Seoul Searching – Review

A party of English-speaking Koreans lands on their parents’ ground to attend a government-sponsored culture camp bent to show a world outside the realm of MTV. Instead of finding solace in their identity, they find love in between each other, supposedly forgiving their parent’s fears of their child going off to marry a partner who isn’t ethnically Korean – not like there’s anything wrong with that. In a diverse cast of talented actors, there’s the Californian nihilist Syd Vicious-clone Sid Park (Justin Chon); Madonna-wannabe Grace Park (Jessica Van); the Hamburg-born and Hangul-fluent Klaus Kim (Teo Yoo); the ensemble piece’s funny-man, Mexico-born “Coreano-Loco” Sergio Kim (Esteban Ahn); Korean-born (and fled) misandrist with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do – Sue-jin Song (Byul Kang); and the innocent and timid Korean-faced, German-last named Ohio bred adoptee Kris Schultz (Rosalina Lee). Given this talent, we are expected to learn about these characters as they learn about their homeland; allowing students to find themselves as they go as confused Koreans who are clearly going through an identity crisis. This camp is expected to shed their pretentious pupas and emerge from the camp as well-rounded Koreans with a firm grasp of their origins. Humbled by a firm understanding of their homeland which espouses their identity, leading them to live fruitful lives with authentic insights from home, instead of relying on what’s hip.

However, as much as these stories are compiled, there are severe underscores regarding its execution. For each character, their motivations, struggles, and longings are largely told in quick blurbs like a passing quote in a conversation; as if we were learning about one’s deepest secrets when we had just met the person. Surely, there’s no way that the film could utilize the “show-not-tell” method in a film largely spoken in tongues, but as each reference to a character’s past comes out, we, as the viewers, hardly nod when we hear it which throws off their eventual metamorphoses as something so sudden that one cannot help but think “When had he/she/they decided to do that?” It’s a shame, really, as the film is meant to evoke feelings similar to the classic film “The Breakfast Club”, this time with a diverse cast skilled evoking their subtle tropes that signal a plea for help; assistance from their seonsaengs trapped in a bubble of misplaced identities, finding it in a corner where one least expects.

Pointing again to the talented cast of Asian-faces, or as I call the natural born Hollywood rejects, playing their roles with such conviction that it’s hard not to want to root for them purely on-premise itself (even if their roles are underwritten.) The music is also worthy of noting as it takes the classic hits from the year 1986 (when the film took place) to bring energy into a production clearly bolstered by the passion, the want, to have this story told in a world where the canon literature could only be found in the halls of Hollywood with juicy roles and the deepest characters that are shamelessly given to the Anglo-Saxon actor next in line. And it’s apparent that those who made the film are sharing their energies of constant belittlement, as artists constantly belittled by the politics of Hollywood, Westerners constantly viewed as aliens at home and abroad (both their ethnic and legal homes), use their frustrations out on a film with the passion of an oral storyteller.

These conflicts of self-doubt (“Who am I?”) are usually kept to a minimum as the social topics towards family conflicts and ego-driven destruction of reputation over humanism, traits that anyone of Asian descent (such as myself) can relate. Out of the seven main characters, the adoptee’s story is prioritized to explore the position of a family by one who willingly gives up a child to the hands of strangers to raise them up as their own, despite the adopted child having no close blood-ties to their parents. When the film ends, do we wonder if the cast has really changed the perception of themselves? Or has the camp been nothing but an excuse to rock and roll all night and party every day?

Advertisements

Columbus – Film Impressions

Columbus

I thought that this film took place in the city in Ohio. The one that had the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, known only to me as the setting for The (now forgotten) Drew Carey Show. A quick search, however, only led me to find out that the city that the film takes place is in Indiana, where a quaint suburban conservative-knit harbors a knack for modern architecture much like Iowa City, Iowa has a knack for creating Pulitzer-winning writers. And I realized that the city in question was actually Cleveland. It sounds odd to have a cultural hub take place in an area that isn’t on the east / west coast, in a majorly populated state like California or New York, but it’s location soon serves as a surreal juxtaposition that makes up an ephemeral beauty of the town that soon becomes immune to the citizens of Columbus, who eventually find the monotony of slick lines molded on hundred square meter concrete as boring as the windy cornfields of Illinois. This description is offered as one of the main soliloquies by nineteen-year-old resident Cassandra – aka Casey (Haley Lu Richards) – to Jin (John Cho) who uses her hometown as a template to satisfy the young-adult trope of wanting-to-get-away-while-remaining-in-the-same-place mentality. Where despite her interests in architect could lead her, she feels trapped inside the world she’s known. Jin is no different. After his father has a stroke, Jin is summoned to the city where he discovers that his father is in a coma and put under intensive care. This, as expected, cancels the talk that Casey planned on attending where, by chance, they end up running into each other as strangers and become friends.

