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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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.

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?

Taste the Rainbow

Last week, Starbucks debuted a limited edition drink called the Unicorn Frappucino. The name alone evoked magic and cotton candy, which sounds interesting on paper, but turned out to be all sorts of extra. I’ve downed my fair share of bubble teas that have run the gamut of colours, but even this was just a little much too much.

The Unicorn Frappucino (April 18-23, 2017, RIP) was a blended drink that was created to dazzle the eye.  It had a pink, sparkly, mango-flavoured cream base, was laced with a “pleasantly sour” blue ripple and, as a final flourish, topped with whipped cream and a light dusting of pink “fairy dust.” In other words, it looked like someone took major elements of gay pride, put it in a blender, poured it in a venti cup and topped it with diabetes. Read More »

Addicted to Life

Death as a concept was introduced by a slightly batty friend of my parents who had been asked to babysit. I don’t remember all the details, I just remember her earnest explanation of war and how everyone was eventually going to kick the bucket. I wasn’t ready. (I’m still not ready.) My parents came home to a five-year-old wailing her head off. I don’t want you to die! They never asked her to babysit again.

Realizing no one lives forever was my version of being told Santa Claus wasn’t real. Now that I knew life was finite, I dedicated the rest of my life to finding ways to prolong my time on earth without adding unnecessary risks.  Ha! I wish. I don’t smoke and I drink very little, but my true vices are sugar and salt. Both of these are just as likely to steer me on my way to kingdom come while a dozen nutritionists look on in horror, but what a way to go, eh?

Two weeks ago, Siquijor went from a quiet, untouched paradise to a scary, dangerous place. Two promising young women were cut down in the prime of their lives, all because a crazy bloke was running around tripping balls, leaving devastation in his wake. It hit very close to home, because this is the sort of thing that is only supposed to occur in a gritty metropolis, not a magical, carefree island like Siquijor. Most of the time we shrug off these scenarios, believing they will never happen to us or anyone we know.  Then tragedy strikes and it suddenly feels like we’re all just waiting for a piano to fall on our heads.

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United We Fall

A routine exercise in booting people off an overbooked flight in an attempt to have standby staff flown to Louisiana turned into a farce of major proportions, when one guy decided to do a Rosa Parks and stand up, or in this case, sit down, for his rights. He refused to move, so United Airlines could have seats for staff that needed to fly to Louisiana, likely a last-minute reassignment for them to crew another plane.

I suppose United’s decision to do this made sense to them in a twisted sort of way: they owned the plane, it was their crew, they could do what they wanted provided they gave the affected passengers compensation and an alternate trip back. Their house, their rules. It’s like a customer refusing to leave a restaurant even after being offered a free meal and fare for a cab ride home despite the repeated requests of its owner. Is the owner supposed to just throw his hands up in the air and let the customer have his way, or does he sic law enforcement on the offending party instead?

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(You’ve Got Me Feeling) Emulsions

 

Opposites often attract, which in my case happens to be true. Nowhere is the disparity between our characters more obvious than the bathroom. The amount of cleansing stuff I have versus that of my husband’s is staggering. In the shower alone I have washes, creams, gels and potions for every conceivable part of the body – hair, face, body, hands, feet. He has the basics: soap and shampoo. That’s it. By comparison he makes me look like the most frivolous female on the face of the earth.

He’s hirsute by choice – the tactful would describe his look as lumbersexual, I prefer the phrase “heavy metal Jesus” – which gives him ample reason to get into the fun stuff guys get to use now. There’s no shortage of them. I’m forever showing him options for beard oil, beard balm, beard softeners, waxes, aftershaves, combs, shaving brushes made of badger hair. Guys have so much fun stuff to try out in this day and age, but he refuses to succumb to the siren call of the “trendy hipster.” I admire his fortitude. What is it with men and their ability to literally live without frippery?

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Agent Orange

I have a confession to make. I am an addict, enslaved to Cheetos. Anyone who’s willingly dunked their face in a wide-open bag of Cheetos will understand the sheer thrill of inhaling the scent of chemical flavouring.It is a horrible addiction to have, because no one wants to admit their world is ruled by Chester the Cheetah, but there you have it. It could’ve been coke. Crack. MDMA. Bath salts. Heroin. Prescription painkillers. Something, anything more high-brow, something with cachet, but no. It just had to be an easily accessible bag of cheese curls with orange powder. It’s got the same after-effects – the aftermath has me curled in a ball, hating myself and wanting to throw up. Curse thee, o fates! Curse thee, o willpower, that thou shouldst desert me in my time of need!

The Lobster Quadrille

If you’re casting about for a movie to watch this Valentine’s Day, save your money, time and sanity and forget about Fifty Shades Darker. Get on Netflix and watch The Lobster instead. I know, it’s been out for a few months and I’m tardy to the Netflix viewing party, but better late than never, I always say. Featuring Colin Farrell, who channels Christian Bale’s paunch from American Hustle, it’s the ultimate Valentine Movie, suitable for viewing each time that silly naked angel with a bow and arrow makes its inevitable appearance and tries to make all of us feel inadequate at love and romance.

Why anyone would choose to leave someone who looks like Colin Farrell – even a near-sighted, sad-sack, porn-stached Colin Farrell – is beyond me, but this is exactly what happens. He soon finds himself in a hotel with 45 days to get boo’d up, otherwise he’ll live out the rest of his days in the sea. The Lobster is billed as a comedy, which is restrictive and fails to give one the whole spectrum of what it’s really about. The humour is there, but it’s humour of the very black, twisted, sad kind. Nowhere is this more glaringly obvious than in the frantic forest hunt where everyone tries to capture a loner to enable them to extend their stay at the hotel in the hopes of buying them a little more time to find that elusive perfect match.

In the Philippines, we use the term “firing squad.” If you have no one on Valentine’s Day, you may as well be taken out to the back and shot. Which is the fate of all the loners in this movie – the ones who don’t willingly submit to what happens if they fail to couple up by the deadline end up being hunted, by the very ones who are about to take their place. It’s a scene rendered in excruciating slow-motion, an allegory for frantically swiping right.

The Lobster exists in a “dystopian” society where people who aren’t paired up are considered animals. I use quotation marks, because it isn’t dystopian at all. This is what real life can sometimes be like. The propaganda is everywhere. No man is an island. Two are better than one. Three’s a crowd. Strength in numbers. Even Ricky Martin says nobody wants to be lonely.

The movie is a scathing indictment of something most of us are aware of and struggle against, but end up tolerating anyway: we will always and forever be partially defined by whether or not we are one half of a significant whole, because society thinks there’s something inherently wrong with single people. To most, single people are like empty subway cars: full of exciting, limitless potential until the doors open and we realize there’s poop. Or vomit. Or a malodorous hobo sleeping on the floor. While this myopic view is thankfully changing, it’s still glaringly prevalent. We sentence single ladies past a certain age to  a life of knitting and cats, or aging bachelors to waning years left balding and alone in an apartment that smells like feet.  It’s the reason well-meaning people ask if you’re in a relationship. Saying no too often to this question marks one as odd. Never mind that solitariness can, is and should be a choice. We don’t always have to be with someone, but people will always wonder why.