I've come back home for an hour or so to get some things, and to feed the pets. Been holing up in a hotel to finish some papers, things I can only finish away from the many distractions in my pad. So far, okay lang, but I spent most of yesterday brainstorming on what to write. That was the most difficult step, and it didn't help that outside my hotel room window, a party was going on in the boulevard and some singer was busy crooning the night away. Distraction! This afternoon, I finally had a breakthrough, and I hope to go back to the hotel tonight with more ammunition to finish what I need to finish. Tomorrow, I come back home. And I know there will be changes in how I go about my every day living. I've realized that there are some things in life you need to sacrifice in order to stay true to your path, to focus on a goal. I've been blindsiding myself all these years, and enough is enough. This resolve will take a lot of guts in my part, and a lot of reevaluation of what I do. One thing that has got to go is a faithful posting to this blog. I don't want to care so much about posting anymore. The Spy in the Sandwich will not go anywhere. I'll sporadically update, until such time that I get my groove back, whatever that means, enough to regularly blog again. I guess that's it.
I haven't felt this kind of peace in a long time. I don't know where it's coming from, but I'm not questioning it. I'm accepting it as one would a clean slate: with graciousness, and with quiet celebration. I only know that I woke up around 5 o'clock this morning with the vestiges of a dream, or perhaps a nightmare, and I couldn't go back to sleep anymore. Outside, daylight was yet to break, and so I went about the house tidying things up, thinking this was Monday, the first day of the week -- and there was much promise of a new start. I'm playing a little music -- something from the great John Barry, who seems to know how to calm the tempests in my soul -- and now I'm publishing my first blog post for the week. In a few minutes, I'll be taking my first cup of coffee. After that, my shower. In an hour, I'll be doing some much-needed work on my computer. At lunch, I'm off to Bethel Guest House for two days, where I'll be writing stories and finishing the remaining requirements (papers!) of my M.A. I find it beautiful that there would be no classes for the rest of the week, the first day of school delayed for a few more days, respite to tie loose ends before the crunch of second term comes. Maybe that's why I feel peaceful: it is the promise of opportunities of righting a few things before I face the challenges of newer ones. Thank God for holidays.
Butch Dalisay's novel Soledad's Sister has been shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, this side of the world's equivalent to the Booker Prize (which Man also sponsors). The candidates were whittled from a long list of 23 hopefuls, with a record of 11 Indian writers in the mix. I hope this becomes the proverbial foot in the door for Philippine writers to finally receive the international attention they deserve (but can't seem to get). Here is an excerpt from the report:
The Man Asian literary prize focuses on new works as yet unpublished in English and aims to encourage the publication of more works by Asian writers. The shortlist emerged from a longlist of 23 chosen from 243 submissions received from across Asia and included submissions from well-established as well as first-time authors, and entries included translated works as well as works originally in English....
A Filipino author, Jose Dalisay Jr., makes up the shortlist with Soledad's Sister, a tale that begins when a casket arrives at Manila airport bearing the body of someone called Aurora V Cabahug -- who is very much alive. Dalisay teaches English and creative writing at the University of the Philippines.
Of course, The Guardianarticle, by Michelle Pauli, ties in the newly released short list with the political upheaval in Myanmar, headlining the inclusion of Burmese writer Nu Nu Yi Inwa for Smile As They Bow. The other authors in the list include Reeti Gadekar for Families at Home from India, Jiang Rong for Wolf Totem from Ciina, and Xu Xi for Habit of a Foreign Sky from Hong Kong.
Let's cross our fingers, and hope global politics don't get into play in the final consideration.
I've been in a funk lately, and I just want to hide from the world. The whole grading season really took a lot out of me, and then there is also the realization that I still have mountains of other work to do -- and I just don't have an ounce of energy, or will, to do any of them. I'm. Just. So. Tired. Lately. And then, of course, there are the ridiculous, often angry, emails from students who either flunked or got really low grades. Here's one I just got, no editing, just as it is...
this s [name], ur student in bc 25 section U.... can i just ask f u added my +.2 bonus points for watching 2 cultural shows? can we see u somtime 2mrow whenever ur free? please don't ignore this sir... you see sir, we are nursing students and we have to get a grade of 2 in order to pass bc.. sir, we just want t see how u computed our grades... we are just wondering y our midterm grades are so big and we failed in our final grades... in our case, me and my partner have complied with all the requirements u gave us, y did we fail? please consider us sir.. this s evry important... i hope that u wont ignore this nce u'll rid this... please reply sir...
I'm thinking: this is an email from a student, sent to her English instructor. If she was trying to earn favors, she certainly did not get it with her misspellings and ridiculous text-speak. Judging from that email alone, anyone can very well see why she got a low grade for her term paper writing class.
I did reply to her, and also commented on her unnecessarily accusatory tone. What did she think? That I grab grades out of thin air? She has no idea how many nights I did not sleep crunching those grades. Grrrrr. It's not as if I don't keep copious records -- as an obsessive-compulsive, I may have the most uptight and complete records in all of the university. So I gave her everything, and went as far as giving her my comments on her terrible term paper.
I sometimes wonder where this high sense of privilege of students come from. It's like, "Hey, I enrolled, so give me a good grade already." This sentence really got my goat though: "Me and my partner have complied with all the requirements u gave us, y did we fail?" So I wrote her that completion of requirements does notguarantee a good grade; that completion of requirements is in fact the basic duty of any student; and that a good grade comes from quality work, not because you have done everything required. Because in that case, who needs serious schooling, when all you must do pala is a charade of fulfilling requirements without regard for their quality?
I understand her panic because she is a nursing student, and much -- including her huge tuition -- is at stake. But she must have known this class was a serious class, and there will be repercussions for sloppy work. And I certainly don't want Silliman University to become a diploma mill. Yesterday, I passed by AMA College, and there on the building's facade, and emblazoned in big letters, was a banner that proclaimed: "Become a nurse the easiest way!" It was as if I was slapped. That sign was so offensive. Is that how college in the Philippines has become now? An "easy" factory? A mindless means to one definite end, which is work abroad?
