To catch the upcoming June weekly digests as I churn them out, please check out my Ko-fi page!
W E E K 0 1 7
☞ Read Leigh Bardugo’s The Six of Crows duology. I shudder at the thought of the Shadow and Bone adaptation having been made without the spice that the Dregs of the Barrel bring. I’ve also never really appreciated the concept of the duology before, but it seems a smart move now: chonky standalones can be too exhausting while trilogies are prone to saggy middle parts, so duologies hit the sweet spot between the two. And after putting myself through the likes of ACOTAR, it was refreshing to read Leigh Bardugo and see coherent, fully-formed sentences again.
☞ Also read the Brown Sisters books by Talia Hibbert. “Wholesome,” “healthy,” and “simp-y” are the first descriptions that come to mind for these books — and interestingly so, what with all the adult parts and the protagonists’ health issues. The characters themselves were so realistically rational, a distant cry from the repetitive escapist romances I usually read. It’s a relief to know that romance authors can actually write this way.
☞ Downloaded the Webtoon app on my phone and got myself hooked on Rachel Smythe’s Lore Olympus series. It’s a modern retelling of several Greek myths, but centers on the story of the taking of the goddess of spring to the Underworld. The gist of this story is close to my heart, so I appreciated the way Rachel Smythe approached Persephone’s plight. If my catching up on 154 episodes in the span of one night is anything to go by, this is the superior Hades-and-Persephone narrative.
It would seem that the universe has been hard at work making up for last month’s exhaustion with last week’s quality content. — 3 May 2021
W E E K 0 1 8
☞ Watched The Mitchells vs. the Machines on Netflix. It was fun and beautifully animated, but either I am a smidge too cynical, or the film itself was a smidge too overhyped. Also saw Miss Congeniality, starring Sandra Bullock. I agree with Iana Murray who in a Letterboxd review said that the film “invented feminism.”
☞ Reread Madeline Miller’s Circe for the first time in years. I normally don’t talk about books I’ve reread, but this one warrants special attention because it happens to be the very first physical book I had bought for myself in 3 years. And it floored me to finally notice things about this book that never registered with me the first time: the transformation of “witch” from a hateful epithet to a title for a strong woman; Madeline Miller’s effortlessly rich prose; and the way it reads so that before you know it, a thousand years have passed in a single sitting.
☞ Finished the first season of Dickinson on Apple TV+. Initially I thought I was watching only to make the most of my free 1-year subscription. Towards the end, I realized I enjoyed the semi-fictional anecdotes — however anachronistically delivered — behind some of Emily Dickinson’s most enduring lines.
It was a relief to review the last week and see that I still managed to accomplish some things. Every waking moment lately has been spent plotting and relearning how to write fiction, as I strive for — surprise! — a reboot of Phoebe Wanderer’s story in the Kingdom of Alastro. You all heard it here first. — 10 May 2021
W E E K 0 1 9
☞ Started and finished a mobile game called Tangle Tower. I have a free 3-month subscription to Apple Arcade, and this is the first game in a long list I want to get through before my subscription expires in July. Tangle Tower is a point-and-click game about a young female painter who dies in her extended family’s expansive home, and the suspected murder weapon is — cue film noir music! — the bloody knife in her painting. The game had amazing art and background music; and it was simply fun to play, because the puzzle segments were not so difficult that I needed to consult the walkthrough, but not so easy either that I felt I was being spoonfed.
☞ Also started playing the video game Reigns on Apple Arcade. It’s a Tinder-esque strategy game about a king who aims to stay on the throne for as long as possible but has to navigate through the situations presented by the people in his court. The situations got repetitive after a while, so changing up my decision-making has helped me make the most of the game.
☞ Worked my way through 42 semifinal projects and 71 final exam essays for my Philippine history subject. I wasn’t able to read any books last week, so I figure my having read all these submissions makes up for it. — 18 May 2021
W E E K 0 2 0
☞ Caught up to the second and latest season of Dickinson on Apple TV+. Episode nine truly cemented Austin Dickinson as my favorite character in the entire show.
☞ Also watched the second season of Love Death + Robots on Netflix. I think the thing about having 18 episodes like the previous season did is that there is a larger probability of getting absolutely marvelous episodes, while if there are only 8 episodes like this season had, that probability significantly decreases. The only episode from the new season that really stayed with me was “The Drowned Giant,” which is based on the short story by J.G. Ballard.
☞ Started and caught up to the Let’s Play series on Webtoon. It’s the story of Sam, an indie game developer in her twenties, and the romantic relationships and friendships that flourish around her. By the time I was 55 episodes in, I had no idea which people to ship with each other anymore — and it was actually more enjoyable that way. But I also appreciate stories that take the time to flesh out their fictional media content, and Leeanne Krecic did a spectacular job with Sam’s game “Ruminate.” I do hope the legal issues about the third season get resolved soon.
