Lola Gigi has died

I probably won’t be going home to attend the funeral, to pay my respects, because I haven’t been in the company long enough to be allowed 5 consecutive days’ vacation and because the financial situation is not ideal. The thought of going to Manila to be with the family occurred to me for approximately 30 minutes, but I immediately ruled it out.

It’s very sad, but especially for daddy because that was his mother.

I thought it wise to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season 2 after hearing the news of Lola Gigi’s passing because nothing takes away the sadness out of any situation more than an episode of RDR All Stars season 2 (and other seasons, too). The episode was the one where the remaining top 5 queens were reunited with their family – sister, mother, grandmother – in a challenge that required them to drag up their family to look like part of their drag family. Detox won.

The episode featured Roxxxy’s story of abandonment, Detox’s daddy issues, and Alyssa Edwards’ mother’s 1st year death anniversary. Sob stories were all over this episode.

But still, I think, no one has had it worse than the four of us who lost our mother at a very young age. My brother at 13, me at 11, and my poor sisters who were way younger. It’s probably wrong, but that’s what I would always think about every time I hear of someone’s mother’s passing. That includes Alyssa Edwards’ and my daddy’s.

We don’t have the monopoly on motherlessness, but we know that life so well having experienced it for so long. We started living that life at an age when it just isn’t right to not have a mother.

I know that nothing will ever come out of reliving a painful memory and thinking the world owes us a mother. But you can’t shake off these feelings and these awful, vivid memories when they strike you.

When I think of our life’s greatest hurt, I think about what ‘great hurt’ other people have experienced. To me, my brother, my sisters, life turned for the absolute worst on 24 June 1994, the day after my 11th birthday, when mommy passed away. People lived through horrors much worse than what we’ve been dealt with, but that is our horror and we will never stop living through it.

I need to talk about ‘Elle’

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Michele LeBlanc sweeps the floor of her pristine living room after being raped by a masked intruder. She doesn’t spend more than a few minutes thinking about the horror she just experienced. She cleans up as if nothing could be more urgent on the day of her rape than putting a few pieces of broken porcelain on the trash. She has things to do and video games to produce and launch. The emoting and the strategizing can wait.

‘Elle’ keeps you riveted from beginning, when it opens with screams of a woman being raped. After the initial shock of seeing this middle-aged woman ravaged in her own home, naturally, you’d want to know the who, the what and the why. But the film chooses to show who Michele is as a “regular”, video game company-owning bad bitch. She is a divorcee with one son (who’s gorgeous but dim), and she has complicated relationships with men.

She also has a disturbing past involving a psychopathic father and an immortalized photo of her young self that suggests she may have been an unwitting participant in her father’s slaughter of an entire neighborhood. This complicates the hunt for her violator because her history might have played a role. It could be someone from any of the families of her father’s victims. It could be Kurt, the outwardly hostile game designer in her own company, or the innocent-looking, baby-fats having Kevin who openly admires her kind of feist. You couldn’t even be faulted for thinking it might be her son because in her world, the men are as sick as they come. There really is no telling.

Michele is the kind of person who is a joy to talk about, so here I am knocking myself out. And the film agrees. Instead of lingering on her pain (is she even pained?!), the film peels off the layers of her icy exterior. When she pauses to think about her rape, it’s not an occasion to break down in tears; it’s to fantasize about smashing the face of her rapist. Then she goes on with her life.

When she tells her best friend, Anna, whose husband she’s fucking, that her specialty is handling psychos, you believe her. So you know that even without having read any spoilers, she’s going to have her face-smash moment. She wants revenge, but she doesn’t let thoughts of it consume her. But, she shops for a hammer and a pepper spray because she’s practical and cautious.

Michele is obviously twisted not just because of her past, or the things she does, but also because of the things she does with the people she surrounds herself with. When she finds out the identity of the scum who leaves cum stains on her bed, she matter-of-factly tells him she’s going to report him to the police… while riding in his car coming from a party in which she’s invited him to, days or weeks after finding out his identity, and after they’ve had another round of violent, rape-fantasy romp in the rapist’s basement, which she may or may not have consented.

Her best friend, Anna, tells her about Richard’s underwear that definitely smells of cheating. Anna is shamed to the bone for her discovery. “Shame isn’t a strong enough emotion to stop us from doing anything at all,” is Michele’s chilly response, and it’s wrong kind of right. She tells her this not to comfort her but as an FYI, because, apparently, Anna forgot the ways of the world, and Elle is just that kind of best friend that keeps you informed.

