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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

entry arrow12:38 AM | The Introverted Nightmare of Darren Aronofsky

Years ago, when I was a little kid, the children of the neighborhood would troop over to my house, knock on the door, and ask my mother if I could come out to play. She'd go to my bedroom where I'd be curled up with a good book, and she'd say, "Your friends are here." My heart would sink, and I'd dig deeper within the intimate comforts of my bed and tell her: "Tell them I'm not home."

This is to say Darren Aronofsky's mind-fuck of a movie, mother! (2017), was made for me, and for all the agoraphobic, introverted people out there. It's an in-your-face, what-the-hell-is-going-on film that will be remembered in the years to come, the way the divisive enigmas of Repulsion, Last Year in Marienbad, and L'Avventura have been remembered. [Awards Daily has an excellent article on the film and the lost feel for cinematic art.] It's message: hell is other people. Don't watch it: it's probably not for you.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

entry arrow5:01 AM | Ian and Kia Tell Dirty Stories

My latest short story collection, DON'T TELL ANYONE: LITERARY SMUT, co-authored with Shakira Andrea Sison, is now out from Anvil Publishing, under its new imprint Pride Press, and should be in National Bookstore soon. Below is the inside cover, featuring the enigmatically hidden face of Albert Saspa, of Hanging Out fame.

And just a little warning: the book's very sexually graphic.

Here's Esquire Philippines' Kristine Fonacier blurb for it: "Smart is sexy. Faced with a collection that calls itself 'literary smut,' it's a real pleasure to be reminded just how true that can be. We're lucky to have arrived at a time when both the realities and our imaginations of sex are being challenged every day, and this collection of stories—with its varied viewpoints, tones, textures—does its part in pushing boundaries and buttons. But is it hot? The reader might ask. This book turns on that most primal of sex organs—the brain. And then it turns on everything else."

Order online!

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

entry arrow9:27 PM | A Checklist for Dummies

Let me keep this simple. I have questions, and you can answer “yes” or “no.”

Do you believe in the right to marriage and family?

Do you believe in the right to own property?

Do you believe in the freedom of belief and religion?

Do you believe in the freedom of opinion and information?

Do you believe in the right to rest and leisure?

Do you believe in the right to adequate living standard?

Do you believe in the right to education?

Do you believe in the right to participate in the cultural life of community?

Do you believe in community duties essential to free and full development?

Do you believe in the right to social security?

Do you believe that everyone has the right to equality, and enjoy freedom from discrimination?

Do you believe in the right to life, liberty, and personal security?

Do you believe in freedom from slavery?

Do you believe in freedom from torture and degrading treatment?

Do you believe in the right to recognition as a person before the law, ad the right to equality before it? Equally, do you believe in the right to remedy by competent tribunal, the right to fair public hearing, and the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty?

Do you believe in the freedom from arbitrary arrest and exile?

Do you believe in the freedom from interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence?

Do you believe in the right to free movement in and out of the country?

Do you believe in the right to asylum in other countries from persecution?

Do you believe in the right to a nationality and the freedom to change it?

Do you believe in the right of peaceful assembly and association?

Do you believe in the right to participate in government and in free elections?

Do you believe in the right to desirable work and to join trade unions?

Do you believe in the right to a social order that articulates all these rights? And consequently, do you believe in the freedom from the state or personal interference in these rights?

I don’t think anyone in his right minds would say “no” to any of these. These are fundamental rights that govern what it means to be a freedom-loving human being in the world. Hence, they are called “human rights,” here presented as an exhaustive list of imperatives arrived at by socially conscious individuals in history, taking note of what has ailed and challenged humanity in the course of its existence.

That one has to articulate them like this, in a list for dummies, speaks darkly of our age which has become a time steeped in gross misinformation.

Save for the lone voice out of the First District, our congressmen from Negros Oriental—in voting to give the Commission on Human Rights a one-thousand-peso operating budge—have articulated they do not care at all about any of these.

They might as well be shouting “no” to each of the questions above.

“Do you believe in freedom from slavery?” No!

“Do you believe in the right to education?” No!

“Do you believe in freedom from torture and degrading treatment?” No!

If you think about it, the import of their vote is chilling.

But they only voted to toe the party line, they said by way of explaining their votes. Which makes me wonder about their political designation and role. Are they “representatives” of the people, their constituents? Or are they “representatives” of the age-old “trapo” politics that have continued to bedevil us as a nation?

