Dropping Pacquiao

I don't know if I could ever be considered a Manny Pacquiao fan. I always wanted him to win, but being a fan implies positive feelings of support or a participation in excitement and joy. Mostly, what I felt was dread. During the height of Pacquiao's winning streak, I was worried about how this would all end. As a Filipino, I could not his significance to the people around me or the entire archipelago of the Philippines. I joked that should he ever lose, there would be a string of suicides in Manila, but underneath the hyperbole I believed the core of it. I didn't enjoy the suspense of his matches, or at least, I enjoyed them the way one might enjoy a horror film. The eventual victories were just sighs of relief until the next stressful bout.

It's not a reasonable way to think by any means, but I've come to understand it as part of having an identity, whether it's based on ethnicity or hometown or shared hobbies. It's not purely that Pacquiao was Filipino, and therefore, I was obligated to emotionally invest in his career. It's just that I recognized a common ground, and that made him relatable, likable, and inclined to transpose all my hopes & dreams onto him (if you want to deconstruct it that far.) It would have been the same if I found out he listened to Titus Andronicus or read Batman comics. For a group starving for representation in even the most inconsequential of venues (So You Think You Can Dance! American Idol! Top Shot?) every chance to root for someone that looks like you is a gem.

Of course, this kind of identification has boundaries. Comedian Hari Kondabolu has a great bit where, upon deciding that there are now plenty of Indians in American mass media, he now feels free to openly hate some of them. While I don't think I've personally reached that level of saturation, I understand the idea of divorcing those that don't line up with the rest of your identity. There are figures you'd think I would identify with (Say, half-Filipino singer Bruno Mars), but they do things that I absolutely don't see myself in (cheeseball R&B songs). My tendency as a minority participant in pop culture has been to relate to someone until they do something that says, nope, sorry, you can't.

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A History of Arguing on the Internet

Here is something few people know about me: If I don't keep myself in check, I will very easily lose hours and hours arguing with people on the internet. I know this is a common compulsion. Many have probably followed an internet thread, maybe on Reddit or a forum or even YouTube and have suddenly found themselves refreshing every hour to see if their idiot opponent has replied. Because every opponent is an idiot -- not merely someone with a different opinion, or world view, or values, but a flat out tried and true idiot. This is what happens in the anonymous theater of the internet.

I probably started arguing on the internet sometime around middle school in the late 90's and boy, was I good at it. Not good in the sense that I put out well reasoned points and was understood while being understanding. I mean that I was a massive, relentless jerk until I "won" -- meaning, the other person grew tired and stopped replying, which is the only win condition in these sort of things.

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Skepticism and Activism and Colonialism and...

The Kony 2012 campaign by Invisible Children has been one of the most interesting spectacles and teachable moments of activism in a long time. We don't often get this opportunity to talk about the many questions this campaign raises: How should you go about making a difference? Is intent sacrosanct? How can it all go wrong, and why are people licking their chops waiting for it to happen?
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Strange Escapes

I went to Las Vegas over the weekend. I've lost count of how many times I've made that trip. For the millions in Los Angeles, Las Vegas is sort of like our collective vacation home. An extension of LA culture, like Big Bear or Catalina Island. A lot of tourists, from all corners, don't often envision Vegas as having its own identity or community or culture, we see it for its function: a playground for people to let loose until the 12 o'clock check out.

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Everything's Weird And We're Always In Danger

I saw this online today. It's called "Martin Loofah King" — a loofah with an imprint of Martin Luther King, Jr. with the tag line, "I have a clean." There's nothing especially offensive about it, unless you think MLK is sort of a holy figure that shouldn't be touched. My thought on it was: this is the future. It's only a matter of time before MLK achieves such ubiquitous pop culture status that he becomes a tool for absurdist, non-sequitur humor, the wayAbraham Lincoln is used. We have enough temporal distance from Lincoln that he's no longer a person, just a figure in our culture, and so putting him in different contexts makes for easy laughs.

Some might label it as simply "randomness," but really, it's absurdism, and it really seems to be the flavor of popular humor right now. Grant Morrison had a blog for all of a few months where he briefly wrote about post-9/11 fiction, which was characterized by taking the audience to the edge and back (The Dark Knight and Lost and the tone of the Lord of the Rings film adaptations.) I wonder if maybe the increasing presence of absurdist humor is a progression from that. Maybe this is us coming back from the edge.