Upon realizing the problematic relationship she begins to have with her rapist, Michele appears to welcome it even more. It legitimizes the suspicion that she may possibly be a sociopath. But I can’t be sure! It’s the kind of acting that refuses to give anything away. And that’s possibly because Isabelle Huppert wasn’t ‘trying to find answers’ for the character; she ‘didn’t have the questions, even,’ and it made for an engrossing performance. You can’t take your eyes from her, not even when she’s being raped – it’s not because you’re a perv but, perhaps, because a glint in her eye could give something away and you’re afraid you’re going to miss it. Director Paul Verhoeven and Huppert just ‘let it burn all the way through.’ And the result is fire.

An Asian Appreciation of Paul Beatty’s The Sellout

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Paul Beatty’s The Sellout is a funny, clever, topical novel, and it’s easy to see why it won the Man Booker Prize (I say that as if I’m fully aware of the criteria when I’m not) and the hearts of critics. It’s so clever that I don’t think my tiny brain, the same one that enjoyed it, might not be able to explain what it’s about, although my brain knows very well that it is satirizing a reality that is completely worthy of a superb novelist’s satirizing. In this case, it’s racism in America by way of a black man bringing segregation back in the fictional, erased-off-the-map town of Dickens.

There are complaints about the supposedly obscure references in the novel, and there are indeed a handful of esoteric pop culture artifacts tossed about, but there are also a lot of highly recognizable ones. Making these references, though, lets the author drive his point across more effectively than if he were just telling the story of a poor black man who suffers slurs and discrimination in his place, in the bus on his way to work or wherever. And if a reference is obscure, it’s funny anyway mostly because of the way it’s such brilliant, funny writing.

Reading the novel is like being told jokes you’ve heard a very funny person tell that you don’t really get but laugh at anyway. There are bits about blacks-inspired software with a word processor that has font called Tumbuktu and Harlem Renaissance. Distressed black women complain about unequal treatment of angry women: “When a white bitch got problems, she’s a damsel in distress! When a black bitch got problems, she’s a welfare cheat and a burden on society… Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your weave!” It throws jabs at Mexicans, Indians, the Chinese. You don’t have to be there to get the joke is what I’m saying, I guess.

Also, no one is safe. Not Dave Eggers, not Hootie and the Blowfish, not the TV show Friends, not Madonna, not ESPN, not the authors of literary classics and the white men who chose them. It’s so clever that at certain points, I thought the author might make a meta-comment about the Caucasian book critics who are fascinated by the author’s undeniable genius, the same ones that appear on the book’s blurb pages. But nope, the author mercifully held back.

Perhaps it’s the Americans who would find this very, very funny because satire about the social reality that is racism will always be great material for comedy and they’re right in the middle of where the action is. But to Asians who might get only some of the more obvious pop culture references, the novel still comes off as hilarious because this is not the first time we find out about discrimination. It’s quite familiar to us, in fact. It also pokes fun at people who frequently use the word “plethora”.

The Sellout is a sharp and funny (it bears repeating) reminder that modern America can’t help but practice its old habits, and our minority-belonging couldn’t help but chuckle even if it’s in a satirical novel about racism in the USA, and more importantly because of this The Great Gatsby that you have to read the novel to understand the context of because I won’t explain it:

“Real talk. When I was young, dumb, and full of cum, my omnipresent, good to my mother, non-stereotypical African-American daddy dropped some knowledge on me that I been trippin’ off ever since.” 

It features funny racism satire things featuring Latinos and Asians, too. The hilariousness in that is universal, and laughing with a novel is a reading experience I will always cherish.

Books, Book-Buying, Reading, Reading Plans 2017

It is unsurprising to find out that as you grow older and less prone to delusions of youthfulness, the number of books you read gradually decreases. I used to average 35 a year, but when I moved to Bangkok, this number shrank to 19 in 2015 and 23 last year. The reason for this is obvious: it’s because I moved to Bangkok where book-buying is not that fun (anything you could think of having, you can have, which is not a thrilling way to obtain books). Here’s a fun fact: Metro Manila is where you want to be if you want to meet reading goals. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Metro Manila is ruled by forces that make commuting such a hellacious daily experience that you’re often left with no choice but to find solace in reading. Bangkok is not ruled by those forces.

The decreased number of books read could mean any of the following: other forms of entertainment enjoyed and a life well-lived outside of a book. It could mean your museums-visited or movies-seen lists have increased. In my case, though, TV took the place of reading time. After a day’s work, I usually find that the only sensible thing to do at home is watch drag queens outsmart fellow drag queens in a race to win $100,000 and a sickening supply of cosmetics.