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Friday, September 15, 2017

entry arrow3:20 PM | Back to Normal

Today is my first full normal day. It has been two weeks since I fell sick [although I did get back to teaching late Friday last week]. The coughing is not so intense anymore, and the energy is back. I promptly did all my banking and other chores today, just to get life back on track. I have yet to fully recover my appetite, but at least the idea of food does not repel me anymore. I must have lost weight -- three people yesterday told me so in the course of the day, which actually worried me. But apparently I'm not the only one. At least four other teachers at the English Department and assorted friends got struck by this weird, flu-like bug, which just came out of the blue and rendered all of us immobile, narcoleptic, and in pain. But today at last feels normal.


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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

entry arrow11:08 PM | 50 Greatest Films of All Time

I just completed BBC Culture's comedy list, and I needed a new film-list challenge, so I went to the mothership of film lists, Sight and Sound Magazine's 50 Greatest Films of All Time list, the authoritative once-a-decade listing, which they last held in 2012.

As of September 5: 37 out of 52. Not good.

☑   1. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
☑   2. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
☑   3. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)
☑   4. La Règle du Jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939)
☑   5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F.W. Murnau, 1927)
☑   6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
☑   7. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
☑   8. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
☐   9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Dreyer, 1927)
☐ 10. 8½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)
☑ 11. The Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)
☑ 12. L’Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934)
☐ 13. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
☑ 14. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
☑ 15. Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu, 1949)
☐ 16. Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
☑ 17. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
☐ 17. Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
☐ 19. Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974)
☑ 20. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1951)
☑ 21. L’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)
☐ 21. Le Mépris (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
☑ 21. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
☐ 24. Ordet (Carl Dreyer, 1955)
☑ 24. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
☑ 26. Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
☐ 26. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)
☑ 28. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)
☐ 29. Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
☐ 29. Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985)
☑ 31. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
☑ 31. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
☑ 33. Bicycle Thieves (Vittoria De Sica, 1948)
☑ 34. The General (Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman, 1926)
☑ 35. Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)
☑ 35. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
☑ 35. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
☐ 35. Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)
☑ 39. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959)
☐ 39. La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
☑ 41. Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)
☑ 42. Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955)
☑ 42. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
☐ 42. Gertrud (Carl Dreyer, 1964)
☐ 42. Pierrot le Fou (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
☑ 42. Play Time (Jacques Tati, 1967)
☑ 42. Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)
☑ 48. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
☑ 48. Histoire(s) du Cinéma (Jean-Luc Godard, 1998)
☑ 50. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
☑ 50. Ugetsu Monogatari (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)
☑ 50. La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962)

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Sunday, September 03, 2017

entry arrow8:30 AM | Literary Archaeology

Heritage work, above all things, is a fight against forgetting, and often it is a battle with formidable odds.

I have no idea what propels anyone to undertake a project as thankless and as often infuriating as heritage work—but they are out there, all of them tireless in the fight against cultural amnesia.

What drove, for example, Priscilla Magdamo to go all over the Visayas and Mindanao in the 1960s to collect folk songs that were slowly disappearing from the mainstream culture? What motivated Elena Maquiso to go to the mountains of Northern Mindanao in the 1980s to record the aging singers of the Ulahingan, or Salvador Vista to collect sugilanons from all over Negros? What inspired Ronnie Mirabuena to look for unarchived folk dances springing from Negros Oriental, or Jutze Pamate to recover and reappraise the paintings of Dumaguete portraitist Jose Laspinas? What compels Earl Jude Cleope at present to go around the Philippines to do extensive cultural mapping of far-flung islands in the archipelago?

The reason could be just singular spark and passion springing from the particular discipline each of them found themselves undertaking. I think each of them came to a point in the immersion in their fields where they finally ventured a crucial, existential question: I am perfectly aware of Western traditions, but what about the culture of where I come from? For many who arrive at this query, the immediate answer is often startling and horrible: no one knows. The bleak void of that realization often pushes those with initiative, or those who are naïve enough to not realize the quixotic nature of the possible quest, to try to find more concrete answers.

The ones who prevail become our cultural heroes.

I’ve mentioned heritage efforts in dance and music and visual arts. Let me discuss literature. A few short years ago, a team from the Commission on Higher Education came to Silliman University to evaluate the possibility of the Literature and Creative Writing Program of the Department of English and Literature be considered for the distinction of becoming a Center of Excellence or a Center of Development.

