2020 Series/Volume





Uploaded September 30, 2020
Updated October 19, 2020 with entry #4





September 2020 Picks




(Design, Material culture)

The ad for "The Prescription Paper Pill Bottle." [Video uploaded by ForYourConsideration, 10 September 2020]

TOM's "prescription paper pill bottle"
(Item launched this month by Tikkun Olam Makers; ad launched this month by Saatchi & Saatchi)

TIKKUN Olam Makers launched this sensible little item this month. It's a bottle for prescription pills that realizes it's a prescription in itself, thus its name. Download the process, then, or simply correctly emulate to contribute to even just a modest impact.
    By the way, love the earthly colors in Saatchi & Saatchi's ad for that thing.




(Documentary film)

The 2016 ad for the November 2016 showing of Forbidden Memory at the C1 Originals Festival 2016. [Uploaded 17 November 2016 by Cinema One]

The 23-28 September 2020 limited re-showing of Forbidden Memory on YouTube
(23-28 September 2020, YouTube)

DIRECTOR Teng Mangansakan describes his Cinema One-produced 2016 film in that 2016 video above as more of a gathering of "collective memories" rather than of documentary visuals. Although obviously a low-cost project that starts slowly, even though it's filmed mostly during the daytime the film progresses abundantly like a campfire narration that engages, and for that alone it should be commended for a resultant minimalism. Again, we must say that despite the near-absence of dramatizations the film is engaging enough in its telling of what transpired during the Palimbang massacre of 1974 at the height of the Marcos regime's power trip. It presents the story from the point of view of the Muslim villagers who survived that massacre and the point of view of some of their Christian sympathizers.
    Let us rephrase that other statement. The near-absence of dramatizations involving actors . . . actually renders for the Palimbang story a film that's more precious as a visceral historical museum piece than as a mere editing-room beauty. If you didn't catch the limited YouTube showing, here's hoping you get to access the film elsewhere and with it realize that your historical revisionism towards a time of recklessness, even with amply-tooled aesthetics, isn't going to be that easy in the presence of low-cost gems like this.




(Culinary art)

Dale Talde's halo-halo of shaved ice, avocado, green mango, kiwi, young coconut meat and nuts in episode 7 of Top Chef: Chicago, 2008. [Cropped screenshot uploaded by lafang.mikemina.com to pinterest.ph]

A clip from the Top Chef episode capturing Dale Talde's halo-halo "quickfire" entry. [Uploaded 28 April 2008 by Arnold Gatilao]

Filipino-American chef Dale Talde's halo-halo, from 2008's Top Chef: Chicago that only aired this September on Netflix
(episode 7 of Top Chef: Chicago [aka Top Chef season 4] featuring Talde's halo-halo quick recipe first aired on Bravo, 23 April 2008; all of the season's episodes along with the episodes of Top Chef: Miami [aka Top Chef season 3] first aired 5 September 2020 on Netflix)

IT happened way back in 2008 in the "Quickfire Challenge" of episode 7 of Top Chef: Chicago, aka Top Chef season 4, but the series' Miami and Chicago seasons only just aired this year this September on Netflix, so consider Filipino-American chef Dale Talde's halo-halo item renewed for food porn glorification.
    Well, we all know of course that Talde got eliminated from the show season at the end of the 11th episode, aka the "Restaurant Wars" episode, and he didn't exactly win that abovementioned Quickfire challenge. But he actually became one of five contestants from that season who went on to sport bigger names in the US culinary world. Before the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic hit the restaurant business hard, we heard that Talde owned or co-owned no less than ten restaurants.
    Anyway, we're just happy to see once more that extraordinary quick halo-halo recipe of his that we first saw on one of those internet websites airing Bravo shows. A number of Filipinos raved about that piece, what with its variation on the traditional dessert or snack item, there using avocado, green mango, kiwi, young coconut meat, and nuts to be his floaters on top of the requisite shaved ice. And what fun it turned out to be, re-watching the competition on Netflix, despite the 4:3 screen ratio





cover of Bill Callahan's new album Gold Record. [Photo from prettyinnoise.de]

Gold Record
(Released 4 September 2020, Drag City)

IT opens with that Bill Callahan humor you'd get from others only during concerts: "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash."
    Mike Goldsmith of Record Collector wrote in his review: "While the album is intended as 10 individual slices of life, collective themes quickly emerge and turn it into more than the sum of its parts. . . . Gold Record’s USP is an overwhelming fascination and love for humankind with all its frailties, faults and frivolities – here are snatched short stories of Americana at its most delightfully mundane. Think Raymond Carver with heart emojis for eyes." But then "there’s the blue(s)-collar protagonist of 'Protest Song' or the world-weary limo driver watching rice-swollen 'Pigeons' explode to a mariachi backdrop – Callahan’s characters are all painted with a wonderfully intricate detail that illustrates the magic in realism."
    Which should be your hint if you're a politics-driven kind of critic wary of Callahan's seeming contentment. It's an album that offers a view of Texas richness sans the nervousness of currently trendy white nationalism.




