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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

FIRST ASIA PACIFIC FESTIVAL OF ARTISTES WITH DISABILITIES CELEBRATES THE MOST EXCEPTIONAL TALENTS

JANUARY 2018, SINGAPORE—History is in the making. From 22-25 March 2018, Singapore will play host to True Colours Festival – the Asia Pacific Celebration of Artistes with Disabilities. Some 20 exceptionally talented artistes/troupes will converge in Singapore for what will be the first and largest gathering of artistes with disabilities to perform in an event in the Asia Pacific region.
True Colours is presented by The Nippon Foundation (TNF) and UNESCO, two international organisations which champion the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs). It is produced by Very Special Arts Singapore (VSA) and supported by many partners including Platinum Partner DBS, Venue Partner Singapore Sports Hub and the Asia-Pacific Development Centre on Disability (APCD).
The festival comprises a ticketed multimedia indoor concert experience at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, a free admission outdoor festival village just a short walk away, and an international conference on arts and disability.
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WINNERS of 24th SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS Echo GOLDEN GLOBES, and Predict OSCARS


After the Golden Globes by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association just two weeks ago, it was now the turn of the Screen Actors Guild-AFTRA to present their awards to the worthy among the nominees for this year. The 24th SAG Awards night took place Sunday evening at the Shine Exposition Center. It was also something of a first for the SAG in having an actual master of ceremonies presiding over the proceedings. Their inaugural host is actress Kristen Bell, who oversaw the honoring of the best film and TV performances from the year that went by. Here are the winners.
It’s been said that when it comes to their film awards, the SAG which shares some of its guild members with AMPAS, can be considered a near-accurate predictor for which movies, directors, stars and so on are most likely to get an Oscar later in the year. Even then, some of this year’s SAG winners also echo the choices made at the recent Golden Globes.
For instance, Gary Oldman again scores as Winston Churchill in “The Darkest Hour”, this time getting an Outstanding Performance for a Male Actor in a Leading Role. His Actress counterpart is, quite predictably, Frances McDormand for her crusading mother performance in Fox Searchlight’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. That movie also got an Outstanding Performance by a Cast award plus an Outstanding Male Actor in a Supporting Role for Sam Rockwell, while his opposite number was Allison Janney who portrayed LaVona Golden in Neon and LuckyChap Entertainment’s “I, Tonya”. Wrapping things up in the movie SAGs is Warner Bros.-DC’s “Wonder Woman”.
Over on the television side, SAGs went to Alexander Skarsgard in HBO’s “Little Big Lies” as Outstanding Male Actor in a TV Movie/Miniseries, with co-star Nicole Kidman bringing home Outstanding Female Actress. For Drama Series, the Outstanding Male Actor was awarded to Sterling K. Brown of “This is Us” on NBC, while Female Actress went to Claire Foy in Netflix’s “The Crown”. Where Comedy is concerned, Showtimes “Shameless” and HBO’s “Veep” got Outstanding Performances by Male and Female Actors, respectively, with the recipients being William H. Macy from the former and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. The Outstanding Ensembles awards went to the following: “Game of Thrones” (HBO, TV series), “Veep” (Comedy) and “This is Us” (Drama).
Wrapping things up for the SAG Awards night is the presentation of the Life Achievement Award to actor Morgan Freeman, who was announced as the recipient as early back as August last year. We’ll see this coming March on the 90th Academy Awards if the winners trend shown above continues to hold.
Photo courtesy of thegoldknight.com

