Effortless, First-Rate Original

Effortless, First-Rate Original

Cherie Gil died.

I didn’t know her personally. I was more familiar with the persona she had built as an actress -the haughty, upper class, sharply dressed rich bitch, eyebrow perpetually arched, raking you with her gaze from head to foot and back again with searing dismissal, a Virginia Slim effortlessly balanced between two slender, tapered, perfectly manicured fingers. Filipino cinema has no shortage of unforgettable female villains. Along with Celia Rodriguez, Cherie Gil was arguably the most recognizable, the name and face that came to mind whenever the concept of the kontrabida was bandied about. She played women you loved to hate with elan, with class, and with flair. Those patrician features and take no prisoners attitude certainly contributed to the overall effect; Cherie Gil never needed to say it out loud in the movies, but her very aura told you in no uncertain terms that she was aware of your hatred, and didn’t give a damn about it.

I don’t think I ever saw any of the movies she was in, so my impressions of her are from movie clips and oft-bandied lines. With her passing, the most memorable has been shared and played all over local news and my feed. It’s just piling on at this point, but I can’t help sharing it anyway, because it is a line delivered with such delicious venom, and such precise diction, it’s more than earned its place in Philippine cinema as one of its most (fine, I’ll say it) iconic lines:

La Primera Contravida indeed.

I wonder if Cherie Gil was that way in real life. I like to think she was more than the two-dimensional villains she was most famous for playing onscreen, whose only existed to be hated. I also like to think the spicy forthrightness she brought to her villainess roles was intrinsic. Maybe it was, if the profile piece in Mega Magazine earlier this year can be believed. She confessed to struggling with fear, shaved her head (“What’s hair, di ba?”), sold all her things, and moved to New York for a fresh start and to be with her kids. In hindsight, she must’ve already known, she just wasn’t willing to share it. She hadn’t announced that she was ill (really, the hair should’ve been a clue). Maybe Cherie Gil didn’t want to be defined by her illness. Maybe all Cherie Gil wanted was to go out with a bang. And I think that makes me respect her more, even if I never knew her. I still want to be Cherie Gil some day. Alas, I don’t think I’ll ever have the features for it.

Freedom 90’s

Yesterday’s biggest news story was supposed to be the assassination of the dapper Shinzo Abe, Japan’s former Prime Minister. That should’ve dominated the headlines but it didn’t, because Rogers decided to do the exact opposite of showing up and showing out, falling flat on its face. Thoughts and prayers go out to whoever is manning their customer service phones in the coming weeks. It is not going to be pretty. Yesterday, Rogers absolutely ate shit. Their cellular and internet services went down nationwide, and with it went e-transfers, cashless debit payments and 911 emergency services. Suddenly Canada had been plunged right back into the 90’s, when people paid in cash, there was no internet, and lord help you if you got rear-ended with no payphones in the near vicinity.

It’s one thing to consciously unplug. It’s quite another to have no choice. Personally, I liked it. Can’t say the rest of Canada agreed with me. Judging by the number of mental breakdowns on Twitter, there is no rage quite like that of Canadians unable to pay at a Tim Horton’s. It is not a good idea to get between Canucks and their morning double double.

Then again, I could afford to be pretty blasè about the situation. Rogers is our ISP, but we’re with Freedom for our mobiles, so I still had cellular service, though weak at times. I didn’t feel totally cut off from the world. I am a veteran of blackouts. I am an old. The internet did not arrive in my corner of the Philippines until the late 90s. I still remember how to amuse myself without it. Also, I don’t really drink coffee on the regular. So all in all, it was a nice flashback to a less frenetic way of life. Unable to work, I spent it catching up on my reading and watching whatever was on TV. (White House Down. Channing Tatum in his prime.). Something about not being inundated by streaming choices was strangely relaxing.

So what are my takeaways from yesterday’s Flashback Friday?

  • Always have cash on hand.
  • It’s better to have no internet than have no power.
  • Monopolies are never a good idea.
  • Anything powered by digital tech can get snuffed out in a heartbeat. Ergo, I have decided I am entirely justified in thinking crypto and NFTs are dumb.
  • Monopolies are never a good idea.

Welp, at least the connectivity’s back on again. Rogers still hasn’t quite come out with what caused the blackout, so predictably all sorts of conspiracy theories are out there. Some blamed Russia for it. Please, like Russia has the time. That country is way too preoccupied with Ukraine. The bestie wondered if it was because Boris Johnson resigned. My money is on either sharks, solar storms, or some poor Rogers employee who fell asleep on the keyboard. You know what, scratch that. Here’s who I blame: William Shatner. I blame William Shatner for going to space. William Shatner broke space, made the sun spititng mad, and now satellites are falling out of their orbit. (That piece on solar storms is a fascinating read.) Throw Lance Bass in there too, for wanting to go to space. If I’m going to be irrational here, this is just as good a hill to die on as any.

So this is how asynchronous Zoom classes go, or: How my notes on research and statistics reflect a descent into exhaustion and carpal tunnel

Shameless screenshot from my instructor’s PPT. He is a meme-lord and the absolute best.

