Isn’t This How Imelda Got Started?

I had a wardrobe malfunction at Boskone. I’d worn down my faithful 2+ year old pair of Doc Martens flat, and I’d discovered they’d finally split on both feet. And boy was I pissed about it. Not so much because of the shoes, but because I’d decided against my better judgement that I didn’t need to lug two pairs of shoes with me for a two day trip, and that lace-up Docs (which had become part of my de facto convention “uniform”) was the way to go to a con in Boston in February.

The day after I got back, I went to my local shoe store for another pair of Docs and a second pair of something. And then I saw these…

I knew nothing about Blundstone boots or their history. They looked nice and so I tried on a pair of #500s (the ones in the middle). They were amazingly comfortable, and so I walked out of the store actually wearing them. I did buy the Docs and broke them in over a couple of days. But I kept going back to the “Blunnies,” as they’re called. And when I realized that I’d worn them exclusively for at least 5 out of the next 8 days, the only logical solution was to go back for a second pair.

My choices were between the black #063 (the top shoe) and the rustic brown #585 (on the bottom). I tried them both and they were just as comfortable at the #500s. And of course, having “mark” written all over my face, I get offered a discount for buying both “today only,” a deal which I would “never find anywhere else” (and with cursory research on the interwebs, I kinda believe it). So I did.

The #063s are still in the box for now, as my “dress” shoes, which of course means I’m tempted to get a nice, comfy pair of #587s.

At this point you’re asking yourself if I’ve now resorted to shoe reviews on my blog. No, the point of this screed is to take a moment to stop myself and ask, “What the fuck are you doing, man?”

I mean, never mind the exorbitant costs of buying four pairs in a week. Yes, this is sort of a positive — I don’t foresee actually needing a pair of shoes for at least the next five years. But getting #587s when I have a new pair of Docs? See, at this point I have to reckon with the horrible realization that this must be pretty much how Imelda Marcos got started. And lest you think her legendary shoe obsession was merely just a symptom of government corruption run amok, let me assure you that my mother’s collection, which filled up closets no larger than any you’d find in a 3 bedroom house in suburban Cleveland, was no slouch. It must be a predisposition in the genetic makeup of my peoples. And now I’ve become its latest victim.

Also, have I finally reached the age where I’m just done with laces?

I think I need to find a group, or something. That’s within walking distance. Because, fuck, these Blundstones are comfortable…

For Belgium, the Philippines, and a Better Job…

Time for my Good Friday ritual… showcasing the land of my ancestors!

Ruben Enaje has done this for the 30th year in a row now. This was the guy who lamented a bit having to do this last year (his 29th) for lack of a successor. But now, he’s doing this for Belgium. And, because he’s Filipino (and you know how we are), he has other reasons…

Enaje, a sign painter, says he also prayed for peaceful Philippine presidential elections this year and a better job.

Mabuhay ng Pilipinas, muh’fuckers!

(via)

Quickie Review: HENERAL LUNA (2015)

I don’t know enough about the history to have a good picture of what the real Antonio Luna was like. I do know that the Luna depicted in the film is every hard-ass Filipino I’ve ever known from the generation before mine. Jovial one minute, borderline abusive the next, before going right back to jovial. I suppose in a lot of ways, HENERAL LUNA is more about the Filipino mindset in general, with the way it portrays the good, bad, and ugly of just about every Filipino peccadillo I’ve ever known. Take “the ties that bind” for instance, and all the ways that loyalty to family, the barangay, the province interfered with things like nation-building. “It’s easier for the earth to meet the sky,” Luna says in the film, “than for two Filipinos to agree on anything!”

Really though, it’s pretty even-handed and definitely far from self-hating, from the way we romanticize memories of home and hearth, to the way a loving mother starts a conversation with her grown son with a smack to the mouth, to the universal Filipino response to someone with a competing interest, no matter how compelling: “Who do you think you are?”