Friday, January 19, 2018

NINTENDO Presents DIY Cardboard Game Accessories for SWITCH with LABO


Ever since when, in 2006, the Wii console introduced a strange remote-like controller that registered arm movement as game control input, among other similar accessories, the gaming world has been certain that Nintendo is the weird video game tech developer that is not afraid to test new and quirky ways to engage its users in very different ways to play game titles. This was a markedly different approach to its current competitors, Microsoft and Sony, whose design direction had been to turn their consoles into gaming-oriented personal computers. But Nintendo has very different development ideas for the Switch hybrid portable/console system.
As The Verge tells it, Nintendo has just made its first presentation of a new technological initiative for its Switch game system. Called Nintendo Labo, this new series of Switch add-ons definitely ticks on the “weird” box in terms of development designs by the venerable video game giant. That’s because the Labo stuff is for the most part made out of cardboard. Said cardboard accessories act as conversion units for the base Switch unit’s Joy-Con controllers. Essentially, Labo can turn the Joy-Cons into some impressive motion-control device variants. It can be a fishing rod, musical instrument or even a robotic armor.
Don’t be shy. You’re not alone in thinking that this Labo system for the Nintendo Switch is like a coin flipped into the air. Heads, it will completely revolutionize gaming design; tails, it will be a flop that would make the Wii U look like a brilliant success. Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aimé is positive however, saying, “Labo is unlike anything we’ve done before.” And indeed, seen from an optimal perspective, the new cardboard accessories could encourage Switch players to further interact with their games in a physically hands-on and potentially fun way. Just look at how Labo rolls.
Each Labo kit comes with one Nintendo Switch game cartridge and a series of cardboard cutout sheets. The Labo cartridge helpfully has in-game instructions to help players cut out and assemble the cardboard pieces into accessory form, like a piano. Once complete, the Switch tablet and the Joy-Cons are inserted into the Labo setup, transforming all those cardboard into a game arcade machine. For example, the Labo piano game has the cardboard keys acting like real piano keys, with the Joy-Con interpreting the cardboard input and the Switch tablet (with game) producing the sound and providing some sweet visual accompaniment.
Nintendo plans to launch the Labo system in April 20 with two introductory kits. “Variety” has five different games and cardboard configurations worth $69.99, while “Robot”, priced at $79.99 is the ambitious “control the in-game robot via cardboard armor” title. The success of these first kits will decide Labo’s future.
Check out the preview video in all its glory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3Bd3HUMkyU
Photo courtesy of mymodernmet.com

AMAZON Releases FINAL 20 CITIES LIST of Possible HQ2 SITES


Amazon, the world’s largest online retail platform, caused quite the stir last year when it turned its quest for a suitable site for a second corporate headquarters in North America to a grand competition of sorts between cities and towns with powerful economic rewards and potential repercussions. For a time the “Amazon HQ2” fever gripped the US and Canada in a surprisingly strong grip. The deadline for submitting pitches to the net giant wasn’t very long, and with the company debating in private, the furor died down. Now they have made their shortlist, and everybody is…surprisingly chill about it.
CBS reports that Amazon has finally managed to whittle down their initial big batch of city proposals into a more manageable list of what could technically be called “finalists” for the prospective site of their highly coveted corporate HQ2. A statement from Holly Sullivan from Amazon Public Policy says: “Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough – all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity.” The statement went on to reveal that the global online retail king learned that there were indeed many North American urban and suburban communities worthy of consideration for many future Amazon infrastructure aside from HQ2 itself.
Here then is the Final 20 Choices for Amazon to establish their HQ2 in alphabetical order: Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Indianapolis, Indiana; Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida; Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville, Tennessee; Newark, New Jersey; New York City; Northern Virginia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Raleigh, North Carolina; Toronto, Ontario; and Washington, D.C. The states of Texas and Pennsylvania both have double the reason to celebrate as being the only ones with more than one city on the Amazon shortlist. Furthermore, most of the cities on the list are “obvious” choices.
The timing of Amazon’s announcing their HQ2 final 20 is rather interesting in itself. It was only one day following Apple’s own public statement that they are looking into establishing a second corporate campus of their own. The tech giant made mention of committing $350 billion to the US economy for a five-year period, plus the prospect of generating 20,000 paying jobs. That does sound a lot like the original 2017 proposal by Amazon to entice North American cities to send their company bids for HQ2. Amazon’s original corporate center, HQ1, is in Seattle. Apple’s meanwhile is in Cupertino, California.
State and provincial governments who had cities or counties in the Amazon shortlist expressed their appreciation for their inclusion. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf was fully confident that both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh would make it through. Amazon had begun its canvassing of suitable locations for HQ2 back in September of 2017.
Photo courtesy of NBC News

Thursday, January 18, 2018

BAMBOO GARDEN HOTEL: A Mini-BALI Venue Experience in GENSAN


Among the traditionally top tourist destinations in Southeast Asia is the island of Bali in Indonesia. It’s not difficult to understand why international travelers continue to flock into that resort island province. The vibrant Balinese culture is a major draw; so too the beaches and the high biodiversity of marine life that attracts underwater explorers. And the tourist accommodation facilities are nothing to sneeze at either. Granted, not many people can just drop everything and fly to Bali for vacation. But there’s a very affordable alternative here in GenSan to enjoy a private little resort hotel stay with a “Bali Experience”. 
Only a short drive up Conel Road leading to the Barangay proper, one can find a cozy little nook that is just the ticket to feeling like you’re staying at a resort in Bali…or the absolute closest to it. The Bamboo Garden Hotel is the hottest and most awesome little party and events place here in GenSan today. Its layout and design is sure to make any guest fall in love with it, seeing as it’s just like a tropically-themed miniature hotel, with five guest rooms, a KTV hall, an outdoor kitchen bar and grill, a veranda/covered stage, outdoor café tables and its very own swimming pool. Getting excited yet?

