Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Philippine OLYMPIC Committee Looking to Send Filipino Olympians for Planned TOKYO SUMMER GAMES Test Events


The world has met the New Year nearly three months ago, and it is starting to feel the same as the old year. In Japan, organizers have made some drastic sacrifices to guarantee that the delayed Summer Olympics from last year will happen in Tokyo this July, even if no foreign spectators are allowed for instance. In the Philippines, rising COVID cases have resulted in reversion to GCQ and even ECQ statuses in critical areas such as the NCR Plus bubble. It is not going to stop Team Philippines from going to Tokyo and striving for the umpteenth time to win the first Filipino gold.

As reported by, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) is still even now looking at opportunities to expand the country’s delegation of athletes to the Tokyo Olympics, as well as get an early start in. Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino, president of the POC, notes that they are waiting on invitations from Tokyo to send participants to join several “test events,” competitions to be held at the Olympic venues to determine the readiness of the facilities, volunteers and staff for when the actual Games take place, a sort of “grand rehearsal.”

“These are challenging times,” says Tolentino. “But as I’ve said before, this is our best chance to win a gold medal. Our athletes will do their best despite the threat (of COVID-19).” At present the POC is looking at a maximum 87 national athletes playing 20 different sporting events, some of which have already qualified as Tokyo Olympians and others still fighting for their berth at often COVID-postponed Olympic qualifiers. Making a solid argument for Filipina power is the fact that among the leading participants for Tokyo are weightlifter and Rio 2016 Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz, Asian games and SEA Games gold medalist skateboarder Margielyn Didal, and the SEA Games gold medalist/Asian Games silver medalist judoka, Japanese-Filipina Kiyomi Watanabe.

The above three, along with pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast heartthrob Carlos Yulo and boxing hopefuls Irish Magno and Eumir Marcial are the qualified Olympians that Rep. Tolentino hopes to send to Tokyo early to join in on the upcoming test events“It would be an honor for our Olympians to be part of such an activity for the Tokyo Olympics,” Tolentino remarks, adding that playing in the test events makes for added practice experience as well. While the Tokyo organizers are still finalizing the number of Olympic test events, the POC is watching other Philippine athletes yet to compete in their qualifying events, for new additions to the Tokyo delegation.

Image courtesy of Philippine Star



The further 2021 rolls along, the more it is beginning to look like more of the same from 2020. COVID-19 still hangs in the air, and certain important events either double down on restrictions to prevent a pandemic spread, like the Tokyo Olympics barring foreign spectators, or push way back in the year in hopes that the situation will improve without rolling into 2022. Movie premieres once again are feeling the crunch, with major studios delaying some of their blockbusters by a few weeks. Notable examples include two graphically gruesome action-fests, the sequel to “Venom” and the “Mortal Kombat” reboot.

As Comic Book Resources tells us, Sony Pictures has bumped “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” slightly, the third time this installment of the wordy Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters (SPUMC) franchise was delayed. Its original premiere was in October 2020, then pushed back to June this year and then September 17. Now, the Spider-Man tangential spinoff starring Tom Hardy will release in September 24. This new slot has “Venom 2” premiering three weeks after MCU Phase 4’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” while Warner Bros.’ “Dune” remake will hit cinemas and HBO Max a week later.

Speaking of Warner, their reboot of the “Mortal Kombat” film adaptation of the successful and violent fighting videogame franchise is also getting a short premiere delay earlier this year as told by IGN. From April 16, it is now slated for the 23rd, and again this is a simultaneous release on movie theaters (where open) and HBO Max streaming. Warner Bros. Pictures announced the date change in a press release, but did not elaborate on the reason for pushing back the premiere by a week.

Both films in question are shooting for R-ratings and mature viewership, but their methods are distinct from one another. “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” involves shape-shifting symbiotic life-forms from outer space, one of which is bonded to Tom Hardy’s character Eddie Brock, transforming him into a vicious, occasionally cannibalistic superhuman called Venom. “Mortal Kombat” on the other hand revolves around a fighting tournament held between Earthrealm and the invading Outworld, where participating martial artists, some with supernatural abilities, tend to finish off their adversaries will gory coups de grace called “Fatalities.” The first trailers of the film emphasize how bloody things get in the movie.

Image courtesy of SuperHeroHype

Hospitals OVERWHELMED, Patients DYING Before Admission, New CQ Statuses Nationwide, and Other COVID Problems in PH


It was like the middle of 2020 all over again, but worse. Mere weeks after the start of COVID-19 vaccination for medical workers across the country, new cases of the virus infecting more people started to skyrocket in Metro Manila, beating heart of the nation and epicenter of the pandemic in the Philippines. With hospitals running out of dedicated COVID wards, the national government encased Metro Manila and four neighboring provinces in the NCR Plus bubble, which eventually became an enhanced community quarantine lockdown (with work exceptions). It does not seem to be working, with new cases reaching record daily highs and several notable names catching – and dying – of COVID.

The Philippine Star reports that the sheer number of people contracting COVID-19 has been so overwhelming that government infrastructure for referring them to hospitals with available COVID isolation wards have been swamped. To state plainly, Metro Manila is running out of COVID hospital rooms and facilities to help patients with the virus. The Department of Health notes that as of Tuesday, March 30, NCR hospitals have reported 57% of their total ICU beds in use, same for 68% isolation beds, 59% ward beds and 57% ventilators. As a result, they have been forced to report full capacity for COVID cases.

But facts are little comfort to many Manileños who have recently rushed their COVID-infected family members to medical centers only to be turned down due to lack of space. This has led to tragic deaths for some patients stuck waiting outside emergency rooms. Some of the survivors have gone on to vent their frustrations at the government on social media. Even celebrities were not spared, from OPM legend Claire dela Fuente and former President and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. Both were admitted, but while Erap is currently fighting off COVID and pneumonia, Claire unfortunately succumbed.

Department of Health Undersecretary and treatment czar Leopoldo Vega notes that the central COVID referral center One Hospital Command is being battered by an average of 400 calls daily, from frantic relatives of new infected. With the established hospitals and treatment centers nearly full, one option had been to raise more field facilities for additional bed space. This is one option, while the problem remains enormous. As of March 30 the total COVID cases for the Philippines was at 741,181 people. 124,680 of these are active and 13,191 have died. Monday saw the current peak of daily infections at 10,016 new COVID cases, with Tuesday’s addition being 9,296 more patients.

Already the DOH and outside experts are calling for the NCR Plus bubble, effective only for Holy Week, to be extended further, with additional areas of the country to revert to higher community quarantine levels. Modified ECQ is in effect at Santiago City in Isabela and Quirino province for April. GCQ is up for the rest of Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Cagayan, and all of CAR, while the cities of Tacloban, Iligan and Davao City have their GCQ status renewed again.