Because of this, I’ve decided to start reading anything I lay my hands on, in my room, as long as it’s a reading material; enough with sniffing the pages and on to actually reading them. I’ll stop doing what I do which is pick up any of the David Mitchells off the shelf, softly whisper to myself, ‘I’ll read you next’ and then pick up Ciara, my phone, to check Twitter and not tweet, or tweet and decide 10 minutes later that the tweet is stupid and should be deleted.

In a way, I blame Hanya Yanagihara for last year’s short list. ‘A Little Life’ was a two-month read and it demanded all the attention I could give a novel, which made reading another novel seem impractical. I blame Jude. But if you can find the time to read it, I highly recommend it.

I’ve only read 21 books in 2016 despite having many off periods – periods when big novels could have reasonably been accommodated. During one of these periods, I dived into Anne Rice’s ‘Prince Lestat’ and expected it to be a quickish read, but its character-dumping prevented me from finishing fast. I heard the sequel is even more insane and more infuriating, if the GoodReads reviewers are to be trusted (they are not to be trusted). I can’t wait.

I might read even fewer books this year and that would be alright. Maybe that won’t be alright. To read as much as I can used to be such a powerful goal of mine. It’s not anymore. Life feels shorter and shorter each reading year. For me, in my life, that means no more Guillermo Del Toro vampire novels.

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When Anne Rice announced on Facebook sometime in 2013-14 that Lestat was talking to her again, we the Peoples of the Page went into raptures because we like Lestat, and we like it very much when Lestat takes over her Facebook page. Lestat of course chooses Facebook because in social media, he writes novellas, not status updates. Status updates are for mortals like Anne Rice.

In 2014, Chronicle #11 was released, almost a decade after Anne swore off writing about the Vampire Chronicles vampires again. But here we are, back in the ‘savage garden’, thanks to Lestat’s refusal to not ever be in the spotlight. Anyone who has read at least 1 or 11 Vampire Chronicles knows one undeniable fact: A brat gets what a brat wants.

In Prince Lestat she readies the world for this new era where vampires have inhabited the world in their own terms; that means no more silly Ten Commandments-style rules (see: The Vampire Armand). She offers an explanation for what has happened thus far and a mini-reference guide to vampire jargon. The way to let everyone in to this new vampire, it seems, is to over-explain. This goes well with Lestat’s newfound swagger of being current and his intention to leave the doors to the vampire world wide open.

Despite his preference for fashion that kids today would find daffy, Lestat is nothing but open to new experiences. Such experiences include using an iPhone, emailing, listening to podcasts, becoming a baby daddy, and leading a pack of bloodsuckers whose combined strength, knowledge, and mind and fire gifts could not hold a candle to his magnetism, impulsiveness, and questionable but indispensable leadership. There is not a thing in Prince Lestat that I find hard to believe.

There is also a sense of vampires having become citizens of the world, peacefully coexisting with humans who still believe them to be a figment of their fevered imagination (despite Benji’s very convincing vampire broadcasts). Humans who drop dead in alleys are still believed to be victims of cardiac arrest rather than of vampires’ insatiable appetite. The world is at peace where the undead are alive and well but staying low-key.

But all is truly not well in the vampire world. A capital M mysterious voice is sowing fear in the non-beating hearts of immortals, and to calm their inactive nerves they summon the one immortal who can save them from themselves. “The Voice” is whispering to vampire ears everywhere – and they are not sweet nothings – with the weak ones falling prey to the seemingly motiveless voice that admonishes mass murder among their kind. Because the book is not called ‘Prince Louis’ or ‘King Armand’, it’s the brat prince himself who takes over vampires-saving duties. Whether he would do so competently is open to discussion.

Anne Rice wasn’t going to return to The Vampire Chronicles half-heartedly. Here, she brings every character that has ever appeared in all 10 books and their ghosts. Quinn Blackwood, Merrick, and the Mayfairs were, sadly, no-shows.

As with any book from TVC, Prince Lestat was not spared some biting criticisms, one of which is the inclusion of characters that don’t serve any purpose but to prolong the vampiric conversations. As a person of the page, ie, long-time reader/Lestat groupie, I expect these supposed failings, but I can’t say that I enjoyed reading about vampires sit around describing each other’s extraordinary beauty. I already know that Louis, Armand, Jesse, David, et al beat the entire vampire and human race in beauty, thanks Ms. Anne.

Another gripe against Prince Lestat is its wordiness – as if a Vampire Chronicle devoted to the magnificence of Lestat would be made in less than 200 pages? The prose is as indulgent as it has ever been, and I myself find this supposed crime indefensible. The thing is, this isn’t Anne Rice’s first, second or 22nd book. If you’ve read the entire Chronicles and everything else in her bibliography, then this is something you could smell from a mile away. If you want taut and quick-paced, re-read The Tale of the Body Thief. No sane reader of TVC, new or old, should pick up an Anne Rice novel and expect littleness, whether in theme, scope, or characterization.