Still no books finished last week, but I’m not worried. A number of people in my book clubs have been complaining that they’re in reading slumps, but I tell them that calling periods of non-reading “slumps” only creates more pressure to be constantly reading. Call these periods “time to do other things” instead, and watch what happens when downtime is seen as a palate cleanser instead of a problem. — 25 May 2021
W E E K 0 2 1
☞ Finished the following films on Netflix: The Happiest Season (with Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis), Meet Joe Black (with a 35-year old Brad Pitt as the titular character), and The Two Popes (starring the incomparable Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce). My rewatch of The Two Popes was quite an emotional experience, since the film explores the intersections of forgiveness, purpose, and faith. It’s now officially part of my roster of comfort films. Meet Joe Black took me several days to get through, but in looking up trivia about it — something I actually do for every single film I watch — I was rewarded with this magnificent paragraph from Vulture:
Meet Joe Black is not for everyone. It requires a suspension of cynicism to let yourself get caught up in a three-hour film about Anthony Hopkins coming to terms with his mortality while his mortality sits next to him at dinner. It also requires a real suspension of disbelief to watch Brad Pitt pretend to be a virgin. However, if you do fall for its weird charms, you will be rewarded with several scenes of Brad Pitt eating peanut butter in a way that can only be described as pornographic, and a sex scene wherein Brad Pitt — remember, a virgin! — holds back tears of joy as he mounts Claire Forlani near a gigantic indoor pool.
☞ Gobbled my way through Leehama’s Gourmet Hound series on Webtoon. It follows Lucy Fuji, a woman with an intense sense of taste and smell, as she tries to uncover the changes in kitchen staff that has led to changes in the flavors at her favorite restaurant. It’s a thoughtfully inclusive series that touches on a variety of themes, including success and grief. I would also just like to voice out my frustration that I did not realize Graham Ramos, one of the main characters, was Filipino until episode 101. Rest in shame, my reading comprehension.
☞ Returned to a favorite literary adaptation, Geraldine McCaughrean’s King Arthur and the Round Table, a book that’s been in my possession for fourteen years. My childhood fascination with Arthurian legend is second only to my obsession with Greek and Roman mythology, so I’m really looking forward to The Green Knight when the film comes out from A24 Films next month. And I’m long overdue to pick up J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, so here’s hoping I find a copy of that soon.
N.B. If any of you readers are considering reading up on Arthurian legend before the film comes out, may I offer this succinct but powerful summary of the Green Knight’s tale from The Toast.
☞ Wept my way through In Paglayag: A Sulu Story, a documentary from Muslim filmmaker and activist Rhadem Camlian Morados. The half-hour piece is centered around the Sultanate of Sulu, which in the centuries prior to the mid-1500s was one of the most expansive and prosperous kingdoms in Southeast Asia. The composition of the documentary left a lot to be desired, but watching made me emotional anyway because the need to include Moro and indigenous narratives in mainstream Philippine history is something I’ve been pushing at my students since I started teaching years ago. Ah, well, knowing that there is still much to be done only convinces me to keep at this job, however thankless. — 31 May 2021
I N O T H E R N E W S . . .
◇ Earlier this month, tired discussions about Filipino culture and identity were rehashed when users of the free Internet made some commotion about Jordan Clark, the founder of The Aswang Project, being a non-Filipino. Clark’s identity as a white Canadian man was never a closely-guarded secret, not since the inception of his project and not among the circles that have worked with the man. However, a handful of netizens have made claims to his “racial deception,” which frankly just reads to me as if they had been too lazy to look him up in a search browser but now refuse to admit that that is something they could have done from the beginning. As for claims that Clark is guilty of cultural appropriation, Pamela Punzalan addresses those in this simple but thoughtful Twitter thread, and Christina Newhard expounds on those claims and more in this Open Letter on the Aswang Project Controversy.
◇ Last May 8, the University of the Philippines Baguio announced the opening of its new PhD in Indigenous Studies program. The program introduces a wide range of theories and frameworks for examining indigenous issues, with the hope that such a program would also eventually contribute to the improvement of IP education in the country. Additional details on admissions can be found in the program’s Facebook page.
◇ On May 28, Germany officially acknowledged the genocide it committed against the Herero and Nama people from 1904 to 1908. The Herero and Nama hail from present-day Namibia, which was under German colonial occupation from 1888 to 1915. Their genocide is considered the first — albeit often overlooked — genocide of the 20th century, where the two populations were exterminated, placed in concentration camps, and subjected to eugenics research. Germany has pledged billions of euros to the government of Namibia, though anyone from the Global South who has had a decent history teacher will know that whatever amount of financial reparation is nowhere near enough to make up for the enduring damage caused by colonial greed.
◇ Speaking of colonialism, the call for a free, decolonized Palestine is still ongoing, for as long as Israel continues to trample on Palestinian rights and many Western superpowers continue to back Israel. For those of you looking to learn more about how Palestine has suffered all these decades and why that must all stop, Decolonize Palestine is home to a variety of resources produced by actual Palestinians. Their website has explainers on the country’s history from 9000 BCE to the present, as well as materials debunking myths and generalizations about Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people.
◇ To those of you who still consider yourselves Potterheads, this is your bimonthly reminder that J.K. Rowling is a transphobic author and that no matter how much we may plead the separation between art and artist, your nostalgia comes at the cost of the rights of the trans community. To those who particularly consider Harry Potter to be the pinnacle of children’s literature, I strongly recommend that you read more books. In limiting your standards to this one author’s world, you are doing a disservice to nobody but your own self.
☞ Have you tried any of the books, films, shows, webtoons, and games mentioned in my weekly digests? How did May go in your corner of the world? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!