Image courtesy of OneNews.PH

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

DISNEY+ Reveals “STAR WARS: OBI-WAN KENOBI” Series CAST So Far; To Start Production this APRIL


Stories told of the “Star Wars” universe immediately after the events of the prequel film “Revenge of the Sith” are interesting narratives for fans of the whole franchise. To recap, that was when Republic Chancellor/Sith Lord Palpatine successfully corrupts Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker into his apprentice Darth Vader, turns the Republic into the Galactic Empire, and uses the Clone Army to exterminate the Jedi, while Jedi Masters Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi flee to exile after hiding Anakin’s children. Disney+ streaming has decided to do a big series of those early dark times focusing on Obi-Wan, with prequel actor Ewan McGregor reprising. Recently the production start and official cast were revealed.

CNN tells us that Disney+ has dropped its biggest chunk of info for their upcoming “Star Wars” series titled “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Much of the positive reception to this spinoff is courtesy of the so-far two-season success of pioneering show “The Mandalorian” on the exclusive Disney streaming platform, as well as the principal protagonist and antagonist being played by their respective movie portrayers. There is still no solid release date for “Kenobi,” but Disney+ has stated that they will begin principal photography sometime in April. Meanwhile, they are introducing the entire cast of “Kenobi” so far.

Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader are already given names. The same goes for Indira Varma (“Game of Thrones”), but now the cast list has been expanded to include the following: Joel Edgerton, Moses Ingram (“The Queen’s Gambit”), Kumail Nanjiani (“Adventure Time”), Bonnie Piesse, Rupert Friend (“Hitman: Agent 47”), Simone Kessell (“San Andreas”), Sung Kang (Han from “Fast and Furious” franchise), O’Shea “OMG” Jackson Jr. (“Godzilla: King of the Monsters”), and Benny Safdie. Edgerton and Piesse portrayed young versions of Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru in the prequels, so their roles in the “Kenobi” series are clear.

“Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi” will be directed by Deborah Chow, director of two episodes of “The Mandalorian.” Ewan McGregor himself is executive producer along with Chow, Michelle Rejwan and Kathleen Kennedy. Joby Harold is writing the series, which again will come out on Disney+ after “The Book of Boba Fett” and perhaps “Mandalorian” season 3.

Image courtesy of Comic

THE CW Drops “Girls” from “POWERPUFF” Series Title, Casts “SCRUBS” Veteran DONALD FAISON as PROFESSOR UTONIUM


The CW is now going full speed ahead on their live-action distant-sequel adaptation of well-remembered Cartoon Network series “The Powerpuff Girls.” With the experience of their production posse which includes Berlanti Productions and show-runner Diablo Cody, they might just make the plot of twenty-something former child super-heroines not just work, but build an audience. So far the casting of the three lead heroines in Chloe Bennet, Dove Cameron and Yana Perrault has been met positively. Perhaps these new developments will continue the trend: The CW has given their series a slight renaming, and they have also cast the leads’ creator/father.

According to Variety, The CW is now calling their live-action “Powerpuff Girls” series as merely “Powerpuff,” perhaps to subtly emphasize that the title characters are now grown adults. Next, actor Donald Faison has been cast as Professor Utonium. As recounted in the original backstory retold in the animated series opening, he is the scientist who tried to create the “perfect little girls” with the “traditional” ingredients (Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice) then made them superhuman by accidentally mixing Chemical X. Faison is perhaps well-known as a regular cast member of the NBC (then ABC) medical dramedy “Scrubs,” which ran 2001-10.

Production blurbs on Professor Utonium as portrayed by Faison reveal his first name – Drake – as well as his personality: quirky like in the cartoons, but also debonair and somewhat narcissistic. He had not set out to make superhero children (just perfect little girls), but was extremely proud of the end result and how the Powerpuffs used their abilities to fight crime and evil in their hometown of Townsville, USA. With the onset of adulthood however, the girls have left home and drifted apart from him and each other, so the Prof wants them to mend fences and be family again.

While original cartoon creator Craig McCracken is not involved in The CW’s production, he has expressed excitement for how the series will play out. Diablo Cody and Heather Regnier (“Sleepy Hollow” and “Veronica Mars”) share both executive producing and writing duties, with The CW having ordered “Powepuff” to pilot last February. Said pilot will be directed by Maggie Kiley, although no premiere date has been specified beyond the 2021-22 season.

Image courtesy of

Monday, March 29, 2021

LITE Versions of SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB A7 and S7 LEAKED Ahead of Possible LAUNCH in JUNE


In the middle of this month, Samsung introduced to the world the latest models of their Galaxy smartphone line tailor-made for the mid-priced consumer. One might think that the Korean electronics giant is keeping the current global situation in mind, that they are putting their more affordable products in the spotlight since people are saving money for emergency in the ongoing pandemic. And while they have other new iterations of their gadgets ready to unveil to the public later this year, it appears somebody got the jump on them where their latest Galaxy Pad midrange models are concerned, as they have been leaked this week.

The Verge has it that the first images for the new Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 have come out, courtesy of renowned gadget spoiler Evan Blass. This is the Galaxy Tab A7 Lite, which as the name suggest, is a low-end entry-level variant of the already mid-priced A7 from last year. Blass notes that the A7 Lite is coming out in the middle of 2021, around June, along with the Galaxy S7 Lite, which is a feature-light model of the high-end Tab S7 and S7+, like the Galaxy smartphones that the Galaxy Tabs are mirrors of.

Just how stripped-down is the Galaxy Tab A7 Lite? It has only one rear camera without a flash. Dimension-wise, diagonally the tablet is 8.4 inches. Spec-wise, there is only 5100mAh on the battery, 3GB of RAM and a MediaTek Helio P22T system-on-chip processor. There is nothing particularly beefy about the hardware, but if one is going for a Lite version, especially of an already midrange model, then they might not be sticklers for high-end features anyway. As for the S7 Lite, which Blass also spoiled in February, it is a dumbed-down S7:  4GB of RAM, 12.4-inch display, Snapdragon 750G processor, and Wi-Fi at minimum plus 5G-connectivity as a possible option.

Samsung fans can expect the Galaxy Tab A7 Lite and S7 Lite sometime this June.

Image courtesy of



Fantasy author George R.R. Martin, creator of “A Song of Ice and Fire,” has an interesting working relationship with HBO, the network that adapted his work into “Game of Thrones.” The official production lore has it that Martin gave the okay to show-runners D.B. Weiss and Dave Benioff when they correctly deduced the parentage of key character Jon Snow. The author, who is the show’s co-producer, even wrote an episode for each of the first four seasons. While book fans just want him to finish the last two books, Martin just seems to find himself with other stuff to do, like sign a deal with HBO to develop more content.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, George R.R. Martin has just inked an agreement to conceptualize new programming such as series for HBO. While not specified, the deal with the “Song of Ice and Fire” author is said to be worth over “eight figures” and keep him busy for five years. It should be noted that in the wake of the “Game of Thrones” series ending in 2019, HBO has been juggling multiple development projects based on the World of Ice and Fire, drawing material from other books Martin wrote that serve as prequels to the narrative from “ASOIAF” and “GOT.”

