Thursday, March 31, 2016

MORE ELECTION STUFF. All The Anger

ALL the anger from without but where is the love from within? I opted out of two election-related Facebook groups (in the Philippines and the US) because of obvious reason/s. There are so much negativity in there. I don't need to be reminded how horrible the past was. The Martial Law and post-ML years (1980s mostly) back home, yet the young need to know somehow without ramming `em down their throats. They are not dumb either. Yelling those grim memories of days gone over and over and over won't help. We need to pose solutions and remedies so that the ills of yesterday won't be able to find cracks to seep through the system again. The same with some political groups in the US. So many spewing and spitting to the tune of “My candidate is god and yours is Lucifer!” / “You don't know shit, you are a Communist!” / “Damn Rightist freak!” mud-throwing. Goodgollymissmiley! Chill, superhomeys! Grab some chamomile tea and simmer down.


          Where are the issues? Where are the facts? Let us discuss economic platforms and foreign policies. What have presidents done on the good side and what do these leadership aspirants got so that a light of hope gleams in the horizon somehow—than a pall of rabid cloud swarming the glade? Some people got really intense precautionary blahblah than the optimistic taps on the shoulder. I observed and covered elections in the islands and in the US for years. Although I kind of “retired” a bit to work on book/s, I still get news/info feeds from the White House press relations and several media organizations in Manila. I like to read stuff and know what's going on around me. I sat down with political thinks tanks and listened and spoke. Alongside that, I'm known as a hardline activist almost all my life that it seems impossible to shake that persona. In Asheville I even devoted my little newspaper to anti-war ideals and the Occupy movement. But somehow we gotta sit down and look at the eyes of our children or grandchildren—and the kids out there. What do we have to hand to them? Anger? We need to hand them plans than promises, you reckon? Let's lead them to the light of the field than pull them to the dark of our shell. The past that I tried to heal from was a past littered with deaths and mourning—yet I didn't hand these to my kids. They will explore and navigate life and build their truths based on what they got and not on what I had. I needed to raise a mature mind than an angry one, a heart that calms the storm down than one that provokes it. I still have so much anger in me but you know, dafuq with that. LOL! My love poems and the ethereal music of the Bee Gees get me by, feel me?
         Meantime, I do enjoy recent chats with my longtime buddies back home. Exchange of views about language (we islanders got a lot!) historical puzzles, even origins of food, carrot man nose and music. I also talk/IM with friends in the US who offer objective discussion about Trump's economic agenda beyond the wayward motor-mouth and Bernie's brainstorm beyond the socialist pronouncements, and why Hillary's centrist stance got some points to ponder as well. I love these talks. I continually learn from listening especially with those that I seem to disagree with. The chants of the choir can be boring sometimes. In between, we got some cute cat videos, funny posters/stickers, family jokes, and those sweet sentimental songs like “Just When I Needed You Most” and “Sometimes When We Touch” by these dudes Randy Vanwarmer and Dan Hill, you know them? And yes—awesome blues-rock by Pinay rocker Sampaguita (who fondly calls me Sampogito) and “kundiman” songs by my idol Celeste Legaspi. Enjoy! Facebook is not a slogan chalkboard, right? It's all fun. Dig? Cool. Now I digress... 

U.S. Presidential Race

THE ruckus that ensued in Donald Trump's rallies in Fayetteville NC and Chicago reflect a painful truth. Americans are pissed. As per a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, voter discontent has reached a fever pitch: 72 percent say their elected officials can’t be trusted, and two-thirds believe the nation’s political system is dysfunctional. Some 21 percent of people want the eventual president-elect to employ drastic makeover of government structures and start over from scratch. Such utter disillusionment mutates into two polar extremes that howl, “We need complete redress of the system!” which makes Republican frontrunner Mr Trump's “Bring back America to Americans!” battlecry and Democrat Bernie Sanders' “Power to the people!” chant seem very alluring and palpable—at least to the heart that bleeds.