Of course you've already heard about it, perhaps have even read the news. Dumbledore is gay. This came out (hehehe, no pun intended) days ago. Pine for Pine first clued me in about the whole thing, but I initially thought it was a joke. (It wasn't.) I wanted to blog about it then, but I was enjoying too much my weekend with Mark. In any case, if you haven't heard about it, J.K. Rowling herself outed the famous wizard in one of her book tours in the U.S., and referred to his boyhood friendship with nemesis Grindelwald as something more than just ... well, friendship. (Don't we all start from there, hehehe.) Needless to say, I want that back story in book form now. Like The Lord of the Rings' The Hobbit, only gayer. My thoughts: all those years concocting a parallel secret love affair between Harry and Draco Malfoy blindsided us from the real deal: the guy with the gray beard was it. On another note, this would give book burners another reason to ban the Harry Potter series. First, for "advocating witchcraft," and now for homosexuality. Hurrah for Rowling.
I can't believe it took me almost a week to do the grades for all four sections of my Philippine literature classes. (With an average of 35 students per section, imagine the fun fun fun time I had reading all those papers and marking all those exams...) I used to be able to do it all in just one night. I've slowed down and I don't know how or why. The whole of Friday today was wasted trying to crunch everything with my trusty calculator which has seen better days. I'm thinking: I should really think about learning Excel. Next problem: crunching the grades for my research classes. Three sections in all. Oh, that will be fun. (Groan.)
In India, the once highly-regarded call center industry -- which fueled the country's current tech boom and subsequent economic miracle -- seems to be facing gradual extinction by sheer burnout, work dissatisfaction, and the understandable health fears of agents. The dive is reflected in the way some universities now actually ban call center recruiters from entering their campuses altogether. Here's a sentiment from one Indian:
"Earlier it was considered cool to work at a call center," said Nishant Thakur, 19... "That died out quite quickly." Added Thakur's friend, Vishal Lathwal, 19, "If you work at a call center today people will think you don't have anything else to do or were a bad student."
My body is a barometer for bad weather, sometimes. Well, most of the time. When the weather changes just so, my nose starts acting up, and the bed starts looking quite like temptation itself. But it's too easy to plead the flu. I'm the worst hypochondriac I know, so sometimes I doubt even my own symptoms. (My imagination can run wild.) Today, after many weeks of rainy weather, it's suddenly sweltering like a bad summer day -- all that trapped humidity wrecking havoc on much of my plans. But I can't let this get to me. I can't let this get to me. Walking home from work late this afternoon, I claimed heaven for health, and I meant it. I have tons of papers and exams to check and grade, and I've taken it upon myself to submit my final grades tomorrow. Because I really want to start my much-needed semestral break, then hole up in a hotel somewhere and finish my damn M.A. But I'm looking at my pad, and it looks like a battlefield -- the way it usually looks when major work makes its presence felt in my life. Everything's a mess, and I can't seem to make headway for any other plans until the perfectionist in me gets sated with a little bit of spring cleaning. Still: there are just so many deadlines to meet, and so many things to accomplish, all of them due yesterday. And to all my friends, I have a new phone and a new number. Been phoneless for many, many days now -- couldn't take anybody's calls or messages. Will be sending my new number soon, perhaps tomorrow, but really, I'm enjoying, at least for now, the utter simplicity of life without cellphones ringing. It's the nearest thing to bliss.
A Spanish fraile, Fr. Gabino Olaso Zabala, was stationed in the Philippines during colonial times, and is now set for beatification by the Catholic Church. Problem is, he willingly participated in a torture of a Filipino priest while here. From the National Catholic Reporter:
... one of the 498 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War set for beatification in Rome on Oct. 28 [is] Augustinian Fr. Gabino Olaso Zabala, who was among 98 Augustinian priests and seminarians executed by Republican forces from 1936 to 1939.
In a nutshell, the charge is that during a much earlier period in his life, when he was a young missionary in the Philippines, Olaso was guilty of torture.
According to written testimony from the victim, Olaso participated in the 1896 torture of a Filipino priest named Fr. Mariano Dacanay, who was suspected of sympathy for anti-Spanish revolutionaries. Dacanay's own account asserts that Olaso and a handful of other Augustinians encouraged guards who were administering the torture, and that at one point Olaso himself kicked Dacanay in the head, hard enough to leave the suffering priest semi-conscious.
Historians generally regard Dacanay's testimony as credible.
So if he eventually becomes a saint, will he be the patron saint of torturers? I just watched Amy Berg's Deliver Us From Evil, and it is times like these that you simply have to wonder where the Church is going...
I had no idea I would finish writing a short story today. It must have been the lunch with Lakambini Sitoy that did it, to prod me to do some fiction today, I mean. (Bing has that strange effect on me all the time.) We both had Thai-style grilled stuffed squid in Don Atilano, and we were catching up on many things -- including our plans for the rest of the year, as well as our shared "bondage" of teaching. (She's teaching in the local state university...) Tonight, I meant to clean the pad, with plans to finish checking some student papers later, but in a bout of procrastination tango I started reading snippets of a short story I started last week for LitCritters Dumaguete's newest writing challenge, and I found myself just wanting to finish it, by any means I could, because I felt a sudden urge to do so. (Urges like that you don't ignore, especially if you are serious about your writing. You just drop everything and race home to your computer, if you can.) And I did finish it. My fifth story for the year. (Whoa. For someone who used to average one story per year, that's a big improvement. I have the LitCritters to thank for this, as usual.) Now, the question remains: is the story funny enough to be considered humorous? Does Ian Rosales Casocot have a sense of humor? Let's find out soon. My first reader is currently taking a crack at it. And he's usually merciless. (Ack!)
In contemporary Philippine poetry in English, I have a fair number of gods and goddesses whose altars I worship in with a fever: two of them are Marjorie Evasco and Eric Gamalinda, because they were the first ones who showed me that Filipino poetry could flex some beautiful muscles, and then showed me the way to other Filipino poets. (It was the Ateneo poet Vincenz Serrano who introduced me to Gamalinda's poetry on a beautiful Dumaguete summer seven years ago, and I've never looked back since.) So now, I'm very happy to know that Cherry Grove Press has released Eric's new poetry collection...
The poll is not exactly close yet, but these are the, uhm, front runners. My goal in this fruitless exercise of blogging boredom (ha!) was to come up with the best possible Filipino nominee for the world's most prestigious literary prize, if that elusive possibility will become a given, say, tomorrow. (Or perhaps next year, since Doris Lessing has already been given the Prize this year.) So I've taken out the names of the much-younger writers the Nobel committee will certainly never go for simply because they're too "young," and/or those whose works does not exactly enjoy wide translation to most European languages, especially Swedish (so, on both counts, no Krip Yuson, Marjorie Evasco, Jessica Hagedorn, Rick Barot, Eileen Tabios, Eric Gamalinda, Rolando Tolentino, Ed Maranan, Luisa Igloria, and Marne Kilates -- so sorry, Frankie!). I've also taken out the obviously adoring nomination by my best friend. But I did retain those whose names came up more than once or twice, kahit di posible.
