Monday, September 28, 2009

Mother Nature--Dang!

It's been hard hearing the death toll rise in Manila. The storm was worse than Katrina. The pictures and videos from the region is heartbreaking. Hundreds have died and, unfortunately, more deaths are expected. Another storm is expected this Friday.

I donated money to the Red Cross and I plan to drop by an organization that is collecting food and clothes for the victims this week. I can't help but feel helpless over this. I'm e-mailing friends there hoping for their safety.

I'm sure they'll pull through. Filipinos know endurance, baby. Know it well.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fire under my ass

Y'know, there's nothing like a little firm direction to get you going. Years ago, I was dragging my butt on finishing my first novel "Letters to Montgomery Clift." For three years, I looked at it and put it away, looked at it and put it away. I found myself in a writing class taught by Mona Simpson. She told me to finish it and I had the ending done in one month.

I'd been working on two books, a collection of short stories and a novel. I'd been flip-flopping between them for two years. Out of the blue my agent called and asked me how I was doing. He wanted to know when he would see my next book. I sort of panicked. I told him that I'd get pages to him...soon.

It's not that I'm afraid of my agent. I just really respect him and his agency. Within a week, I prepared part of a manuscript and shipped it off to him. Now, I'm waiting for notes.

In the last week, I've readied the first 50 pages of my novel for him to read as well. It's amazing how a little pressure does wonders.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hi Tech Tour of Hi-Fi

(Click pic to enlarge)
From the organizers:
On Sat. Sept. 26 there will be a series of four Mobile Media Guides to Los Angeles' Historic Filipinotown. This is the culmination of Public Matters' first year of Pdub Productions, our collaboration with The Pilipino Workers Center, HyperCities, Remap L.A, USC, local youth and community members. And we have quite the event to wrap it up.

There are free walking tours btwn. 1-6 and then a big Barrio Fiesta fundraising party that evening at the Pilipino Workers Center, 153 Glendale Blvd.

Tour-goers will use GPS-enabled Nokia tablets to access audio, photos and maps that bring to life immigrant perspectives and time periods. Each guide features one central figure of the period but is augmented by many other personal stories of life in Historic Filipinotown or Los Angeles during the time period: a Filipino “Fountain Pen Boy” (1898-1945), a Filipino Farm Worker (1945-1965), a Latina Teen (1965- 2002), and a Filipina Caregiver (2002-present).

Highlights of the day include:
* High-tech meets history: Free Mobile Hi Fi Immigrant Guides Walking Tours from 1-6 pm
* A jeepney returns to the U.S.: The world premiere of the Pilipino Workers Center Jeepney. It will be our largest piece of "mobile media" and actually will be tricked out to play the guides.
* Celebrity Jeepney Tour: led by L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti at 1 pm.
* A Barrio Fiesta fundraiser: from 6:30-9:30 including food, performances, music, an outdoor screening of the youth videos from the project, a raffle, and more.
* Illustrations of jeepney parts by Emmy-winning animator and Simpsons Assistant Director Jess Espanola. Proceeds will keep the jeepney running!
* Jeepney T-Shirts
* Pdub Productions Youth Media Screening: at the Barrio Fiesta
To make reservations and purchase tickets and for the most complete and up-to-date event into, visit our event blog:
Even if you can't make it, please consider making a donation, buying a ticket for someone else, or simply passing on the info.
And...if that's not enough, for those of you who crave yummy reasonably priced food (who doesn't?), The Good Girl Dinette is donating all of their tips next Wed. Sept. 23 to the project. They were recently named as one of "L.A.'s 99 Essential Restaurants" by Jonathon Gold. 110 N. Ave. 56 in Highland Park. Dine, tip often, and tip well!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Look, I'm a renegade

Hey, you all. I hope you can check this out. I'm planning to actually perform--as opposed to being authorly and simply read stuff.
It's at the park located on Melrose and Robertson. It should be fun.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Oh, Marcos!

(Imelda and her deceased hubby)

10 nice things to say about Marcos On his 20th death anniversary
By Benjamin First Posted 14:52:00 09/09/2009

CALIFORNIA, United States—Seeing the massive show of love and support for Cory Aquino, Imelda Marcos reportedly expressed hope that someday her late husband also would be honored in the same way, perhaps at a state funeral. Having grown up during, and survived, the Marcos regime, Imelda’s wackiness no longer surprises me. But her wish left me with a jaw-dropping realization: They haven’t buried that dictator!?!