          Trump's politics could be a bit blurry at times, uncontrollably assymmetrical mostly. He claims to run on a platform of populism, nativism, protectionism and authoritarianism—with strong opposition to immigration, free trade and military interventionism. Meantime, many detractors find his fiery espousals as white supremacist/racist and misogynistic—sending shivers of a Hitlerian blueprint. Remember, the Fuhrer gained popular support in 1924 by attacking the Treaty of Versailles and promoting Pan-Germanism, anti-Semitism, and anti-communism with charismatic oratory. He denounced international capitalism and communism as being part of a Jewish conspiracy. Hitler aimed to eliminate Jews from Germany and establish a New Order to counter what he saw as the injustice of the post-World War I international order dominated by Britain and France. The kicker was his first six years in power resulted in rapid economic recovery from the Great Depression. Germany back to the Germans. Trump's glib albeit straight-through rhetoric infers that the ills of current America is ushered by an immigrant community in connivance with giant corporations. And when we talk about the American who lost a factory job to overseas outsourcing and then sees Chinese products flooding retail shelves then comes home to an injured soldier kin languishing in alcohol, what do we see? Then Trump promises, “I will give your life back.”
          On the other side of the political spectrum, Sanders offers democratic socialism as the answer. What does he really mean? Textbook-wise, Democratic Socialism is a political ideology advocating a democratic political system alongside a socialist economic system, involving a combination of political democracy with social ownership of the means of production. Democratic socialist countries vary in their espousals of socialist economic models. Some democratic socialists advocate forms of market socialism where socially-owned enterprises operate in competitive markets, and in some cases, are self-managed by their workforce. On the other hand, other democratic socialists advocate for a non-market participatory economy based on decentralized economic planning. Sanders imbues a number of thoughts—all on the line of democratic socialism that somehow saw some sort of success somewhere beyond America.
          There was Pakistan's Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's economic programme which was based on the nationalization of industries, expansion of the Welfare State by introducing minimum wage and old age benefits. Sweden's Olof Palme was steadfast in his non-alignment policy towards the superpowers, accompanied by support for numerous third world liberation movements. And what about Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew who holds profound effect on the Communist leadership in China, especially under Deng Xiaoping. Check out China these days. There is also the example of Kerala in India, a fountainhead in democratic socialist welfare economy—broken down into liberalisation of the mixed economy, allowing restrictions against capitalism and lightening up of foreign direct investment, leading to economic expansion and an increase in employment. Kerala was a very successful model.
         
I am not saying that either economic/societal programs (by Trump and Sanders) won't work. I am saying, these are easy baits to a humanity so sick of bills. Do these systems apply in America's sociocultural psyche? Well, I don't know. While Hitler indeed launched a six-year economic recovery at the time of Great Depression, democratic socialism worked as well in other societies I mentioned above. If ether Trump or Sanders wins, how would they be able to muscle their agenda out in a very divisive and formidable Congress that is fueled by giant corporations, as we know it.
       Wait. What about looking back at Franklin D. Roosevelt? He was a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic depression and total war. His program for relief, recovery and reform, known as the New Deal, involved a great expansion of the role of the federal government in the economy. As a dominant leader of the Democratic Party, he built the New Deal Coalition (after a series of Executive Orders) that brought together and united labor unions, big city machines, white ethnics, African Americans, and rural white Southerners in support of the party. The Coalition significantly realigned American politics after 1932, thus defining American liberalism throughout the middle third of the 20th century. But this is not the 30s or 40s. There is a huge tilt in global order. China is not sleeping anymore, in fact it is wide awake. Cold War is gone decades ago and Russia is the number 1 producer of oil globally, and then there goes the resurgence of India, Brazil and Southeast Asia. These people aren't really leaving their families behind to work in the West, they got jobs now back home. Globalization was ideal but globalization stole American jobs, too. It only worked for the One Percent—and the One Percent is now multiracial.
       These are important variables that a US president is looking into. Meantime, election is about winning. Those who can effectively rally the people to come out and march with them get the vote. Americans seem not very intent to dig in and pore more about campaign platforms, they simply want change. White America. Socialist America. Who knows what works later. Americans are pissed alright—but they should not be pissed all the time. Take time to calm down and figure things out... 

The Overkill Marketing of Zombies

OKAY, I love “The Walking Dead.” Many times I dig zombies more than I dig humans. But I am not discussing that at the moment... You see, I never favored all these what they call as prequels. Although I watched all three prequels to “Star Wars,” I didn't really approve of the marketing crap. I mean, do you remember Sio Bibble and Jar Jar Binks? Okay. While AMC's “The Walking Dead” was lording it over Nielsen ratings, the producers came up with a talkie “Talking Dead” show right after episodes where crew and actors blah-blah about stuff. Alongside that, you might wanna check out the spinoff Webisodes or web series, and motion comic or animated comic book version of the show—all these apart from the cast's festive in-person meet-ups with fans for photo-ops and free touches of Daryl Dixon's (Norman Reedus) chest.


          And whoa! Producers aren't satisfied! They came up with “Fear the Walking Dead,” a “companion series” and prequel—six episodes on Season 1 and 15 on Season 2. Set in Los Angeles, the series follows a dysfunctional family at the onset of the zombie apocalypse. I am a sucker. So I watched Season 1 anyways since it's quite accessible on Netflix instant watch. Season 2 debuts on April 10. Okay.
          But then that's not the end of the overkill. Now, there's “Fear The Walking Dead: Flight 462,” a sixteen part mini series that features a group of survivors on a plane in the earliest moments of the outbreak. This release was done to help promote the second season of “Fear The Walking Dead” and Season 6 of “The Walking Dead.” Each episode will be released on Sunday, both online and during commercial breaks. I dearly and deeply hope that the producers of this show get devoured by zombies! 