So let's go over the "front runners." Jose Rizal, according to some, was the best possible choice, but sadly he's dead. And so is Nick Joaquin. (It's a sad thing to note that in the consideration of who can best represent our national literature in the world stage, the only writers we don't seem to hesitate to turn to are dead.) Which leaves us with Cirilo Bautista, Bienvenido Lumbera, and F. Sionil Jose. (Read or Die's Kristin Mandigma listed two others in her blog: Virgilio Almario and Edith Tiempo.) Sir Frankie is the most widely-translated and has a major American publisher to put his name out there, so he's probably the best bet. But, people, Arnel Salgado? Oh, come, on! (It pained me just to even put his picture up there, alongside some of my writing idols.)
Some things to note in our Nobel considerations: (a) the writer must still be alive, (b) the writer must have a considerable body of work -- which usually means he or she must be old, (c) the writer must have been translated to the major European languages -- and being translated to Swedish or Norwegian is a big plus, and (d) the writer must somehow represent the zeitgeist the Nobel committee sometimes considers.
Of course, the main problem why no Filipino has ever made it may be the fact that Philippine literature suffers from a conspicuous lack of "marketing" on the world stage, or even the local one. We just don't seem to matter to anyone out there. Kristin says it best when she wrote: "The problem, again, is that our literature just isn’t getting out there, at least compared to the Indians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Americans, the Africans, the Europeans, etc. If Butch Dalisay wins or is at least short-listed for the Man Asia Book Prize, that should up the antenna a bit. It isn’t enough to write great literature. We should market it -- first and foremost to Filipino readers, and then the world. In your face na."
Nevertheless, get those nominations in -- if only to get a glimpse of ordinary readers' take on the state of our national literature. Comment away.
8:02 AM |
If Ever You're in Baguio on October 15...
Ed Maranan, prize-winning poet, fictionist, essayist, playwright, and children's story writer, is launching his third book of poetry on October 15 at the Cordillera Coffee shop, SM Baguio, at 5:00 in the afternoon.
Passages / poems 1983-2006, is a selection of poems from several of his Palanca-awarded collections during the last twenty years, appearing together in print for the first time.
The book launch and poetry reading, under the auspices of the Baguio Writers Group of which Maranan is a member, will be followed by a poetry evening in the same venue, with other Baguio poets reading their own works. Both events will mark the BWG's celebration of World Poetry Day, October 15. Cordillera Coffee is sponsoring this twin-bill literary event.
Eminent poet Dr. Ophelia Dimalanta wrote the introduction to the book. Other famous poets contributed blurbs including Gémino H. Abad, Luisa A. Igloria, Eileen R. Tabios, Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas, and Alfred A. Yuson.
With thirty Carlos Palanca awards to his name, a record of sorts, Ed Maranan has established a reputation as a prolific multi-genre and bilingual writer, and also as a translator. Bookmark is publishing several of his prize-winning stories for children, to be launched in Baguio and Museo Pambata in Manila sometime in December.
Maranan was one of four Filipino writers who represented the Philippines at the recent Ubud Writers Festival held in Bali, Indonesia, in September this year. He was also the Philippine participant at the 2006 International Writers Residency in Lavigny, Switzerland, and at the 1985 International Writing Program in Iowa, USA.
When he was a high school senior at St. Louis College in Baguio in 1963, Maranan won a national essay competition, and represented the Philippines at the New York Herald Tribune World Youth Forum. He taught graduate courses in Philippine Studies at the UP Asian Center, Diliman, and served as Information Officer of the Philippine Embassy in London from 1993 to 2006. Back home, he is now a full-time freelance writer.
If the life of Imelda Marcos could be transformed into a musical by Fatboy Slim and David Byrne in Here Lies Love, so could Andrew Cunanan's. (Hurrah for Filipino notoriety! At least it inspires musical drama.) Cunanan may be a strange choice for many, but hello? Quirky, witty, and confident gay social climber dreaming the good life becomes Gianni Versace's murderer? It has, like Chicago before it, all the hallmarks of perfect theater. Ambition. Glamour. Sex. Despair. Blood. A chase. A nation riveted by headlines. A dramatic end. Jessica Hagedorn (of course) writes the book, songwriter Mark Bennett writes the music, and Christopher Ashley directs. The result: Most Wanted, where Cunanan becomes fictionalized as a party-boy named Danny Reyes (certainly not the local poet). Time Magazine covers the details of the emergence of the new musical.
I am currently reading a story collection—a review of which will come out very soon—where time, in one particular story, becomes an object of literary scrutiny: in that story, time (and memories) can slow down, can run fast, can stand still, can be bought and bartered with—but not enough to alter the basic humanity of our individual stories. Over that, even time seems insignificant.
But why do I suddenly think profoundly of “time”? The fact of the matter is, I am amazed I have written so much for a StarLife Magazine column (also titled "The Spy in the Sandwich"): five years. (I started blogging around the same time, too, mostly to post these columns online. So that also dates my blogging history: five f---ing years.) That’s half a decade of filling that page near the back of that magazine (and this spot online). Five years of mouthing off on anything that catches my attention. Five years of beating (or trying to beat) the deadline. Five years of Allen del Carmen, my dear editor, texting me every week to remind that he has to put the paper to bed very soon, and must have my column now.
Was it five years ago when Allen approached me in a Dumaguete park during a game of softball on a golden Negrense afternoon, and invited me to jump aboard this new publication of his from Bacolod? I remember that I just had a run-in with another local publication that was not exactly professional in their dealings with me—and so an offer from Mr. Del Carmen seemed like a chance to start anew. What I did not expect is to have lasted this long. In those five years, I have bared my soul, I guess—the highlight of which came when my column was nominated for a 2003 Catholic Mass Media Award... in the Entertainment category. (I, of course, lost to Nestor U. Torre’s regular movie column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer—but my sole source of amusement lies in the fact that I never knew this column was of the Entertainment variety.)