Of course, fans for Martin and his books (being somewhat distinct from fans of the TV series), are concerned that having him work on more TV content will simply cut into his writing time for “The Winds of Winter,” book 6 of “ASOIAF.” Recently he noted that being stuck at home during the COVID pandemic allowed him to write “hundreds of pages” worth of story for “Winds,” but that his work was far from over. While Martin is a TV writer-producer, the fact that he is already 72 has some worrying that the books will be unfinished in his lifetime.

Outside of his new five-year deal, George R.R. Martin is already developing at least two series for HBO, based on other writers’ books: Nnedi Okorafor’s “Who Fears Death” (2011) and Roger Zelazny’s “Roadmarks” (1979). HBO’s own planned “Game of Thrones” spinoff content includes “House of the Dragon,” “Tales of Dunk and Egg,” “Sea Snake,” “10,000 Ships,” “Flea Bottom” and an as-yet unspecified mature-viewing animated series.

Image courtesy of Complex

Sunday, March 28, 2021



While the “Big Three” global beauty pageants are all based in the US, other pageants drawing in international contestants are nothing to sneeze at either, and some of these are headquartered in other countries around the world. Take for Instance Miss Grand, launched in 2013 by Thai producer and pageant director Nawat Itsaragrisil, who has been part of Miss Thailand World (their Miss World rep) and Miss Earth Thailand. Miss Grand Thailand and Miss Grand International have been held successfully since then, only to postpone the 2020 edition due to the pandemic. Said pageant finally took place Saturday, March 27, where the Philippines placed First Runner-Up against a milestone victor.

As the Philippine Star reports, when the Miss Grand International pageant that was supposed to happen last year was held this past weekend in Bangkok, at the pageant’s home country of Thailand, Miss Grand Philippines Samantha Bernardo put a spirited effort towards winning the crown. While something of a crowd favorite for audiences of MGI’s in-room challenges streamed online, Bernardo was ultimately bested by Miss Grand USA and pageant veteran Abena Appiah. A former Miss Earth 2019 contestant representing Ghana, the Ghanian-American Appiah is the first to win MGI for the USA, and the first black winner of the same.

Samantha did make Abena earn her win, thanks to her powerful presence courtesy of her “#GRANDnada Walk” and national costume, voted into the Top 10 for Best Costume and Top 5 via fan vote (Bottom 5 being the judges’ vote). Appiah however was able to endear herself to the home crowd with her ability to speak Thai. When the final 3 of the pageant (Appiah, Bernardo and Miss Grand Guatemala Ivana Batchelor) were tied score-wise at the end, a clincher Q&A question was called for.

Said question concerned which of two COVID patients would they give a final dose of vaccine they have on hand: a child or an elderly person. Appiah and Batchelor chose the child while Bernardo chose the senior, though their reasoning in the ears of the judges would get the American candidate the MGI’s Golden Crown with Samantha and Ivana as First and Second Runners-Up respectively. Completing Abena’s court are Third Runner-Up Aurra Kharishma (Indonesia) and Fourth Runner-Up Lala Guedes (Brazil). Guedes was also the Best in Swimsuit, while Batchelor tied for Best National Costume with Thailand and Japan. The winner and runners-up will remain in Thailand for a few weeks to fulfill their duties (among them promoting tourism in Thailand) before returning to their homes.

Miss Grand International 2020 Abena Appiah will have a relatively short reign, as Miss Grand International 2021 will take place later this year, hopefully without a postponement for pandemic reasons.

Image courtesy of GMA News

SDCC to Hold Minor “SPECIAL EDITION” IN-PERSON Convention During November THANKSGIVING


Live events became a thing of the recent past on account of the 2020 COVD pandemic that still hangs around most in its most unwelcome fashion to this day. From concerts to conventions, everything either had to skip a year to take refuge online, where spectators are guaranteed to be socially distanced enough. But virtual events simply do not have the impact of in-person ones, and they tend not to make much revenue either. The San Diego Comic-Con may have been forced to cancel two years in a row, but nearly a month after that announcement they suddenly announced that an in-person edition was being scheduled for Thanksgiving in November.

This surprise development, according to CNBC, was announced by the SDCC organizer Comic-Con International this past Saturday, March 27. While Comic-Con@Home, the virtual alternative to the regular live Comic-Con events that have been shuttered because of the pandemic is still on for mid-year, CCI is looking to hold a scaled-down in-person event for a three-day period later this year. They have dubbed this the “San Diego Comic-Con Special Edition,” to be held at the SDCC’s usual stomping grounds (and acronym-alike) the San Diego Convention Center from November 26 to 28.

While CCI is right that many regulars of SDCC would jump at a chance to do the event in-person after the hassle of cancellation last year and this year too, they may have miscalculated at when to schedule their special edition con. Putting it on late November over Thanksgiving weekend, when Thanksgiving 2021 stands the chance of being the first time families in the US (after vaccination) could gather for the occasion (skipped in 2020 for obvious reasons), has caused some criticism for CCI’s perceived callousness regarding the pandemic situation.

Then again, Comic-Con International might not have much choice in trying to do a live event this year. As a non-profit organizer for SDCC, they need revenues generated from the con’s annual schedule to maintain operations and prep for the one next year. Cancelling SDCC 2020 was financially devastating, and having to do it again this year seems potentially ruinous. But if US-based participants and spectators would rather go with Thanksgiving, then the point could remain moot. CCI has not yet responded to the criticism. They have yet to give details on the Special Edition as well, including ticket prices.

Image courtesy of Shacknews

WB Pictures’ “THE SUICIDE SQUAD” Red-Band TRAILER Shows NEW CHARACTERS with Returning Veterans…And ALIEN Antagonist


After two films released under the DC Extended Universe, Warner Bros. Pictures was still looking at options on expanding their superhero franchise. With the grim and gritty approach given to “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” decided to go full R-rating on 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” a movie featuring the titular black-ops task force of criminals and super-villains controlled by a manipulative intelligence official. Despite negative reviews it was a blockbuster and technical-category award-winner, making a breakout star of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn who starred in her own spinoff in 2020. A sequel was also green-lighted under director James Gunn, with its first trailer shown this weekend.

Variety has it that, as promised by Warner Bros. and James Gunn towards the end of last week, the first trailer for the sort-of sequel to the same-named 2016 film. And like the original, it is as bloody violent as all else, well worth the R-rating it was shooting for. Both returning and new DC super-villains are in on the action, from DCEU veteran Margot Robbie as Harley once again, to newcomers John Cena and Sylvester Stallone (or his voice at least), ready for a new, dis-avowable mission where their hurriedly-assembled team is readily expendable.