JUST STUFF

I RESPECT those who unfriend “friends” due to differences in choices in presidential candidates, food/eating behavior, ideological preference, religious faith, or March Madness bracketology. But me? I prefer my FB “friends” very diverse. Like Chinese-Italian-Pan American buffet. I dig a marketplace of crisscrossing sensibilities and scrimmages of views—as long as people “speak up” with words than spit out one-line or one word snides. Well, wit and intelligence or idiocy and jerkness come not just from my side of the fence—wisdom and coolness as well as dafuqness and stupidity also emanate from the other side or somewhere in the middle. The universe is a world-music open jam. Just because some people don't agree with me—don't mean that they are dumb or nincompoops. That is ignorance. Let us try to learn life from people who seem so different from us—and not just from those who sing in our own choir. Dig?


SPAM TALES. [1] The subject matter says, “What have you cooked lately?” From someone with only a first name, that is also the first name of one of my daughters. So I clicked. Someone was selling me pot (I mean, Le Creuset kitchenware), not what you're thinking. [2] A startling email comes in, heading: “What is wrong with your neighbor?” sent by a dude named Alfred. So I thought, maybe a concerned fella who shares my frustration over neighbors who whine a lot when Georgia barks 7 consecutive times 7 times a month, dig? So I clicked. It was a campaign blurb from a politician on my state.

DAYS ago, I got an email with a subject that says, “Happy Birthday! How are you these days?” Sent by a (supposedly) lady whose name was an ex's name, right? Oh well, an ex-girlfriend has forgiven my past shenanigans—after 15 years??? So I clicked. It was a spam-pitch to a weekend in a spa/resort in Charleston, 25 percent discount with free volcanic stones (whoa!) and meditation CD by Yanni—if I purchase the offer in two days with a credit card. Damn! I was in Las Vegas?!? LOL!

AN OLDER lady, supposedly common friend of a number of FB friends (that I know in person), wanted to be friends. So no problem... Internet friends evolve into “outernet” (my word) friends. Then she asked for my email address. No problem. Then she talked about God and a $5 million sitting in a Nigerian bank waiting for me. I immediately unfriended her. I don't need $5 million to support my ramen noodles addiction! LOL! That's too much moolah!


THERE are a lot of “news” these days that point to other countries and cultures inferring that these people/governments need to clean up their act because our system is much better—instead of in-depth/investigative reportage about local/domestic issues that hit the gut. It's fine to write about international happenings if these somehow revolve around our government's foreign policy and other internal concerns but if we are just going to pick on peoples' ways and lifestyles with the aim to accentuate that they suck and need to behave because we said so, our so-called voice will only fall bounce back at us. If others eat snails dipped on balimbi sauce so be it, we have our own bizarre foods to enjoy. If others jail people for “mere” spray-painting one's new Buick so be it, we got our own share of dafuq laws to amend. There are so many matters within our fences, basic and important, to cover as media practitioners other than write stories that are more replete with “opinionated” self-righteous yarns than straight info (4 Ws, 1 H). Otherwise, it'd be more sensical for (some of) the current media to just post a damn funny cat video or a Bee Gees song like “Stayin' Alive.” I am talking about me as a Filipino and a resident of America, the Philippines and the US of A.
 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

MOVIES and STUFF

IN case you're getting sick of Hollywood movies—especially those films with zero premium on storytelling and humongous largesse on hi-tech pomp, and wondering why you don't get to peruse choices from cinematic efforts from other countries/cultures, there's reason why. Or at least, I can cite one. On October 20, 2005, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted a treaty—by a vote of 148-2 (4 abstentions)--that legitimates domestic legal measures aimed at the protection of local producers of cultural activities, goods and services. Opposed by the United States and Israel, the Convention represents a major diplomatic victory for Canada and France—its principal proponents—and a major blow to Hollywood and the US, audiovisual products being among America's most lucrative exports. Both Canada and France, like many countries around the world, have long maintained a range of cultural protectionist measures aimed at stemming the dominance of US media—notably, Hollywood films—in their domestic markets.


       The Convention has been attacked as vague and susceptible to abuse, however, by US officials arguing that it could serve as a pretext for infringements of speech and related human rights, and that it could destabilize the international trading system. Repeat, “trading system.” Trade obligations (or liberalization) are a major trade policy goal of Washington via the WTO system. Kinda complex, you dig? But with that, we know why—if Hollywood's One Percent wouldn't allow “other movies” to enjoy equal footing with the Weinstein Brothers, Comcast or Time Warner why would they allow them in the mainland? Anyhow, as long as they keep Michael Bay's gigs to a low, I don't have any issues. I am sharing some infos.