The passing of time, and the remembrance of it, also makes for introspection. And so, I ask myself: what do I exactly write about in these columns? The straightest answer I can give is that I have pretensions for cultural writing, and sometimes I do rant, but the most obvious answer is that I really don’t know. I write what I feel like writing every week, week in and week out—running the gamut of my own existence, and pretending that there are people out there who’d like to read what I’m thinking about in a given moment.
So two hundred and fifty-eight columns later, and there I was going about the next one seriously contemplating The Spy in the Sandwich’s raison d’être, complete with the usual trappings of defining both purpose and content. The task might smack of being a little too late in the game, an idea equipped with the urgency of a lost and beleaguered messenger come too belatedly in delivering what is already antiquated news.
In the first place, I should have done that article five years ago when the timing and intent were virginal; but there’s something dangerously and adventurously romantic in getting to know one’s general direction while already cast adrift in some endless ocean. The cliché then holds—that it is better contemplating late than never at all. Besides, I fear that the need for such task diminishes as people get too used to the strange title adorning this page: a lot of people have been coming up to me demanding to know what being “the spy in the sandwich” means.
It means precisely what it reads: a purposely absurd combination of words meant to get anyone’s attention more than anything else. But, in hindsight, that explanation can be harsh. I can imagine a regular reader suddenly exclaiming, “What? That’s all? It’s about nothing? Like all of Seinfeld?” So let me offer a continuance... This column is a “spy” in a sense that it tries to observe, obliquely, at everything in our culture. It is in a “sandwich,” because the food item smacks for me as being iconic of the mundane and the ordinary. What does that make of the column? That it is an observer of and within the mundane of the everyday, hoping at least to render the ordinary in the twist of new light. Of course, I could have used something simpler yet catchy like “Jagged Little Pill,” but Alanis Morrisette beat me to it.
Sometimes, too, people accuse me of just parading around a column dressed up in high falutin' vocabulary. I don’t mind that observation: I am the language that I write in. And the language I write in is college English. In other words, I am a firm believer in this painful truism that also acts as a mirror: you are what your own vocabulary tells of you. (I still know of people my age who go around pronouncing “yacht” as “yaa—tch.” I also have students who come up to me, and ask, “Sir, who’s Martial? And why does he have a law?” No kidding.)
The Spy in the Sandwich for me is really a hodge podge of everything cultural—from food to books to movies to music to theater to television, to politics even. (As some wise man once said, “Everything is political.”) It hopes to amuse, and ultimately to inform... maybe. The Spy in the Sandwich is really a weekly slice of Jack Kerouac / Steven Spielberg / Red Hot Chili Pepper / Jane Austen for the ordinary reader who wants something else besides Boy Abunda and Kris Aquino. I am far from being the infallible cultural pundit, but writing about this topic for the common tao interests me—and besides, there are indeed barbarians at the gate who may need some enlightening. (Foremost of all, me. Yes, sometimes I write to educate myself as well.) The fictionist Timothy Montes was right in the controversial essay (“Cultural Illiteracy”) he wrote where he excoriated the “intellectual” life of ordinary people: that while culture, or the awareness of it, is not inherently necessary for one’s survival, “a broad grasp of vital ideas involved in the different academic disciplines” is only a necessary must for us who boast of having “the right kind of education,” like it was manna from heaven. Judging from Mr. Montes’ article, many people must be at the bottom of Dante’s Inferno. Is this column an antidote? Heavens, no. Not really. But it does chronicle my own craving to get out of the rut.
And what a common rut it is. Not too long ago, when I was still a student in Prof. Lionel Chiong’s inscrutable Earth Science course in the local university, the good professor was asking the class some questions regarding the sun and other heavenly bodies in the solar system. He asked a classmate of mine near the front row, “Will the sun shine forever?” There were general mutterings of “No, sir!” and the classmate in question slowly shook her head. “Why?” the professor asked. With such seriousness, the girl replied, “Because, sir, during the day, the sun will shine. During the night, it will no longer shine.” There were no thunderclaps or trumpet blares, only uncomfortable silence and finally an eruption of laughter. I remember wanting to hide beneath the chair and wait for the Apocalypse.
Congratulations! It was cute and all, intelligent even and humorous, too -- and really I do realize that it's a level of anything that's hard to break into. But the whole exercise left me wondering: Was that a story?
Sometimes, that which is not seen can be the best thing for all concerned.
My other best friend, Chicago-based Ted Regencia, gets featured in the Global Nation page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer for running the 30th La Salle Bank Chicago Marathon! And he's half-naked in the featured picture pa! Ahehehehe! (See relevant news story about the marathon here. And Tedo writes about his experience here.)
Tedo has the sharpest political mind I know -- at dapat he should be in the foreign service. He eats CNN for breakfast, and writes wonderful essays and articles. A total journalist. Come to think of it, I'm quite proud of my college barkada. (We called ourselves The Midnight Society, because we ran the Silliman campus like it was our own playground -- but secretly led rebellious lives that would make anyone's mama blush, ahehehe.) We are quite the overachieving bunch. Which makes me think, what happened to our other classmates ba?
I remember when Butch Dalisay wrote about the sometime lawlessness in the Internet in his blog and column ("The Anti-Rant Rant," which appeared in Philippine Star last August 6). This part points to the problem:
It’s in the nature of the Internet, of course, to host these brutal and often unrefereed skirmishes. Some surfers see the Internet as an open and wide frontier where no rules obtain and manners don’t matter. The Web’s anonymity encourages boorishness, recklessness, and other behavior that might land you in court, in jail, or in the hospital in the real world. (You might say that, on the Web, anonymity breeds contempt.) People tend to shoot their mouths off and say the cruelest things online because there’s no sense of public accountability. Slinging mud from behind an alias, you can’t get sued, you can’t get slugged, and your mother won’t even know.
I've had my share of trolls and flamers and online stalkers before, problems that usually went away when I did the one thing calculated to silence this good-for-nothings: absolute silence. But Mark's current troll (who's now trying to get at him through my blog and his mother's) is becoming dangerous day by day, and he writes about it here. Of course, now we're fighting back -- not by flaming back, but by the judicious use of law. It's time online harassments come to a stop.
10:38 PM |
Presenting Philippine Speculative Fiction Anthology Volume Three
Dean has finally released the titles and contributors for volume three of the Philippine Speculative Fiction Anthology. My fellow contributors are a formidable lot...
