I’m in the TransPacific Literary Project!

I’m in the TransPacific Literary Project!

I’d been sitting on this until everything was finalized, and today’s the day! My essay, “Tiangge” is the first entry of the TransPacific Literary Project’s Trans:Act Folio, and I couldn’t be happier!

I wrote the bones of this piece four years ago, around four in the afternoon. It just poured out, fuelled by a haze of nostalgia and homesickness. Immigrants are transplants who carry pieces of their homeland with them no matter where they may be, and sometimes I miss the part of myself that I had to leave behind.

This wasn’t something I ever thought I would share, but I am glad I did. The challenge was to seamlessly incorporate the native language of transaction into the piece, and I was fortunate to have an absolute marvel of an editrix who patiently helped me wrestle it into the shape it eventually ended up taking. People never believe me when I say I’m a sentimental little thing, but seeing my work published is always a surreal experience, and I’m really excited to be able to share my essay with you now!


Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 Recap: The Pack Survives (Part 2)

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 Recap: The Pack Survives (Part 2)

Need to refresh your Dornish wine? Check out the Episode 7, Part 1 recap here.

I never got around to writing a recap for the final episode, if only because S07E06’s Beyond the Wall was such an insane thrill ride, I ran out of gas. If they’d ended the season there, it would’ve worked just as well, which makes S07E07’s The Dragon and the Wolf a bit anti-climactic. With a runtime of 1:20 it’s frankly bloated. The fun stuff begins in the second half, so that tiny spoiler aside, let’s jump in feet first, shall we?

Continue reading “Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 Recap: The Pack Survives (Part 2)”

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 7 Recap: It’s Just About Living (Part 1)

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 7 Recap: It’s Just About Living (Part 1)

Need to refresh your Dornish wine? Check out the Episode 6 recap here.

I haven’t written a Game of Thrones episode recap since late 2017! It’s been a while. Unlike the previous seven seasons, my plan is to watch Season 8 along with everyone else, week by week and come up with episode recaps for each.

I was going to reblog the recaps I wrote of Season 7 when I realized I never got around to writing one for the final episode, if only because the penultimate episode, Beyond the Wall, was such an insane thrill ride, I ran out of gas. If they’d ended the season there, it would’ve worked just as well, which makes The Dragon and the Wolf, the season finale, a bit anti-climactic.

With a runtime of 1:20, it’s frankly bloated and is bit of a drag in the first half, which is why I’ve split this recap into two parts. That tiny spoiler aside, there’s a lot more to come in this post, so without further ado, let’s jump in feet first, shall we?

Continue reading “Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 7 Recap: It’s Just About Living (Part 1)”

Internet Sausage Links

It’s been a while since I’ve come up with one of these link sharing posts. I don’t know if it’s a more conscious attempt to not be online or it’s just the story-fatigue that happens when every day is a constant reminder that shit happens and we humans keep finding ways and means to put pearls on a pig. To be honest with you, I think it’s both, but what else is new? If I shared links on all the op-eds floating around about how we’re all sick of being plugged into the matrix, I would never stop copy-pasting hyperlinks.

ANYWAY.

Speaking of pigs, remember when the New Yorker came out with a story about the guy who pretended he was dying and that his relatives were dead so he could milk all the sympathy to get ahead career-wise? No? It’s a riveting read, and now the book he came up with is up for an award because some people will reward success, no matter the means of obtaining it… – Jezebel

…unlike New Zealand, who refused to acknowledge the gringo who went loco and shot up a mosque in Christchurch by name to deny him the notoriety these crazies obviously crave, a move I totally agree with. I also agree with (and admire) how the country’s leadership did more than provide thoughts and prayers. They flexed legislative muscle to nip similar possible future scenarios in the bud, the way we wish some countries would hurry up and do already – Huffpost

Speaking of (s)nipping, did you know vasectomy cakes are a thing? I didn’t either, but if we’re going to reward something with cake, this makes more sense. Getting your tubes snipped is presumably more agonizing than having a lab tech run a sonic gun over your distended belly in the quest to reveal gender – Today

Ugh. I have never been happier I’m no longer with Fido than I am right now – there’s a lot of things to love about Canada, but our three major telecom companies are not one of them. They do not deserve any cake whatsoever – Mobile Syrup