Week 9
See the rest of the PDF for stuff on T-tests! Sorry past self, can’t focus anymore.

Week 10
See Week 10’s PDF! Sorry past self, too tired to take notes right now. Suffice to say you read the PDF for this week. Revisit when writing the research proposal.

Week 11
Dear past self, you did read Week 11. It is full of info, especially for publishing research, and creating research posters for conferences and stuff. It is the second to the last week of Winter 2022 and although you have lost the ability to take detailed notes, you are very nearly at the finish line. Below are some links. For the rest, refer to the PDF.

Week 12 – Final Week!
Dear past self, yes you read this too. There’s not much to say. It’s all good points – colonization is bad, try not to be racist, be open-minded, visit this website with lots of links to potential reads. Essentially, don’t be a dick. You are reading this at 1:30 in the morning, and Regine Velasquez is wailing in your ears. Revisit for some really good, non-preachy points about how to be sensitive to what knowledge is, how we determine what counts as knowledge, and the different lenses that can be used to interpret knowledge. Read the PDF if you ever need ideas for an essay.

~

I know of one professor who got his Master’s and a PhD degrees while working. Those people are beasts. It’s been a hell of a fall/winter term and I end it with much relief, and a newfound respect for whoever has had a full academic course load and work at the same time!

What Books Did You Read in 2021?

What Books Did You Read in 2021?

I finally decided to do something about the paralyzing ennui of lockdown, so I went back to school last September. I didn’t know it then, but that spelled the end of reading for fun. Reading for grad school requires a bit of a chopped and skrewed approach, as opposed to reading something cover to cover. It took a lot of  getting used to, and I got snowed under by the amount of reading required! By the end of Fall Term, I was pretty much tapped out, and spent the winter break in a heap on the couch, comfort-watching Mad Men in a bid to self-soothe. 

Needless to say, I didn’t quite hit my self-assigned annual reading quota (oh, to read 100 books a year like some people!). Oh well. Maybe in 2022? Ha! If only. Anyway, as usual there’s no rhyme or reason to my reading choices, and this time around I chose to simply divide the books by Fiction/Non-Fiction and my ever-present re-reads.  About 95% were all read and available from Overdrive, through the generous auspices of the Toronto Public Library, and hopefully they  give you ideas for what to read next. Scroll past the titles to my top picks of 2021, if you’re so inclined!

Fiction
The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley
Shadow and Bone / Siege and Storm / Ruin and Rising – Leigh Bardugo
Red Queen / Glass Sword – Victoria Aveyard
Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins
The Invisible Library – Genevieve Cogman
The Library of the Unwritten – A.J. Hackwith
The Woman Before Wallis – Bryn Turnbull
Fire From Heaven / The Persian Boy / Funeral Games – Mary Renault
Never Mind / Bad News / Some Hope / Mother’s Milk / At Last – Edward St Aubyn
The Knife of Never Letting Go / The Ask and the Answer / Monsters of Men – Patrick Ness

Non-Fiction
God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World – Cullen Murphy
The Billionaire Murders – Kevin Donovan
I’ll Be There for You: The One About Friends – Kelsey Miller
No Place to Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs – Lezlie Lowe
There Was a Little Girl – Brooke Shields

Re-reads Still Count
Champagne Supernovas – Maureen Callahan
The Silmarillion / The Children of Hurin – J.R.R. Tolkien

The 2021 Standouts

The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
Every so often I stumble across a book that sings, and wonder where I was when it hit shelves. At the apex of Belgium’s secession from the Congo, five young women struggle to understand their place in the world – a place their father, an American Baptist missionary, believes it is his calling to save. Stymied by cultural differences, the political climate, a misguided saviour complex and the untameable land itself, each woman responds to her situation in different ways – with grace, with belligerence, with defeat, with defiance, with unbridled curiousity. The Poisonwood Bible is an eloquent depiction of life in post-colonial Africa and what becomes of visitors who presume to take it for granted. Published in 1998, this is a beautifully complex novel: part love letter, part indictment, a chorus of five female voices rising from the heart of darkest Africa. This is great historical fiction.

The Centaur’s Wife – Amanda Leduc
Sometimes, good books require the reader to let the journey take precedence over the destination. The Centaur’s Wife is a labyrinth of a story, like stepping into a dark fairytale with a dash of post-apocalyptic nightmare. It never quite seems to make sense, but that’s part of its allure. “In the beginning,” it begins, “a horse fell in love with a woman.” It’s hypnotic, and enchanting, and very much worth your while.

Monstress – Lysley Tenorio
Nick Joaquin once opined that the Filipino has mastered the art of the short story, and Lysley Tenorio’s Monstress proves him right. Blending stories of the Beatles and Imelda Marcos, with scenes from bygone days when Filipino B-movies cast their long shadow, Tenorio has a special connection to his heritage, and it shows. The scenarios are familiar, the stories written in a familiar cadence, some rhythmic drumming you’ve heard once, a long time ago, but never quite forgot. Monstress is a collection of short stories that pack a punch, especially for a homesick Filipino expat like me. Read it, if only for the incandescent “The Brothers” alone.