The Singer's Man by MRR Arcega Keeping Time by F.H. Batacan Hamog by Joanna Paula Cailas The Flicker by Ian Rosales Casocot Facester by Dominique Cimafranca Frozen Delight by Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon Sky Gypsies by Timothy Dimacali Peekli by Andrew Drilon The Datu's Daughters by Raymond Falgui Visitors by Luis Joaquin Katigbak Reclamation by Sarge Lacuesta Pedro Diyego's Homecoming by Apol Lejano-Massebieau Brigada by Joseph Nacino The Death and Rebirth of Nathaniel Alan Sempio by Alexander Marcos Osias Carmen and Josephine by Elyss Punsalan In Earthern Vessels by Rodello Santos Sidhi by Yvette Natalie U. Tan Urban Legends by Charles Tan The Ascension of Our Lady Boy by Mia Tijam The Hand by Marianne Villanueva The Music Child by Alfred A. Yuson
As usual, I cannot wait for this anthology to come out. Congratulations to Nikki and Dean for a job well done. Here's to Filipino speculative fiction!
People were wondering where Arnel Salgado disappeared to after enduring the most humiliating latest installment of his life. Not for penning the scabrously delightful The Fireless Inferno or Kidnapped by the Gods or Love in Time of Anguish, but for the sex scandal that "sullied" his name. Jara commented on my last post on Mr. Salgado: "Unfortunately, the cell number for ordering his new novel has not been on for weeks and he has not been answering correspondence sent to his email addresses."
Ladies and gentlemen, Salgado worshippers, and members of The Saucy Fellowship, the mystery has been solved. An announcement from the blog of the infamous novelist of the purple order reads: "Since my life was destroyed by the trumped up and unsubstantiated charges against me, I decided to go back to the MOUNTAIN and continue my struggle there. It is the ONLY place where I can find justice and peace. I was already judged by the people around me. I lost my DIGNITY, HONOR, PROFESSIONS and my FAMILY. I have to fight back and gain so much will to fight from my brothers and FORMER comrades in the communist movement. May the almighty FATHER guide me always. Nos cum prole pia, benedicat virgo Maria."
Bless you. Now you can sing your phantasies of air castles to the mountains of perchance. Don't stop writing those novels. Maybe a forthcoming one should be titled, Comrades of the Dignity Mountain...?
Before I let this go, I can't help but share Mr. Salgado's formula for perfect injustice:
½ t [an + bn + cn] = d where: a = complainant with questionable motive b = NBI agent who wants achievement and recognition c = IMBESTIGADOR or any TV investigative show d = (Dean) Injustice t = truth or lie depending on the point of view of the complainant n = number, 1,2,3…ad infinitum
I don't know what it means, but it reminds me of Imelda Marcos's crazy formulations about world peace and beauty. There's something about bogus mathematical expressions that snare in not-so-beautiful minds, I guess.
This time, after the American Film Institute listed the 100 Best American Films and a loose group of film aficionados listed the 100 Best Foreign Language Films (two lists I'm scrambling to cover -- because, really, I want to say I have seen everything...), the documentarians go at it, although they only came out with the best 25. According to IndieWIRE, the International Documentary Association "has announced a list of the 25 best documentaries ... span[ning] over 55 years and have both reflected and, arguably, influenced social history, exploring such areas as wars from WWII to Iraq, corporate downsizing and global warming..."
What I don't see however are some of the best documentaries I have seen, like any of Ken Burns's television specials. Or Michael Apted's acclaimed Up Series. Or Errol Morris's Gates of Heaven or A Brief History of Time. Or Robert Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's The Celluloid Closet. Or Amy Berg's Deliver Us From Evil. Or Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera. Or Marcel Ophul's The Sorrow and the Pity. Or Peter Davis's Hearts and Minds. Or Claude Lanzmann's Shoah. Or Jennie Livingston's Paris is Burning. Or D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus, and Christopher Hughes's The War Room. Or Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennous's MicroCosmos. Or Leon Gast's When We Were Kings. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's Jesus Camp. Or Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation. Or Patrick Creadon's Wordplay. Or even Luc Jacquet's crowd-pleasing March of the Penguins. Still, the listed ones are excellent, and most would top my own wish list of the best 25. They are, in ascending order...
[_] 25. Woodstock (Michael Wadleigh) [_] 24. Night and Fog (Alain Resnais) [x] 23. Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog) [_] 22. Winged Migration (Jacques Perrin) [x] 21. Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore) [x] 20. Buena Vista Social Club (Wim Wenders) [_] 19. Titticut Follies (Frederick Wiseman) [_] 18. Born into Brothels (Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski) [x] 17. Capturing the Friedmans (Andrew Jarecki) [x] 16. Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer) [_] 15. Sherman's March (Ross McElwee) [_] 14. Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (Godfrey Reggio) [_] 13. Salesman (Albert and David Maysles) [x] 12. Don't Look Back (D.A. Pennebaker) [x] 11. Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock) [x] 10. Roger and Me (Michael Moore) [x] 09. The Fog of War (Errol Morris) [_] 08. Gimme Shelter (Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin) [x] 07. Crumb (Terry Zwigoff) [x] 06. An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim) [_] 05. Harlan County, USA (Barbara Kopple) [x] 04. Spellbound (Jeffery Blitz) [x] 03. Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore) [x] 02. The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris) [x] 01. Hoop Dreams (Steve James, Peter Gilbert and Frederick Marx)
My score: 15/25. Not bad. Then again, I'm on a documentary streak right now. So, how's your film education?
Here it comes again, the old argument, this time circulating around Filipino blogs for some weeks now. Kenneth Yu keeps track of all the relevant posts, and Butch Dalisay actually wrote a column about it. (Scroll down to the "Filipino-ness in Fiction" post for October 1.) My reply is an excerpt from Rosario Cruz Lucero's Palanca-winning "The Music of Pestle-on-Mortar," which I first heard as her keynote address in the 2002 Iligan National Writers Workshop:
In my island of Negros, there is a little known savage act of ethnic cleansing that occurred in 1856. Two Spanish frayles went up a mountain in the remote region of Kabankalan for the purpose of reduccion. After these two missionaries had succeeded in pacifying the Carol-an tribe and preparing them for settlement debajo de las campanas, the governor, Don Emilio Saravia, then abused the trust of the Carol-ans by entering their territory with an army of 450 police and 60 guardias civil who were armed with rifles and two cannons. The Carol-ans, however, had learned of the governor’s treacherous plan, and so had built a fort out of trees and were ready with their weapons of spears and arrows. After a brief but fierce battle, with superior arms on one side and primitive weaponry on the other, the Carol-ans retreated to their wooden fort, which enclosed three large nipa houses, in which the non-combatant Carol-ans, that is, the women and children, were sheltering. They all shut themselves up in these thatched houses and set fire to themselves. To the very end, as they were dying of asphyxiation and burns, they continued to defend themselves. A Spanish officer who tried to enter the fort as the flames engulfed the Carol-ans was killed by a spear that was hurled through the window of one of the burning houses.