I know the solidifying of internet culture (and therefore internet humor) had a lot to do with it. Just look at memes: there are specific archetypes and images that are intrinsic to the humor of the internet, from cats, to pirates, to ninjas, to Abraham Lincoln, to Zombies, to Batman. You can kind of just take these elements and mix and match them and come up with various meme variations that make people tuned into internet culture hubs, like Tumblr and Reddit, laugh.

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Essay | Hallow

I don't have a lot of important Halloween memories. It's just never been a meaningful day to me, even when I was a child.  I assume that's because Halloween is the most social of holidays and, since I was a socially fragile child, I did not take to it as I did Christmas or any other consumerism-based event.

I did, however, dress up and go door to door for a few years with my small cousins, and on occasion I really enjoyed my costume. But it's the same thing that happens with birthdays when you get into your adolescence. All of  a sudden the things you used to do as a child become passe. You try extra hard not to be childish, because you want to be cool, and children aren't cool. So you no longer hire clowns and moon-jumps for your party, and you no longer go to Kmart for costumes in mid-October.

I will tell you all the costumes I remember:

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Might As Well

I remember less and less about my initial 9/11 experience every year. I had barely started High School, which is an odd thought to consider, since it seems like I should have been much older. World changing events screw with your perception of time. They never seem too long ago, until you try and match it up with your actual life.

My first class in the morning was French. My routine consisted of putting my head down and napping until the bell rang and class started. The teacher usually had some morning show on, but once class was in session, he would turn it off and we would learn more numbers. On this day, he didn't. I looked up, and he was just letting us watch TV and talk amongst ourselves. I saw the World Trade Center on fire. I was a bit of a naive cynic then, and in a vain attempt to feel intellectual, I wrote it off as another disaster that I could disconnect from on an emotional level.

We had to watch for a few minute to see a replay of the actual plane colliding with the skyscraper. Even then, I had grown accustomed to the monthly news cycle of disasters. Every couple of years, there would be a cycle about a plane that had gone down, usually in the ocean, and we would all wait for the black box verdict. That's exactly what I thought it was; just another accident.

It wasn't until the second plane hit that I really understood it as an attack, and not a highly unlikely freak accident. In truth, I wasn't even really aware of the World Trade Center as a building, let alone an important one. I didn't understand the scope, size, or symbolism of it. If you had asked me on the 10th I would have guessed it was just a place in New York. There was a lot I didn't understand, and the gravity escaped me for the first few hours.

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Line Steppers

I've been thinking a lot about the line between good taste and bad taste, between acceptable and offensive. Over the past couple of months, there have been a lot of developments in the cultural conversation about where this line sits, if it even exists at all. Everything from Tegan & Sara vs. Tyler the Creator to Tracy Morgan's Nashville show to the Supreme Court's ruling on violent video games are all really about The Line. It's a murky, difficult debate. Do we always look at these things as interconnected?

Although it's a month old, the controversy about Tracy Morgan's Nashville stand-up show is probably the most potent, useful example of why "political incorrectness" matters. First off, calling Morgan's act "politically incorrect" -- an act that says homosexuality is a choice, that he would stab his gay son and that Obama should man up and stop supporting gay rights -- is an understatement. Those kinds of statements should fall far beyond The Line, past decency, and past mere risque. Some people do disagree, mostly other stand-ups. While I'm usually inclined to agree with them, Morgan's situation is reprehensible in a very different way.

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Essay | Feminism and Islam

Every so often someone in my cyber circle will link to something like this or this and I will let out an audible, exasperated sigh. If you don't want to spend your time in a narrow darkened hole of hatred, here is what those links boil down to: An atrocity is committed by Muslims against women or a woman, and a conservative/right winger decries the perceived lack of feminist activism and calls hypocrisy. "Feminists will protest all about assault in America!" they say. "Yet, they are afraid to speak out against the oppression of Islam because of political correctness!" But that's not actually the case. Here is what makes their opinion dumb.
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Essay | Antiquity

For many of us, the music we used to like is the key to perfect shame. It represents our earlier, more naive and impressionable selves. Sometimes I try and justify my old tastes in the echo chamber of my head: "It was a simpler time! It worked for me back then! I didn't know what else was out there!" Ideally, we would like to feel that we've had refined and discerning tastes since the 6th grade.