The Witch’s Heart – Genevieve Gornichec
“They’re odd. We’re odd,” shrugs Angrboda, who has nothing but love for her three children. Her first is a girl born half rotted with decay, her second a wolf, and her last a serpent; still, she dismisses their strangeness with as much nonchalance as she dismisses having been burned thrice and speared through the heart. With the Witch’s Heart, Genevieve Gornichec accomplishes the impossible – she makes us root for the children of Loki, the three hellspawn of chaos who are destined to bring Ragnarok, and the woman who bore them. It’s like Circe, except with Vikings.

All the Stones We’ve Yet to Pee

I spent the first day of the year of our Lord 2022 listening to so-bad-it’s-good boyband B-sides, and internally swoon-screaming. Hey, I grew up in a household that had Barry Manilow albums on vinyl. I glory in schmaltz. Besides, why even pretend to be ashamed? Late 90’s Jeff Timmons could get it. I freed the hormonal teenage girl that lives in me, and she ran like she was running across the border.

Dear lord, the late 90s. Those halcyon days, when hopes were as high as the jeans were wide. There’s just something about listening to handsome, corn-fed, mid-Western boys wooing impressionable young girls with songs about love and heartache that takes me back.

This pandemic’s been cited as the reason nostalgia is bigger than it ever was. All the talk about comfort-watching/comfort-listening opening the brain’s mood-enhancing pearly gates is definitely true, but for me, nostalgia is fuelled by the double whammy of homesickness and aging.

By medieval life expectancy standards, I’m practically a hag. The older I get and the more adulting I do, and the longer I spend without getting to be with family, the connection to that fearless younger self grows ever more tenuous. Aging, and the attendant responsibilities that come with it, comes with so much uncertainty – ironic, considering we all know where we’re headed anyway – that sometimes, just living feels like constantly trying to keep it together. Losing the battle with gravity sucks. So does being slapped in the face out of nowhere by random words you’d never think would apply to you. Like perimenopause. Are we here already? Should I start crushing up estrogen pills and sprinkling them over my Metamucil? Jesus. I can’t be there yet. Or can’t I? Can I just make like an ostrich, and stick my head in the sand? Maybe it’s a good thing I never really thought this far ahead. If I had known going in, that this was the price to pay for eventual independence, Id’ve been a wreck. Fine, more of a wreck.

With another year gone by, I think it’s important not to lose the sense of what one used to be, if only so we don’t wake up and realize we don’t know who we are anymore. (Which might be easier than you’d think, given how something as simple as breathing has been considered lethal in the past two years, and what a mind trip it’s been.) It’s not wise to live in the past, but it’s foolhardy to forget about it entirely. So reach for the familiar. Make every day Throwback Thursday – at least until this thing passes. Because, to quote one of my favourite sayings, this will pass. It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass. At least, I hope it passes. I hope it passes, before [word I refuse to type more than once in a blog post] arrives. 🤞

Leading With This

Hahaha. Oh 2022. Please have mercy. I am so tired of staying in and subsisting on toilet paper.

Random YouTube K-hole: Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Love Again – Dua Lipa

It’s been a silly week for music videos whose musical vibe don’t quite mesh with the chosen visuals (looking at you, Billie Eilish), and leading the pack is Miss Lipa, going all wild wild west. In a hotel lobby. With an egg. And clowns, for some reason. I’m not sure what it is with all the dead-eyed singers these days, but I miss the naughty sparkle in the eyes the best pop divas used to have –  Whitney, Mariah, Celine, down to the Britney contingent. Was it the coke? Was that just Whitney? Anyway. Dua always gives good pouty face, and Future Nostalgia is such a banging party album all throughout, it’s hard to hate. Love the song, but she’s had way better music videos. 

You Should Be Sad – Halsey

I’m going to give Halsey props for the shout-out to the original queen of the country-pop crossover – Shania Twain – but that’s about as close to authentic country as You Should Be Sad can visually get, banjos bedamned. It’s probably not on purpose – clearly she’s just borrowing (appropriation? gasp!) a theme here, and the song is cute, but it’s pretty much girl gets mad at loser ex-BF and decides to go writhe on the floor of a barn because, I don’t know, boobs. Or something.

Don’t Tell Me – Madonna

 

Yes, rounding this off with another one from the vault, because the 90s was the golden age of the music video, and yes, I am willing to die on this hill.  Don’t Tell Me is a stripped down, earthy, modern take on  cowboys, bucking broncs and the rugged terrain of the American West – a stylized encapsulation of exactly what it is that makes this bit of Americana so instantly recognizable. With nothing but plaid, dirty jeans and a giant belt buckle, Madonna did it first, and did it better. Maybe I’m just biased. Maybe I’m just an old. It’s probably both, but hey, I  choose my choice!