Charlatans Have Internet Too

Fairy tales are stories we tell children for the sake of their self preservation. Hansel and Gretel is a cautionary tale – adults can be awful, always leave a trail for your parents to follow and respect people’s homes. Jack and the Beanstalk is another – the family cow is important, ensure you get the proper return for your investment, stealing is lucrative and so is upper body strength. Rapunzel is about freeing yourself and the power of true love, Puss in Boots is about dressing for success and harnessing the power of hubris. They’re not always lessons on how to be a good person, but they are almost always about survival, because life will always have monsters. Evil witches in houses made of candy drops and gingerbread still exist, only these days they’re seemingly harmless gentlemen in windowless white vans, handing out candies to children.

Quite a few of them live online, like the Nigerian Prince, a vampire who uses e-mail to promise a substantial cut of his money in exchange for helping him move it out of the country. It will of course involve a very small fee, and anyone who falls for it eventually keeps paying all these small fees, waiting for the big pay-off, getting drained of their life savings in the process. Imposters love e-mail. A number of them use it to claim your Apple/Paypal/Netflix account is inactive, leading you down a path that eventually ends in forking over sensitive information like your birthdate, the high school you went to and your mother’s maiden name, before you realize you don’t even have an Apple account. These fishermen – phishers, because we’re stylish – lay your life wide open for identity theft and before you know it someone is spending vast amounts of money in your name and your credit rating is shot to hell along with your dreams of owning a car and a decent home.

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French Champ10n

He did it! La Decima is his!

The best tennis combines the brutality of boxing with the finesse of a chess match. Just you and another dude, slugging away at a tiny yellow ball, trying to out-maneuver each other and stay one step ahead. It takes a lot of mental and physical stamina. Only the strongest will survive. Vamos, Rafael Nadal! 

The Violence of Gentlemen

Everybody knows playing Rafa on clay is like going into a meat grinder. He is capable of wearing a player down, chewing him up and spitting him out with his signature brand of tennis. This is why Rafael Nadal is imminently watchable; watching him play tennis on clay (and any other surface) is like watching Beyonce on stage. He sheds the skin of a shy, soft-spoken Mallorcan and steps out in battle mode, utilizing that wicked, looping forehand and unrelenting athleticism to grind his opponents into the dust. Rafa is also capable of chasing almost everything down, and able to change from defense into offense in the blink of an eye. More than his forehand, more than his legs, he also has a will of iron, seemingly unable to just give a single point up, even if it’s the first point in the first match of a throwaway ATP event. To see Rafa at work is to see a fearsome gladiator with a racquet for a broadsword; he isn’t referred to as the Raging Bull for nothing. He has owned everyone at Roland Garros nine times.

Enter Stan. Long under the great shadow cast by Roger Federer, he’s clawed his way into the light with his own brand of violent, no-holds-barred tennis, hitting his way to three Grand Slam titles, making him the only men’s player to date never to lose a Grand Slam final he’s been in. Like Rafa, his athleticism is fearsome – Stan can go toe to toe with the fittest players of the day, sometimes outlasting them. And when he unleashes the blazing backhand he is known for, the reason he’s called the Stanimal is suddenly quite clear. On a good day, with a clear mind and his confidence high, the only sane thing to do is to steer clear of Stanislas Wawrinka and the cannonballs blasting off his racquet.

Raging Bull vs. The Stanimal. Forehand vs. Backhand. Will Rafa prevail and get La Decima? Will Stan triumph and  change the men’s tennis conversation from Big Four to Big Five?  Either way, it’s going to be a bruising Sunday morning on the red clay. I’m off to find a pub with great wings and a giant monitor.

Read the preview over on Rolandgarros.com

Gobble, Gobble, Goblin

Now let me see, if I were a nineteen year-old high school senior with no parents and an abusive auntie, would I go for a well-dressed, obviously wealthy immortal with a mysterious past and a sword sticking out of his chest? Le duh. All a girl really wants is to be with a guy capable of taking her to Quebec City in the blink of an eye after asking if she feels like having steak.  I might quibble a little, though. The best beef would likely be found in Argentina and Wagyu beef is big, but hey. I’m nineteen years old and easily impressed, Quebec City is romantic in sepia and who wouldn’t want to catch falling maple leaves in slow motion with an admittedly attractive man? Anyone would disown their abusive relatives in a heartbeat after a date like that.

My feed will not shut up about this show, so naturally I jumped on the bandwagon and am gawking at it along with the rest of them. One episode is way too long – an hour and a half, come on people, we have lives to live too – and sometimes the things the people in it do and say are completely contrived and make absolutely no sense. Still, this is a soap opera and it’s par for the course. I’m also chalking the wonkiness down to a bad translation job, and the need to make a story stretch for sixteen episodes.

It does drag on as it goes along. I’m still in the sixth episode. The titular Goblin (Gong Yoo, last seen running from zombies on the train to Busan)   has spent over 900 years looking for his bride – the only girl capable of seeing the sword wedged in his chest, destined to pull it out and therefore end his agonizingly long and lonely existence. Now that’s he’s found her, he  can’t seem to decide whether or not he wants to die. Cue mood music and intimate whispers under raindrops that fall just softly enough not to ruin one’s hair, because he also makes it rain when he gets all emo.