This month marks the 20th anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos’s death. He died in exile in Hawaii in September 1989, three years after being chased out of Malacanang. But the dictator’s remains are still lying in a refrigerated crypt somewhere up north. Someone should tell the dictator’s handlers that what he said was, “I do not intend to die,” not “I do not intend to be buried.” Still, in the spirit of reconciliation, and since we have just relived the glorious days of the People Power Revolution, bid farewell to Cory Aquino, and commemorated the martyrdom of Ninoy, it’s perhaps time to also focus on the positive side of the late strongman.Besides, it is also Marcos’s 92nd birthday (September 11) and the 37th anniversary of the imposition of Martial law (September 21). What can I say—September has really been an unlucky month for us.So allow me to present my list—and, believe me, I tried real hard to come up with these—of the 10 nice things one can say about Marcos.

1. Marcos taught us to disdain bullies. Ferdinand Marcos was not the first, or the last, president to abuse his power. But, certainly, he set a seemingly unbreakable record. The nightmare of his 21 years in power still haunts us today, a powerful, constant reminder of a chapter in our history that must never be repeated.

2. Marcos taught us to disdain leaders who flaunt their wealth. Marcos and Imelda did not invent wealth-flaunting. The elites have been doing that for generations well before he came to power, and it’s still happening today, of course. But the Marcoses certainly took the brazen display of extreme affluence, in the face of extreme poverty, to a new low. I mean how can how one justify owning 3,000 pairs of shoes?

3. Marcos taught us to be suspicious of leaders who acquire wealth. The current president just ran into this problem, of course. And the last one too. Yes, politics is still widely-considered as an easy road to easy money, but too much greed is now generally accepted as dangerous to one’s political career. And we have to give credit to Marcos for this, for making Filipinos extremely suspicious of political leaders who suddenly get rich.

4. Marcos taught us to disdain politicians who brazenly cheat in elections. Now, I said “brazenly.” For yes, election Philippine-style is still dirty. But given our experience with Marcos, there’s a line, especially in national races, that I suspect candidates will not cross for fear of sparking a severe backlash. (Or maybe not.)

5. Marcos taught us to be suspicious of leaders who warn the nation that because of some unspeakable danger to the country they simply must have more power. “Emergency powers” and “martial law” are two phrases any Philippine president must use with extreme caution nowadays. If not, you run the risk of facing ordinary Filipinos asking: “What was that again Mr./Madame President? You say the communists, the rightists, the terrorists are about to attack? Oh, and the Martians too, perhaps? And that’s why you need to throw all these people in jail, shut down all these newspapers and TV stations and kill those who say you’re a corrupt liar? Sir/Madame, I think we’ve seen this movie before. Napanood na ho ata naming ‘tong sineng ito.”

6. Marcos taught us that there is a big difference between discipline and fear. “Sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan, Disiplina ang Kailangan (For our nation to develop, we need discipline).” That was the regime’s slogan for Marcos’s New Society. It worked for a time, mainly because people knew that by discipline, the dictator meant, “Shut up and submit, or else.” It got so bad that one US official observed that the Philippines in the 70s and 80s had turned into a country of “40 million cowards and one SOB.” Well, Filipinos were willing to let that be the case only for so long.

7. Marcos showed that friendship with powerful world leaders is no guarantee that one can hold on to power indefinitely. Oh, Marcos and Imelda look so happy and proud in photographs with Ronald and Nancy Reagan. They were friends after all. Reagan even sent his Vice President George H.W. Bush to Manila to praise Marcos’ “adherence to democratic principles.” Well, a few years later, the dictator was gone after the Reagan White House finally realized he had turned into a liability.

8. Marcos taught us to be wary of leaders who try to glorify themselves in songs, slogans, or big, ugly monuments. I was actually thrilled when Marcos imposed Martial Law in 1972. I was eight years old when it happened, and for a few weeks I didn’t have to go to school and there was nothing on TV but cartoons. But then, once back in school, my schoolmates and I had to learn these new weird songs about the new order and how everything was great about the regime.
And then there’s that gigantic bust up north. I’m glad nobody blew it up as some groups reportedly planned to do. For it stands as a powerful reminder of the twisted mind that once ruled our country.