The thrill I got from reading Lestat, though, came mostly from the meta-commentaries on the author’s previous work, specifically the ‘deep current psychological observation that united these works’. Also thrilling is vampires dabbling into science. It’s amazing they haven’t tried going into space to become the greatest astronauts the earth has ever known. One thing that stood out, in the worst possible way was the prince’s sudden change of heart for The Voice. I’m not spoiling anything by saying that the way he embraces it after everything is such silly bullshit. Everyone knows Lestat is a brat and he’ll do and love as he pleases, but that sudden change of heart made the lead-up to the semi-thrilling confrontation seem inconsequential.

Unlike other readers who feel personally betrayed by Lestat’s lunatic decisions (actual responsible person: Lestat’s ghost author Anne Rice) who swear off reading any more future vampire tales, I’ll stay hooked. With this renewed interest in Lestat, there will be no end in sight for vampires and their vivid, hyper-indulgent chronicles. They may be using iPhones now, but they’re still the same old brood of blood-hungry beauties who like to sleep in the dirt. Like the series they belong to, they know their place in the world and they’ll live in it as they please.

How to Trick Your Single Man Self into Saving Money

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The life of a single man is filled with hardships. It is a life that refuses to recognize satiation. Faced with such hardship, how must a single man cope?

It’s simple – pretend you’re the father of four. Adopt the mindset of a daddy. Pretend to have fathered not one but four precious children. They may not all actually be precious, but as your children they must believe they are.

Essential to this pretense is ridding yourself of fatherly pleasures – drinks at a bar, Cuban cigars, fine wines, and other daddy pleasures you could think of. As a father of four, these pleasures ought to be banished from your mind and have, in its place, the children’s food, clothing and tuition that you will pretend you’re paying for all by yourself because your wife left you for another woman. Rid of all these, you’re on your way to having the fattest single man savings account.

Also essential to this is having a stable job, and also discipline and a powerful imagination. You may be pretending to be a father but you should never not want nothing. But since you are, in fact, a thirty-something single man, you have no trouble imagining what it’s like to be a father of four. It’s just the sort of thing you that consumes you, having no children to kiss goodnight, which is not as sad as it sounds.

You could give yourself a vice or two so that the father you imagine yourself to be isn’t someone who’s living in total unlivability, which could render the fantasy overwhelmingly horror-filled. The vice could be a gym membership (tell your self that the kids will benefit from having a fit dad), books (you want your kids to be readers), or dolls – but just one.

First of all, your kids should not be toddlers. You are not supposed to be a happy father who had just experienced the joys of fatherhood, but, rather, the hooys! of fatherhood. You should be experiencing the kind of fatherhood that involves lots of shouting and, when the children are all full-grown (no one below 16), actual shouting matches that embarrass the next door neighbors whose thin walls are especially built to hear you. What you should be is a father who is so bitter at having forsaken cigars and brandies over having to raise four precious kiddies. You’re a father who knows real resentment. Be the daddy who doesn’t take kindly to people using the word ‘resentment’ lightly.

Your eldest first child is an artistic child who doesn’t really have artistic tendencies. There will be some bursts of creativity in this child but it will soon be suppressed by the slow but eventual gravitation towards a life of artlessness. First-borns are either destined for greatness or become the family’s greatest downfall. The details shouldn’t have to matter because your first-born is, by default, a big deal. This is the child for which plenty of your resources should have been spent. It is the child for which you had to sell your collection of belt buckles because the first child had to have piano lessons and attend a ‘basketball clinic’. The first child must have had some daffy lessons taught him so that he could become a prodigy. This child grows up becoming the kind of child who adores the song, ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ by Prodigy, which is not at all a sign of downfall.

The second child raised a true and alarming sense of panic. It’s the child that, at first, you can’t believe has happened… but did.

The third and fourth child do not grow up to be interesting teens, much less, adults. They have interests, sure, but giving them quirks or personalities won’t be necessary; they only need to exist. Just having two more children when having two mouths to feed has already proven to be an insurmountable commitment, not to mention, an awful of lot of people to send to college. Your actually single self shouldn’t have to comprehend the complexities of this scary scenario, but imagine the savings if you commit to this fantasy!

Then, you can go back to your single self, heave a sigh of relief that you’re the father of no one, with a savings account that needs work but which doesn’t have to be spent on milk and tuition unless it’s you who need them.