This is a show where the men dress better than the women, and I’m loving it. Even if I’ve never been drawn to fops, it’s hard to ignore Lee Dong Wook, an amnesiac Death God, giving face, face, beauty and moody face each time he’s onscreen, rocking wool coats like no one’s business. All the brooding disappears when you hand him a smartphone, and the results are hilarious.  I’m rooting for him and the owner of a fried chicken shop – that budding romance is way more interesting than the one between a nineteen year-old high school senior and a Goblin who can’t make up his damn mind.

Speaking of interesting romances, the best part of this show is the bromance between the Goblin and the Death God  who wants him to go ahead and die already so he can take over the gorgeous home they both share. Both immortal, both gifted with supernatural powers, both males used to getting their own way, both tired of the vagaries of living.  Like all males, they express themselves in the form of pranking, the level of which is borderline Van Wilder, and this forms a big chunk of what makes this show watchable, extended running time bedamned.  The weakness of one brings out the humanity in the other. It doesn’t hurt that both of them look like they stepped out of the pages of Korean GQ every day of the week. It’s easy to see the script flipped into a homo-erotic story where the women exist on the fringes as superficial interests, but it doesn’t and their Odd Couple setup brings enough charm to keep us rooting for them to succeed with the women who’ve wormed their way into the hearts of these troubled immortals.

 

 

Crossing Over

Some people hate the Trump administration so much, they say they’ll move to Canada. It’s not hard to do, a drunken group of American revellers once floated down to Canada by mistake. At last year’s annual Port Huron Float Down, the winds were so strong it pushed partiers  down the St. Clair river, stranding them in Canadian waters without documentation, prompting the Coast Guard to come to their rescue.

America’s crackdown on illegal immigrants is getting a number of people hot under the collar. Not that millions are fleeing in droves, but there’s certainly been an uptick in illegal immigrants crossing over the US border into Canada on foot. It’s not as easy as floating down a river by mistake, and no one will gun you down the way they do down Mexico way, but it can still be hazardous to one’s health.  In Northern Minnesota, Mavis Otutseye, a Ghanaian woman, was found frozen to death in a field half a mile away from a Canadian border town. Authorities believe she may have been trying to cross over illegally. When they learned she had plans to visit her daughter in Toronto who’d just given birth, it became the biggest human interest story of the week, and the finger pointing began. Death does that.

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White Clouds

This makes me envision a younger, slimmer, version of myself running down an endless beach in euphoric slow motion, scarf trailing in the gentle breeze. Because emotions. And sweet, sweet innocence. I have days when I can hardly remember what it was like to be free from care, and this piece just slammed into all my feelings.

Divided We Stand

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This is my favorite Marawi meme.  If I could, this  would be next week’s column. Just this meme, mic drop. But I can’t. I shouldn’t let my editors – make that award-winning editors – down. Not after the MetroPost got named the best weekly community paper in Visayas by the Philippine Press Institute for 2016, no sir. Not when an award-winning weekly actually lets me have a byline, no some questions asked. Congratulations, Ma’am Irma and Sir Alex! Y’all better recognize.

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It’s Your Day, Mommy

This is still the song that comes to mind whenever Mother’s Day rolls around. My best friend and colleague says it’s likely because my taste in music is unevolved. (I know, how dare he?) I prefer to think it’s because its message is clear, strong and still resonates after all these years. The truth usually does.

“Mama” is the exploration of a changing perspective. It’s the gradual dawning of understanding that Mother knew best… or did what she did with the unshakeable belief that she knew best. It was never just about us; it was always about the greater good. It’s gaining the ability to truly laugh, without any remnants of resentment at the foibles of our mothers and accept them for who they are. Maybe even forgive them for whatever psychological scars they’ve inflicted on our nascent childhoods, and ask for our own redemption for all the crap we’ve ever put them through.

What rite of passage defines one’s entry into adulthood? First job? First bill paid? First time to move out?

I think the true rite of passage into adulthood is the one where we stop blaming our parents for every slight, real or perceived, and take hold of the life we have fashioned for ourselves. It’s the moment we accept that it’s the decisions we make – external circumstances bedamned – that shape the life we currently live, that’s when we truly grow up. This is why we can thank the mothers that we do have – because they are just like us. They may be clueless, they may be flawed, but they are courageous. You can listen to all the advice and read all the parenting books in the known universe, but no one knows what they’re really getting themselves into when they decide to be parents. Our parents took the plunge and did it anyway. The craziest, most insanely dangerous leap to take, and the one with the most lasting after-effects. It’s a leap I’ve never even been able to bring myself to make, but our mothers did that for us. And that’s all we can really ask for from them, isn’t it?

Proud and Prejudiced

The Germans have a word for that unique sort of unseemly glee we’ve all experienced at seeing someone fall flat on their face. It’s called schadenfreude, and it’s been in the air since the results of the Bar Exams were released. While the provincial side dances around joyously to the Cece Peniston remix of Finally, the “Imperial Manila” side is going “meh, fluke, provinces are dumb,” and the rest of us who haven’t completely lost our minds are sitting courtside with bags of popcorn, cheering as flamethrowers are lit. Welcome to the Thunderdome.Read More »