The best part about the Bamboo Garden Hotel is that, rather than have its rooms be offered individually, they are presenting the whole place to be an exclusive events or party venue for a private group of guests. Bamboo Garden offers no less than three venue packages with which a party planner can organize a social event that’s sure to come across as a slice of Balinese paradise, even for just overnight, for you and your circle of jolly merrymakers.
Whichever package a guest group may avail of for their event, they’ll get to enjoy the cozy privacy of the hotel grounds, with tasteful garden plants and well-kept lawn. The open area is well-illuminated with plentiful natural and artificial shade. The garden bar is well-appointed with a refrigerator and water dispenser, along with an outdoor grill and kitchen workspace with sink. Each of the five guest rooms are exquisitely furnished with queen-sized beds, end tables, wall mirrors, their own individual bathrooms with toilets, sinks and showers, and wall-mounted flat-screen TVs with their own library of the most popular contemporary films.
Now let’s look at the various accommodation packages for the Bamboo Garden Hotel. Package 1, worth P7500, will reserve the venue for any event with a maximum of 30 people. All rooms are made available, and the partygoers can sing to their hearts’ content at the KTV hall until midnight. The swimming pool of course is free to use, along with the refrigerator to store their drinks and food. Guests beyond the packaged 30 are charged per head (P100 adult, P50 children). Check-in time at the venue is at 2 in the afternoon with checkout the following day, 11 AM.


Package 2 is a bit beefier in perks, to the value of P14500. In addition to the services and features on Package 1, guest groups will also be accorded catering by the Bamboo Garden Hotel, again good for 30 persons. The meal will consist of 3 viands, a choice of one vegetable dish or pasta, one dessert offering, rice and soft-drinks. Package 3 is the ultimate Bamboo Garden event arrangement, as for the price of P18500 the management will throw in all there is to be had in Packages 1 and 2, but the maximum party guests will be 50.
We’ve covered the amenities of the Bamboo Garden Hotel, as well as the event and catering packages they’ve in store. But that’s not all this wonderful place has to offer its guests. When booking the venue several days in advance for their event, guests can make arrangements for professional and licensed masseurs to drop by and offer Balinese massages in the guest rooms. Hey, we did say that the atmosphere in the Bamboo Garden is like a taste of Bali, didn’t we?
To wrap things up, the venue doesn’t charge fees for corkage, and guests have the option to extend their stay at Bamboo Garden Hotel beyond their initial event, if they’d like to make it a private stay-cation in GenSan. Such extensions of accommodations are also accepted, subject to management approval and availability beyond other venue bookings. Guests will have their reservations confirmed on schedule if they’ve paid at least 50% of their package price.

For many would-be vacationers or party planners, setting up an event way down south in Bali could easily cost an arm and a leg. Why pine for an expensive trip when you can go Balinese with your friends or family in a nice little quiet corner of GenSan? Look no further for your social event than the Bamboo Garden Hotel, located at Conel Road, Purok Malinawon right here in General Santos City.
Visit their official website at bamboogardenhotel.wordpress.com or their official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/BambooGardenHotel/ for more information and photos of the venue. Finally call 0939-929- 1067 for more inquiries and to make your reservations. Bali is closer than you think.