The Spanish chronicler of this event, named Robustiano Echauz, ends his narrative with the following:
Few memories remain. The indios will forget because they are very susceptible to reduccion if peaceful methods and the policy of smooth and compliant attraction ingrained in our system of colonization are used. In this system the sword is to be used only when the circumstances demand. In this system the plow and work are the bonds of unity which today, for the glory of both governed and governing, bring unity in brotherhood to the inhabitants of the island of Negros.
As one can see from this unknown chapter in our history, the atrocity of ethnic cleansing is achieved not only through violent means. The Carol-an tribe of Kabankalan, Negros, was eliminated from the human race not only by rifle and cannonfire but also by historical amnesia brought about by the peaceful institutional—though we cannot say non-violent—apparatuses of Spanish colonialism. We today—my generation and yours and your children’s generation and so on ad infinitum—are as much the victims of this massacre in Kabankalan as the Carol-ans were in 1856. If we do not remember, much less know, in vivid and concrete detail how our people fiercely and nobly fought to preserve the integrity of their spirit and to defend the validity of their own traditions, we will always look outward in search of cultural and intellectual models to explain our daily lives.
When I urge you young writers to go back to your indigenous roots—read them, study them, internalize them, admire them, be excited by them, envy their genius, be one with them, speak for them—this is not to sentimentalize the ‘noble savage’ in us. This is not a call for the romantic revival of archaic forms, especially those forms that were produced in response to the need of the times and thus were valuable for their topicality and their temporal nature. (Although I must allow, too, for the constant need for such spontaneous forms in whatever place and time.)
Our indigenous roots are living and dynamic traditions. They are the narratives of our people’s historical experience, albeit told in the language of mythology. As creative writers we are, or should be, speakers for our people’s daily lives, mediated by a historical consciousness, and rooted in our indigenous concept of our cosmos and its laws. This basic tenet of creative writing applies, whether we are reviving folk forms or writing in the modernist, realist vein or engaging in post-modernist, multimedia experimentation.
It is a historical and political truism that the Philippines is concurrently a country of pre-modern, modern and postmodern societies. Our rural areas, countryside towns and villages, while we may sweepingly characterize them as pre-modern, possess at the same time some of the trappings of postmodern cities like Manila, Los Angeles, or Paris. For instance, in a secluded barrio in the province of Antique there has been for decades a folk ritual held every Black Saturday of Holy Week, revolving around a giant wooden phallus of an effigy of Judas. I heard about it only last summer and hastened to document it last Holy Week. I was much disappointed to see that the wooden phallus that I had heard being described in impressive hyperbolic language had shrunk to merely life-size and was in fact disproportionately small for the giant size of Judas’ effigy. The barrio ombudsman explained that he had prevailed upon the townspeople to keep it down to modest size because cable TV had inadvertently added a pornographic dimension to the multilayered meanings of this ancient, carnivalesque festival. He was of the conviction that the village children’s pristine minds, which had never been at risk before when in the presence of Judas’ giant phallus, needed now to be protected from the combustible combination of this folk ritual and electronic media.
Here is the raw material for a postmodern story, with the authentic setting of a rural but globalized village named after San Pedro (for whom the cock crowed three times) but which strangely ignores San Pedro in favor of that despicable traitor Judas and his marvelous but silent cock. There is no need for us to look towards Garcia Marquez’s Macondo nor Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha as models of our fictional Philippine microcosm. Right here among our local folk is all the material we need for our pre-modern, modern or postmodern stories.
We have traveled from Mindanao, where we are bodily located at this moment, to western Visayas, specifically Negros and Panay, where my heart and mind lie. As you can see, I interpret the significance of what I read, observe and discover only on the basis of my experience and knowledge of my own psychic locale rather than Manila, where I have been based for the past 20 years. Like Mebuyan’s spinning mortar, our center is what gives impetus to both the centrifugal and the centripetal movements of our artistic and literary creations. Only when we look inward to our center can we expand the circumference of our artistic expressions. Only when we speak for and from our own native traditions can we convincingly speak to the people of other traditions.
I am sure that many of you are familiar with the popular version of Tuglibong’s story. Once upon a time, the sky was so low that a woman who was about to commence with her chores hung her pearl necklace and bracelet on the sky. Then, as she pounded the rice in the mortar, her pestle repeatedly hit the sky so that it began to rise, carrying her jewelry along until it was out of reach. To this day, our elders say, we can see the woman’s necklace and bracelet as the star formation that the Westerners call the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. Practically every people in the world has a myth that explains the various star formations in the sky. What is the story of Andromeda and Philoctetes for the Greeks is our story of the old woman and her pearls.
One may well say that all literature, if it is truly literature, is universal. Therefore, any story, if it is a good story, may speak for and of any country. This is to imply, conversely, that a country insisting on the temporal and local specificity of its literature is producing inferior, or even non-, literature. Well then, let them speak for their own country’s literature. But we will not let them speak for ours, as we have often been wont to do. A story coming out of another country is not our story; it is theirs. We have our own story to tell.
When we hear a story coming from outside our shores that sounds much like a folk tale that we had once heard from our grandma or our yaya, we are prone to marvel at the richness of the sources and borrowings of our cultural traditions.
There is, for instance, the swallowing of Lam-ang by the giant fish berkakan. This tale, we surmise, must have been influenced by the story of Jonah and the whale, or even by Pinocchio. The story of how a tribe in Mindanao became so materialistic that it was punished by storms and floods so that Lake Lanao now lies where those sinful people once resided must have been appropriated from the story of Sodom and Gomorra. And then there is the abundance of the flood myths all over our archipelago, which must have derived from the story of Noah’s Ark.
We have, however, an epic belonging to the Manobo tribe of Mindanao that explains why nations all over the world have literary motifs in common. A long time ago, the Manobo prince Baybayan, who hated war but loved only to sing and dance, was sent by his grandfather to travel around the world seven times, singing of the history and greatness of his people.