Create Your Own Adventure in Taipei

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You are not guaranteed to have an interesting time when you visit Taipei. Your plane will arrive on time, a pleasant-looking, English-speaking guard will help you use the bus ticket vending machine, and the bus you will hop on to will have extremely comfortable seats where you will view Taoyuan’s gloomy cityscape. You will feel like pressing play on your iPod’s baby-making playlist because the weather demands it. Whitney Houston’s ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go’ might seem like a divine idea but Alicia Keys’s ‘You Don’t Know My Name’ will be a more inspired choice.

It will be cold but not oppressively so. You will be surrounded by attractive couples snuggling up to each other because there’s no reason why they shouldn’t.

It will be an uneventful hour-long ride from the airport to the main city, but you can make it more interesting when you get off at Taipei Main Station where you will wait for a cab, which is a great place to start a scene. In the waiting area you will notice that some people will have the same idea of spicing up their Taipei stay. A Caucasian male could turn up out of nowhere and steal your cab, and then get upset when the cab inches forward because the cabbie realizes he’s blocking traffic. There is just the slightest possibility that said male will be doing this not out of a sense of entitlement, but due to an encounter that no one but himself knows about, unless he decides to let everyone know what an awful time he had just had involving a flight attendant and an accidentally spilled coffee. For two minutes, you will be fascinated by his outrage, but you will see the next cab ready to take you and you will forget about this upset male.

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You can make your first cab ride special neglecting to look up or remember the address of your hotel and behaving like a clueless tourist who opens himself up to victimization. If this happens, spend some time later in bed to thank Jesus and Jesus’s Daddy the Taiwanese are not the scamming kind. Taiwanese cab drivers have smartphones and they will look up your hotel’s address and might not show any sign of annoyance. They expect this sort of behavior and they have the decency to not let your carelessness affect their aura of professionalism.

While the cab driver checks her phone for your hotel’s location, you shall not utter a word because doing so will be fruitless as she does not speak English and anything you say will just be noise, an unwanted series of blubbering sounds that will drown out the Taiwanese pop on the radio that sounds so much more pleasant than your gibberish. You will spend the next 15 minutes marveling at your capacity for touristy neglect. It might not make for a great conversation fodder but, sometimes, a forgotten-hotel-address story is all you can ever have. You should not have nothing.

At a busy time as New Year’s Eve, all hotels and motels will put up a “No Vacancy” sign and will be unwilling to take latecomers. This is yet another opportunity to create some excitement. Four-star hotels will always be willing to make room for you, but why choose comfort when you can book an equally expensive hotel with a spectacular view of corrugated tin roofs?

Your idea of Taiwanese food will consist of noodles and good chicken but these will be hard to find when you get to a district like Zongshan where you will realize that there are more Japanese, Korean, McDonalds and KFCs lined up in the streets than noodle houses and colorful and probably filthy, flavorful, filling street food. You could settle for a random restaurant that serves a youthful clientele and proffers self-serve beer and rice stations. Choose a restaurant that, in place of a proper menu, offers “expert meal suggestions”, which you might have to brace yourself for weirdness, but could end up raving about the rest of the night. This could turn out to be the best-tasting meal you will ever have for the duration of your stay, but you will want some sort of self-torment, with the encouragement of willing companions, by not going to the same place and trying other food.

Due to a sense of adventure, you will find yourself sipping ‘Honey Black Tea’ that will taste like sewage. When you describe this beverage as ‘equal to sewer water in taste’, it will not only be because you’re obnoxious. Your companions might not know that your intentions are pure by warning them about this sewage-tasting tea.

You will wise up and choose a pizza place for your next meal and this place will wipe your sewage-sipping tasting tears away with their excellent-tasting peach iced tea (with real, live peaches) freshly picked from the rooftop peachyard.

Bars will be open until late and the bartender will serve you the warmth of a scotch and a conversation. You will feel like abusing this warmth because it will get cold very fast. There will be trips to memorial halls, night markets and Chinese temples, but you might want to experience, more than anything, the 24-hour bookstore. In Eslite Bookstore, you will see a bunch of college guys sleeping and who doesn’t like the sight of that?

It will take all of your willpower not to snuggle up next to the sleeping dudes who wisely pick the Architecture & Design section as their dozing area. The feeling this bookstore incites in a person is similar to the feeling incited by viral TV commercials where a young person grows up to be a doctor because when he was 9, a stranger gave his sick father soup because the boy and his father are dirt poor. I’m not sure how that relates to the boys sleeping in the bookstore but both scenarios are warm and inviting. All I know is, that is how a bookstore should be.