Tuesday, January 16, 2018

“BLACK LIGHTNING” Premieres on THE CW


The CW and its stable of awesome TV series adaptations of superhero characters from DC Comics now have a new addition to its lineup. And the new guy (technically an old guy making a comeback in-universe) is totally in tune with an up and coming trend for comic-book characters crossing over to audiovisual media: the black superhero. While Disney-Marvel is taking its African king-hero to the big screen, Warner Bros. Television and DC Entertainment is taking their counterpart to television with “Black Lightning,” from the brilliant minds at Berlanti Productions that conceptualized “Arrow” and “Flash”. The new series premiered on Tuesday.
“Black Lightning” stars Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce, a charter high school principal, reasonable authority figure, and divorced parent with two daughters. But in secret he is also a meta-human with the power to control electricity. In his youth Pierce fought crime under the costumed identity of Black Lightning, only to retire from such heroics nine years before the TV series begins. He would have been content to spend the rest of his life being a mundane educator, only for a sudden resurgence of gang violence and rampant corruption in his community forcing him to resume his superhero identity.
At a glance it is easy to see the differences between “Black Lightning” and the “Black Panther” movie. While both feature African-American actors and actresses, the latter has them mostly portraying Africans in a secluded but highly advanced Afro-futurist nation. The CW show is far more down to earth and approachable, with an African-American high school principal doing his best to protect and guide the students under his watch. His daughters are also involved, with the elder Anissa (Nafessa Williams) being a part-time teacher and her younger sister Jennifer (China Anne McClain) as a popular athlete-scholar with an independent spirit.
In the pilot episode “The Resurrection” aired January 16, matters come to a head in Jefferson’s life when Jennifer stakes for a boyfriend a lackey of the 100 Gang which has been steadily building a corrupt influence in their neighborhood. While bound by a promise he made to his ex-wife Lynn (Christine Adams), circumstances force Jefferson to return as the Black Lightning to confront the 100 Gang, and here the show focuses on a culturally-sensitive subject in American society: the “Angry Black Man” issue, despite being channeled on a crusade against crime. “Black Lightning” treats this matter delicately yet effectively.
This first-season outing for “Black Lightning” on The CW will run for 13 episodes, and there’s a lot of catching up for Warner-DC seeing as Marvel already has “Luke Cage” on Netflix and “Black Panther” premiering on February. But judging on the quality of the pilot and upcoming episodes, it seems “Black Lightning” will do its premise and theme well.
Photo courtesy of cwseattle.cbslocal.com

MAYON ERUPTION Leads to STATE OF CALAMITY in ALBAY Province


It’s been a hair-raisingly dangerous weekend over in the province of Albay, especially for the communities within close proximity to the perfectly symmetrical slopes of Mayon. The active volcano has been especially restless this early in the year, with about nine brief but plainly obvious eruptions and no less than 75 lava collapses, threatening to spew hot materials all the way down to the surrounding towns. In this increasingly dire situation the Albay provincial government was spurred by their governor to quickly declare a state of calamity this Monday. It was granted and put into effect on the following day.
According to Reuters, Albay Governor Al Bichara began petitioning the declaration of a state of emergency to the provincial board starting January 15, about two days after the start of the intensifying volcanic activity at Mayon, the area of which is shared geographically by no less than five municipalities and three cities in the province. The board approved the request, allowing for the state of calamity to be formally declared on Tuesday, January 16. The declaration is necessary to allow the Albay government to access its specially allotted calamity fund in order to address the immediate needs of their evacuees.
Speaking about the need to have a state of emergency declared quickly for Albay, Gov. Bichara tells news channel ANC, “This kind of eruption, it will take about weeks, so we have to sustain the operations in the evacuation centers. We need to use the calamity funds.” In his estimate, a total of 25,000 local residents in close proximity to Mayon have already been evacuated, three thousand more than the recorded number by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). Classes have also been suspended provincially in order to have the school campus be readied as evacuation centers.
Mayon’s activity ratcheted up back in Saturday, January 13, and as of Tuesday when the state of calamity was declared in Albay, the volcano has been put on Alert Level 3 by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) due to the gathering magma at the crater and the occurrence of pyroclastic flows, which would be potentially damaging if they can reach down to ground level where the surrounding communities lie. There is a possibility that a truly hazardous eruption could happen in days or weeks from now, whereupon the Alert Level will be raised to 5, the maximum.
The Philippines is home to numerous active volcanoes such as Mayon, due to being located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, where borders of tectonic plates are located, which are a major contributing factor to the emergence of volcanoes pouring out magma from deep beneath the surface of the Earth.
Photo courtesy of todayonline.com

