Monday, May 07, 2007

Text surrounding links

Text surrounding links
By: Ryuichi Uchida

Ever since the Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) invented and launched the internet, followed by the introduction of the more GUI (graphical user interface) based World Wide Web by the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN), cyber space has become an invaluable part of society—responsible for many forms of communication and transaction from business, interests, personal relationships, societal interactions, and many more.

Of the many uses of cyber space, search engines the likes of Goodle, Yahoo!, MSN, among others, have been the most popular. These functions allow the user to find a range of web pages/sites in cyber space through key words that he/she inputs. Initially, search engines focused on web pages but have since introduced image searches, video, latest news and events, even shopping.

Users had instant access to hundreds, if not thousands, of relevant sites for whatever purpose. Of course, most of these sites are commercial in nature and businesses began trying to understand the system by which search engines ranks and lists sites so that their respective web pages would get more exposure, and hence, more business.

The initial understanding of most IT practitioners and web designers was that search engines relied heavily on “anchor texts”, or the primary link to a particular site. An example would be the anchor text Fruit Cast which may correspond to a search term of podcasting because of the shared text “cast.”

Recent studies of cyber space, however, have churned out drastically different results. Research has found out that anchor texts by themselves are not enough for a site to be listed high in the rankings of a search engine. In fact, it came as a shock to researchers when they noticed that actual texts in the web page surrounding or near the anchor text itself have more or less the same contribution to the overall listing of a search engine to a particular search term.

The challenge then was for a web page, especially its home page, to contain as many possible terms related to the nature of the business/organization, which users most regularly input in the search engine.

One technique that web designers now use is “embedding” or assigning certain texts to images, videos, slides, even themes, that appear in the web page—all in an effort for the site to sustain the maximum amount of web data to correspond to popular or common search terms inputted by users.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Cast: see below

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The good: The Rock, Karl Urban and the hot Rosamund Pike
The bad: don’t get me started

Based on the popular videogame of the same name, Doom is about a group of marines who are sent to a scientific facility in Mars after a distress signal is alerted. The videogames stick to mindless action extravaganza; the movie…well…it TRIES not to.

The marines are led by a certain Sarge (The Rock). His second-in-command, Reaper (Karl Urban), however, is the true protagonist. And since the marketing for the film suggests otherwise, there is a lingering scent of the unfathomable. Anyway, the marines are sent to the facility to search, rescue, retrieve, and destroy – the standard gamut of any self-respecting marine force. Some will die; others won’t – the standard gamut of any self-respecting suspense/action/sci-fi flick. Ironically, the words “standard” and “self-respect” shouldn’t be put in the same sentence as that of the film’s title as it doesn’t meet the former and doesn’t command the latter.

The marines meet with Dr. Sandra Grimm (Rosamund Pike), who is the sister of Reaper (get it? Grimm and Reaper). The film tries to inject some sense of character to the two through a backstory involving the death of their parents, their ten years of no contact, and what have you. But just like the thrown-in-for-good-measure love subplot of The Great Raid (involving Joseph Fiennes and Connie Nielsen), the attempt at characterization is noteworthy but lacking in real depth to be really effective.

Dr, Grimm explains that they have discovered humanoids in Mars who have 24 pairs of chromosomes. Apparently, we only have 23 and this extra pair infuses super-human characteristics to the recipient. However, as they later discover, the 24th chromosome may or may not trigger a genetic mutation to a person, depending on his personality. This chromosome will be quite useful in today’s times as we may find out if Michael Jackson is really a pedophile or not. Jackson references aside, this admittedly cool sci-fi concept is what caused the monsters that you’ll barely see. You’ll barely see them because the film is so friggin’ dark that even the supposedly “best of the best” marines have trouble hitting them. The question is: Is this an intended atmospheric visual style, or just plain money not wanting to be spent? Another question is: If we are the descendants of the humanoids from Mars (they arrived in Earth through a portal they built which is now the source of travel from here to there), how come we only have 23 pairs of chromosomes and not 24?

The bigger question though is what The Rock, Karl Urban, and the gorgeous Rosamund Pike (from Die Another Day) is doing in a sorry excuse for a film like this. Apart from The Rock, it’s hard to imagine them being fans of the Doom videogames.

Towards the end, the film experiments at a first-person camera view with a gun as the viewpoint (just like the videogame). The effect could have been better implemented, but the style itself is cool…and gutsy. It would have been better though if the style was liberally spread out throughout the whole film instead of being relegated to one long extended scene.

Unable to resist the wrestling background of The Rock, the director manages to squeeze in a fisticuffs fight as the final battle scene. We assume that the director resisted playing the videogame because otherwise he might have known that in the game, the purpose is on shooting, not belly slamming. Which is more than what I can say about the film: resist!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Whisper of the Heart

Whisper of the Heart
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The good: will make you emotional
The bad: sad for me

In the final scene, the guy proposes marriage to the girl. They’re only in junior high. Best damn romantic story ever!