It wasn’t a bad idea. The program, after all, has produced many luminaries that have come to be giants in Philippine literature. It gave the first creative writing degree in graduate studies in the country. And through the Creative Writing Center, it currently administers the Silliman University National Writers Workshop, the oldest in Asia and the most prestigious in this part of the world. Our department chair then must have thought: what’s the harm in trying? So the department applied for the COE distinction.

The team from CHED—consisting of scholars and writers from various institutions from all over the country—was vigorous in their interviews and in their examination of our local academic holdings and programs. And we did try our best to present a good face, a good exhibit, and a good track record—but we did not get the distinction.

One of the reasons given by the evaluators was that, while we had a rich history of literature and creative writing, the department simply did not have a good program to archive and examine critically that history. We have fantastic local fictionists, poets, and dramatists, but our research was still geared towards the likes of Nick Joaquin and other so-called canonical writers, mostly from Manila. We have not archived the papers of our local writers and scholars. And we have not been publishing books and research that would put a spotlight on local literature. We were simply not interested to examine local literature—or so it seemed.

A comparison was made of the Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos, which runs various programs that not only archive and study the Cebuano language, but also its writers, its culture, its history, its scholars. Their archives are legendary, and their efforts at literary heritage work is all-encompassing. I found it ironic ultimately that the founder of the Cebuano Studies Center is the great fictionist and historian Resil Mojares, a Silliman alumnus, and his successor was poet Erlinda Alburo, another Silliman alumnus.

The whole episode with CHED made me think about certain things about local literary heritage work. First, I realized that only a handful of literary scholars and academics have written short histories and cultural studies of the Silliman University National Writers Workshop and the literary culture of Dumaguete’s premiere university.

Second, going beyond Silliman, scholarship that attempts at a definitive history of the literature or the literary culture found in Negros Oriental has been absent or scarce, often relegated to obscure academic journals and disappearing literary folios, because unarchived. Who are the literary artists from Bindoy and Basay, from Tayasan and Tanjay? What literary developments have occurred in our slice of the island?

Third, Oriental Negrense literature written in the predominant Cebuano language has largely disappeared as a driving force in local literary culture—or at least invisible because it is vastly unstudied, uncollected.

Fourth, save for the occasional efforts of the editors of the literary folio Sands and Coral, there really has been no major attempt at anthologizing the literary outputs of significant writers to come out of the province or Dumaguete.

And fifth, there have been no serious attempts at preserving the contributions or the memory of these writers, marking a conspicuous absence in an otherwise very literary city. This point makes me think of two specific Silliman writers. Who remembers Ephraim Bejar, and where are his socially provocative plays that took aims at a dictator? Who remembers Jose V. Montebon and what has happened to his fiction? At least the poems of Artemio Tadena are back in circulation, compiled and edited b Gemino H. Abad and Myrna Pena-Reyes into a handsome volume titled This Craft, As With a Woman Loved, published in 2016 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House.

The whole thing begs to be a kind of literary archaeology—digging up a heritage that is truly in danger of fading away. Some of us at the English and Literature Department—notably Lady Flor Partosa and Alana Narciso—have embarked on what we are trying to call the “Silliman Writers Project,” just to meet some of these challenges. The efforts are still inchoate, but at least we are beginning it.

At the main library, for example, we have combed the stacks and made a list of what books by local authors it currently has in its collections, and what it does not have—and the latter is quite considerable.

We have done an initial compilation of works by major Silliman writers, a process that took two years, and have housed the bound volumes in a new special cabinet, which should also soon house the volumes of books by local authors, as well as the archive of their papers.

Most of all, we are starting the publication of books. Young campus writers, especially those from the literature and creative writing program, are encouraged to put out their literary efforts through a book series called the Silliman Campus Writers Series. There are now short story collections and children’s books by Mike Gomez, Cahlia Enero, Veronica Vega, Beryl Delicana, and others.

And for the major writers who came before, there is a book series called the Silliman Writers Series, and the first one from that series is the collection of short fiction by the late award-winning writer Jose V. Montebon Jr., edited by me, titled Cupful of Anger, Bottle Full of Smoke, which we launched last August 26.

What’s next?

Perhaps the poetry of philosopher Claro Ceniza. Perhaps an anthology of plays by Roberto Pontenila, Lemuel Torrevillas, Bobby Flores Villasis, Leoncio Deriada, Elsa Martinez Coscolluela, Amiel Leonardia, Ephraim Bejar, and other Dumaguete dramatists. Perhaps an anthology of Binisaya literature from Negros Oriental. Perhaps a reissue, with English translation, of Elena Maquiso’s Mga Sugilanon sa Negros, of which only one copy remains in the library. Perhaps a collection of Spanish literature from Silliman. Perhaps a collection of Filipino literature from Silliman, including the poems of Leonilda Magdamo.

