before Kal was shot off Krypton, I think Man of Steel takes even longer.)

Now, the story. Like I said, very straightforward. Bad guy comes threatening people, Superman punches them around until we figure out a magical way to get rid of them. Then some more punching. Okay. Specific points:

1. Changes to Krypton’s back story and Superman’s origin? Ok, I’m fine with that, although it’s never really explained why the Kryptonians abandoned space travel or why the colonies couldn’t survive alone. I’m not even sure they have a canon explanation in the comics as to why there weren’t a bunch of other Kryptonians who jumped into rockets to escape. No Kryptonite? Okay, that’s fine – the simulated Kryptonian atmosphere probably has trace elements from Krypton that could be hand-waved into some sort of Kryptonite later if needed.

2. Pa Kent dying to a tornado and Clark doing nothing to save him? Ugh, I remember whispering “that’s terrible” to my brother who was watching with me. In most continuities where Pa Kent dies, it’s almost always due to a heart attack – where the idea is that Clark learns how his powers won’t let him save everyone no matter how hard he tries. In this movie, Pa Kent’s death was entirely preventable even if you assume that his protectiveness of Clark’s powers was so strong as to override his own survival instinct and Clark’s instinct not to save his adoptive father. It’s not like the townsfolk didn’t know about Clark’s powers either, at least two kids and one parent knew, and that pretty much meant he grew up with rumors of his powers all around town. And the most ridiculous part is that he died trying to rescue a dog. A dog. A dog! Order of priorities: Save dog > Don’t let Clark use powers > Stay alive.

3. Apparently it only takes Clark two tries to learn how to fly. And he instinctively knows how to fight while flying too! In Donner’s Superman, Clark took a long hiatus from the world to learn the history of Krypton and how to use his powers, here it only took him overnight on an ancient Kryptonian scouting ship. Okay, this isn’t really a problem, for all we know there was some magic Kryptonian mind meld device in the ship to explain this away.

4. Okay, here’s the big one: heroism and killing Zod, this is where we see a major departure from the Superman mythos. Before the Kryptonian invasion, we see Kal doing heroic things exactly twice: on the ocean platform at the start of the movie and saving his classmates in the school bus. And in the school bus incident he says to Pa Kent “what was I supposed to do, let them die?” and Pa Kent answers, “maybe”. That conversation was in one of the trailers too and at the time I knew it was off. One of the big things about the Superman mythos is that he grows up to become a hero because of how the Kents raised him, that they instilled in him a way of thinking that prioritized doing the right thing regardless of the sacrifices you had to make. The idea being that being raised by the Kents contributes to his being Superman as much as his alien heritage does. Comparing Superman to Batman, the comparison is often made that for Batman, Bruce Wayne is his disguise and Batman is who he really sees himself to be, while for Clark it’s the opposite: Superman is his disguise and Clark Kent, the person raised by the Kents, is who he really is. Man of Steel has none of that, Man of Steel is all about the alien heritage. Not to say that he’s selfish or not heroic, after all he does decide to turn himself in during the Invasion, but I feel like the comic-book Superman wouldn’t have needed to talk to a priest first. (I feel like that scene randomly wanted to reference For Tomorrow)

In the final scene when Kal is forced to kill Zod to save civilians, why does he have such anguish afterwards? The movie had made no earlier indication that this Superman had a distaste for killing; heck millions of lives were probably lost due to Kal and Zod tearing each other apart across Metropolis (I feel like comic-book Superman would have at least tried to bring the battle to a less-populated area). Because I’m a comic-book fan I know that he made that scream of anguish because he didn’t want to have to kill since that’s a standard part of the Superman mythos (heavily emphasized in the What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way? story arc and later in Superman vs the Elite), but for the normal moviegoers I feel like they might have gone “huh”?

5. There’s almost no characterization for the side characters here – Lana is barely relevant (though of course she had to appear for lore reasons), and they could have dropped Steve Lombard without consequence and that whole scene with the Daily Planet girl stuck under rubble wasn’t even needed. I’m really annoyed about Perry White not wanting to run the alien story because people might not take it well. He’s a journalist – his first concern should be the truth! I’m not sure why they needed Emil Hamilton here either. Bah, they’ll probably get more play time in the sequel.

Those are the major nitpicks I have with the movie, the rest are just minor details (although there are a lot of them.) Many of the problems are due to expectations of Superman based on what I know from the comics. I guess we can forgive some of them, since movie Superman doesn’t need to be the same as comic book Superman, in the same way that Nolan’s Batman wasn’t exactly comic book Batman either.

All of that being said, I still enjoyed the movie, it was entertaining enough for a first movie in the franchise (and it’s way better than Superman Returns). I’d rank it close to or below Amazing Spider-Man I think. A sequel is already being planned and hopefully we get a better, more clever movie the second time around. If it were up to me, the second movie villian(s) would be Luthor and Metallo (With Nolan and Snyder, I think we can look forward to a more interesting take on Lex Luthor compared to Hackman’s self-declared “greatest criminal mind in history” at least.), with a third movie either for Braniac or Doomsday (Braniac would probably be better). It probably depends on their plans for a shared universe and a Justice League movie though. Let’s see how it all pans out; in any case, it’s a good time to be a comic book fan!