Written and directed by the academic-turned-auteur Kogonada, Columbus is a film that explores an idea that is endlessly repeated throughout the film: “Can art be healing?” “Does architecture have a soul?” Questions that fail to have a straight answer, ideas that make the enlightened stay up all night and the everyday man shake their head in dismissal of pragmatic ambivalence. Kogonada, who made his fame by creating video essays for the internet, takes his knowledge of Ozu, Kubrick, and Aronofsky without using the film-student trope of using style as a crutch by using flashy camera angles or bouncing pop music. Instead, Kogonada exerts self-control by being subtle in his decisions to help develop the story and the characters who make up the life of the picture. Using the techniques to explore the world and the soul of the characters, the environment, and the dialogue of two humans trying to make sense of the world; using their relationship as their conduit for reflection; using each other as a helper to hold up a mirror to make the beholder, either Casey or Jin, to make the appropriate judgement call of knowing who they really are.

The main characters are not eccentric or full of dramatic flair, and the cast does a great job portraying these normal folks as if they’re playing themselves – no method acting required (because what’s the point?) They’re human, but discontent enough to frown at the Universe due to the circumstances handed by the stars. Casey is a year out of high school and works as a librarian. She considers college but is hesitant to go because of her librarian friend Gabriel who ends up in the same place despite achieving his masters. She is close with her mother, but not for reasons that are centered on “she feeds me and lets me do whatever I want.” Jin, the estranged son, contemplates his father’s looming death; he arrives in Columbus for reasons other than saying goodbye. It’s beguiling yet understanding. The two talk and we nod, but we silently urge them to “get over” their differences and beg the two to “move on with their life.” Because the grass is greener on the other side, but someone had to water the lawn to get it to that color. However, if one is caught up in the affair of themselves, then how can they go on to focus on what’s outside of their minds, let alone their prejudices?

A film about exploring art can seem a bit pretentious and off-putting for the viewer who just wants to sit and escape reality for an hour or two. Yes, the meandering-like dialogue framed with symmetric composition chronicling stubborn people does not make for an entertaining night at the movies, but good art (or in this case, art “good” enough to strike up conversations years after they were created) requires patience. And with patience and a little bit of attention, we can happen to notice a few subtle changes occur in both Casey and Jin. We don’t know why they would make the changes, nor do we have any clear precursor to having either character soften their hearts just a tiny bit, but if one is trained enough in art appreciation (and trust me, it can be learned) then the small details that strike up as little bits of life in a lifeless object – as it is with art like painting, sculpture, and in this case: architecture – truly makes a difference. When watching Columbus, I ended up asking the same exact questions that both Casey and Jin discussed in the film, resulting in an epiphany brought only to me with help of the film to bring up these questions. If one is aware, this seemingly lifeless set of moving pictures made for over a million can help viewers grow as individuals in the same rate as how a bunch of buildings helped these two grow up to become better versions of themselves. And that, by itself, is worth the price of admission.

Sprained Ankle – Julien Baker (Thoughts)

It’s been over a year since I last updated this blog. Let’s just say that I was resting throughout the year and wanted to take a deep breath and calm myself. That the ten-minute meditation turned out to be more than a year-long journey to find my true self. Despite the long absence, it was a break needed, and a well-fitting reminder of the importance of soul searching within a landscape that seemingly has all the answers.

For this one, I decided to try and write a Chirstgauesque review of an album I adore. But it’s not really a review but just a biased praiseworthy blurb of words, a corpus with no clear message in the middle. But I consider it good practice to try to expand this writing thing to something more than just journal entries, especially when juggling a life that is certainly not centered on reading/writing.

Anyway, I always wanted to know what it was like to be a music critic. I don’t know much about the trend, but I had a fun time writing this paragraph. Read it after the horizontal line.


One misty night in Nashville, Tennessee, Julien Baker, an English major at Middle State Tennessee University, got up from her bed and picked up her guitar, put on her shoes, and ran away from home. She was on a quest to find God, or at least an alternative, after discovering that she had feelings for her best friend who just so happens to be a woman. Eventually, after years of wandering the desert, dabbling in drugs, friends, and questioning the significance of the Cross, Julien Baker realized that the answers – along with Him – was back at home. Once returning, she sees a figure standing in front of the Baker household – the same as it was when she left. Her legs are tired and buckling under fatigue with a face that is deeply tanned and scarred; cheekbones peering out like a knife; a stare that pierces the soft heart with a glance. However, such a look fails to scare Him (and I mean that with a capital ‘H’) as His arms are spread outward, wanting to give Baker a homecoming hug after her absence. Baker considers the gesture, but not without having second thoughts– what if this is just an illusion? What if this is my body trying to subvert reality to find comfort after I kicked the cigarettes?  But she knows it’s time, and she limps to His hand and shakes it. And soon, she reflects on her journey, in song, about the experience walking into the dark part of the wood during the witching hour. A period of life that humbled her into writing an album that provided an empathetic look into the human-wide struggle of self-doubt and a lack of faith – in one’s self and in a Savior – to provide an intimate and cathartic confession; songs bolstered when the singer broods on their sorrows to make the audience feel for the singer. Humanistic aesthetics serves as good folk songs popularized by the likes of Elliot Smith and Sufjan Stevens. Her music is lined with Christian convictions, as in the songs Blacktop, Everybody Does, and the all too obvious cynical praise song Rejoice. But don’t let the God-drops fool you into thinking that she’s on a mission to convert you back into your parent’s religion. Baker is an artist and a poet who does not try to preach to the masses. It’s all built on the set up of a single guitar and her voice – with one backed by a piano that isn’t as precisely played as her six-string – where nothing comes out of the speaker except you and her. It’s an album that is best listened if you’re alone as the sounds coming out of your speakers are akin to the intimate thoughts of someone venting out their deepest selves’ in a one-to-one conversation with someone who would die for you. To be in love with someone willing to die for you… That sounds familiar.