THE CRANBERRIES’ Vocalist DOLORES O’RIORDAN DEAD at 46


Back in the 1990s a rock band from Ireland achieved a surprising level of international fame after many of their songs found a strong and loyal following. The Cranberries were actually formed towards the end of the 80s by Niall Quinn, but the membership that rose to global stardom was composed of Noel Hogan, Mike Hogan, Fergal Lawler and vocalist Dolores O’Riordan. Her voice made songs such as “Ode to My Family” and “Zombie” familiar tunes. Though disbanded in 2003, they reunited in 2009 and have made new music over the years since. But now the Cranberries’ voice is gone.
Sad news has come for the music world as BBC reports that Dolores O’Riordan had died Monday, January 15 in London. She was 46 years old. The announcement was made by her publicist, though she did not provide any details behind her death, other than the reason she had been in London this week: what was described as a “short” recording session. A follow-up statement from the Metropolitan Police revealed that officers were called to a Park lane Hotel at 9:05 AM/GMT Monday to check on an unresponsive woman in her 40s. Said woman was pronounced dead at the scene.
Shortly after O’Riordan’s passing began circulating on the media, her fellow Cranberries band-mates paid due to her on Twitter, describing Dolores as an “extraordinary talent” with whom they have had the privilege of working with since their original formation in 1989. Her publicist added that currently family members and relatives of O’Riordan are “devastated” and are asking her fans to give them privacy while they mourn.
The Cranberries first caught international attention with their 1992 single “Dreams”. Albums released in the following two years, “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” and “No Need to Argue”, were wellsprings of some of the band’s most iconic songs like “Linger” and “Zombie”, which rocketed their fame following exposure of their music videos on MTV.
The latest musical activity of The Cranberries was a 2017 concert tour that was supposed to go over Europe, the UK and the US. It was never completed due to the emergence of health issues with O’Riordan including a “back problem” that gave her difficulty performing live. Her posts on Facebook from December to early January appeared to hint that her condition was improving giving fans hope that the band would resume touring sometime soon.
The Cranberries’ vocalist was given tribute by government officials in her native Ireland, with President Michael D. Higgins lamenting her big loss and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar describing her as the “greatest rock star ever” to come from her hometown of Limerick. He added that O’Riordan “captured all of the angst that came with your teenage years”.
Photo courtesy of usatoday.com

Monday, January 15, 2018

SEASON 2 of “HANDMAID’S TALE” on HULU Gets PREMIERE DATE


About two Sundays ago, during the 75th Golden Globe Awards, streaming service Hulu scored a major win over some major networks and even one of its most significant streaming rivals, Netflix, when one of its original programs won Best TV Series for Drama. That is, of course, the surprisingly popular “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of a dystopian theocratic and misogynistic future seen through the eyes of Offred, the titular handmaid or designated “baby-maker” portrayed by Elizabeth Moss. Following its 10-episode season in 2017, Hulu has green-lighted a second season, to premiere in April.
Entertainment Weekly has it that Hulu has at last provided a specific date for which their Golden Globe-winning series will resume telling the story of Offred in the post-US nation of Gilead. Season 2 of “The Handmaid’s Tale” will premiere on April 25, some 10 months after the finale episode last June 2017. This new season will have 13 episodes to the first’s 10, the better to tell the increasingly harrowing tale of Offred’s search for her daughter from the pre-Gilead days, complicated by the fact that she is pregnant with a new child out of her duties as Handmaid.
This advance info was dropped by Hulu shortly before they joined the panel for the Television Critics Association that was held Sunday, January 14. During the panel itself, further info was provided pertaining to the setting of “Handmaid’s Tale” season, in that the production is doing its own expansion of the world Offred is moving in, including a journey to the “Colonies” of Gilead, whereas in the original book she stayed within the country. In addition, Marisa Tomei was confirmed to be the first big-name guest for the second season, cast as the wife of a commander appearing in episode 2.
Star Elizabeth Moss, who also won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama last January 7, described the perilous journey that her character undergoes in this new chapter of the story. “It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby,” says Moss of Offred. “But she is having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into…I get bigger and bigger as the show goes on.” Executive Bruce Miller adds that despite Offred’s trip to the Colonies, the series’ greater narrative will not excessively go beyond what Margaret Atwood wrote in her book.
Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne, Strahovski, Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel, Ann Dowd, and Max Minghella all return with Moss for “The Handmaid’s Tale” season 2. April 25 will see the first two new episodes back-to-back on Hulu, with succeeding ones following every Wednesday. Hulu also put up a new teaser on YouTube.
Photo courtesy of cinemablend.com