The first scene on the trailer, as posted by Gunn on his Twitter, absolutely screams “Suicide Squad” as interpreted in the DCEU franchise, ludicrous violence and humor both straight and twisted. There is the new Suicide Squad/Task Force X roster led by team leader Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and under observation by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) on an op to rescue Harley Quinn from her cartel captors. Cue Harley strolling out in a dress and bloodied mouth just as the new guys scale the hideout.

From there things just get increasingly bizarre, as the Squad take on a seeming paramilitary outfit while trying to stand each other long enough to finish the mission. Of the new Squad members, Idris Elba’s high-tech merc Bloodsport takes the spot of Will Smith’s Deadshot. Cena’s Peacemaker is a militant pacifist pushing a “peace-at-all-costs” agenda while dressed as a retro superhero. King Shark (Steve Agee with Stallone’s voice) is a cannibal human-shark hybrid. Kinnaman, Robbie and Jai Courtney’s Boomerang are the old-timers running herd on the new crew, as they encounter, towards the end of the trailer, a giant starfish “kaijuu” familiar to DC Comics fans as the alien Starro.

With James Gunn of the MCU’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” at the helm, having an alien be the big bad for disposable super-villains forced to play antiheroes for reduced prisons sentences seems par for the course. “The Suicide Squad” from Warner Bros. premieres August 6.

Image courtesy of Screen Rant

Friday, March 26, 2021



The education sector was one of the most badly-hit of the many components of society when COVID-19 became a pandemic last year. As summer 2020 went on and it became clear that the problem was not going away soon, traditional classes for all levels were closed, replaced by an awkward hybrid learning system with home-delivered modules and lessons conducted online where permissible. Such as system has never been attempted on a large scale in the country before, and the results were not adequate. Attempts to have limited face-to-face classes faced intense inquiry, until it was decided that selected colleges and universities can try this year.

As the Philippine Star tells it, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Department of Health (DOH) has given approval to 24 higher-education institutions (HEI) for doing limited-number face-to-face classes as of this Friday, March 26. Said classes are to be conducted at the start of the second semester of the current academic year. CHED chairperson Prospero De Vera notes that the 24 selected institutions have full compliance with guidelines jointly laid down by the CHED-DOH, and duly inspected by officials from CHED and their respective LGUs. The face-to-face classes will only involve college and university third-year and fourth-year students.

Taking a risk to have college-age students attend face-to-face classes becomes understandable when one looks at the academic courses being prioritized by the 24 HEIs at CHED’s suggestions. The prospective face-to-face university students are those studying medicine, nursing, medical technology, medical lab science, public health, midwifery and physical therapy. Expediting these students to graduate and be certified in their fields would do much to add fresh new medical workers to the severely-taxed medical infrastructure across the country, even as the battle against COVID rages on.

Of the 24 colleges and universities given the okay to do face-to-face classes this coming second semester, seven are in Metro Manila; four each in the Regions 4 and 6; two each in Regions 7 and 10, and one school apiece in Regions 1, 3, 5, 9 and the CAR.

Image from Daily Tribune

AMAZON “LORD OF THE RINGS” Series Gets “DOCTOR WHO” Episode Director


Some members of the family of author J.R.R. Tolkien, creator of “The Lord of the Rings,” have at times remarked that the collection of books detailing the quest of a Hobbit and his companions across Middle-Earth can never be adequately translated into a visual medium. Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the books into a blockbuster trilogy for New Line Cinema in the 2000s might beg to differ. Still, with Amazon and its in-development plans for a “Lord of the Rings” series on Prime Video, that statement might have hung over the project following a recent character recasting. But the announcement of a new episode director might just get prep-work going again.

According to Collider, Amazon Studios’ “Lord of the Rings” series just tapped Chinese-British director Wayne Che Yip to sit at the helm of four episodes for the show. Yip’s previous notable works include two episodes of “Doctor Who” season 10 as well as its Christmas Special. On the American side of the Atlantic he was episode director for DC Universe’s (now HBO Max’s) “Doom Patrol.” He joins J.A. Bayona (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”) as directors for the show, which is shooting in New Zealand where the film trilogy was made.

J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay are executive producers and show-runners for the Amazon “Rings” series, which is being built up as a prequel to the events of the movies and their original books. This will likely take material from Tolkien’s “Silmarillion” which relates the origin of the Middle-Earth world and its backstory. Initial story blurbs for the Amazon show tells of the return of Evil after years of peace, which could mean any period in Middle-Earth’s past where the Dark Lord Sauron rises following the fall of his predecessor Morgoth.

So far the cast consists of Robert Aramayo, Morfydd Clark, Nazanin Boniadi and Ismael Cruz Cordova. Australian actor Tom Budge was also part of the cast, but departed after shooting a few episodes when the creative team decided to take his unspecified character in a different direction for his liking. Amazon has yet to put a date on when their “Lord of the Rings” prequel series will hit Prime Video.

Image: Amazon Studios Instagram

TESLA AUTOMATED GEARSHIFT, TOUCHSCREEN Manual Controls, Breaks NO Vehicle Safety Standards


When one needs to have a look at the driving controls of tomorrow, they might easily do that by looking inside a Tesla electric car. They can be immensely unnerving to e-vehicle newbies with the minimalistic steering wheel and dashboard dial display, as well as the touchscreen that does everything from checking the car’s status to being a multimedia platform. At least, somehow, the steering wheel with the stalk levers is a familiar sight. But even that has changed following a new driver redesign Tesla has put on their Model S and Model X, replacing the gear selector with a “predictive” drive system, and manual drive select control via touchscreen.

The Verge tells us that in the face of concerns with their most radical driving change yet, Tesla is assuring the public that their automated gearshift to the point of removing the gear selector from the steering wheel of their e-cars is not in violation of federal motor regulations. The National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) itself has vouched that there were no rules broken by the auto-shifting and touchscreen manual control, which the e-vehicle manufacturer introduced earlier this week.

A number of longtime drivers have expressed concerns with the new gear setup for the Model S and X. Completely removing a physical mechanism for changing gears, and relegating it to a touchscreen is perceived as a risky change, since gear-shifting is a safety-critical function. The NHTSA remarks that it finds no compliance concerns with Tesla’s shift control configuration, though their statement comes with the operative phrase “at this time.” This hints that there have been no reported accidents caused by the unorthodox gear-shift control scheme, as the revamped Tesla e-cars are only now being distributed to customers. This means that Tesla car-owners with the new gear system would have to report if they had trouble with the new gear-shifting.