The dramatis personae is huge and the film did its best to keep the characters straight, and to highlight and summarize historical events with small text blocks, almost like a graphic novel. But I think its still struggled with its scope. Still, HENERAL LUNA’S strength is in its depiction of the people. You may not like everyone in the film, but it’s very possible to feel sympathy for all of them. Well, except for maybe Emilio Aguinaldo — but then, that’s always been the case with ol’ Magdalo.

World Fantasy Convention 2015; Borgesian Philippines; What I’m Reading

WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION 2015. Took a hop northeast from Ithaca to Saratoga Springs last weekend, despite the Piss Poor Harassment Policy kerfuffle. Managed to not only keep my running streak of being on WFC programming (3 for 3), but I actually appeared on two panels: “Real World Nomenclature, Taboos, and Cultural Meaning” (There’s a pretty good summary here.) and “Bibliofantasies.” Or, as I call it, “Bibliofantasies 2: Electric Bugaloo” since I was also on a panel of the same name at WFC 2012. After all, how the fuck else I could I sit on a panel with Michael Dirda, John Clute, Robert Eldridge, Paul Di Filippo, and Gary Wolfe? The socializing, always the best part of any con, was more targeted now that I’ve been at enough of these things not to fanboy over everybody in the room, and to instead spend the time with people – old and new friends – that I want to spend time with. Okay fine, I finally got to meet Jeffrey Ford and squee about what a big fan I am. Happy?

Not a hoax. Not a dream sequence.

BORGESIAN PHILIPPINES. Missed a talk by Gina Apostol, author of the upcoming novel William McKinley’s World on the Philippine-American War. In it, she makes the disturbing observation about how hard it was to find first-person Filipino voices in records of the period, and where she did find it “…occurring mainly in captured documents within military records, the Filipino voice being a text within a text, mediated, annotated, and translated by her enemy.” There’s a bittersweet Romantic tragedy about how this mediated story of the Philippines casts it as a place that’s as fantastic as Borges’ Tlön. This is relevant to a project in progress….

WHAT I’M READING. My personally inscribed copy of Mary Rickert’s collection You Have Never Been Here, worth the cover price for the single previously unpublished story “The Shipbuilder.” Pieces of The Best American Travel Writing 2015 edited by Andrew McCarthy, for another project in progress, Laszlo Bock’s Work Rules!, and when I can, Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). Yes, that’s an awful lot of nonfiction, I know. What’s your point?

Currently Reading, Backyard Fracking, and Filipino Rondalla

CURRENTLY READING: All of my reading lately has been on the non-fiction tip. The last fiction I’ve read was a slog of a collection that I haven’t finished yet. (It has some incredible craftsmanship, but damn if most of the stories just don’t do it for me.) Anyway, what HAVE I been reading? I’ve made it into the Dark Horse years of AMERICAN SPLENDOR. I’m about halfway through NOTHIN’ BUT BLUE SKIES: THE HEYDAY, HARD TIMES, AND HOPES OF AMERICA’S INDUSTRIAL HEARTLAND by Eric McClelland which I discovered while perusing BELT MAGAZINE’s website. And lest you think I’m just now jumping on the whole “Rust Belt Chic” bandwagon, I’ll just say that I grew up during most of the stuff in Chapter 4 of BLUE SKIES (i.e. the Cleveland chapter). It’s been enlightening nonetheless to look at the historical context of my early life.  And, I just picked up BIOPUNK: SOLVING BIOTECH’S BIGGEST PROBLEMS IN KITCHENS AND GARAGES the other day at a bookstore discount table for $4, because there just has to be a story in here somewhere.

BACKYARD FRACKING: Something I forgot to mention when I wrote up having seen the short documentary BACKYARD at FLEFF. During the Q&A with the filmmaker, someone asked if she attempted to get any comments from the fracking industry. She says she did, and that it was rather easy to. She was granted tours through various rigs — sans her camera crew — and interviewed workers who apparently only had the same pro-fracking talking points. She reported being unable to find anyone with a unique pro-fracking story, which she attributes to the industry’s powerful propaganda machine. Power that was corroborated by an audience member with an account of the presence of energy companies in the independent film business and festival circuit. Know thy enemy and co-opt. Basic, really.