Unless, of course, you're one of those people who simply likes what they like, without shame or apology, and doesn't understand the meaning of "guilty pleasure." If you are that person? Congratulations. You are a golden paragon of peace and tolerance, the kind of All-God we seek to emulate. I wonder what it's like.

I came upon the idea to dig up my old CDs and give them a listen with fresh ears. I wanted the ones that meant something to me while I fell asleep with a Sony Discman under my pillow. Mostly, I wondered: How could I have loved this stuff? Which is the heart of it all. At one point, I did love this, but it decayed over time. The implications of this go beyond music: How long will we love anything?

Obviously this isn't the time to conflate minor thoughts into big life strife. As a dude who likes to type about music, it might be fun to listen to the old things with a more discerning mind.

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Radio Heroes

There is something intimate about a voice on a mic. I would be talking about radio, but in the changing times as traditional AM/FM dies out, I'm more and more talking about podcasting. These days, I get all my perception-piercing microphoned voices from podcasts; This American Life, The Moth and especially WTF with Marc Maron.

Undoubtedly, Marc Maron has been an influence on my life and mindset as of late. But when I first started listening to talk radio, I was deeply into the anger and rantings of Adam Carolla's run on Loveline. Today, they both produce highly popular podcasts, and something weird happened: They did guest spots on each other's shows. It was a crossroads of two influences on my life. To be dramatic: a conversation between who I used to be, and who I am now.

I got into Loveline in high school. As an impressionable, depressed adolescent with no friends, I took to listening to radio late at night on my CD player. I would make sure to be in bed by 10 PM to catch Loveline so I could lie in the dark with my headphones on, and listen to Adam Carolla & Dr. Drew try and solve everyone's problems. It was usually hilarious, and occasionally tragic. Ultimately, I would laugh myself to sleep.

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I worked in the rain this weekend. My unpaid internship starts to feel more and more unpaid as the days goes go by and, four months in, I really needed to stay afloat. So I started looking for jobs that could subsidize my thrice weekly LA trips, preferably on the weekends. With a little luck, I landed an usher job at a nearby outdoor stadium. Its got nothing to do with my hopes and dreams and I am surely overqualified. But these are the things we do to stay afloat.

Of course, I wasn't about to go hating myself and my job. I reserved that black part of my heart for retail. At the very least, in this position, I wasn't tricking anyone into buying things they didn't need. I wasn't pressured to hit certain sales numbers by any means necessary. And, all things considered, I was pretty lucky to have any meager amount of money. It is about time that I get out of the well of self-pity and join the rest of the world.

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Essay | Nuances of Political Correctness

Political correctness gets a lot of shit. There's the idea that it's purely censorship, that it's oppressive to language, that everyone is just too fussy and oversensitive. We've defined it with a negative stigma so that we can condescend to anyone's protest about offensive material by labeling it as just another attack from the PC thought police.

Comedian Stewart Lee does a great bit about political correctness that dares go against popular opinion: "It's an often clumsy negotiation towards a formally inclusive language," says Lee. "There's all sorts of problems with it, but it's better than what we had before."

That's about as level headed as the discourse on the nuances of political correctness gets. The problem with most of the discourse on PC is that it is seen in the context of a battle, with wins and losses and very tangible goals. A watchdog group speaks out in protest against an insensitive remark in the media, and then that target attacks back, and they try and take away other's legitimacy/career.

The problem with that rhetoric is that it forgets that this is a cultural conversation, not a gladiator arena. There is not going to be a winner and a loser, nor should we be aiming for such. While there may be short term accomplishments (Dr. Laura loses sponsors for racist remarks on the radio) what they're really talking about (the use of the N-word) isn't resolved. The point of having watchdog groups raise their voice, and even the point of people attacking those watchdog groups, is for the rest of the world to gain access to this conversation and make adjustments to their lives if they see fit. This is how culture evolves.

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Balikbayan, pt. 4: Epilogue

Three years is a long time by most standards. For life milestones and other significant events, it almost seems too soon. When I came to the Philippines for the first time as an adult in 2007, I found it to be a significant and confusing experience. It was awe inspiring at times, depressing at others, and generally lonely. I left motivated with new knowledge and life experience that would fuel my years to come. I did not expect to come back again so "soon."