Federal law mandates that automakers themselves must certify that their vehicles meet all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) that applies. If Tesla says their system that automatically shifts between Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive (PRND) while leaving manual gear-changing to a touchscreen display is compliant with the above, then it is so; at least, until enough accidents on account of the alteration happens, only then might an inquiry happen.

Image courtesy of

Thursday, March 25, 2021



When the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro held its closing ceremony, part of the proceedings was the tease for the next Summer Games venue four years on. This was accomplished by having Nintendo videogame character Super Mario travel via warp pipe from Japan to Rio, where he revealed himself as then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, inviting the world to Japan in 2020. Come that year, the COVID-19 pandemic has been postponed a year. Even in 2021, the situation remained precarious enough that foreign spectators were banned for the Olympics in July. This past Thursday, the delayed torch relay for the Games, severely limited as it is, finally kicked off.

ESPN 5 reports that the Tokyo Olympics Torch Relay commenced as planned, if about a year late, at the starting point in Japan that would make the most impact for the country, before the pandemic at least. The first batch of torchbearers was at Naraha, Fukushima prefecture. This was among the areas of the country that was devastated by the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, with parts of Fukushima irradiated by a damaged nuclear power plant. Football player Azusa Iwashimizu, member of the Japan team that won the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, was first to bear the Olympic flame.

In what has become the defining characteristic of this edition of the Summer Olympics, the torch relay starting ceremony barred spectators, leaving only the officials and participants. Audiences could only catch the opening of the relay by watching it on live-stream, though residents in the areas where the runners will pass can stand on the roadside at the estimated time, maintaining social distance and refraining from loud cheering. Some 10,000 runners – Japanese athletes and ordinary citizens – will bear the torches with the Olympic flame across the 47 prefectures of Japan over the next 121 days.

Despite a still significantly high percentage of the Japanese population preferring to again postpone or simply cancel the Games at Tokyo, the government and organizers have kept to the schedule of opening the event this July. A bubble environment is being set up for athletes, limiting their freedom of movement between the Tokyo Bay Athletes’ Village, training facilities and competition areas. Any local spectators at the venues during the Games are encouraged to cheer for all Olympians to make up for the lack of foreigners.

Among the Olympic torchbearers is a 118-year-old woman who is the current oldest living person in the world. The 2020/21 Tokyo Summer Olympics will open this coming July 23.

Image from Olympic Channel



In the mid-2000s, Disney Channel saw success in creating original movies and programming with a focus on music, to follow the lead of their successful original film “High School Musical” in 2006. One of the shows that sprung from this period is “Hannah Montana,” which starred Miley Cyrus as a middle-school student and daughter of a famous country music singer, who assumes a dual identity as a pop idol to get “the best of both worlds” in showbiz and normal lives. Cyrus starred in the teen musical sitcom for four seasons before moving on as a mature performer, which had the side-effect of making “Hannah” somewhat-uncomfortable watching for family audiences.

But regardless of how great the image dissonance has grown between Miley Cyrus and her most famous teen star role, apparently there was no real love lost between actress and character. As Rolling Stone would have it, Cyrus shared an open letter on social media to “Hannah Montana,” on the occasion of the Disney Channel sitcom’s premiere 15 years ago. The letter reiterated Miley’s already-expressed sentiments of role and show, while still affirming the success of the franchise and the fun time she had with her costar dad and cast-mates.

“Although you are considered to be an ‘alter ego’ in reality there was a time in my life when you held more of my identity in your glovette than I did in my bare hands,” Cyrus remarked at one point in the letter, which she wrote by hand on “Hannah Montana” stationery and uploaded on Twitter and Instagram to celebrate the premiere of the show on Disney Channel in March 24, 2006. But despite feeling that the character had sometimes overshadowed her, the actress, Miley mentioned that many important things in her life happened while working on “Hannah Montana” for four seasons on Disney Channel.

“You have all my love and utmost gratitude,” writes Miley towards the end. “Breathing life into you for those six years was an honor. I am indebted not only to you, Hannah, but to any and everyone who believed in me from the beginning. You all have my loyalty and deepest appreciation until the end. With all sincerity, I say, thank you!” She then proceeded to rattle off her thanks to the Disney production team, her family and series costars, before signing off by describing Hannah as “the best gift a girl could ask for.”

Interestingly, official authenticated “Hanna Montana” Twitter and Instagram pages opened “March 2021” (likely after Miley Cyrus posted her letter). These commented on Cyrus’ post by saying that it had only been 10 years since Hannah heard from Cyrus last (coinciding perhaps with the series finale).

Image courtesy of Music Feeds

“SUPERMAN & LOIS” on HIATUS Due to PANDEMIC Interrupting Production


 “Superman & Lois,” the latest series entry into the “Arrow-verse” that is one of the defining franchises of The CW, has surprised viewers since the trailers with its similarity in feel to a big-budget film starring the Man of Steel. It also drew interest with its treatment of Tyler Hoechlin’s Clark Kent/Superman as “Super-Dad,” with his struggle to balance his day job, super-heroics and parental duties with wife Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) at his side. The series is now five episodes into its inaugural season, with some tantalizing plot developments and cliffhangers as of this past Tuesday. But fans will have to wait almost two months to know what happens next.

Comic Book Resources tells us that the March 22 episode of “Superman & Lois” will be the last to air for some time. The CW is putting the series on hiatus, with episode 6 not expected to premiere on the network until May 18. While it is away, the “Arrow-verse” show lineup will be altered slightly, with “Supergirl” on its sixth and final season taking the Tuesday timeslot, immediately after “The Flash” on its seventh.

Why stop “Superman & Lois” when it is just getting juicy plot-wise? There was no choice due to uncontrollable circumstances plaguing the production. In other words, shooting the series has been interrupted by COVID-19. Already the pandemic had forced production to delay from its original start of March 2020, not beginning until October of that year instead. Now, a new interruption has caused a break in work, possibly extending shooting for “Superman & Lois” beyond the initial estimated completion date of June 14 this year. The series is shot in British Columbia, Canada like the rest of the “Arrow-verse” shows.

It is unfortunate for narrative and audience suspense reasons, given that “The Best of Smallville,” the episode that aired before hiatus, sees the double whammy of a Smallville school bully gaining meta-human powers and going after his target, Clark’s son Jordan (Alex Garfin), as well as the reveal of alternate-universe Captain Luthor (Wole Parks) being married to his world’s Lois, giving him a greater personal grudge against the concept of Superman. “Superman & Lois” fans would hope that they could keep their enthusiasm going throughout an eight-week wait, before the series returns to The CW.

Image courtesy of Hidden Remote



In the mid-nineties of the previous century, among the then-young stars that propelled ABS-CBN to greater heights was Diether Ocampo. A Kapamilya through and through, he made audiences giddy as a young heartthrob, and was often pitted in a love triangle with characters played by Claudine Barretto and the late Rico Yan. Over the years he grew into a mature actor and an ABS-CBN TV regular. Outside of showbiz he also serves the country as a Coast Guard Auxiliary officer. The pandemic made some unexpected changes in his life plans as with the rest of the world, as he returns to television while waiting to receive his private pilot license.