There’s so much to do, but in the name of the fight against forgetting, we go on with this literary archaeology.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

entry arrow8:53 PM | I'm Going to Work on This Dream Starting Today. No More Pipe Dreams.


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Monday, August 28, 2017

entry arrow5:18 PM | Funny Movies

BBC Culture polled 253 film critics from 52 countries to determine the funniest films ever made. Below are the films that made the Top 100 cut [listed from No. 100 to No. 1]. These are the ones I've seen thus far: 101 out of 101. It took a few days to finish them all, but I'm done!

☑ The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1982) [tie]
☑ The Ladies Man (Jerry Lewis, 1961) [tie]
☑ The Jerk (Carl Reiner, 1979)
☑ The Hangover (Todd Phillips, 2009)
☑ The Music Box (James Parrott, 1932)
☑ Born Yesterday (George Cukor, 1950)
☑ Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984)
☑ Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
☑ South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Trey Parker, 1999)
☑ The Exterminating Angel (Luis Buñuel, 1962)
☑ What's Up, Doc? (Peter Bogdanovich, 1972)
☑ A New Leaf (Elaine May, 1971)
☑ Daisies (Vera Chytilová, 1966)
☑ Zoolander (Ben Stiller, 2001)
☑ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953)
☑ Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949)
☑ Amarcord (Federico Fellini, 1973)
☑ Waiting for Guffman (Christopher Guest, 1996)
☑ Safety Last! (Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, 1923)
☑ Top Secret! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, 1984)
☑ There's Something About Mary (Bobby and Peter Farrelly, 1998)
☑ Office Space (Mike Judge, 1999)
☑ The Dinner Game (Francis Veber, 1998)
☑ The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987)
☑ Divorce, Italian Style (Pietro Germi, 1961)
☑ Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch, 1933)
☑ The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges, 1942)
☑ Trading Places (John Landis, 1983)
☑ The Nutty Professor (Jerry Lewis, 1963)
☑ The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (David Zucker, 1988)
☑ The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
☑ In the Loop (Armando Iannucci, 2009)
☑ Love and Death (Woody Allen, 1975)
☑ Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch, 1939)
☑ Sons of the Desert (William A. Seiter, 1933)
☑ Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)
☑ Caddyshack (Harold Ramis, 1980)
☑ Step Brothers (Adam McKay, 2008)
☑ Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944)
☑ What We Do in the Shadows (Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, 2014)
☑ Team America: World Police (Trey Parker, 2004)
☑ Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)
☑ Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
☑ Zelig (Woody Allen, 1983)
☑ Mean Girls (Mark Waters, 2004)
☑ Broadcast News (James L. Brooks, 1987)
☑ Best in Show (Christopher Guest, 2000)
☑ Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971)
☑ The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980)
☑ My Man Godfrey (Gregory La Cava, 1936)
☑ Seven Chances (Buster Keaton, 1925)
☑ Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Pedro Almodóvar, 1988)
☑ The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Buñuel, 1972)
☑ Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932)
☑ Animal House (John Landis, 1978)
☑ Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
☑ Big Deal on Madonna Street (Mario Monicelli, 1958)
☑ Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)
☑ M*A*S*H (Robert Altman, 1970)
☑ The Awful Truth (Leo McCarey, 1937)
☑ Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
☑ The Producers (Mel Brooks, 1967)
☑ A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood and Edmund Goulding, 1935)
☑ The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940)
☑ Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges, 1941)
☑ A Fish Called Wanda (Charles Crichton and John Cleese, 1988)
☑ Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
☑ Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995)
☑ Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2004)
☑ Raising Arizona (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1987)
☑ Tootsie (Sydney Pollack, 1982)
☑ Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (Jacques Tati, 1953)
☑ When Harry Met Sally... (Rob Reiner, 1989)
☑ It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934)
☑ The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
☑ Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958)
☑ The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)
☑ Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)
☑ The Party (Blake Edwards, 1968)
☑ Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974)
☑ City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
☑ Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974)
☑ The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
☑ Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924)
☑ Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
☑ The Great Dictator (Charlie Chaplin, 1940)
☑ Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, 1975)
☑ His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
☑ To Be or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)
☑ Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)
☑ The Big Lebowski (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1998)
☑ The General (Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton, 1926)
☑ This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)
☑ Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
☑ Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, 1980)
☑ Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)
☑ Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)
☑ Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
☑ Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
☑ Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
☑ Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

entry arrow5:33 PM | Notes From a Saturday

7:00 AM

I had no idea the Pamahaw Sillimaniana would be one crazy, noisy breakfast party. This is only my second Pamahaw in my history of doing Founders Week. The first one I attended was years ago, and it was held in the intimacy of the University House. Karon, gi-dagsa jud ug alumni.