 

Nightfall

Looking out into the black, I finally realize that feeling of loneliness.

That feeling of death.

That blackness, tepid faint of whiteness

Perpetual, never-ending nothingness

This is what I’m going to see one day.

and that day will be the day

when the hours will begin and

cease to end. Heaven willing,

this is what I’m going to surround myself with

like a blanket shrouding my soul

a warm blanket beneath the body

gearing me to be ready

until that day comes.

That Was the Worst Christmas Ever! – Part 1

It was a hot and steamy type of Christmas. An Evergreen festival found inside the Everglades; tables set with gator jerky and a brown case of dried cat tails decorating a mahogany tabletop covered in polyester.

Awake at five thirty in the morning, I sloppily drag myself out of bed to shower, dress up, and consume breakfast while my family continues to sleep. Decorations juggling lights in intervals, strobe effects playing outside my window as I groggily put on my work issued t-shirt and a sweatshirt to bask against the brisk cool weather outside. I am hardly awake, unjolly as I check my pockets for my phone, my wallet, and my keys. I walk out of the door and a few steps permit me to run back inside and to throw my sweater on my bed, as the air shows me a misty warm seventy-eight degrees Fahrenheit. Living in Florida for more than half of my life (twenty-one-years total), I am still not used to the hot weather that is consistent throughout the year.

Driving to work, I nod in time to the tune of millennialist Christmas compilations composed by Christian indie incarnate/Atheism’s idiot savant Sufjan Stevens – of whom I had witnessed live in concert two months before – the 6 CD box set titled “Songs for Christmas” purchased at the merch table. The array of jingle jangles, traditional Christmas fare supported with witty and weird instrumentals carrying the tune, the Holidays have come once again. It’s a breath of cool air, icicles surrounding the mist, the exhale of CO2 condensing into a fog centimeters in front of my eyes, and I am thrown into a whirlwind of sensations reserved for the enlightened. The question permits to me, as a Sufjan Super Fan, to ask myself “is it better to present one’s self as eccentric and weird or to be emotionally edgy teetering with blasphemy?” Given the rapid influx of nonreligious millennials, I, a heathen-like believer, discover solace within a man’s admiration of orthodox fare, melodiously spoken in the most unorthodox manner. The same effort to do me good in a world growing disillusioned to how the world works, instead resorting to promote to how they work themselves.

With the roads darkened, streetlights nonexistent, I drive through the fog accompanied by a gentle backdrop of home-country guitars, strumming banjos, and snow-falling piano keys as the Sufjan song “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” moodily toots high on repeat. However, in the belated bliss normally felt during Christmas, a sudden thought had hit me and I started to seethe in remorse; growing somber and a bit melancholy. I had dreaded for this day. Throughout the week, I was granted to only work during the weekends (as agreed by the HR manager whom I had first spoken to while applying) to use my weekdays to focus on schoolwork. That wish was granted, but soon there was one day that I was permitted to work: Christmas. The day happened on a Friday, and of course, being new at the job, the context given to me was to simply be fortunate enough to work at such a highly-esteemed position. Such that by having any objection to say otherwise would ultimately end in my untimely demise and to an abrupt end of a seemingly easy job.

An eight-hour shift awaits at my arrival. From seven to three-thirty, and I could only pray to make the day go by fast or to slowly embrace our Disney-like delfino of high times and low sorrows. My workplace, if one is curious to know, takes place in the noted hotel complex serving food and drinks to the masses famished with hunger. A simple primeval urge to have breakfast before a monster out and obsessed with hangriness overtakes any evidence of human reason and consciousness made out to our stoic ethics and mercy towards our common man.