9. Marcos taught us to be creative—in fighting back. Only in the Philippines could yellow confetti become a symbol of protest. And nuns praying the rosary in front of tanks—you just won’t find such an act of defiance in other places. But even before the People Power Revolt, during the darkest days of dictatorship, Filipinos were already coming up with creative ways to defy the regime. Students at the University of the Philippines used to launch lightning rallies, in which they march from one floor of Palma Hall to another, while yelling slogans and waving banners, and then quickly putting the banners away and dispersing before the cops showed up.
Even the artists dared try new things. Take my old boss and drinking buddy, the poet Pete Lacaba, who wrote a seemingly harmless, apolitical poem titled “Prometheus Unbound.” When read vertically, the first letter of every line said, “Marcos, Hitler, Diktador, Tuta”—the famous anti-dictatorship slogan, “Marcos, Hitler, Dictator, Puppet.”

10. Marcos made us laugh and helped demonstrate that, even during dark times, Filipinos can still maintain a healthy sense of humor. Marcos and his crazy war medals. Imelda and her theory of a hole in the sky about the Philippines through which cosmic rays pass to protect the country from disaster. Admit it, Marcos and Imelda made us laugh. If it weren’t for all the people who died and suffered during the regime, we could look back to that time as funny and fun years.
Marcos and Imelda jokes kept us entertained even as we endured tyranny. And we didn’t even have cell phones back then for speedy mass distribution. I distinctly remember a classic during one of the rallies after Ninoy’s assassination and Marcos’s face often looked swollen as he reportedly battled lupus. The protest poster read: “Mamaga sana ang mukha ng nagpapatay kay Ninoy. (I hope whoever had Ninoy killed gets a swollen face).” Well, it’s funnier in Tagalog.And without Marcos, what would have happened to Willie Nepomuceno, one of the most talented Filipino humorists ever? He was so good with his Marcos impersonation, that during the critical hours of the 1986 People Power Revolt, when the dictator appeared on TV to prove he was still in charge, there were those who believed it was a ploy—with the popular comedian in the starring role.

Of course, Nepomuceno’s career faced a crisis when Marcos was kicked out of the country, and later died. But he quickly bounced back, doing other politicos, including former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada. Fortunately, like the late tyrant, Willie Nepomuceno did not intend to die.

Not much of a list, but can you blame me? It’s tough to say anything nice about a dictator in a freezer.

In any case, to Marcos supporters, let me say this: There may never be a grand funeral for the late dictator, with big adoring crowds, a military honor guard, 24/7 TV coverage, and flattering commentary in media.

But don’t worry. We will never forget Marcos and what he did to our country. Ever.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Showing Some Promise

The Promising Series on September 25
Features Ama Birch, Richard Villegas, Kim Savo
And NPR/BBC Journalist Cash Peters

(Los Angeles) The Promising Series is the only reading series in Los Angeles that exclusively features Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender writers. A goal for the series is to celebrate established authors and introduce the next generation of LGBT writers.

“I think Americans are really interested in what we have to say,” said Series Curator Noël Alumit. “From marriage to the military, our lives have become important topics of conversation. We should let people know what we think and feel!”

The next reading will be held on Friday, September 25th 2009 at 7:30pm.

The reading will feature:

Cash Peters is an author and broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California. He can currently be heard on Marketplace on American public radio, and every week live on BBC Radio 5 Live. Cash has written seven books altogether, including his latest, Naked in Dangerous Places.

Ama Birch has had a wide variety of jobs: barista, prep chef, personal assistant to a mortician, stagehand on rock concerts, carpenter, amanuensis, educator, day camp counselor, and Christmas ornament shop clerk. Ama has written three full-length pieces for the theatre, and she has self published two chapbooks of poetry. Currently, she is living wherever she is working and looking forward to the publishing of her first full-length book of poetry Sonnet BOOM

Richard Villegas graduated from the University of Southern California’s Masters in Professional Writing program in the spring of 2008. He has published an essay and poetry in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Latino Arts Anthology 1998-2000, respectively. He currently teaches small people in LA Unified as he revises and revises and revises his novel, A Genealogy of Cannibals.

Kim Savo serves as a deputy federal public defender in Los Angeles, defending poor people accused of federal crimes. She writes to stay connected to her own humanity and to make visible the humanity of her clients. Before becoming a lawyer, she taught literature and composition at East Los Angeles Community College and the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in Echo Park with her partner of 13 years.

The Promising Series will take place on Friday, September 25 at 7:30pm. Skylight Bookstore, 1818 North Vermont, Los Angeles, CA 90029, (323) 660-1175.