I remember the cheesy love flicks I’ve watched over the years. They all seem to succeed in either making you puke, or making you fall asleep. Sure, some of the better ones make you laugh (50 First Dates), some make you actually cry (The Notebook), but what about a story which really hits you in the heart, as it should? Perhaps most will cringe at the idea that where realistically-portrayed love stories failed, an anime starring barely-adolescent kids succeeds.

And yes, Whisper of the Heart, another legendary offering from the geniuses at Studio Ghibli, will make you smile, make you cry, and most of all, make you think…deeply. If you look past the colorful visuals and the classic doe-eyed nature of the characters, you’ll realize just what the hell it is I’m blabbering about.

Hollywood? They got nothing on this. At its very heart, Whisper is the anti-thesis of Hollywood conventions. In a crucially unforgettable scene later on, the parents of the main female character confronts her as she seems to be getting into a lot of trouble in school lately. She confesses her devotion to writing as the reason for her lack of scholarly attention. We expect a loud sermon from her parents; instead they calmly accept her choice and tell her the importance of balance. Unthinkable.

It is sad that most will ignore Whisper of the Heart. It is sadder still to think that few will ever share the emotions delivered through this beauty of a film. If you happen to encounter it, don’t make the mistake of ignoring it. (5/5)

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
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The good: possibly everything
The bad: we want more!!!

After the disaster that was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, fans of the beloved, long-running RPG franchise were left to believe that their favorite alternate fantastical universe will never again grace the big screen. But lo and behold, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children has arrived and if you have even the slightest inclination for the series (oh who am I kidding, I mean everybody!!), then go pick up, steal, borrow (I don’t care) a copy and be ready to be amazed. Trust me, your breath will be taken away.

Picking up where the anti-climactic end of FFVII left off, we find ourselves once again in the half-destroyed city of Midgar. Cloud and the gang have set off their ways whilst the world they inhabit have been stricken with what is called “Geo-stigma”, an aftereffect of the clash between the world’s life force and the comet summoned by Sephiroth (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then sorry. More later). There seems to be no cure for the disease which even our hero Cloud is afflicted of. The folks from Shinra: Reno, Rude, and even Rufus (yes, he’s alive), have turned to the good side and have approached Cloud for a commission work. It seems that a new trio of a group has emerged and hell bent on reclaiming “Mother” – or the severed head of Jenovah, from which Sephiroth was created.

Now before I go on and on about the good stuff, notice that much of the plot is better suited to those who have experienced FFVII. If you’re a complete stranger to the storyline, much of the story will be lost on you. In truth, this is the only real flaw of the film.

However, no film has ever come close to the massive visual spectacle featured in this film. Think The Matrix on overdrive and you’ll get a sense of the coolness of Advent. Swords clash at blistering speeds, characters fight seemingly in hyperspace, and the choreography has got to be one of the best in the biz. All the while we’re treated to a visual grandeur which would put FF: Spirits Within, or any other CG-rendered flick, to shame. Once you see the freckles on Cloud’s face, man, you’ll be astounded. Guaranteed.

Some will argue the overabundance of action to dialogue. And while on paper, this cannot be denied, we have to realize that while there is indeed a shortage in the dialogue department, what little is presented is supremely relevant and coherent to the overall story. What isn’t told in words are expressed in symbolisms (note the cellphone which drops in the pool of water). We are reminded that this is a Japanese film, and not is all as they seem.

I cannot express in words how much I appreciate this film. It is a masterpiece, no doubt about that. And I can’t think of any future film which can even come close to his magnificence. From the visuals, to the sizzling-hot fight scenes, back to the treat that is the FFVVII goodies (all the main characters are here, and yes, Sephiroth too), and on to the satisfying emotional drama behind it all, Advent Children is not just a work of art, it is art all by itself. A sequel can’t come soon enough. (5/5)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Land of the Dead

cast: Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper
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The good: enjoy
The bad: the ending
I have always enjoyed zombie-based movies, and The Land of the Dead is no exception. Its better than the first Resident Evil, but I found Dawn of the Dead to be better. Without comparing it to other zombie-fests, the film becomes just another one of them.

Directed by legendary horror filmmaker George Romero, The Land of the Dead features a world where, unexplainably, the dead have risen back to life, forcing the still living to adopt a secluded way of life in various outposts scattered around tactical locations in the world. The film begins a few years after the initial wave of this zombie outbreak. Riley (Baker), the leader of the expedition group of an outpost -- they are the ones tasked to collect food and supplies from the markets and stores of zombie-infested towns -- and Cholo (Leguizamo), his second-in-command, returns from a seemingly routine expedition. Riley, however, notices that something seems rather strange about the "stenches" -- they have become more intelligent. It's not long before the zombies decide to attack the outpost, showing the ability to communicate, use tools, and work as a team.

The film is enjoyable because the zombies are scaringly convincing. Their representation, however, in the film is inconsistent. During the first parts of the film, they move like the traditional portrayal of zombies in films -- slow, stiff, somewhat robotic. But later on, George Romero seems to have borrowed the running and amoking zombies from Dawn of the Dead and casted them in this film. Nevertheless, the zombies doesn't do much in terms of scare factor, and to be honest the film itself isn't really scary. The film is more actiony than scary.