We can therefore presume that Baybayan sang his stories to India, in the Americas, in Europe, in Australia and so on. And these regions’ storytellers in turn passed them on to their own children. This explains why, all over the world, there are narrative and musical motifs that so uncannily resemble ours. Baybayan, our muse of epic poetry, is the source of all the world’s literature of all time. At the end of his journey, Baybayan was lifted into heaven on a sinalimba, where he now reigns in one of its seven layers as the Muse of Poetry, Music and Dance. And there he lords it over Rabindranath Tagore, William Shakespeare, Sappho, our own Leona Florentine and Jose Rizal, besides a host of all the artists ever produced by humankind. It is surely not a coincidence that the root word of his name, baybay, means “to spell” in several of our Philippine languages. Our Visayan word for poetry is binalaybay.
Artists and writers who credit their native traditions for their accomplishments take pride in the fact that they have stamped their identity onto the world by allowing their native roots to diffuse themselves into that world. To be internationally recognized is to be deeply rooted in the cultural traditional of one’s own nation. To be a functional global citizen, one must first be firmly rooted in one’s own soil. Our balete is a tree we venerate, with its massive trunk, lush foliage, and tangles of roots growing deep into Philippine soil. But its roots are also aerial roots, and we have no need to sever them in order to fly, to soar around the world seven times through our artistic creations....
I am a Christian, a lapsed Protestant, and I would like to make a stand about the difference between my personal faith and that of a fundamentalist's. I come from a fundamentalist background -- that veritable holier-than-thou breeding ground of righteous vipers -- and God knows the Perrin example can be the real deal for many people I once knew in church. (I remember an incident a long time ago when my soon-to-be sister-in-law Efeb joined my family in church-going, and someone in our old church went to "lay her hands" over her, to pray for her "as a sinner," and then went on to claim that she saw a frog jump out of Efeb's mouth. Frogs, if you must know Christian symbolism, represent greed, particularly for money. When Efeb -- who is one of the sweetest and most generous person I know -- was told that, she was totally offended and disgusted, and never came back with us for church ever. I don't blame her. Many years later, I, too, bowed out, and so did many of my brothers. Christians call us "backsliders." Care ko.)
This is the video...
... and feel the fundamentalist Christian's love for the world.
For the next LitCritter challenge, we've set ourselves to conquering the universe beyond our writing comfort zone. A masculinist will find himself writing a believable and effective melodrama, perhaps in the style of Douglas Sirk. An ardent feminist will find herself writing a believable and effective story with a chauvinist pig for a narrator. Somebody who flails at dialogue will have to write a story using that device as the most prevalent element in her story. Somebody who disdains domestic realism will have to embrace it. Somebody who feels at home with spiritual themes will have to write a dark story about faith, in a world without God. Somebody who feels at home with homoerotic elements will have to write a testosterone-filled story, the likes of a Hong Kong shootout fest. The challenges go on. There are eight of us in LitCritters Dumaguete. Me? I'm supposed to write a funny story. Something truly humorous, in the vein of Alejandro Roces and Woody Allen. It's hard. Humor has no design, and simply refuses to be laid out in a formula. Something is either funny or not. The factor that matters is unknowable. So God help me.
How does one begin to write a funny story? Tell me, and comment away.
Oh my God. I realized just now that since Sunday, I've been posting really depressing stuff. Posts after posts about beautiful losers and dead careers, anti-Semitic homophobes, good-for-nothing presidents, bad interior design and baduy actors, poetry-challenged nuns, perverted hacks and bad novels, anarchists, child murderers, and old monsters. Why, why, why? My inner psychoanalyst says: it's the final week of school, folks, with exams looming next week -- and you know what that means, especially if you're a teacher: there are tons of papers to check and assorted students to handle, they of varying degrees of madness, and who suddenly feel the need to snap out of their zombie-like existence, run after you to pressure you to accommodate something they should have done a long, long time ago. But this is turning out to be another rant, so I'm taking a deep breath (think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts) ... and ... there ... you ... go.
He looks absolutely distressed, the poor guy. Gikuot sa kagwang (the "me" in the still).
He was having a concert in Sydney when he chose to go over to the screaming ladies in the expensive row. Bad move. Because that was when Kristyn grabbed him, and refused to let go. She had to be restrained and dragged away by some burly security guard. Dear Grace, I'm disowning knowing you. Love always, Will.
I feel sad, and a little angry. Because something brought back memories I thought I had long since buried. I was reading this review of Gregory M. Wilson's Jack Ketchum’s the Girl Next Door (see the trailer here), which led me to this other film by Tommy O'Haver titled An American Crime (see the trailer here). Both are based on the torture and murder of a teenage girl named Sylvia Likens by Gertrude Baniszewski, an ordinary Indiana housewife, in 1965. (Crime Library has the story here.) Sylvia and sister Jenny were her wards, and Gertrude soon began systematically torturing the older sister whom she accused of being "a prostitute," with the willing help of her children and their friends -- a perfect illustration in Milgram's experiments on evil.
I feel this story... because I know what it was like to be a mere child in the "care" of another person. Somebody who owns the house that you're family is living in and working for as caretakers. Somebody who soon takes special delight in first abusing you verbally, with each passing day becoming more and more sinister as the abuse grows grander and more sinister. I was ten.
It never became murder, but you know what you did, J.
I absolutely had no idea that this book, a cult classic by the late communo-anachist Abbie Hoffman, actually exists.
It's an in-your-face manual on how to rip-off The System and live off it for free, like any true hippie anarchist. One of its tips on how to get free food any time you want goes like this:
In restaurants where you pay at the door just before leaving, there are a number of free-loading tricks that can be utilized. After you've eaten a full meal and gotten the check, go into the restroom. When you come out go to the counter or another section of the restaurant and order coffee and pie. Now you have two bills. Simply pay the cheaper one when you leave the place. This can be worked with a friend in the following way. Sit next to each other at the counter. He should order a big meal and you a cup of coffee. Pretend you don't know each other. When he leaves, he takes your check and leaves the one for the large meal on the counter. After he has paid the cashier and left the restaurant, you pick up the large check, and then go into the astonishment routine, complaining that somebody took the wrong check. You end up only paying for your coffee. Later, meet your partner and reverse the roles in another place.
An unlikely bestseller for many years after its first run in 1971, it is now out-of-print, and is controversial (and underground) enough to make it one of the most stolen books of all time. (It's No. 5. The Bible is No. 1. How's that irony.) People actually do follow the demand of its title -- which may be why most bookstores and libraries refuse to carry it.