The mornings were the worst, and everyone younger than aged twenty-five shared this viewpoint due to a few conditions. The first reason that we all look forward to is that the mornings are subject to pairing of lazy young workers (i.e. me) along with the most diligent of workers. By “diligent of workers” I pertain to a set of later-aged, work-hardened Haitians who excel at their job; unafraid to raise their voices to anyone who slows down their pace. Sheltered and young aged, fresh faced college workers, such as myself, are not used to such treatments. We were raised in affluent surroundings and to be faced with a sharp tongue and patience of a demon, not many college workers worked in the morning, nor were we willing to do so. Second, the crowd. As mentioned before, breakfast is notorious for attracting a great number of families with a primeval urge to consume exorbitant amounts of food hours after they had awoken. Third, and finally, the morning is best experienced sleeping in. The sunrise is seldom witnessed by those who are my age, simply because we’re knocked out on our beds to bother with the act.

But complains are complaints, and despite the usual qualms stated against my employer, Tootsie World, I remained quite optimistic. It was, at latest, the best job that I’ve held in my spotty, largely empty, work history of a youth mostly spent on education. The Merton Resort, a throwback of upper-class brick layered households and cobblestone streets, embraces of some living Dickensian surroundings complete with a pool on the side property, next to the aquarium sized parking lot. My restaurant, located within forty paces from the front desk, was aptly named The Hearty Heath Hoedown. While we were originally served as a restaurant, we also shared a gift shop in the same premises. It was here at the gift shop where I, wide eyed and naïve, bought my last-minute Christmas presents for my largely spiritual (religious) family, spending over a hundred dollars on three items just before work started. Stuffing the contents into my foot locker, I head up to the dining area to start my day. Little did I know, that on the day when I had hoped to be the happiest of all days, it soon turned of those days. I’ve had some bad days working in The Hearty Heath during the year that I’ve worked there, but looking back, quite ironically, Christmas turned out to be the worst day of them all.

I look at the whiteboard to see my name centered on a position that I haven’t worked since training. Despite this, I went out in front and on the first five minutes, I received the to-go order of a breakfast platter of bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits and seasoned potatoes covered with a flimsy plastic lid. There was also another order of oatmeal that goes along with the American-sized starter. I headed over to the hot section to pick up a bowl of oatmeal with a covered cup of brown sugar placed on top. Heading back, placing the oatmeal inside the paper sack. I then noticed that the white stacks were running low, so I called out to anyone who would listen “Does anyone know where I can get white paper bags?”

The head chef Mary Carver, who was not so merry in working her Merry Christmas shift, overheard my worrywart question and looked up in an annoyed surprise.

“Hey, you!” Mary scolded me in a direct tone. I looked over.

“How long have you been working here?”

“Three months.” I responded.

“So why are you still asking about where your items are?”

Whenever scolded, I stay silent.

Chef Mary pointed me to the supply closet, housing most of the condiments and supplies that were reserved for the dining area. I walk to the closet, while the board was still covered, and hastily search for white paper bags. I could only anticipate the upcoming breakfast rush; looming over me like a silent bullet soon to be shot in my brain. Seasoned employees, on the other hand, reassured my never-ending anxiety. Christmas is the time of year when hotel employees are spared of the impending crowd, as the rest of them would rather head to the major parks, where patrons cannot walk a few steps without rubbing shoulders with one another.

This observation was true, as the restaurant was mainly spotty, with only a few brisk moments of a family coming to the ordering kiosk, thus being less entailed to experiencing an hour-long rush. This idleness, however, unpassed Chef Mary who demanded idle employees, such as myself, to go out and interact with the guests. I then went out and conversed with a family, wondering if the newly released Star Wars movie was worth the twenty-dollar ticket to which they unanimously agreed. We further conversed about their Christmas plans until Chef Mary passes me and makes a quick aside to my ear. “Take off your gloves!” I look down and my five-fingered condoms were still covering my palms. From Christmas, until the day that I left, I had viewed Chef Mary with a perpetual filter of malice; an intensified droop of the eyebrows as I muttered curse words under my breath whenever I walk by.

Four hours slowly pass, breakfast is over and lunch begins where I am now switched into the area where I serve the hot side items and kids meals.

“Hey, you have to be in the Hot Box now. Remember from training?” a middle aged yet stern Haitian who goes by name of Stella, scolds me in subversion. I comply, but deep inside, I fume in anger. During the Hot Box shift, I try to subvert this negative energy by having some fun. I raise my voice in question, “Where are the plates?”

“Okay…” Line cook Tiffany, middle aged, overweight, and country bumpkin raised, quietly responded.

“Where are the plates??”

“Okay.”

“Where are the plates!?”

“Okay!!”

That shut me up. And I then see plates hand in front of my eyeballs and I remain at work without opening my mouth any further.