[ADD reading: “Culture, Sovereignty, and Hollywood: UNESCO and the Future of Trade in Cultural Products” by Christopher M. Bruner, New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2008]

MY TV SERIES MADNESS, two more

LET me add two more TV series in my long list.

[1] “The Leftovers” (HBO). Takes place three years after a global event called the "Sudden Departure," the inexplicable, simultaneous disappearance of 140 million people, 2 percent of the world's population. Following that event, mainstream religions declined and a number of cults emerged. Interesting ride with intriguing premise. Some Americans say they will leave America in the case Mr Trump becomes President. What if a Marcos returns to power in the Philippines? Maybe other peoples of the world are mulling the same thoughts as well. People in Mongolia or Chad. Wells Fargo has already bought prime properties in Mars and the Kardashians just secured 35 acres in Planet Swag, according to dafuq.com Call your real estate agent now! Don't be a “leftover."

[2] “The Last Man on Earth” (Fox). A post-apocalyptic comedy, starring Will Forte. Story: In 2020, Phil Miller (Forte) is seemingly the only human left on Earth after a deadly virus swept the planet one year earlier. An average man "who likes Star Wars, Twinkies, and sex,” Phil searches North America in his RV for other survivors. This has been my consuming and weird kind of fantasy. Suddenly, I am the last living person on earth—which means, I could just stride in a Target, Trader Joe's and Walmart and just grab beef jerkies, PBRs, ramens (Ichiban, Nissin, Thai etc) and all those 16 movies in 1 DVDs. Uh huh. 

MOVIES THAT I JUST WATCHED

The Imitation Game” (2014), directed by Morten Tyldum, loosely based on the biography “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges. Stars Benedict Cumberbatch as real-life British cryptanalyst Alan Turing, who decrypted German intelligence codes sent via Enigma machines during World War II. The Enigma machines were a series of electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines adopted by military and government services of several countries, most notably Nazi Germany before and during World War II. We can probably safely say that Turing's experimentations are the fountainheads of the modern-day computer. Turing was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general purpose computer. He is considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts, when such behaviour was still a criminal act in the UK. He accepted treatment with DES (chemical castration) as an alternative to prison. Turing died in 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning.
“The Imitation Game” as a subject matter is already very significant and relevant—yet the movie ventures beyond obligatory “enigmatic genius” bio-movie navigation, essentially due to Cumberbatch's illuminating performance and fluid, never-boring script.



The Equalizer” (2014), directed by Antoine Fuqua, based on the 80s television series of the same name, stars Denzel Washington. Denzel takes off from the original character popularized by Edward Woodward, a retired espionage/intelligence officer with a mysterious past, who uses the skills from his former career to exact vigilante justice on behalf of innocent people who are hopelessly trapped in dangerous circumstances. Fuqua's work with Washington in “Training Day” gifted the latter with an Oscar. That synergy is in full force here—save for the predictable plotpoint, Fuqua's quick as a Western draw pace and right-there sound editing plus Denzel's inherent charisma make this violent fare succeed. A sequel is in the offing.

True Story” (2015), directed by Rupert Goold—starring Jonah Hill and James Franco. Franco plays Christian Longo, a man on the FBI's most wanted list for murdering his wife and three children in Oregon. He hid in Mexico under the identity of Michael Finkel, a journalist, played by Hill. The movie basically revolves around interaction between the two leads, which what basically saved the movie from sliding to ho-hum sleepfest. It is more compelling to read Finkel's book (same title), the basis for the movie. This one is a tedious talky exercise which is “understandable” since the director Mr Goold is more known as a Shakesperean theater director than a movie thespian.


The Purge: Anarchy” (2014), directed by James DeMonaco. The sequel to the 2013's “The Purge.” Plot: In the 2010s following an economic collapse, a sick power took over, instituted anarchy via 28th amendment, established one night a year——Āalled "the Purge"—in which all crime is legal and all police, fire, and medical emergency services are shut down for 12 hours. The purge has resulted in crime rates plummeting, unemployment rates at 1 percent and a strong economy. Improbable storyline when we think of reality, you reckon? Judging with the two movies' box office earnings (part 3 coming up), a gun-crazy America finds “fantastical fantasy” in this. Shoot `em all and then fix society. Although more known actors Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey were in the first film, the second which don't parade named acts—fared better, cinema-wise. “Anarchy” has better acting too and crisper editing.


Manglehorn” (2014), directed by David Gordon Green, starring Al Pacino. As expected, Pacino's acting carries this little movie about a reclusive Texas key-maker who spends his days caring for his cat, finding comfort in his work and lamenting a long lost love. Not so exciting plotline of course but it still touched a fiber in me. It's about getting old and how to be happy about it.