Ending this with an upbeat cake, or at least, cake-adjacent note, Toronto is to have a new cookie dough parlour downtown this summer. At least we get something to be happy about for a few minutes, before all the pesky reminders that raw cookie dough can be unsafe kick in – Narcity

 

Random Youtube K-Hole: Domo Arigato, Missy Roboto

While robots in music videos is no longer an original theme, it’s always interesting when done right, and there’s a couple new music videos floating around out there that have pretty good visuals, starting with…

365 – Zedd (feat. Katy Perry)

When Taylor Swift came out  in 2017 to address her haters with a music video featuring her as an all powerful android, it made quite the splash. Not to be outdone, here’s Tay-tay’s arch-rival with her own version of redundant robot in her collaboration with  current hot property Zedd. I say redundant because she isn’t just a Stepford girlfriend, she’s a robot Stepford girlfriend which of course is too much of a good thing. Katy Perry is not known for her subtlety, but she does work hard to ensure the music videos she puts out are at least visually striking. While Taylor’s version was more Ghost in the Shell meets Westworld, 365 draws heavily from Black Mirror, with the mega DJ as a pretty believable human foil.

Nights Like This – Kehlani (feat. Ty Dolla Sign)

February was a good month for robot things, what with Alita: Battle Angel, the previous music video and  Kehlani also releasing a music video with a robotic theme. Technology and how it runs our lives has been a running theme since the nineties gave way to the millennium. Maybe it’s a reflection of the increasing disconnect we as a society feel from the everyday. Like 365, Nights Like This also borrows heavily from a Black Mirror-esque plotline.

All is Full of Love – Bjork

Bjorks All is Full of Love was released in 1999, and yet it’s as strikingly modern today as it was twenty years ago. Watching it then felt like being witness to a major breakthrough in visuals. I’ve read enough Vice articles on how wacko the dating world has become with all the dating apps out there, so watching it now in this day and age makes it seem almost prophetic, because this is what human interaction has become, now that we are all well and truly plugged into the matrix. Directed by Chris Cunningham (who also gave us Madonna’s Frozen), All is Full of Love is still the best music video featuring robots (and robot sex) out there, bar none.

ps. that said, my favourite robotic music video is Garbage’s The World is Not Enough, which I loved then, and still love now, although it may not have aged as well as Bjork’s oeuvre.

Campañerang Cuba Goes Home

Campañerang Cuba Goes Home

Dear Elly G,

I feel a strange kind of sadness at having to leave. I say strange because I’ve never been one for the beach, much preferring lakes or rivers and waterfalls instead. But somehow and someway, this pastel unicorn fart of a beachscape has found a way to sink its claws into me, deep enough for me to want to prolong my stay. Or break my self imposed rules, and come back.

I thought I knew beaches, having grown up surrounded by so many, I took them for granted. To be fair, I’ve never been to Boracay, or Palawan, but I have been to Dauin, and Antulang, and to Bantayan island, which boast beaches with pristine white sand and clear blue waters.

I went in the water on Saturday, in the early hours of the morning, when the sun had just risen. The beach was still relatively free of resort-goers. Just me and a handful of people out to score prime real estate under selected palapas, because apparently these things go fast and the earlier you mark your territory with a beach towel, the better. That didn’t really matter to me, since I wasn’t going to be at the beach the whole day anyway. The water is surprisingly warm, the sand like powder under my feet. Surprising, because the last time I was in this part of the world, the water was ice cold. Was it because it was in September and Punta Cana is on the Atlantic, while Cuba shares some of its waters with the Gulf of Mexico? I don’t know. Whatever it was, it was warm and inviting and as I waded in, it was like entering a fantasy. Chos. I know, hyperbole and a half, but I swear I don’t think I ever had quite an experience like that in any body of water whatsoever.

For a while it was just me floating on my back in suspended animation. The feeling of weightlessness was almost sensual, water lapping against the sides of my face and enveloping my body in a caress as I stared up at a sky the colour of a faded bruise tinged with shades of pink and yellow, freewheeling pelicans cutting in and out of my line of sight. It’s been some time since I’ve felt weightless like that. Shut up, it’s not because I’m fat. It’s just that I haven’t really been in pools, or the beach for a long time. I’m not a water baby like you, but in that moment I understood the reasons people return to Cuba over and over again. If you could have a beach like that in your backyard, it would be worth it.