I look up and I continue to serve others against my own expense. Some of whom would turn out to be from my own family. My brother, ecstatic to see me in action, records a thirty second clip on his phone as I do the work, holding my head to remain composure as the whole world continues do droop into a hot, mushy mess. Minutes before I stall from the overwhelming pressure, the breaker then notifies me to go on break. Heading inside of the breakroom, I lounge around for a few seconds listening to anything but Christmas music. My junior aged co-workers then find me and call me back outside. Apparently, there is a certain type of person who wants me, out of all individuals, to serve them their food. Heading out to the dining room, I see that, of course, it’s my family who had asked me to serve them. I serve them their food, and after a few comments between them about how expensive and delicious the entrees were, I then head back to the break room to soothe myself in solace of a Christmas wish to having a good day has since turned into a myth.

The afternoon hits and the new group of employees arrive to take over the morning people, myself included. Tired and back at Expo, I rest my eyes down into the floor to take a few deep breaths. It was a long day, and after the seventh hour, I was ready to go home. Wallowing in my sorrows, I hear a husky voice call out behind me, “Is that tray ready?” I look back and a tray full of dishes ready to be transferred. The voice, belonging to the slim Korean-German Autumn Chon, who is no stranger to the development of my increasing disenchantment to authority, grabs the tray and places it in front of me.

Autumn then reminds me, “Make sure to check that there’s food behind you.”

And at this point, it was an hour long wait until I was granted to clock out. I was hoping to do anything to make the minutes go by faster. Surprisingly, 3:30 had hit the clock, and I walked out of there desperate to forget about today for the rest of the week. Christmas was the only day in two weeks of which I was granted to work, and after my diatribe with a few officials. I felt blessed to have to not work the next day, because the day was halfway done, and I wanted to go home and call it a day. All I wanted to do was to simply sit in my room and to read anything that came to me. Instead, I had to go home, get ready to the Christmas mass, and to consume a Holiday dinner with my family.

For working during the holiday, I was promised to receive a holiday’s pay to make up for a day normally reserved for spending time with friends and family. And in the manner of working eight hours, it turned out, since I was new to the workplace, and I was working part time, I had to remain content with the Union-set paycheck.

Walking out of the employee entrance, the hot Florida sun was beaming down my face as I walked to my care in a huff. Like the previous, precarious premonition experienced during the drive to work, I knew that Christmas, even though it was not yet over, was going to end badly.

Part 2 will be posted most likely after Christmas.

Exceprts from a Cheap, Cardboard Notebook Smothered with Stickers

There are days when she’s bound to go away. How often one looks at her with the heart becoming influxed with emotion! Causing the body to forget its basic task, until it realizes that its eyes see reality speeding the body back into motion. Causing that little panic attack, condensed into a physical characteristic, upon sight.

When the heart skips a beat, there is nothing that earthly needs could use to distract us from the heavenly body which has come down right in front of us. Only for a moment do our phones stay silent and the mouths of our detractors remain shut. For one moment experienced in our short life do we experience a split-second trip blip can truly go on forever.

But goodbyes, as noted by a famed Portuguese poet, are known to us as deaths within the smallest factor. Human death is of no context but rather the feeling of change that is so desperately needed. Yet our body and mind reject it at first glance. Some may view this and laugh it off like a deluded man turning off the television; set upon sight of a man, with a red jumpsuit apparatus. Toying with the performers while they look back with a smirk of amusement as the crowd grows united within one another.

But it’s easy to disregard the devil if you don’t believe in the devil. For the poor man who is heartbroken, when he chooses to shut himself out from the world, to wallow his feelings inside of a dark closet, then demons surely do exist. He is in its real human form. And when such temptations to fall under his wing prove successful, then the world can never find out to what caused such a man to be possessed by something so simple yet so demanding and devastating in effect.

Megacon Brings In The Worst People (Part 1)

It was a gloomy Saturday morning with the sky as a blanket of clouds and the sunlight producing a blissful haze throughout the region.

My brother, Johnny, is posing as Kato from The Green Hornet with the hope that one of his photos would serve as his latest profile pic. He was keen on participating in a pastime well known for many the nerds and geeks worldwide who anticipate such a day within the likes of Johnny and I. Posing in various martial arts stances, after taking two pictures, anguished, he let out a big yell “Augh! My costume has a hole on it!”

This was when the adaptation of “The Green Hornet”, directed by the visual French eccentric Michel Gondry, was released. The once hyped movie of the summer in 2011, ultimately brought down to mediocrity due to a number “imperfections” caused a once beloved series, integral to the rise of stardom for the iconic Bruce Lee, to go down as nothing more than a mere cash grab. Likely to end up in the collection of five dollar DVDs at the local Walmart. Holding high regard towards the Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou, for the portrayal of his hero’s breakthrough role, my brother dressed as said character in respect to the late actor. I took a picture from his back. A large sea of white ripped from the Velcro lining, serving as the first clause of dismay to the Bruce Lee wannabe. It didn’t his news deteriorate my excitement for the day though. In the weeks prior to the event, the largest and most premiere Comic Book, Anime, Sci-fi, and Pop-Culture festival in Central Florida, my brother invited me to go with him to this public event. Joining his friends eager to surround themselves with the life they once enjoyed. Everyone I knew in high school was keen on attending and if I hadn’t conjured up the interest to say yes, I imagined a month long period of remorse; fueled by the giddy conversations of past attendees of explaining the event in vague and clichéd key words such as “epic” and “cool”. With all of these factors playing against my conscience, naturally, I accepted his invitation.