The movie does tackle some seemingly important issues that the world may someday need to address. The denizens of the world in the film find comfort and safety behind their electrified fences and have decided to live in a illusory life (they even use the zombies as amusement tools). They see no point, or have not considered, braving the world out there looking for a solution. Should problems be faced, or ignored?

Land of the Dead is a triumph of modern filmmaking with its great zombie visuals and abundance of gunfire and action. It is a failure, however, of George Romero's very own creation -- the horror genre. (3/5)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A Sound of Thunder

cast: Ben Kingsley, Edward Burns
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The good: novel idea
The bad: lousy production
The concept of time-traveling is one which is featured heavily in many sci-fi flicks. Films like Back to the Future, Timeline, The Time Machine, etc. all have relied on the dreamy pseudo-scientific principle. While the concept has been done time and time again before, A Sound of Thunder is really the first film to take the idea into new dimensions.

You see the concept of time-traveling should be seen as through its effects. Consider going back in time and changing even the slightest thing: wouldn’t it have a substantial effect on the present? This is the idea presented to us by the film. In the story, time-travel is discovered and used in a sort of amusement business where rich folks pay huge sums of money to “time-jump” and hunt dinosaurs. The only catch is that the killing of the prey must be done in a strictly limited time-frame – a point in time wherein the creature will naturally die anyway, a precaution so as not to disturb the normal flow of time. Of course, as with any human endeavor that plays with the nature of the universe, especially one which is run by a greedy, good-for-nothing entrepreneur (Ben Kingsley), something’s bound to mess up.

The sound of thunder, thus, comes into picture as the world is suddenly and gradually beset by evolutionary mistakes – things which shouldn’t have happened or appeared if time wasn’t toyed around with in the first place. The time-jumping team with the help of an anti-time-jump activist struggles to fix the holes in time; and they do, and in anti-climactic fashion (the ending’s really whack).

If it wasn’t for the lame ending and the low budget nature of the film, the story might up fared far better. I got sick of the dark cityscapes towards the end, and the monkey, lion hybrids made me snicker than scared. You’d go blind from the distracting flashlight-only lighting while the team moves around the devastated city. There is a bit charm provided by the low budget of the film (the CG vehicles are a laugh), but I’d prefer a more realistic rendition considering the subject matter.

Despite everything, A Sound of Thunder manages to keep me awake for the duration and actually triggers the hidden sci-fi geek blood running in my veins. What was presented wasn’t enough (somebody give background to the time-jumping thing), but what was presented was pretty ok anyway.

Brothers Grimm

cast: Matt Damon, Heath Ledger
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The good: quite funny
The bad: really poorly made

Brothers Grimm is a case of a good idea gone awry, a novel concept left at the hands of one-handed snakes (yes, I know, snakes don’t have arms – that’s the point). I liked it, and I wouldn’t ask for a refund. But, unfortunate, really, is the final outcome.

The Brothers Grimm is composed of two brothers: Wilhelm and (Matt Damon) Jacob (Heath Ledger). They are medieval scam artists. Skilled in deception, modern science at that time, and all-out tomfoolery, they go from town to town ‘exorcising’ all kinds of demonic creatures, building up a reputation, and earning big sums of money from the poor, deceived townsfolk It isn’t long, however, before their antics are discovered by the French authorities (the story’s set in French-occupied Germany), and they are forced to work on a case in a remote village where young girls are disappearing one by one – a case which the French believe to be the work of another team of scam artists. This isn’t the case, however.

Where the film succeeds is in its attempt to fuse together classic fairy tales (Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk) as the background or framework for presenting its storyline. References are often made and scenes are played out using the memorable events from the stories (like the girl dressed in a red hood who disappears in the forest – the movie actually gives a scene where Jacob, the nerdy-type of the two, lists the description of the girl as red riding cloak).

My primary concern with the film is its confused identity: not knowing whether to go the route of a comedy, horror, or fantasy. True, many movies manage to combine seemingly contrasting genres but The Brother Grimm isn’t one of those movies. I was disturbed when after a series of funny moments, the film conjures up literally two decapitated heads from a box. It’s this seemingly gigantic mood swings which detracts from the experience. The visibly poor production values doesn’t help matters any. Its funny seeing the Wolf Man prance around in bad CG.

Otherwise the performance of the two main actors gives life to the drab colors of the film. Damon and Ledger seems like a perfect match and we could be seeing the beginning of another Hollywood duo much in the same vein as Stiller and Wilson, Chan and Tucker.

Towards the end, the focus is not so much really on developing set plot points but on unraveling whatever else is in store. Much like fairy tales which has short life spans, The Brothers Grimm follows the same formula as it doesn’t bother with details; finishing the story is just enough.

The Brothers Grimm is a thoroughly enjoyable film with just enough humor and charm (wait till Jacob jumps from the tower towards the end – hilarious!). Its beset by unfortunately low production values which reduced its fantasy setting tremendously; hampered by a somewhat lacking script; dusted by less-than-even directing qualities, but the whole film still manages to offer a good time, and viewers with low expectations should surely watch it. (2/5)