PHILIPPINES Now Issues the 72nd “MOST POWERFUL PASSPORT” in the World


Despite  some predictions stating that the trend of globalization is slowly reversing itself as more nations begin standing aloof from one another, most countries around the world are actually enjoying a greater closeness to one another. This sign can be found in the ever-increasing number of people taking international travel for tourism and business. And surprisingly, this has led to a new measure of sorts for political power: passports. The more countries that one nation’s passport is allowed to travel to without bothering with a visa, the more “powerful” it is. And the Philippines’ very own has gotten more powerful.
According to CNN Philippines, a global ranking study has just put the Philippine passport even higher up in the list of the most powerful travel documents in the world. This is recorded in the 2018 edition of the Henley Passport Index, which bases an important criterion of their ranking on the number of other nations in the world that one country’s passport allows visa-free travel access to. Last 2017 the Philippines ranked at number 75 in terms of passport power, with 61 visa-free countries. This year, we are at number 72, thanks to having 63 nations with free no-visa access.
The Henley Passport Index based its results on data provided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), of which 83 percent of all airlines in the world are members. The study released its results last week on January 9, and on Saturday January 13, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque expressed thanks.
“We are assuring everyone that our people at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will continue to work towards securing visa-free access of Filipinos to more countries,” Roque said in a statement where he welcomed the two-rank improvement of the Philippines’ passport power thanks to its increased visa-less destination countries.
For further reference, the 2018 Henley Index lists Germany at rank 1, the most powerful passport in the whole world, enabling bearers to enter 177 individual nations without need of a visa. At second place is a fellow Southeast Asian neighbor of the Philippines, Singapore, which grants visa-free access to 176 nations. The Philippines is actually tied in rank 72 with Indonesia “next door” to the south. On the other end of the spectrum is Afghanistan, the “weakest” passport in the world according to the index, for two years straight. Presently, only 24 countries allow an Afghan passport visa-free access.
The Passport Index was started in 2006 by Henley and Partners, a global citizenship and residence advisory firm that has operated in its current name as early as 1997. For over a decade they have analyzed visa regulations for all countries and territories in the world that issue travelling passports.
Photo courtesy of DFA

Friday, January 12, 2018

SAUDI ARABIA Sees First Women Being Recruited by Ride Services Like UBER


Vision 2030, the wide-ranging and far-reaching government plan conceptualized by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman to reduce his country’s dependence on oil and diversify its economy, has been cited as a harbinger of change not just economically but socially. One very prominent case of social progress brought about by Vision 2030-related reforms was the green light issued last year to finally allow Saudi women to apply for licenses, therefore finally lifting the last significant obstacle to letting them drive cars. In the wake of this new freedom for Saudi women by 2018, ride-hailing companies have begun recruiting them as drivers.
CNN has it that two companies offering ride-hail services, local business Careem and global brand Uber, have started initiatives to bolster their original all-male driving teams with licensed and certified females. Taking advantage of the scene-changing royal decree giving Saudi women freedom to get behind a wheel, Careem launched a campaign that would certify any Saudi woman with a driver’s license to be able to work in ride-hailing. Training sessions lasting only 90 minutes were opened in major cities like Riyadh, Jeddah and Al Khobar, where applicants are instructed by female Careem administrators regarding Saudi road laws, customer service and using the Careem app platform.
Uber isn’t about to let Careem, which already operates in 13 countries including Saudi Arabia, to crowd it out of business in the Middle East however. They’ve also begun an intensified female recruiting, where their one-stop-shop Green Light Hubs, originally hiring only males, have been repurposed to scout for women drivers, or “Partners” in Uber parlance (Careem uses the term “Captains”). They’ve also set up “listening sessions” where Saudi women, who comprise 80% of Uber’s Middle-East customers, will be able to have their say in the international company’s local direction.
Another sign of the social progress that comes in light of the recently-granted “right to drive” is the equal treatment being given by the Saudi Public Transport Authority to for-hire drivers of both genders. No female-specific rules are being cooked up for lady drivers; rather, according to SPTA spokesman Abdullah Al-Mutairi, “{The} same regulations governing the licensing of men who work in transportation will be applicable to women.” These include a common minimum age of 20, a valid driver’s license and insurance.
Official Saudi statistics claim that over a million of its citizens are seeking employment. With the license to drive for Saudi women, that number could be knocked down significantly. The Dubai-based Careem service for instance, would like to have 10,000 female Captains answering ride-hails by June this year. At that point, some of the women who are part of Careem’s 70% female customers may be driving for them instead.
Photo courtesy of egyptindependent.com