As tells it, while actor Diether Ocampo is busying himself as one of the primary cast for the new ABS-CBN tele-serye “Huwag Kang Mangamba,” he is also waiting on his private pilot’s license. In an online media conference for the soap which premiered this week, Diether noted that his time at pilot school was cut off in 2020 when the pandemic closed its operation. Continuing his preparation online was a challenge in his own words, and this alternative path to getting his license is longer than if he was able to do training flights.

Ocampo was also asked about what he was doing outside of showbiz projects, noting that he was last in a Kapamilya show in 2018 (“Bagani”), which was not his usual fare (2013’s “Apoy sa Dagat” was his most recent conventional drama series). He candidly explained that he was engaged in physical and mental conditioning, training for both civilian piloting and for the Philippine Coast Guard, in which he is now an Auxiliary Lieutenant Commander. Diether has also dabbled in painting, and actually has several of his art pieces on exhibit at Antipolo, Rizal’s Pinto Gallery.

Working on “Huwag Kang Mangamba” however has gotten Diether’s attention that he has been skipping out on another conditioning: spiritual. The tele-serye’s plot of two girls with opposite and conflicting views on God due to divergent circumstances resonated with him. “So when this project was offered to me, and later when the story was explained to me, I realized that there’s still one aspect of my life that I have yet to train for—my faith,” says Ocampo, who adds that the spent time on spiritual training even as he worked on the drama, as he portrays the father of one of the main characters.

“Huwag Kang Mangamba” is simulcast weekdays on cable channels Kapamilya Channel, A2Z Channel 11, and on free TV via TV5.

Image courtesy of ABS-CBN News



While “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” on HBO Max shows an epic vision of what might have been, in Warner’s canon for the DC Extended Universe superhero franchise, the setting takes off only from the original 2017 movie cut by Joss Whedon. Post-“JL” the DCEU has focused on solo hero films like “Shazam” and “Aquaman,” and even “Birds of Prey” had Harley Quinn as the focus character. Speaking of her, the upcoming “Black Adam” movie is not even about a superhero, but a formidable opponent of Shazam’s to be portrayed by Dwayne Johnson. Recently-announced as a new cast addition is a former James Bond actor, to play a magician of fate.

Comic Book Resources has it that Pierce Brosnan is joining the cast of Warner Bros. DCEU entry “Black Adam,” under director Jaume Collet-Serra. He will be portraying DC supernatural hero Doctor Fate, who will be depicted here as a member of the Justice Society of America, a group of superheroes from the early 20th Century who will be prominent characters in this film. He is the latest actor to be cast just before filming for the project commences this April, after the original start back in July 2020 was COVID-cancelled.

Brosnan was James Bond from 1995’s “Goldeneye” to 2002’s “Die Another Day” (plus some Bond videogames where he lent his likeness and voice). There is no hint as to what version his character is, for Doctor Fate is a shared identity of several heroes since comic books in 1940, and across various media. A common element is the Helmet of Fate that the character wears, in which the spirit of the wizard Nabu resides, giving the wearer great magical abilities but with Nabu potentially taking over their body until death.

In addition to Pierce Brosnan and Dwayne Johnson as the titular character, “Black Adam” also stars Noah Centineo, Aldis Hodge, Quintessa Swindell, Marwan Kenzari and Sarah Shahi. It is about a former, ancient-era recipient of the power of Shazam who becomes corrupted by his abilities and becomes a tyrant, later battling his modern-day replacements while occasionally dipping into anti-heroism. The movie has yet to be given a release date by Warner. Shazam on the other hand, which got a film in 2019, has a direct sequel lined up for 2023.

Image courtesy of Comic



Weather trends in the Philippines are primarily decided by two winds that alternate in prevailing over the other on different parts of the year. The northeast wind or “Amihan” usually comes in late in the year to bring cool winds giving moderate temperatures with minimal rainfall in Luzon and the Visayasa (Mindanao, not much). The Amihan fades as the following year goes on, being replaced by the southwest monsoon or “Habagat” which brings in the rainy season. In between the Amihan-Habagat transition the Easterlies would strengthen, with hot and humid weather from around March to June. As it is, the Amihan from late 2020 has gone away this past Wednesday.

According to The Manila Bulletin, the Amihan wind faded significantly from the Philippine weather system as of March 24 in the afternoon. This was reported by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), which added that come this Thursday, March 25, it is the Easterlies from the Pacific Ocean that are in play, upping the warmth and humidity across the country the way it always does anywhere from March until June or July. But it does not have to be entirely rainless, as the Easterlies might bring the occasional rain-showers and thunderstorms too.

Next is the bad, or perhaps uncomfortable, news to add to the hassle of the COVID pandemic. It is the expected temperature increases that come with the loss of the Amihan and the further rise of the Easterly winds. PAGASA weather specialist Joey Figuracion notes that over the next three days Metro Manila’s previous average of 24 degrees Celsius will go up to 33 degrees. Tuguegarao, hottest place in the country, will jump from 22 degrees to 34 Celsius. By contrast, in Baguio 16 degrees will become 25. Metro Cebu’s 25 degrees will become 32 while Metro Davao rises in temperature from 25 to 34.

For the possibility of scattered showers and thunderstorms, the weather bureau forecasts them in Sorsogon, Albay, Catanduanes, Eastern Visayas, Caraga and Davao Region anytime today. This is due to a prevailing weather front currently over extreme northern Luzon. While not extensive, these sudden rains could still trigger landslides or flooding, so PAGASA is again stressing constant vigilance with the public. The Amihan, while insignificant now, is still present and is not expected to terminate entirely until sometime this coming weekend. Then the hot season commences.

Image courtesy of CDN

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

SONY Acquisition of Anime Distributor CRUNCHYROLL Raises Alarms for US JUSTICE DEPARTMENT


While major digital streaming platforms like Netflix are sure to offer respectable libraries of anime series and films (some of them possibly original and exclusive to each service), there are streamers that cater only to anime content. There is Funimation, founded in 1994 as an anime dubber and distributor and expanding into its own cable channel and in-website content streaming. Then there is Crunchyroll, founded in 2006 as a website illegally streaming fan-subtitled anime before going legit in 2009 and becoming part of WarnerMedia. Sony Pictures Television acquired Funimation in 2018 and, in 2020, used the latter in discussions to acquire Crunchyroll. But the US Justice Department is crying foul.

