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


Monday, May 25, 2015

entry arrow5:56 PM | Launching Myrna Peña-Reyes' New Poetry Collection

Myrna Peña-Reyes' new poetry collection, Memory’s Mercy: New and Selected Poems (University of the Philippines Press, 2015), will be formally launched on Thursday, 28 May 2015, 4 PM at the University House (formerly President’s House) in Silliman Campus.

Memory’s Mercy is the third poetry collection of Dumaguete poet Myrna Peña-Reyes whose previous collections are The River Singing Stone (Anvil, 1994) and Almost Home: Poems (UP Press, 2004). This third collection contains new poems written after she retired here with her husband in her hometown of Dumaguete in 2005 after living abroad for thirty-four years. It includes selections from the out-of-print The River Singing Stone that was nominated for the National Book Award.

Born and raised in the Philippines of Ilocano stock but Visayan upbringing, Myrna Peña-Reyes was educated at Silliman University from elementary through college (BA English) and the University of Oregon (MFA in creative writing). While a resident of Eugene, Oregon where she lived with her husband, William T. Sweet, she was a winner of the Oregon Literary Fellowship grant for poetry (2002) from Literary Arts. Presently retired in her hometown of Dumaguete, she continues her volunteer affiliation with Silliman University’s literature and creative writing program.

The book launch is fittingly held during the closing week of the 54th Silliman University National Writers Workshop. Present at the first Silliman Writers Workshop in 1962, Myrna had helped its founders, Drs. Edilberto K. Tiempo and Edith L. Tiempo, run the Workshop during its early years in the ‘60s and early ‘70s.

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entry arrow1:47 AM | The Name's Cooper, Susan Cooper.

While it is true that American comedy of recent years has lost its cinematic funny bone (as this video essay by Tony Zhou clearly demonstrates, which pays special attention to the cinema of Paul Feig), it is also undeniably true that sometimes funny is just funny. There is, after all, much to love in the hilarious inanity of Feig's James Bond spoof, Spy (2015), starring the irrepressible Melissa McCarthy. Ms. McCarthy, after breaking out (and getting Oscar-nominated) in Feig's Bridesmaids (2011), has clearly come far and made for herself a unique attraction in film comedy: she has created a persona we have all come to appreciate and love, something only the best physical comedians -- Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Bill Murray, Jim Carrey, among others -- have managed to concoct and sell to an appreciative audience. In Ms. McCarthy's case, it is the generously endowed woman with pretensions of meekness who suddenly discovers a predilection for being bad-ass and foul-mouthed. She makes it work.

She has brought that persona to the shells of various characters in her movies -- including a tomboyish bridesmaid, an angry police officer, and a happy-go-lucky identity thief -- and sometimes they work, and sometimes they fall to the abyss of the uninspired. This time around, as a CIA desk jockey who finds herself becoming an active agent, the persona is fully engaged, making the pratfalls and banter that follow something in the new movie to love. The film works as a project of great comic timing, and while you are aware that everything you see is just comedic fantasy, you find yourself becoming fully invested in the shenanigans that unfold. Perhaps that is because everyone seems heavily invested in making this film work -- Jude Law and Jason Statham, for example, seem to be in serious modes deconstructing with glee their respective screen personas as suave playboy and dynamite action figure. This in turn makes the film a whole bunch of fun I did not really expect. Hell, it's a movie where you come to love Rose Byrne's villain as well while you buy thoroughly her cold-bloodedness. If that doesn't say anything about this film's appeal, I don't know what will.

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entry arrow12:12 AM | Think Negative Thoughts

It is hard for me to engage in an unfavourable evaluation of Brad Bird's Tomorrowland (2015), knowing how much I love the filmography of the director. Here is a film so earnest in its message, so eager in the presentation of its set pieces, that to find ourselves walking out of the theatre thinking of it as something of a forgettable experience is to finally acknowledge that the film is ... a mess. It is, at best, a noble failure.

I wasn't put off by its exuberant didacticism. Bird's earlier films (the animated ones, especially) had didactic streaks, too: The Iron Giant is about tolerance and being anti-military; The Incredibles is about owning up to what makes you special; and Ratatouille is about being truthful to one's art and vocation, no matter how the world perceives you. His latest film is actually a distillation of all these messages, which in those films made us pause in contemplation and then invariably cry. But in Tomorrowland, they have the quality of emotional Teflon, no matter the extra measure of exuberance.

