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Showing posts from June, 2019

Cebu Day 1-3

First visit to the Philippines. Arrived in Cebu on Wednesday. Had dinner in Jollibee near the Maxwell Hotel.

On Thursday, visited the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. The Christ child is the patron saint of Cebu, but a child with dark skin and black curly hair. Devotees lined up to pray to the icon in the chapel but there were replicas for sale in the church gift shop too. Replicas in the basement museum too, which are for traveling around the country and for bathing in the sea on a holy day. Along the cloisters of the church were paintings and stories about the miracles of the Child. The Tuba (drink) Provider. The Fishmonger (the Child plays a prank on a seller of fish). The Patriot (The Child signs up to defend the Philippines). The Speedy Boater. The Rainmaker. Beautiful and cool garden in the middle. Woman sitting under the shade of the Church. Saw Magellan's Cross behind the basilica.

Walked through the Carbon market to Ermita neighborhood, which reminded me of Goh Poh Seng…

Future Tense

Weekly column written for Singapore Unbound newsletter. Sign up here.

Because I'm flying tonight, first to Singapore and then to the Philippines (for the Cebu Literary Festival), I'm writing my weekly column on a Sunday and scheduling it for posting on Thursday. I'm writing in the future tense.

My neighborhood bank in Harlem has just reopened after a thorough renovation. When I told GH, in my Singaporean way, how much quicker the shiny new ATMs are, he reminded me that the machines have replaced human cashiers. Some people have lost their jobs. If the bank was less efficient before, it was because they did not wish to invest in people and open up more counters.

Automation has replaced human beings at a frightening speed and will continue to do so at a dizzying rate. As consumers we have adapted perhaps all too readily to the changes. Even if the machine revolution cannot be stopped, it can be slowed down, so that all of us have time to plan, train, and adjust, to figure ou…

A Perched Privacy

Weekly column written for Singapore Unbound newsletter. Sign up here.

Last week I was packing up my office stuff in preparation for a move. My school is opening an extension across the road. Unlike the lower school and some other departments, which are moving into the new building, the English Department is only moving from one floor to another in the old building, but still I will miss the tiny office where I have worked for the last 14 years. I will miss the view of the East River and the passing boats.

All moves, big and small, involve complicated feelings. This Sunday I'm flying back to Singapore on my annual visit, back to the country I thought I had left behind in order to come out as a poet and a gay man in NYC. I have made a home of New York, but a made home is not the same as homemade. Those of us who flew away from our birthplace in search of transcendence, whether in art or love, often find ourselves searching for a hearth as well in our adopted city.

This was true of H…

More Than One Kind of People Movement

Weekly column written for Singapore Unbound newsletter. Sign up here

On Sunday more than a million Hong Kongers took to the streets to protest against the passing of a bill that will extradite suspected criminals to China for the first time. The protesters suspect that the bill will be used to target political dissent and so accelerate the erosion of their civil liberties. Pictures of the protest march moved many Singaporean on-line commentators to praise Hong Kongers for their love of their freedoms and to wish that Singaporeans would be just as active and passionate about theirs.

Faced with government intransigence over the extradition bill, Hong Kongers mounted a second, smaller, protest on Wednesday, which was met by police tear gas and rubber bullets. 72 people had been hospitalized by the end of the day. Together with other civil-rights organizations, Singapore Unbound condemns the use of excessive force by the government to suppress a people movement. As expected, the Hong Ko…

Chafing against Anonymity

The Wife (2017) threw GH for a loop—who is the real talent in the family, and who the public face, the domestic help merely. At the beginning of our relationship, he had no doubt about who was who, but things have changed in nine years. It's hard to grow old, and harder still to feel useless, and overshadowed. He couldn't understand why the wife, played brilliantly by Glenn Close, would stay with the husband, played equally brilliantly by Jonathan Pryce. Why didn't she strike out on her own as a writer? Why didn't she strike against the gender bias of her time against women writers?

In an interview included in the DVD, Glenn Close said that she understood the character of Joan Castleman when she understood why she stayed with Joe. She did not say why.

My guess: love first, together with the willing subjugation of oneself to the beloved; then the knowledge of being the real power behind the scenes, of being the kingmaker, rather than the king, as the character admitted …