Anime News Network tells us that the United States Department of Justice has on Wednesday, March 24, moved to extend its review of Sony Pictures Television’s planned acquisition of anime streaming distributor Crunchyroll. The DOJ is seeing red flags in that SPT already has a major anime distributor in Funimation since nearly three years ago, and the media giant’s proposal to combine the two platforms into a unified anime streaming service is being considered an antitrust issue. Sony had put down $1.175 billion in the acquisition of Crunchyroll via Funimation.

Where anime is concerned, Funimation and Crunchyroll are probably two of the biggest names in the distribution industry stateside, while Netflix, Amazon and HBO Max are more the “content + anime” sort despite their own impressive selections. The Justice Department is looking into the possibility that combining the two under Sony ownership will limit choices, especially for Japanese anime production companies looking for US partners in licensing their works. There is concern that Sony may be moving into an unprecedented level of influence and control over the anime industry in Japan and overseas, especially as Crunchyroll also has manga publishing and anime convention organizing outside its main anime distribution gig.

Already Sony has Japanese anime studios A-1 Pictures and CloverWorks as subsidiaries, while Funimation in the US has been consolidated with similar acquisition-distribution companies as Wakanim (France) and Madman Anime Group (Australia). Adding Crunchyroll into the mix gives Sony a massive anime-making and distributing juggernaut. The question now is whether the US DOJ can push this as an antitrust case, and if they can win.

Image: Game Rant



In the 2000s, Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer produced a film franchise that could best be described as “’Indiana Jones’ as a big family adventure.” This was “National Treasure,” the first movie premiering in 2004 and its sequel in 2007. Nicholas Cage starred as cryptologist-treasure hunter Ben Franklin Gates. With his team of history specialists and family members he found the treasure hidden on American shores by the Templars/Freemasons, and the golden city of Cibola, while being forced to extremes like stealing the Declaration of Independence and (briefly) kidnapping the US President. A spinoff book series was also launched even as development of Part 3 dragged on for years.

“National Treasure 3” might still be some time off, but franchise co-creator Jerry Bruckheimer has been teasing a TV series to stream on Disney+ since last year. Variety reports that Disney+ has given the OK for a “National Treasure” series, consisting of 10 episodes. Bruckheimer (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) returns as executive producer while husband-and-wife team Cormac and Marianne Wibberly will write the story under the direction of Mira Nair (1996’s “Kama Sutra”). The series will be a reimagining, and thus swaps out the original film series’ Gates family for a new, different main character.

Scant initial info on the planned “National Treasure” series puts the focus on Jess Morales, described as an undocumented 20-year-old Latina in the DREAMer movement. Despite her tenuous status residing in the US, she stumbles on clues to both an incredible hidden treasure as well as an in-depth look at her family history and its ties to America. Where the movies’ Gates family are ‘traditional” American heroes, having Jess as a protagonist who technically is not yet American is a stark contrast, as invoked by Nair, who wants the series to explore issues of “identity, community, patriotism and historical authorship.”

No casting news has been given for Jess or any other characters for the “National Treasure” series on Disney+, and there is no word on a possible streaming release window either. It is the same as word on the “National Treasure 3” movie, which remains in the writing table although Jerry Bruckheimer hopes to reunite Nicholas Cage and the cast.

Image courtesy of BroBible

Senate Approves New 25-YEAR FRANCHISE for DITO Before Current Expires 2022


DITO Telecommunity, the plucky telecom provider brought up by Congress as the third player to break up the duopoly between PLTD-Smart Communications and Globe Telecom, officially launched its commercial operations in the country last March 8, initially covering key areas in the Visayas and Mindanao. But the company that became DITO has already been in existence since 1998, its franchise established by Congress at that time as Mislatel. Since franchises like these are effective for 25 years, the franchise for the company now known as DITO will expire next year in 2022. Fortunately, current Congress is acting to remedy that.

And as CNN Philippines would have it, the Senate this Wednesday has passed a bill granting a new 25-year franchise to operate for DITO Telecommunity, the existing franchise of which has only until next year to remain in effect. In a vote of 17-2-1, the Senators present this March 24 approved House Bill No. 7332, which lays out the third telco’s new franchise as well as the various conditions it must fulfill to both keep the franchise and avoid monetary penalties for any operational missteps. This is good news for the company which launched commercial operations early this month in Vis-Min, before hitting Luzon and Metro Manila later this year.

Part and parcel of DITO’s new franchise are requirements involving company stocks as well as percentage of employment status. First, the telecom provider must offer a minimum of 30% of its common stocks to Filipino citizens interested in being stockholders. With regards to employment, House Bill No. 7332 states that DITO’s contractual workers must not exceed 40% of its workforce, while its number of regularized employees must never fall under 60% of the same. Finally, it must submit annual reports to Congress to prove its compliance to the above, or face a fine of P1 million daily until they do.

In the one year since DITO was empowered by Congress to be the third major telco, the company has erected 2,360 cell towers across the country, though only the Visayas and Mindanao towers are active at present. Some of these towers are standing in facilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, prompting concerns that DITO’s 40% owner, state-owned China Telecom, might be compelled by the Communist government to provide information gleaned from communication traffic, tantamount to spying on the Philippines. The military however believes there is low risk of intelligence leakage regarding DITO’s towers.

Image from Daily Tribune

“AMERICAN IDOL” S19 Contestant FAINTS Onstage During DUET Performance FEEDBACK


For singers, being mindful of one’s breathing and keeping oneself hydrated before performing is essential. If they mess up they could be hit with dizzy spells or even black out. Aficionados of the “James Bond” franchise would know the urban legend of how singer Tom Jones, while hitting the final note of the theme song for 1965’s “Thunderball,” supposedly fainted in the recording booth. A contestant in the latest season of “American Idol” on ABC got through her duet song performance just fine, but in the aftermath she fainted, causing concern with her fellow contestant, the judges and production staff. tells us that the Monday, March 22 episode of “American Idol” season 19 took a dramatic turn after a contestant blacked out following her performance. The challenge of the episode was “Hollywood Duets,” and that challenge put together contestants Funke Lagoke and Ronda Felton. Their duet piece was “Tell Him” by Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand, and they took to the stage under the duo name of “Melanated Queens.” But during the post-performance feedback with judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, Lagoke abruptly fell forward in a faint, hitting the floor face-first.

Following their duet, the judges conferred between themselves on which of the two will advance to the Showstopper/Final Judgment portion. The issue grew somewhat contentious with Bryan and Perry having Richie come up with a tiebreaking vote on whether Lagoke or Felton, or both, will move forward. Richie would begin to speak his feedback on both “Idol” contestants – noting on how Felton started strong with the song but muddled through the rest of it, leaving Lagoke to compensate. When he got to Lagoke however, the singer briefly touched her face before collapsing on the stage.