“Megacon it is.” My brother replied.

The year was 2011 and I am driving down John Young Parkway squashed with cars due to the morning rush hour. Inside a dark indigo Nissan 300z, Johnny is riding shotgun while my father sits in the back seat. I had just gotten my permit and my father wanted me to use every available opportunity to get scolded by him for any common mistakes I made when practicing. Whenever a mistake was made, I would end up with an earful of livid sentences screaming out from a man who never got sick from his overwhelming redness. This was not faring to be a good morning.

Driving through John Young Parkway, mired in the morning rush hour, a large HONK from a white Lexus passed on my right. My father yelled:

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING ALBERT!? PUT THE CAR IN THE CENTER!”

Apparently, I was jeering out of my lane with the right side barely merging into traffic. Frayed with emotion, I obeyed his orders and brought the car back in its lane as I tried to remain cool and content while my livid father lectured me from the back.

“You see Albert? Keep the car on the center of the lane. If you don’t then you’ll merge into the other lane and cause an accident! Keep the…keep the car in the lane. Okay? The center lane. Keep the car in the center lane.”

Johnny, who had grandfathered my dad’s unpleasant attitude, put his hand in front of the dashboard and gestured it to the left, causing to further bottle up my emotions. I looked to the rosary swinging from the rearview mirror while my restless soul fevered with rage. What had I done to deserve this? I was bound to have a good morning today, and already I was experiencing a moment that tends to ruin my day. I was trapped with these two people for the remainder of the car ride. Normally, when I would become increasingly frustrated, my parents would notice this behavior and demanded me to explain what’s wrong while asking to keep my mouth shut. Needless to say, I picked up on their advice and remained stoic while my brain reduced itself to an anger infused mush.

Yet from behind, my father continued to dwell on my close call with death.

My father sneered “I just don’t get it Albert. I just don’t get it.” He picked up his phone and dialed his brother on the phone. The rest of his family lives in The Philippines. Cebu City to be exact. A city that I would much prefer to live if I didn’t forsake my Visayan tongue to mingle with my passively racist friends. His voice immediately became cheerful and enthusiastic as a conversation consisting of updates from his mother, his sisters, and his brothers were on the topic. While he happily continued conversing with his family, I was whispering to myself. Speaking in tongues into the open air to remain calm. Telling myself “It’s going to be alright. Everything is fine. Just let this pass and you can live the rest of the day without your father breathing down your neck.”  My father noticed my bizzare behavior and immediately put his phone on his chest.

“Albert…CALM DOWN.”

What he had failed to realize was, because I was learning to know how to drive, I was in control of the steering wheel. And whoever has control of the steering wheel was in total control of the car. I stepped on the pedal and the Nissan revved in acceleration. The three of us jerked back and the cars in front of us started to slow down, causing me to dodge the red tailights of the commuting traffic. In the back, my father drops the phone and panics in despair. He begins yelling at me in a such a powerful voice; akin to when I insistently hold my ground. Johnny begins to grab the wheel while he punches me in the face. He was always nuts about martial arts, but it’s too bad considering I have an affinity with cars. I focused my attention on the steering wheel; using years of training from playing Gran Truismo and Daytona USA. I was determined to make things go my way. My father always got what he wanted… and today was the day when I finally stood up to him. The serves in traffic begin to become blurred lines and I look to the dashboard. One hundred miles per hour.

I veer off of the lane and dip into the grassy median into oncoming traffic. I lose a bit of speed from the grassy knolls on the median. But when I went on the road, sparsely populated in comparison to the lane I was in, I pick up from where I left off. This time, the honks become more vivid and numerous. I begin dodging through traffic while my enraged and terrified father begins to grab the wheel while my brother holds it in the same position. Trying to pry of my hands by pounding on my finger tips, slapping my cheeks, and pushing the steering wheel with great force. This time, their power overwhelms me and cars begin skidding off the road. From a distance, I see a tow truck. Whatever’s on the back made no difference to me. Considering that it takes quite an effort to turn a big rig to the left or right, especially in a frantic manner, this is where I made my last stand. I gunned it, and the headlights begin to look like stars going through light speed. I see the metal grill of the Peterbilt head and I close my eyes. The screams and efforts of my father and Johnny against me have, for the first time in my life, failed. I was in peace.

The light turns green and Johnny reminds lightly hits me on the arm. I look up and I go before the annoyed commuters start honking at me.