Thursday, January 11, 2018

SUPER BOWL LII PEPSI AD with CINDY CRAWFORD Throws Back to Her 1992 Commercial


For football fans, the turn of the New Year means one very important thing: only weeks left to go before the Super Bowl in February. For a lot of major global brands and movie studios, it also means their newest special-edition advertisements being shown in the ultra-expensive Super Bowl timeslot. One of this year’s lucky brands to have their time in the limelight is Pepsi, and their concept for their 2018 ad is a call-back to one of their classic 90’s commercials, featuring supermodel Cindy Crawford. Now aged 51, Crawford is doing a re-enactment of the 1992 ad, and she’ll be sharing the spotlight this time around with her teenaged son.
E! News Online reports how Cindy Crawford and her son Presley Gerber, 18, will be starring in a Pepsi commercial to air in during Super Bowl LII. Said ad is an updated version, or perhaps a sequel over 2 decades after, of the original 1992 commercial with Crawford, said to have helped make the already popular model a household name for product advertising.
The 1992 Pepsi ad was fairly simple. It involves the then-26 Crawford driving into a country gas station in a Lamborghini, catching the attention of two boys. They apparently are entranced when Cindy, clad only in a white tank top and cutoff shorts (which she made herself from a pair of jeans she brought for the shoot) walks up to the vending machine and sexily gulps down a can of Pepsi. It turns out the kids were “just” admiring the then-new logo change for Pepsi cans, but the double-meaning made the commercial incredibly memorable.
Said ad will be re-enacted in a 30-second commercial entitled “This is Pepsi.” While the full version won’t probably be seen until the actual Super Bowl, snippets online show the same visual of Crawford, now older and sporting a denim shirt, stepping out of a sports car in a rundown gas station and gulping down a cold can of Pepsi (in its current logo design). Embellishments include the presence of Cindy’s son Presley, and two other unnamed celebrities who have also been in other old Pepsi commercials.
A press release for the new Pepsi commercial has Crawford talking about how even now, people still talk about her 1992 ad. “The commercial was a big moment for me and has spanned generations,” she says. “I am proud to play a role in this iconic pop-culture phenom and excited for fans to see our new take on the Pepsi spot during [the] Super Bowl.” This Super Bowl ad is part of the current “Pepsi Generations” campaign launched by the global brand, now celebrating its 120th year.
Super Bowl LII, happening February 4, will feature Justin Timberlake again headlining the Halftime Show, and Pink performing the National Anthem.

Monday, January 8, 2018

GOPRO Open to Possible SALE to a PARENT COMPANY, But Not Actively Seeking One


When it comes to “action cameras,” the first name to come to mind would have to be GoPro. Ever since their founding in 2002, GoPro Inc. has been one of the leading pioneers in the development of digital camera tech alongside mobile app support and video-editing computer software. But not everything has been wine and roses where GoPro is concerned. Following their becoming public, the company has found itself in some financial difficulties. By January this year, GoPro has had to discontinue its Karma quad-copter drone. Not long after, they’ve opened themselves up to the possibility of being sold as an acquisition, but is not actively offering itself up either.
As The Verge tells it, GoPro Inc. has acquired the services of JP Morgan Chase & Co. to pursue any possible options of selling their company. That however does not mean that the action camera household brand is eager to throw in the towel. Its founder and CEO Nick Woodman admitted in an interview that JP Morgan has been engaged as the company’s banker, but that the firm has not been explicitly asked to go out of its way to find any enterprise for GoPro to sell its company to.
“If there were an opportunity for GoPro to partner up with a larger organization that could help us scale the company that’s certainly something that we would consider,” Woodman tells Bloomberg Technology. “But it’s not something that we’re actively engaged in at the moment.” An earlier statement by the GoPro founder/CEO has broached the idea that being acquired by a large parent company would help their business to scale bigger in the notoriously cutthroat action camera market. The Karma drone, which GoPro introduced in 2016, was a victim of “extreme competition” that led to the company to lay off staff.
GoPro made its initial public offering back in 2014, leading to the action camera company being valued at a strong $3 billion in its early days at the stock market. Unfortunately the revenues in its core business to a sharp downturn, and their exploratory ventures into aerial drones and video-editing software, while sound, could not return good enough profits to keep them afloat. As of Monday, January 8, GoPro Inc.’s market capitalization is at just $1 billion, a pale shadow of its IPO period. No information was also forthcoming regarding any large companies expressing interest in bidding for GoPro Inc.
Photo courtesy of dcrainmaker.com

List of WINNERS from Sunday Evening’s 75th GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS


With the year 2018 off to a start, so is the vaunted “award-giving season” of the entertainment industry. First on the laundry list of accolades being awarded for the year when it comes to motion pictures and television programming is the Golden Globes, of which the awards ceremony this Sunday evening was the 75th iteration. There were some firsts to happen that evening at the Beverly Hilton, such as the first hosting stint in the awards by talk-show host Seth Meyers and, more significantly, the netting by Gary Oldman of his first Golden Globe after four decades of acting in film.
The Hollywood Reporter among many others has furnished the complete list of winners in the 75th Golden Globe Awards that took place January 7. On movie side, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” from fox Searchlight Pictures and starring Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson won Best Motion Picture – Drama, beating strong competition such as Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk.” Best Motion Picture – Musical/Comedy was awarded to Scott Rudin Productions’ “Lady Bird,” while Nolan once again was frustrated by Benicio Del Toro getting Best Director –Motion Picture for his film “The Shape of Water.”
The lead acting awards were a triumph for Gary Oldman, who got his first ever Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, following his memorable performance as Winston Churchill in British war film “Darkest Hour.” Frances McDormand got the Drama Actress counterpart for her role as the crusading mother of a rape victim in “Three Billboards.” The Musical/Comedy Acting Awards went to James Franco (“The Disaster Artist”) and Irish-American actress Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”).
Over in the TV side, it was Hulu’s time to shine after “The Handmaid’s Tale” beat out heavy hitters from Netflix, NBC and HBO for Best TV Series – Drama. On the Musical/Comedy end, the triumphant Season 9 return of pioneering “gay” sitcom “Will & Grace” on NBC was not enough to overcome the power of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” from Amazon Video. “Little Big Lies” did recover for HBO by winning Best TV Movie/Limited Series, and its lead actress Nicole Kidman got Best Performance by an Actress (TV Movie/limited series). FX’s “Fargo” may have lost to “Mrs. Maisel” but at least its season 3 lead star Ewan McGregor won Best Performance by an Actor.
Golden Globe winners for TV series categories include Elizabeth Moss of “Handmaid’s Tale” for Best Actress – Drama and Rachel Brosnahan (“Mrs. Maisel”) for Best Actress – Comedy, with Sterling K. Brown (“This is Us”) and Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”) as their Best Actor counterparts, respectively.
“Three Billboards” also won Best Screenplay, while “The Shape of Water” claimed Best Original Score. “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” upset “Remember Me” from Disney-Pixar’s “Coco” to win Best Original Song, though “Coco” at least aced Best Animated Film. Finally Oprah Winfrey received her Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award after being announced as its recipient last December.
Photo courtesy of NBC

Sunday, January 7, 2018

BLACK NAZARENE PAHALIK Veneration Draws 10,000 Devotees before TRASLACION Procession


It’s that time again, during the first third of every year in the Philippines when the most religiously fervent of us all get to show the world their utter devotion towards fulfilling their personal panata, or vow of faith. And the very first of these religious observations for the year that require – in the minds and hearts of the faithful – a great act of devotion, is the veneration of the Black Nazarene in Metro Manila. The week of observation leading to the climactic feast day has already begun, as the reputedly miraculous image of Christ carrying his cross from the Quiapo Church has been moved to the Quirino Grandstand for the traditional Pahalik.
As CNN Philippines tells it, by Monday, January 8, the Black Nazarene of Quiapo Church had been installed at the Quirino Grandstand close to Manila Bay, to cater to the devotees who wish to participate in the veneration or Pahalik. This had been the standard procedure for several years now, but for one exception: while past venerations began at 12 midnight with crowds of devotees already gathered, this one would not proceed until the early morning 7 AM mass at the site.
Despite knowledge of the later schedule for the Pahalik, the numerous faithful who have made their panata to the Black Nazarene have assembled in a great throng at the Quirino Grandstand as early as Sunday. The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) released a figure that underlined the strength of the veneration of the Nazarene, with 10,000 devotees already assembled for the Pahalik by 6 in the morning.
Organizers at the site with police assistance drew up three lines for people who wished to get close to the image: one for men, one for women, and a general line for senior citizens and persons with disability. A special dispensation was given to volunteer personnel who would be moving the Nazarene’s carosa tomorrow, during the Traslacion or return of the image to Quiapo Church the following day. Seeing as they would be kept very busy during the great event, the organizers allowed the volunteers to venerate the Nazarene first ahead of the lines.
In addition to authorities managing the movement of the crowds, medical responders have set up first aid stations all around the grandstand, ready to see to any cases of fainting, injuries from the crowds, weakness from lack of food or drink, and possible flare-ups of medical conditions. Despite advisories that devotees with such conditions simply sit out the Pahalik and Traslacion for their own safety, to them at this point in time, devotion is all that matters.
The 2018 Traslacion of the Black Nazarene will be on Tuesday, January 9. The procession is said to follow a new altered route that would hopefully speed up the route, which has had the reputation of running too long for comfort with the exponential increase in devotees.
Photo courtesy of Ron Navales