Now, it's finally available online. Read it at your own risk. Wikipedia, after all, describes its contents as including "advice on such topics as growing marijuana, starting a pirate radio station, living in a commune, stealing food, shoplifting, stealing credit cards, preparing a legal defense, making pipe bombs, and obtaining a free buffalo from the U.S. Department of the Interior. It discusses various tactics of fighting as well as giving a detailed list of affordable and easy ways to find weapons and armour that can be used in the event of a confrontation with law enforcement. The book advocates rebelling against authority in all forms, governmental and corporate."
... And speaking of Arnel Salgado, whose great contributions to literature (rivaling even William Shakespeare) has been the subject of adoring reportage by Jessica Zafra (check out "The Purple Prose of Baguio" -- click here for that essay -- which for me remains as a classic of snide irony from Jessica's first Twisted book) ...
What a life. Absolutely stranger than fiction. Anyway, I bet my intestines that it contains priceless lines* such as these from his celebrated novel, The Fireless Inferno...
"Mirasol... oh... Mirasol, the first time I saw you... I want to own you on the whole endurir!" Full of phantasy Greg whispered. He was been indulged building an air castle, and felt an amusing ease as he imagined the happiness which for a moment he was with Maria Mirasol who was reaching with him the distant sky and together dines on the sweetness of the depth romances...
Or this kind of dialogue:
"The real crocodiles lives in river and them you as a crocodiles lives in land ... Once they were caught ... with prolonged staying on land without water ... he would be dying … and that is exactly what will happen to you now!"
"You mean, you'll kill me?" Benjamin nervously queried.
"That's really what will we do ... sorry, but we need your life!"
"If then ... do it now!"
"Nay ... still perchance?" Luis answered.
"Perchance! What perchance? Do you give me another chance?" He asked half afeard.
He describes the book as "a 200 pages moving narration on the rise and fall of DEAN ARNEL SALGADO." This is verbatim, people. No editing here. He continues: "The novel is about the struggle of a 35 y/o man who transformed his anguish and sufferings to become succesful on his career. As a teacher (he became a Principal); as a nurse (he became a Chief Nurse); and a nursing educator (he became a DEAN) - only to fall when he suffered from his tragic and disastrous marriage and fell in love with a 34 year old senior nursing student. This is a story of LOVE, BETRAYAL, and TREACHERY)."
And remember the incredible story of Faye Nicole San Juan, the Grade 6 student of St. James College of Quezon City, who reportedly won a series of international competitions in Australia and Indonesia? It proved to be a hoax (something even my good friend Patricia Evangelista fell victim to -- Pat wrote about Faye, and tried to defend her "win" when rumors of a hoax started circulating ... until the ugly truth eventually came out). Guess what: Mr. Salgado was the principal of the College then. The Department of Science and Technology invited him and Ms. San Juan to present valid proofs of their claim -- to no avail. (She later made it to the online Museum of Hoaxes though. That's accomplishment!)
Mr. Salgado has a masters degree in psychology (from where?) and was once Dean of the Pamantasan ng Cabuyao in Laguna. Yey to the Philippine educational system.
*the real horror for me may be the fact that I actually have a good friend who writes like this...
I was browsing around pep.com, when this photo series on local celebrities and their homes caught my eye. Actor Yul Servo's house is a nightmare of interior design, something dreamed up by nouveau riche ickiness. Elaborate baroque furniture everywhere. Frosted glass fixtures of astonishing kabaduyan. Gold-plated dinnerware. Bric-bracs masquerading as objet d'art of varying sizes and grotesqueness. Horrible, horrible. It is the absolute definition on how money can never buy you class.
I was browsing in National Book Store when I stumbled on a book of bad poetry, titled I Saw the Master in My Dream and Other Poems, by a certain Sr. Felicidad Lipio. Yes, a nun. I almost went mad when I went through one poem and then the next: it was torture of the fascinating kind (the way we find ourselves sometimes lured to become osyoso to a terrible accident). It was like encountering Arnel Salgado for the first time! (Unlike Arnel, however, a major imprint -- National Book Store itself -- actually underwrote the publication of this book. I suspect it was meant to be inspirational poetry, but Lord knows it has ended up being only merely irritating.)
The good sister writes of her book: "It was during [a] vacation in St. Dominic Academy, Pulilan, Bulacan that I started to write these poems. Actually it was just accidental. I was taking some private computer lessons with [named withheld], a seminarian who was on Regency period, when I discovered that I could write poems." Sister, you should have stuck with the computer lessons. The book is -- que horror -- already in its second edition. Which means people actually bought copes of the first edition (enough to merit a second printing), and lapped up its trite diabetic imagery, and horrible, horrible verse. Perhaps the only good thing one can get from this book, enough for anyone to buy it, is to use it as a manual on how not to write poetry.
I was reading Christopher Connolly's very catchy article "Seven [U.S.] Presidents Nobody Remembers" in CNN.com, when his entry on Warren G. Harding struck me as sounding too familiar for comfort, considering the fact that despite his dullard ways, Harding was also extremely popular among the masses. Like Joseph Estrada. Harding was President #29, from 1921-1923:
Warren G. Harding is generally regarded as the worst president ever. He was disappointing from the get-go, as the very basis of his campaign was boring. Harding ran on the promise of a "return to normalcy," which he (somehow) felt people craved following Woodrow Wilson's bold and visionary term.
To make things worse, Harding ran the White House like a kind of boys' club, where he and some friends known as the "Ohio Gang" enjoyed drinking, playing golf, and cheating on their wives. (Harding is widely rumored to have paid a gambling debt with antique White House china.)
After admitting to friends that he felt overmatched by the job of president, Harding gave his Cabinet free reign and treated the presidency as more of a ceremonial post.
Just as the friends he'd appointed were being nailed for corruption one after another, Harding contracted what doctors assumed was ptomaine poisoning and died of a related heart attack. No autopsy was performed, but rumors abounded that his wife poisoned him to protect what legacy he had left.
I'm thinking: maybe Loi should have done the same. Ha!
More hopelessly ineffective U.S. Presidents here. (Considering its timing, is this CNN's roundabout way of condemning George W. Bush as another presidential buffoon? Maybe not. Because the guy will certainly be remembered for being the worst president ever.)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York recently to attend the U.N. General Assembly. Here's how he comes off as a deluded homophobe, to the boos and general derision from the public: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have this."