We decided to park on a driveway near the convention center. I stepped outside and immediately walked to the stairwell while my father was profusely apologizing for his behavior. I couldn’t bear to look at him in setting the tone for the day, but deep within of my heart, he was my father. And I couldn’t stand to think of a person with malice so I forgave him. Taking a picture of my father posing with the car, I walked up to the catwalks. At this time, the sun was up and provided the convention center with light that brought the thirty year old center a modern look. From the pearly white walls of the mezannine and its outdated architecture common, I was ready.

After some walking, we finally end up near the front entrance as noted by the increasing volume of attendees. All around, I see the fine-looking animals. Bodies shaped from their countless years of devoted fitness routines and their dedicated nutrition habits. The majority of them who were playing dress up to look like their favorite characters from role playing games such as Lightning from Final Fantasy 13 or well-loved T.V. shows such as The Walking Dead. (I only took photos of the characters that I recognized.) These beauties were walking side by side with the nocturnal beasts of the night; rocking their shirts of their virtual idols. These are the people whose lives are lived within the confines of their bedroom. Their imagination, computer keyboards, computer monitors, and their game systems providing everything needed to be satisfied in life. For three days, they have come out of the dark; briefly exposed to the outside world and its glamour of which they can only see from afar. To mingle with their friends; to live out their virtual fantasies; where an extensive knowledge of trivia and useless knowledge was not only a sign of dedication but as a sign of integrity. It was one the few instances of their life where their hobbies had led them to become accepted. Where they could walk around without any of the protruding Pharisees, ranging from the athletic jocks to their own parents, commenting how much of their life has been wasted keeping up with such trivial interests.

Megacon 042

The mezzanine also played an integral part to showcase the imaginative creativity of Cosplayers.

Megacon 034

Johnny’s martial arts training did come to good use.

Megacon 032

He was quite a hit.

Megacon 040

We end up meeting Johnny’s friends near the doors, and from there we all played the waiting game. I don’t know how I ended up hanging out with my brother’s friends as I have never considered them to be a part of my own circle. They had just graduated high school and had embarked on their first year in college while I was still in junior year figuring it all out as I went along. The music they loved was the “catchy-yet-soon-to-be-forgotten” Top 40 hits while I desperately wanted to become a musical “hipster” (a term which was gaining traction around that time) by listening to EDM and alternative music through the means of YouTube and Pandora. It was during these years when I had discovered Deadmau5 (loathing that I had discovered him when he had already achieved fame), Skrillex (months before he blew up with “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites”), and Empire of the Sun (discovered them as part of the lineup for Ultra Music Festival 2011). With these group of upperclassmen, they simply preferred to talk to each other since they had formed a clique conversing on topics of which they would only know between themselves. But it was through the actions of my brother, who was trying to live up to his “older sibling” intuitions, that I would find myself spending some time together within the company of his closest friends. All to provide me with some sort of entertainment and break from the monotony of YouTube videos that I filled my evening 99% of the time. Although I was clearly the outcast, Johnny’s circle welcomed me with open arms. This morning, however, it seems as if I stepped on their tail or something.

Johnny’s closest friends, who go by the name of Wilbur and Sam, tend to be a bit hyper when it comes to their love of pop-culture. While discussing about these certain topics, their passion had soon come caught up to them as the two started to shove each other around while laughing with their bellies. Soon, hormones took over and their aggressive horseplay caused a nearby group of girls nearby to be shoved along with them. Their faces already expressed discomfort as if a Florida man walked up to the pair and asked the two for sex in exchange for a hotdog. A few shoves in and their father soon comes to the rescue by asking them to stop. It wasn’t in the case of the father asking them politely with a gentle tone yet reassuring tone,

“Look, I know we’re in Megacon and you’re excited to be here. But could you…behave until it actually starts?”

Instead, the father demanded that Sam and Wilbur to behave themselves. The two repeatedly apologized to the father for being stupid teenagers. In response, the father showed them no form of remorse,

“This is the only time that I’ll say this.”

The mood went quiet and things died down, only for them to come up again. Yvonne, Johnny’s girlfriend, is known for being extremely ticklish with a yelp indicating that she is being tickled against her will. Wilbur was the suspect as he touched the inner crevices of her body, causing a number of their friends to cackle at her. The sight was amusing and the only reason why someone would continually tickle someone was to see their reaction. I wanted to join in on the fun, and when opportunity had risen, I tickled her. This time, the frown was gone and Yvonne looked straight in my face,

“Stop!!” she demanded.

“Yeah seriously…stop man” Her friends would echo from behind.

Confused, I kept my mouth shut and took a step back. I wasn’t too happy with how things were turning out. I took pictures of a few more of the costumed attendees and waited a bit, seething a bit in my own humiliation which had turned into anger. I know now that people have their limits, but it was quite hard for me to fix my attitude. I already had a bossy father to seal the expectation that anyone who raises their voices far beyond the likes of an inside voice was already on my shit list. I didn’t dare to say anything back at them though. What would that make of me? A hyprocrite most likely.