And so I felt sad. The view from my suite was spectacular, exactly what I wanted, nothing but a stretch of blue. To know that I will have to go back and have a completely different view, of high-rises and cranes and so much snow, makes me sad somehow. Of course I miss A a ton, and I miss all the comforts of home, but somehow I wasn’t ready to let go quite yet.

I think this trip has done me good. I believe I might make it a thing, to escape winter for a few days every year, because now I feel like I may be able to see the rest of winter through on my return, without feeling the need to scrape the wall with my fingernails. I don’t know if I want to come back to this particular resort, or even Cuba, if only because variety is the spice of life, but I think a lot of sun in the bleak midwinter definitely did me a world of good.

Waiting for the shuttle,
Nikka

Arroz a la Cubana: Sorta Kinda Havana Good Time

Avoiding the sunshine. I’m laughing at my past self circa a day ago gloating about staying out in the sunshine, because why then did I sign up for a day tour of Havana, which meant a full eight hours in such heat, I came home with a massive migraine?

So there I was, with a gang of other happy, sunburned retirees headed to Havana. I booked a guided tour for a day trip to Cuba’s famous (or infamous, depending on perspective) capital, just to see what it would be like. Because Varadero is two hours away, I didn’t want to chance going into the capital alone on buses I was unfamiliar with. My imagination, always fertile and ready to go for the worst case scenario, was in overdrive, waiting for the guardia civil, the policia, the men in uniform come to drag me away, lock me up and attach electrodes to my tender parts for every minor infraction, because well, communism (and I am an ignoramus) so I was on my best behaviour.

Here’s what I found:

1. There are barely any Asians in Cuba.

2. About 80% of everyone visiting is white, and the locals automatically assume – not mistakenly – that they are Canadian. (Cuba is to Canada what Boracay is to the Philippines.)

3. I don’t think I’m cut out for guided tours after all.

It was a tour designed to check all the boxes, and we were led from tourist spot to tourist spot to a shop for rum and cigars, kind of like kids in kindergarten on a field trip. I’m used to planning my own itinerary ahead of time, and I like to try and go where the locals go and poke around, so if that is your thing, don’t do a guided tour. I didn’t get to take a lot of good pictures because we passed quite a few sights (El Capitolio, Morro Castle, etc) while still on the tour bus and didn’t have the time to take quality shots. I was also disappointed because I thought we would have some time to get into museums and browse, not just stand outside buildings while the guide drones on about how Hemingway lived in this hotel and how Hemingway drank at this bar. Eh. Yay? It really is my fault, I should have done a lot more research  but I only have myself to blame for the last minute decision to go.

The Havana I envisioned was a city that comes alive in the evening, strung about with fairy lights, air filled with salsa music, laughter, the chatter of a people letting loose and stumbling out of nightclubs. The Havana we saw was Old Havana, bleached by an unrelenting sun, occupied mostly by tourists goggling at the state of disrepair. By day, the decay of the city is revealed, its buildings crumbling, paint flaking off of edifices built in the 20’s, mold and water stains caked on like a woman who had staggered to bed after a night of debauchery, fallen asleep without removing her makeup and woke up in the bright light of day. Many of the buildings are gutted with only their facades left intact, and many are in an ongoing state of construction that seems to have been undertaken with gusto but half-heartedly left in disrepair when time, money, or energy ran out.

And it’s quiet. It felt like the only people out were the tourists. We drove through one of the neighbourhoods on the way to having lunch and I wondered where the locals were, because I didn’t see very many of them on the streets. Where were the street vendors? The food carts? The hustle and bustle of the everyday? Nowhere. Havana is clean, almost unnaturally so, and the quiet juxtaposed with all the buildings with paint peeling off is almost eerie.

I am glad that the government of Cuba took steps to preserve and restore many of the buildings in the heart of Old Havana. My favourites are the palaces of stone built by the Spanish, some as far back as the 1700’s, their cathedrals and seawalls imposing and engineered to last. Unlike the buildings that flourished in the early 20’s, theirs don’t need paint, only a thorough scrubbing. Through some mysterious alchemy the Spanish made buildings that stood the test of time. It’s their architecture that gives Havana a sort of quiet, solid strength, and contributes to so much of the city’s character. I felt awed by their achievement, and thankful at being able to witness it. Incidentally, Old Havana is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who is interested in architecture and history. Maybe just don’t do a guided tour. You’ll have a lot more fun discovering places all by your lonesome!