Some years ago, the poet Myrna Peña-Reyes made an astute observation about how spoiled Dumaguetnons are when it comes to the city’s vibrant art and culture scene: so many events happen within a given week that most people don’t even bother to go and support all these exhibits, concerts, screenings, stagings, gigs, readings, or lectures anymore. “They’ve become a dime a dozen,” she said.
Well, 2020 changed all that. The pandemic has starved us so thoroughly of live performances that when I heard there was going to be play staged tonight—but an invitational one that followed health protocols, in a well-ventilated venue, and with the most minimal number of audience members—I jumped at the chance to watch it. I’VE BEEN STARVED SINCE MARCH OF CULTURE. And what a wonderful time we had with the play!
Andy Alvarez starred as an elderly Polish grocery stocker with a painful past and Malka Shaver starred as a bored graphic designer with an unsure grasp of what she wants in Karen Schiff’s Breakfast with Willy, directed by Daisy Hannah Catacutan. It was just the right play to watch in these fraught times: a nice blend of comedy with something important to say about the horrors of war, immigration, identity, life choices, and breakfast cereal. I had a great time.
Seven years ago today, we launched Handulantaw, a coffeetable book on the history of the art and culture scene of Silliman University, which I supervised and edited. It remains one of the works I'm most proud of making, although it took so much out of me. The book was borne out of my frustration about the way cultural heritage was being neglected in Dumaguete, a city so rich in art and culture but so neglectful in its documentation, archiving, and appreciation. Many people helped me in realizing this book, and to them, especially Diomar Abrio and the Tao Foundation, I am most grateful.
One of my favorite books is Conundrum by Jan Morris [1926-2020], the celebrated travel and history writer who also became a pioneering voice of transsexualism. The 1974 book is a stunning memoir of her transitioning from James Morris, who was an accomplished soldier in the British military during World War II and then an accomplished journalist, to "Jan." The book hooks you with its first paragraph -- “I was three or perhaps four years old when I realized that I had been born into the wrong body, and should really be a girl. I remember the moment well, and it is the earliest memory of my life” -- words so iconic that they became the cover art of the 2013 edition of the book published by New York Review Books. For a writer devoted to mapping the externals landscapes of the world, she also proved adept at delving into the internal, in prose so lyrical I couldn't put it down. "I cherished it as a secret," she wrote, "shared for twenty years with not a single soul. At first I did not regard it as an especially significant secret. I was as vague as the next child about the meaning of sex, and I assumed it to be simply another aspect of differentness. For different in some way I recognized myself to be. Nobody ever urged me to be like other children: conformity was not a quality coveted in our home." But when she deigned to finally share that secret, and to finally reconcile the world with the truth of her identity, we became all the more blessed for it. Her passing is a great loss, but she will be appreciated forever for helping show the way to merit trans people their full, realized lives.
7:40 PM |
Murphy’s Law Thursday for Online Classes
Internet connectivity at its worst this semester, I can’t even. Home wifi was soooo slow today, nothing would load, so I decided to go to a cafe to hold my first class—but still, it was plagued with tech problems, like no sound and glitchy video. [How many times did I restart that class?] But I had to go home for my next class because the cafe I was in started playing loud music. And then I had to walk home because I couldn’t catch a ride. Finally got home, but the slowness of the wifi remained. And Zoom kept crashing. Makabuang.
Alex Trebek [1940-2020] was the very soul of Jeopardy!, the unlikely TV game show that transcended its kind and became a strange amalgam of entertainment and knowledge. Granted, it was a heightened trivia show, but it had the aura of brain-expanding legitimacy akin to avidly poring over volumes of Encyclopedia Brittanica for knowledge's sake. And Trebek was the icon of that knowledge-seeking in a pop cultural realm, his charm a large part of what made Jeopardy! a huge success. His calm but quick steerage of the process provided a comfortable and cerebral safe harbour in a TV landscape full of Kardashians and Trump. Saddened by this loss. To quote the s.o., "I'd like Things That Make Me Sad for $600, Alex."
5:02 AM |
Nicole Kidman Singing Much-Needed Anxiety Balm for the Soul
I'm anxious as hell for America as it votes for its life. Nicole Kidman singing "Dream A Little Dream" for the title sequence of HBO's The Undoing is the anxiety balm I never thought I'd be happy to have.