Funke Lagoke was immediately checked up on by Ronda Felton, a caregiver, while the judges and staff rushed to the stage. Funke was taken to a hospital where she was reportedly treated for dehydration, but eventually released. Bryan also commented on injuries to her chin from falling down that might need stitches. More importantly however, Richie would reveal to a distraught Ronda that she and Lagoke have been chosen to advance. Furthermore, Funke was, according to a show title card, released from the hospital, with the judges affirming that she will return in time for the Showstopper round. It will comprise of two parts airing on ABC from March 28 to 29, followed by a two-part due/solo all-star performance and a Top 16 Idol concert.

Image courtesy of Yahoo News

DISNEY Bumps “BLACK WIDOW” from MAY to JULY, Plus DISNEY+ Streaming


The moment major film studios took down the premiere dates for their many blockbusters from summer of last year, it became clear that the year 2020 was given over to just trying to survive from the COVID pandemic. True, some of those movies were slotted into release schedules for 2021 – this year now – but others were left with no recourse but to give their productions to streaming services. Warner Bros. hit on the idea of simultaneously releasing their films on cinemas on HBO Max, which due to many countries still keeping theaters closed, meant the movies were streaming exclusives anyway. Disney has tried not to follow suit, but ultimately caved.

By that we mean that Disney is giving their delayed film releases from 2020 a “simultaneous” theater and streaming release on Disney+. Among these movies is the MCU film “Black Widow” starring Scarlett Johansson. As told by The Washington Post, the House of Mouse on Tuesday, March 23, bumped off several scheduled film releases by a month or two including Marvel Studios’ “Black Widow.” From its May 7 tentative date it is now on July 9, and will go streaming on Disney+ for Premier access subscribers at the same time.

What this means is that, despite how fast COVID vaccines are being administered to people around the world right now, there is simply not enough immunity going around that opening cinemas by midyear is feasible without another spike in new cases of infection. With the reshuffle of “Black Widow” to July, the other MCU film supposed to premiere then, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” is now due on September instead, while “Eternals” so far has remained “safe” in a November premiere slot.

Other Disney films this year are now bidding theaters goodbye and will be on Disney+ instead. The “Cruella” spinoff prequel of “101 Dalmatians” with Emma Stone in the title role is one, as is a new Pixar animation, “Luca.” While US cinemas may brave the reopening as early as May, the fact that other markets in Europe and Asia are still in lockdown for such public viewing places means Disney and other studios are not yet confident in good box-office returns. In fact, the media giant may be considering re-prioritizing new content releases for Disney+ streaming, leaving cinema owners, chains and audiences in the lurch. As long as the pandemic is around, streaming becomes the more viable option for producers.

Image from The Verge

Tuesday, March 23, 2021



The Philippine Trench is an oceanic trench, a depression in the seafloor that tends to count among the deepest places of the ocean floor. It runs from the northern Maluku islands of Indonesia going north-northwest, running along the Philippine Sea east of Mindanao and the Visayas before veering towards Luzon. It is separated from the Luzon Trench to its north by the Benham, or Philippine Rise. As stated, ocean trenches are as deep as the ocean can get, and the Philippine Trench has the Emden deep, touted as the third deepest place on Earth. Ironically, no Filipino has even gone down those depths, until now.

GMA News reports that at last, a Filipino scientist has descended into the third deepest part of the Earth’s oceans, Emden Deep in the Philippine trench. Dr. Deo Florence Onda, an associate professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) and an oceanographer, made the nationally historic descent before noon this past Tuesday, March 23. He was part of a deep-sea exploration team from EYOS Expeditions, under the sponsorship of Caladan Oceanic, a private oceanographic company founded by American deep-sea explorer Victor Vescovo. Vescovo and Dr. Onda were aboard a Deep Submergence Vehicle (DSV) that went into the Emden Deep.

Emden Deep is 10,045 meters or 34,100 feet at its deepest point. For comparison, the highest mountain on Earth above sea level, Mount Everest, will be completely submerged in the water, and more than a dozen Burj Khalifa skyscrapers of Dubai (the world’s current tallest building at 828 meters) can be stacked end to end from seafloor to sea level. So extreme is the depth that Ondo and Vescovo reached their destination down below before Tuesday noon, when they cast off from their mother-ship the DSSV Pressure Drop, at 6:30 AM earlier in the morning.

Before going on his momentous journey into the ocean deep, Dr. Onda wrote his reflections on what he was about to do on Facebook, calling the descent a giant leap for the country and something Filipinos can be proud to count among their national heritage. “With the ship are the Filipino crew who are contributing their skills and talents to make the voyages and dives safe and meaningful,” he says, noting the Filipino crewmen of the DSSV Pressure Drop ship. “They are the reasons why the aquanauts are able to accomplish their missions and tell tales of the deep seas.”

Onda was in good hands in this trip with his veteran companion Vescovo, a retired US Navy man turned undersea explorer. He holds the current record for the deepest manned ocean descent since 2019 when he went down by DSV into the Mariana Trench, deepest place on Earth bar none.

Image: Rappler



Some online messaging platforms manage to make themselves the definitive message service for particular communities of the internet. Discord, a voice-over-IP platform launched in 2015, gradually became the go-to chat app for gamers, thanks to its versatility in offering voice calls, video calls, private chatting and even digital distribution of media files, thanks to its community structure of “servers.” The fact that it is available on all major desktop and portable operating systems and browsers is another plus for its wide adoption. With more than 250 million users worldwide as of 2019, Discord is a hot enough platform that Microsoft has its eyes on it.

Bloomberg tells us that Microsoft is apparently engaged in talks with Discord Inc. with the prospect of the former acquiring the latter. Inside sources have information that the tech company developing the gamer-favored Discord chat-messaging platform is offering itself up for grabs by any other tech giant with money to spend. The value is also nothing to sneeze at, since it was reported to be at a cool $10 billion. The Microsoft side of the discussion is said to be led by Phil Spencer, executive VP for Gaming and head executive of the Xbox arm.

Interestingly, Microsoft is not the only company that Discord has had talks with for possible acquisition. Before, they have also met with online marketplace juggernaut Amazon, as well as Epic Games of “Fortnite” fame. Microsoft however is of special note, given that last year they made inroads but failed to acquire the American portion of Chinese video-sharing social network TikTok. Discord Inc. had expressed interest in re-expanding their platform from a gaming-focused chat hub to a general social network, a “place to talk to.” Being bought up by Microsoft might help it in that regard.

And acquisition is only one possibility that Discord is exploring for its future. The inside sources add that in case no good deal to sell is forthcoming, the company is in a position to go public instead. Only last year the Discord platform cleaned house with $130 million in revenue from the portion of its user base that pay “Nitro,” a $9.99 monthly subscription for additional features like higher screen-sharing resolution and increased upload limits. The increase of users during the pandemic that began in 2020 may have inspired Discord Inc. to start thinking big.

Image courtesy of Android Police