On the last day of November, my grandfather passed away at the age of 92. My parents packed their things to be with the family in early December, and my Sister and I followed on our own a week later. His name was Nestor. I did not know this basic fact until I came here. Everyone referred to him by his second first name, Virgilio, but legally his real first name was Nestor. How do I go for 23 years without knowing that? I never got to know him on a personal level. I knew and admired him mostly by reputation.

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No Way Out But Through

In my last year of college, I got to use the ropes course. The ropes course was this walled-off section next to our gym with ziplines, wooden poles, a twisting rock wall, and various hanging ropes to swing from. Normally, you had to pay and make an appointment to use the course, because it required equipment and wavers and supervision. But I happened to walk by during a sort of "open house" for the course, so some friends and I jumped in on impulse.

I have always been afraid of heights. I look down from the second story of the mall, get sick, and step away. I think heights were the very first thing that I ever identified as a fear, which is important, because the things we are scared of are just as integral to our personalities as the hobbies we keep and the things we like.

Anything higher than a full flight of stairs induced vertigo, yet somehow, this ropes course was exciting. I didn't hesitate to get in a harness and sign whatever form that said if I broke my face it would be my own damn fault.

That's not my natural reaction to fear, but I keep trying to duplicate that anyway in other aspects of my life, wherever appropriate. This isn't some chest-puffing, bravery braggadocio - I am still very much afraid of everything. I still hate heights. But I still go up there, anyway, because as much as I hate heights, I hate being afraid more.

One of the obstacles there is essentially a wooden pole, about 35 feet tall, with a perch no bigger than a diving board at the very top. Maybe 7 more feet in front of that tiny platform is a small trapeze bar. You climb it, and all the while, a supervisor is holding the other end of a pulley contraption locked into your harness. The objective is simple: jump. From this precarious standing position, jump forward, reach out, grab the bar and hold on. Or fall, for a few terrifying moments, before the rope is drawn taut and you hang in shame.

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Essay | Days of Music

Shocking confession: My life isn't all too exciting right now. The best way I can describe it is a series of ellipses punctuated by an exclamation mark, and this pattern repeats until I start moving towards a career. All of that is to say in an unnecessarily abstract way: I do a lot of nothing, and then something, and then nothing.

I will spend three weeks applying for jobs with no bites. Then I will take a trip to Washington. I will spend three weeks staying indoors, forgetting what air smells like. Then I will work on a film set for 10 days. Then I will spend three weeks just to observe my mental and physical atrophy. Then I will attend three bad-ass concerts within 10 days of each other. HERE IS A BLOG ABOUT THAT LAST PART HOW ABOUT THAT SEGUE

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Essay | Childish Things

Before every book fair in elementary school, we were given a little four or five page pamphlet of what paperbacks we could expect to see. It was almost entirely scholastic books, dominated by the popular GOOSEBUMPS, with smatterings of old favorites like BABYSITTER'S CLUB. All of us, little kids with our parent's money in our pockets, flipped through pages, picking out the cool covers and sometimes even stopping to read the blurbs.

Book fairs are designed to socialize kids to do two things: read for fun, and grow into consumerism. I sit at this late hour, some decade and a half later, with an expensive degree in putting words together, as a successful outcome of that project. It worked for us because it was one of our first experiences, outside of juice boxes, to exercise our buying power. Your parents gave you ten dollars and you could buy anything you want - even this book with the scary werewolf on it.

When we were all hyped and ready to spend, we shuffled into the library in a single file line, and were amazed to find that the desks had been rearranged to form a big square, upon which books and book accessories were being sold. Our tiny, one-room library, a shitty public school thing, became a swap meet. It was as exciting as books got at our age.

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Interrobang: Understanding Comic-Con

When she saw me take out my camera, the pretty girl dressed as a Green Lantern held her ring out toward the direction of a giant, plastic model of a Green Lantern battery. I thanked her and took a picture, and turned around to see a small child waddle up dressed as a Lego robot. I had to capture that, too. I made my way down the hall, slowly taking in the overwhelming colorful spectacle, and was cut off by Pacman being chased by 3 ghosts. I almost bumped into Domo-kun.

"Sorry," I said to the giant brown-furred box with gnashing teeth. I don't know if the thing inside could even hear me. I continued on, through the Chun-Lis, through the Iron Men, through the Pikachus, and of course, through the Stormtroopers.

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