FILIPINO RONDALLA: Of course they’d have a Filipino Rondalla group at the Ivy League for which I work. To paraphrase the motto, “Any person, any extracurricular activity,” apparently. It brought back some childhood memories of my first visit to the Philippines when I was about four. I remember a candle dance and a tinikling demo, just like what I saw at the group’s concert last Saturday. That said, I have to acknowledge that this student display of Filipino culture–the culture of my parents–isn’t the culture of everyone in the Philippines. I fear for the non-Filipino audience members who may have left feeling armed with a proper overview of “Filipino culture”, and then trying to share this knowledge with, say, someone from the Visayas or Mindanao. They may not be received well.  After all, Filipinos have stabbed people for far less….

Next time, I’ll probably talk about the lung pox I’m fighting.

It’s a Good Good Friday!

Mabuhay ng Pilipinas, motherfuckers! It’s that of year again for my personal Good Friday observance.  First, the obligatory theme song. Listen as you read on. [ETA: forgot the bloody video.]

This year gives us not one, but TWO stories from my motherland.  First, a sad note…

Good Friday: Philippines Bans Tourists from Participating in ‘Realistic’ Crucifixion, Says it’s not ‘Circus’

Earlier, the only requirement to participate in the annual crucifixion rites in Philippines was that the person needed to be a Catholic. However, this year only local Filipinos can participate.
Harvey Quiwa, chairperson of the committee in charge of the 2015 Holy Week rites, announced the ban stating that this year all efforts will be made to ensure that the Lenten rites do “not become a circus.”
Well, that really fucks up my plans.

Then again, my plans haven’t been fucked up like our good friend Ruben’s…

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines—Still without a successor, signboard maker Ruben Enaje has been obliged to extend his real-life crucifixion act for another year, making the Good Friday reenactment in Barangay San Pedro Cutud in this Pampanga capital on April 3 his 29th year so far

Enaje said he was hoping that the council finds an appropriate replacement for him soon because his aging body can not bear further pain.

Enaje really wants out, though…

“The spots on my hands and feet that are pierced yearly get healed in six months but the pain on my right shoulder where I carry a big wooden cross persists year round,” he said.

We all have our crosses to bear, but damn.

Quickie Review: ILO ILO (2013)

A screening of this Canne Caméra d’Or-winning film was hosted by the dayjob and I went, having prepared myself to go all Hooper from Chasing Amy during the Skype Q&A with Singaporean director Anthony Chen. But this film about a Hong Kong family who takes on a Filipina maid during the Asian financial meltdown of 1997 thankfully wasn’t rage inducing.

During the Q&A, the director mentioned having been taken to task for not providing any critique of the OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) system. I was just happy that we didn’t get either of the two “typical” OFW horror stories–Filipinas being physically or sexually victimized, or victimizing the families they work for, stealing money, abusing children and elders, etc. Hell, I half-expected Teresa (the maid) to have some anting-anting which makes her some Asian Mary Poppins who teaches young Jiale about, I dunno, love and family or somesuch. 

(She probably would have if this was some Hollywood film.)

Anyway, I’m fine that the film wasn’t about the plight of OFWs for two reasons. One, I think Chen gives a pretty even-handed representation of the part most people play in that whole system, in a way which jives with the memories I’ve had as a child observing Filipinas who were brought over to the United States to help with the families of other Filipinos. And two, that kind of message would’ve taken away from the film’s focus on the compelling study of how four very different people cope against forces outside their control.

5 out of 5.