I couldn’t deal with the pressure arising from my body. So I simply stayed silent while I waited. Then from afar, I hear people cheering, laughing, screaming with delight. There was a small light in the corridor. The crowd of people were starting to move forward and my brother informs me to hold up my wrist band to get in. This was the moment that I had wanted to experience for years. And in a few seconds, I would finally have that opportunity.

In other words, the doors were open.

The Faith of Christopher Hitchens – Thoughts

*Note: This is my first review…ever. So I apologize if I seem a bit absent minded. Also, I’ll try to keep this review spoiler free.*

When I heard that Christopher Hitchens, the man known to vocally rip the so called “heroes” of faith such as Mother Teresa and Jerry Falwell, admitted to being close friends with the author, an Evangelical Christian named Larry Taunton, I made it my mission to find the proof towards their seemingly unlikely bond for each other. However, they wouldn’t come to terms with a few “certain” issues about faith (except their shared views towards Islam).  Starting from his post and a joint interview, which was posted on the CNN Religion Blog a few days after Hitchens’ death, I looked far and wide, with the help of Google, to learn more about their unlikely rapport. All to fulfill my desire to know what the power of friendship can do to the most unlikely of characters.

Link to his CNN post:

My Take: An evangelical remembers his friend Hitchens

Since then, like many journeys to find the hidden treasures that very few know about, I was able to uncover a few gems. YouTube videos showcasing that Taunton, who initially, according to the book, was antagonized by fans of the Hitch for his religiosity, wasn’t bluffing about being close friends. There is proof all around YouTube showcasing their comraderies. Just type in “Christopher Hitchens Larry Taunton” and all of the links provided are merely the first few videos that I happened to post on this review. But when I discovered that an actual book was coming out detailing Taunton’s bromance with Hitchens, who was known to have his atheist companionships with the likes of Richard Dawkins, Salman Rushdie, Lawrence Krauss, and other like-minded individuals, I preordered the book without hesitation. Fueled by the expectation that I would finally know more about what those two did during Hitchens’ final years.

The first half of the book starts off with a general overview of Hitchens’ journey towards unbelief starting from his rocky boarding school days, his rise to prominence in Oxford, and as a controversial contrarian who broke ties with the left due to his stances a few topics. I learned quite a bit towards Hitchens and his envious journey to the top. Hitchens’ mother did mention that he was bound to become a member of the upper class. And ultimately, he did. All on his own terms.

Taunton does add in a few of his opinions towards his view towards Atheism and how such views support his foundation for Christian belief. (To avoid sparking any debates concerning my thoughts on his words, this is as far as I’ll go.)

Then came to the last half of the book. The section that I was eagerly anticipating since ordering it online. The day when Taunton meets the Hitch. It’s interesting to note that while reading this section, Taunton reuses some of the lines of his first encounter from the CNN post over here. He even uses the same description in his podcast featuring the very interview recorded on that day. On the acknowledgements, Taunton mentioned that the task of writing a book takes years to complete. So I’m guessing that the idea for this book was on his mind on the day of his closest companions died.

Link of their discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obycPvu5fro

The book then fast forwards to a few months after the discovery of the same disease that killed his father: stage four cancer of the esophagus. Upholding his commitment for an upcoming debate in Taunton’s home state, Alabama, the two buddies undertake on a road trip. During this section I was filled with joy and laughed out loud between witty banter and eccentric quirks shared between the two. I could easily imagine such events occurring between my friends during a road trip. A few months later, another road trip, this time on the beautiful mountain state of Montana, travelling to Yellowstone National Park, proceeding yet another debate between the two in Billings, Montana.

Link of their trip to Yellowstone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n85Sjh0r7s

 

It was here where Hitchens, in front of a camera crew for a local news outlet, spoke his true feelings about Taunton: “If everyone in the United States had the same qualities of loyalty and care and concern for others that Larry Taunton had, we’d be living in a much better society than we do.” There is no denying that there was a special connection between the two master debaters. That their friendship, given to the dying Hitchens so late in his life, was one that allowed him to reflect on all of his years to begin reconsidering the validity of the foundation in which Taunton bases his life’s works upon.

Hitchens jokes that by saying it on camera, there’s now video evidence to prove his words.

Link of the news report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xorMPrHrzNU

Needless to say, not only was I satisfied with the content living up to my expectations, it provided me with a newly found worldview that I hope would satisfy my journey towards self-enlightenment. I loved how Taunton wasn’t depreciative towards his death compared to many of his Christian contemporaries and made sure that the book was focused towards his personal views of the Hitchens’ journey home. Some might be thrown off by Taunton’s views towards his Christianity but then again, a number of believers were big fans of Hitchens despite his obvious thoughts against what they believed in. As I closed the Kindle app (I bought this as an E-book), I took a deep sigh of relief and patted myself on the back. It was sixteen dollars’ worth spent.

Five stars out of five.