8:30 AM

When I have important events and to-do's scheduled early in the morning, I turn into a cocktail of anxiety the night before, worrying that I might not wake up in time, worrying that I wouldn't hear the alarm ring. (I've been known to sleep soundly through the shrillest of alarm clocks.) So I often just don't go to sleep, slogging my way through the night until it's time to go and meet my appointment. What else to do? Today, I had a book launch at 7 AM. It's over now, and thanks to everyone who came! It's 8:30 AM, and so now I go to sleep. See you in the afternoon, Dumaguete.

This book started out as Marion Montebon-Dans' final project for my Philippine literature class about ten years ago. I told her, "Mar, why don't you collect your Lolo Joe's short stories?" Her eyes turned wide, and she replied: "My lolo was a writer?" Oh yes he was. People know him as a lawyer and politician, but once upon a time, in the 1950s and 1960s, he was an award-winning writer. That school project became this book, Cupful of Anger, Bottle Full of Smoke: The Stories of Jose V. Montebon Jr., which we launched today. It took a while, but here it is: a book of literary archaeology, saving from obscurity one Dumaguete writer. [And yes, Marion got a 4.0.]

5:30 PM

I can finally stir awake after a sleepless night, an early morning book launch, and a day of sleep. Now hungry.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

entry arrow2:28 AM | A Sobering Reminder

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so..."

~ Peter O'Toole as Anton Ego in Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava's Ratatouille (2007)

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entry arrow2:21 AM | A Poet and His Manic Muse

Of course 100 Tula Para Kay Stella easily reminds one of (500) Days of Summer, from which it borrows many conceits -- although to detail them now could entail spoilage, so never mind that. But whereas Marc Webb's film was a romantic fantasy that limned lightness, Jason Paul Laxamana takes his film down surprising darker paths, finally subverting in crucial ways the romantic comedy mold it purports to embody. It's not a perfect film but I like it very much: every aesthetic choice Laxamana makes here seems inspired, from the spot-on casting [JC Santos and Bella Padilla bring charm and groundedness to their roles as stuttering poet and lost soul rocker] to happily imploding the cinematic myth of the manic pixie dream girl, from precise cinematographic and editing choices to giving a dexterous story that encompasses years and yet never losing the narrative line in the complicated unfolding. The poems are a little too Lang Leav for me, but that's a minor thing. We've seen Jason do wonders before in Babagwa and Mercury is Mine, but it is in this film where he comes to his full powers as director.

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entry arrow2:18 AM | Failed the Bar

It is Fame for law students, minus the sophomore and junior years, and it is excisions like this, among others, which make Kip Oebanda's Bar Boys a failure in structure. Contrary to how it is marketed, for example, there are only three "bar boys" instead of four, Kean Cipriano's character quickly being relegated to the wayside as the barkada who couldn't make the cut in the law school entrance exam. [Not a spoiler.] In a story that purports to be an examination of friendship braving the wild storms of law school, keeping him in the mix would have been vital to the storyline. Instead it makes other narrative choices that constantly fall flat while embracing the hoary subplots of bad teleseryes. Too bad, because the premise of following the lives of law students actually sounds interesting -- but the film only demonstrates a sophomoric effort that does try its best, but fails the cinematic bar nonetheless. That heart attack scene is contrived, overlong, and cruel. And that final scene in the Supreme Court? An embarrassment.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

entry arrow2:31 PM | Fools

I was just asked why I fling myself into passion projects that often consume all of me. [The old Survey of Philippine Literature website, the Handulantaw book, the Celebrations anthology, the staging of In My Father's House, the current Buglas Writers Project archive, the current heritage work for the city...]

Honestly, at the back of my head, the practical part of me constantly admonishes me: "Don't do it, Ian. You have no idea what you are jumping right into."