“I will see you on Good Friday…”

As some of you know, my Good Friday tradition is listening to the song “Good Friday” by the Black Crowes while looking up who got crucified in the Philippines this year

SAN FERNANDO, PAMPANGA (Updated) — Devotees in San Pedro Cutud village here had themselves nailed to a wooden cross to re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as thousands of local and foreign spectators watch the bloody annual rites to mark Good Friday in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation.

The money quote comes from Lasse Spang Olsen, a 48-year-old filmmaker from Denmark who joined in on the fun…

After being helped down from the cross, [Olsen] said of his experience: “Fantastic, you should try it.”

“I will not forgive you / Nor will I accept the blame…”

It’s that time of year once again where I celebrate that one special aspect of my cultural and religious heritage…

SAN FERNANDO, Philippines–Catholic zealots in the Philippines re-enacted the last hours of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, whipping their backs and nailing themselves to crosses in a grisly Easter ritual that persists despite Church disapproval.

(link)

“That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change…”

Seems like a lot of PBS documentary films set in the Philippines are coming out of the woodwork lately.  A few months ago, I saw Left By the Ship on Independent Lens , and last week on POVGive Up Tomorrow. That’s awesome!!  Okay, I might be a little biased
Give Up Tomorrow was more relatable to me.  Not because anything in my life resembles the predicament of the film’s primary subject, Paco Larrañaga… well, come to think of it, no one’s life could.  Back in the late 90s, well before the social media and just before the 24-hour news cycle, I remember catching the occasional word about the Philippines’ version of “The Trial of the Century.”  I never took the time to learn much about it, thinking it was just some Filipino hyperbole.

From the film’s website

As a tropical storm beats down on the Philippine island of Cebu, two sisters leave work and never make it home…

GIVE UP TOMORROW exposes a Kafkaesque extravaganza populated by flamboyantly corrupt public officials, cops on the take, and a frenzied legal and media circus. It is also an intimate family drama focused on the near mythic struggle of two angry and sorrowful mothers who have dedicated more than a decade to executing or saving one young man, Paco Larrañaga.

So, no, unlike Paco, I’ve never been convicted and sentenced to death for rape and murder, even though 35 witnesses and at least one photograph place me 350 miles away from the crime scene.  But when I hear the stories of the things the victims’ family and Larrañaga’s family did to try and prove Paco’s guilt or innocence–things people in most civilized countries would call trading in influence, corruption, cronyism, and nepotism–I remembered how I grew up hearing that those sorts of methods were, regrettably, simply “the way things are done.”  Or, in the immortal words of Bruce Hornsby and the Range, “That’s just the way it is.”  In other words, you needed to do what you needed to do in order to get your due in what everyone knows is a broken system.

Because if you think your son is suffering through what you see is a gross miscarriage of justice, and you had the position and influence to take advantage of an international law to get him moved to another country, what might you do?

If you think someone is about to get away with the rape and murder of your children because you fear his family could use their position and influence to do just that, and you have relatives who are cops, or who literally work in the office of the President of the Philippines, or who actually happens to be The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, what might you do?

The amazing thing about the film is it’s example of how virtually every person in it really does see her or himself as the hero of his or her own story.  From Paco, to the Larrañagas, to the Chiongs (the victims’ family), even down to the judge who gave these bizarre rulings and even fell asleep (yeah, you read that right) at different points during the trial.

Well, except for maybe one person.

Near the end of the film, Paco’s mother berates herself for not having allowed her son to flee the country to the US or Spain (where they have relatives) when the charges were announced, against the advice of virtually everyone around her.  That strategy isn’t so unusual, even for ostensibly innocent people: go on the lam for a bit, maybe to another province or another country, let the heat die down a bit, and let the evidence wind its way through.  But Paco’s mother refused to play that game.  She applied the reasoning that most others would apply: 35 witnesses + 1 photograph = This’ll get straightened out in a jiffy.  And because she made that bet, she continues to ask herself to this day if she was a bad mother.

When people can feel like a failure as a parent for trusting the system, it’s no wonder they think they live in a world where “some things will never change.”