I suspect it's a matter of structure: the script by Damon Lindelof is torturous and unengaging, proving to us once more that post-Lost, Mr. Lindelof is a hack equipped with big ideas he cannot really handle, as also seen in the equal failure of his work on Ridley Scott's Prometheus (2012). Bird tries to handle the unwieldiness of the material with his natural feel for wonder and whimsy but the film implodes from its own sense of having absolutely no narrative direction. (Negative thinking as villain? Really? Manila Bulletin has this film's number.) The throwaway revelation in the end about the "reality" of the world we bought into in the film's trailers is also off-putting, and in deeper regard, actually strikes me as cynical -- but no spoilers here. It is still enjoyable in bits and pieces, but you're better off with a third viewing of Mad Max: Fury Road.


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Sunday, May 24, 2015

entry arrow9:47 PM | The Denial of Feminism is a Hideous Thing

“My response to the ‘I am not a feminist’ Internet phenomenon… First of all, it’s clear you don’t know what feminism is. But I’m not going to explain it to you. You can Google it. To quote an old friend, ‘I’m not the feminist babysitter.’  ¶  But here is what I think you should know.  ¶  You’re insulting every woman who was forcibly restrained in a jail cell with a feeding tube down her throat for your right to vote, less than 100 years ago.  ¶  You’re degrading every woman who has accessed a rape crisis center, which wouldn’t exist without the feminist movement.  ¶  You’re undermining every woman who fought to make marital rape a crime. (It was legal until 1993).  ¶  You’re spitting on the legacy of every woman who fought for women to be allowed to own property (1848). For the abolition of slavery and the rise of the labor union.  ¶  For the right to divorce.  ¶  For women to be allowed to have access to birth control (Comstock laws).  ¶  For middle and upper class women to be allowed to work outside the home (poor women have always worked outside the home).  ¶  To make domestic violence a crime in the U.S. (It is very much legal in many parts of the world).  ¶  To make workplace sexual harassment a crime.  ¶  In short, you know not what you speak of. You reap the rewards of these women’s sacrifices every day of your life. When you grin with your cutesy sign about how you’re not a feminist, you ignorantly spit on the sacred struggle of the past 200 years. You bite the hand that has fed you freedom, safety, and a voice.  ¶  In short, kiss my ass, you ignorant little jerks.”

 ~ Mark Ruffalo

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Sunday, May 03, 2015

entry arrow11:06 PM | Life After Pacquiao's Loss

It was strange to see the national morale being punctured on the streets, on people's faces. The city looks and feels like it has been slapped, and its response is sluggishness. Deflation. I didn't realise what hold this thing had on the national psyche. All day long, people are talking like boxing analysts, with a tone that suggests a gaping wound.

So strange.

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entry arrow10:07 PM | Speakeasy Cats

What can I say about Depression Era cats meowing it out to the tune of jazz, gunfire, bootlegging, and speakeasies? Tracy J. Butler's Lackadaisy was a hoot of a read. This volume, which gathers together her initial work for an apparently very popular webcomic, is an immersive read into the sweet shenanigans of the 1920s, this time starring cats. I keep getting fascinated by this era's generosity with its capacity for being reread and reconstituted in pop culture. There's The Great Gatsby, of course, and countless movies. But it reminds me most of all of Alan Parker's Bugsy Malone -- essentially occupying the same thread as Butler's meowy narrative, but this time starring kids. Lackadaisy does not exactly end with a close-knit ending: it comes with a cliffhanger, touting a continuation -- and I wish it had been a standalone volume, promising only more standalone volumes still to come. But it's intriguing enough for a graphic novel, granted a language that may be a little bit too whimsical for comfort. The characters are drawn by Ms. Butler with an eye for clarity and fervent characterisation, and it is easy to fall in love with its hapless heroes, in particular the conflicted Freckles, who has some issues Bruce Banner and Dr. Jekyll can help him with. This book has been in my reading list for almost two years now, and I'm happy I've finally reached its last page. Given that slow-burning read, I wish it had closed with a more determined decisiveness. But, oh well, meow.

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