Many times I don't listen to it. It's foolish, I know, AND exhausting, but oh well. I remember Oro Plata Mata director Peque Gallaga once attesting that his 1982 film was the work of fools who didn’t know any better: "Had we known what we were in for when we started, we probably wouldn’t have bothered at all, let alone see it through." Thank God, they were foolish. Oro Plata Mata remains 35 years later gutsy filmmaking of the highest order.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

entry arrow4:48 PM | Life Without the Lag

Fast wifi indeed calms the nerves. Honestly, there was one Saturday not too long ago where I spent the better part of five hours going from one place to the next to find good wifi, and only managed to do one -- ONE -- serviceable piece of work in that time. What I know would normally take me 10 seconds to accomplish I could only do so in 15 excruciating minutes. The whole thing just got to my nerves, and I had to pause and wonder: "The things I could do with a PROPER office and GOOD wifi." Today, I was able to send several work files over FB Messenger in one go. I used to do that file by file, in the span of an hour. Moral: if you want good productivity, invest in your people and their work place.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

entry arrow10:26 PM | Hesus May Be Dead, But the Film is Very Much Alive!

Quick post-screening recommendation for Victor Kaiba Villanueva's Patay Na Si Hesus: Watch it like your life depends on it.

It is uproariously funny, but its drama also cuts deep. It will affirm your love for Filipino film, and it will make you believe Bisaya filmmaking has become a formidable force. The audience I saw it with tonight hooted and laughed -- and by God, there's nothing like the nuances of Cebuano to really relish every line-reading. Spread the word when the film opens for a regular run in Rob on August 16 for the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino!

You will thank the cinema gods you caught this gem of a film.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

entry arrow5:53 PM | Jolts of Joy

Going around town doing chores and to-do's today, mostly small things I couldn't exactly fit into my daily schedule and have to make space for. What amazed me is the surging joy I felt having found and purchased exactly the right kind of coin purse I've been looking for. A coin purse. As source of happiness. Amazing.

You know what's also amazing? Finding out that you did something for a friend that gave him a jolt of joy he badly needed. "Thank you," he texted me. "I'm in a cab and in tears." Awwww.


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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

entry arrow10:23 PM | The End of a Long Day

What is the end of a long day? A catch in your voice that betrays the long hours already survived, and knowing it is a cycle. A sigh of relief when 7 o'clock comes, and the evening is suddenly spread before you like a buffet of possibilities -- and a sigh of dejection when you realize the night is in fact short. A wonderment bubbling in your head that asks, "Where did my youth go? My spontaneity?" The end of a long day is a dream of drinking red wine without the repercussions. The end of a long day is to dream of Friday night. The end of a long day is to spy your notebook of to-do's and dream of exorcism. The end of a long day is thanking the universe for survival, and hoping in the end all these is worth something.


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entry arrow12:27 AM | Fascism in Living Color!

Word has it that Mike de Leon's Batch '81 (1982) -- his searing look into the world of fascism and fraternities -- has been restored by Italy's L’Immagine Ritrovata and Singapore's Asian Film Archive, and is currently scheduled for screening as part of the Venice Classics section of the coming 74th Venice International Film Festival. It will be presented in an lineup that includes Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 (1976), Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert (1964), Milos Forman’s Black Peter (1963), Claude Chabrol’s The Third Lover (1962), Jean-Luc Godard’s Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967), and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

Read more here.

I'm quite happy that a significant number of our film classics are being restored. It's quite a boon to be able to teach/show these restored films in classes and screenings without straining people's imaginations to make them somehow "see" what made them great in the first place. You don't have to explain too much anymore these days: they see the full glory of the restored images and sound, and they respond with enthusiasm. Talk about finding new audiences!

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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

entry arrow8:23 AM | "Later."

Finally, the poster and the trailer for the film adaptation of one of my favorite books has dropped. (Must temper expectations, but it's so hard...). But here's a look Call Me By Your Name, the film adaptation of André Aciman's novel, directed by Luca Guadagnino, written by James Ivory, cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, edited by Walter Fasano, and starring Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, and Michael Stuhlbarg, with music by Sufjan Stevens.

Both look delicious and promising, but must temper expectations!

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

entry arrow9:12 AM | Photo Broken

This blog has been in existence since 2002, and throughout most of its existence, it has always used Photobucket as repository for its images. Last June, Photobucket changed its policy and has forbidden third party hosting -- consequently breaking up millions of images in the Internet, particularly those in blogs and message boards, including mine. I’ve decided to shift to Imgur, but I really don’t have the time anymore to fix all the broken images in this blog going back almost 20 years. [Thanks for nothing, Photobucket.] I’ve decided they shall remain broken, to remind me nothing is permanent in the digital world, contrary to its initial promises to be the best kind of archive.

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