(Documentary film)

The official trailer for My Octopus Teacher. [Uploaded 7 September 2020, Netflix]

My Octopus Teacher
(Launched 7 September 2020, Netflix)

SURE, you can use this documentary film as an example of superb underwater photography and cinematography, but there's something else in the whole work's narrative. That something else also tells people not just to make art from out of a subject but ideally from within that subject.
    Kudos to filmmakers Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed for staying with South African Craig Foster, a fellow documentary filmmaker himself, as he started freediving in a kelp forest at the tip of his country, and then for recognizing the developing relationship that happened between Foster and an octopus and making that development the resulting subject of the sets of footage that the filmmakers gathered. Hinting that that relationship has the potential of being an allegory that could teach us about our kinship with the world, this cinematographic work of art becomes a material of witnessing how it itself started from being a project aiming to support a scientific cause and ended up with an emotional narrative that sees an aspect of it all that should now be motoring that cause.




(Toy craft, toy design)

Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo's Facebook post reporting on Malaysia-based Filipino architect-sculptor Rowel Naanep's model vehicles made from garbage materials. [Posted 2 September 2020, Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo]

"Maliliit na sasakyan"
(Posted on Facebook 2 September 2020 by Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo)

WHEN did Malaysia-based Filipino architect and sculptor Rowel Naanep make those transportation toys featured in the photos above? We don't know. But now that Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo had posted on Facebook the photos of Naanep's toys for everyone to see (or see again), we can start discussing their value for toy aficionados (especially die-cast toy aficionados) and whoever else. Value, then, that may inspire people to pursue things other than pure artmaking using garbage similar to Naanep's or Haribaabu Naatesan's.
    First, each of the above-featured Naanep works is a transport toy. The "toyability" of each of the toys' set of wheels seems to be the basic rationale for the vehicles' ready toy-ness. However, remember that Naanep made these from materials retrieved from trash
trash on the streets, on the beach, etc. That means that the toys have yet to go through some bureau's examination before they can be deemed toxicity-free, and we aren't even talking yet about the fact that even toddlers may find it tempting to taste the toys' wheels or plastic roofs with their mouths as part of their juvenile testing procedure. In short, these Naanep toys may primarily be for teen or adult collectors, for display perhaps inside a thick wall's hole that might then be covered with glass and illuminated inside with LED lights. Something like that, which Naanep may have already thought about, being an architect who doesn't seem to have been limited by his field's macro-view that many architects seemingly have been unable to escape from.
    Naanep's toys' value #1: The environmental facet of Naanep's act, which looks for ways to liberate garbage from their position as garbage via creative reuse or repurposing. Sure, many would expect the creative reuse system to be carried out only by artists or interior designers, or people from Trashion and the like, especially if we're not aware of the fact that for decades now agriculturists and engineers and architects and many more professions have already been into this business of upcycling. But remember that even artists and interior designers and fashion designers in society are there only as "experts" in their field, which means that we of the aesthetic laity cannot be kept from being artists and interior designers and fashion designers ourselves in our daily non-expert ways. Shouldn't everyone be an artist, in the same way that everyone is a critic and everyone in high school is a bedroom guitarist? Such "maliliit" actions from us, "maliliit na artists," would go a long way in helping our "malalaking" planetary ecologies from the intrusion of these problematic plastics, don't you agree?
    Value #2: Transportation designers have been working with models
for presentation purposes and what-notthat may either have been handcrafted or 3D-printed. Naanep's toys could actually be approached as such "maliliit" models for life-size implementation. They could actually inspire transportation designers . . . not only to make vehicles with colors or with a look similar to these toys', . . . but to manufacture them from the same source: retrieved garbage materials for upcycling or recycling. Something in the direction of what's in this India Times article, sure, but maybe something more radical. Plastics would drastically be lighter for engines to move, for instance, wouldn't they be? If architects can build houses with plastic bottles, why can't car or bus or train or airplane designers be similarly rad in a big way, too?
    In small ways, some people are already doing it.





The official trailer for The Devil All the Time. [Uploaded 13 August 2020, Netflix]

The Devil All The Time
(Launched 11 September 2020, Netflix)

(FIRST off, let us tell you that the following text would contain spoilers)
    Now, based on the Donald Ray Pollock novel of the same name, The Devil All the Time, the film adaptation by director Antonio Campos with the screenplay by Campos and his brother, Paulo Campos, dutifully tells its story using Pollock's own voice as the narrator. Centered on the character of Arvin Eugene Russell (Tom Holland), it's a story about America's religion-based culture represented here by a place called Knockemstiff, Ohio (coincidentally, the real Knockemstiff, Ohio is in the Republican Party-led Ross county of Republican-leaning Ohio). The non-American viewer of this film leaves the screen convinced that living in much of the US of A is definitely no safer than being in most of the cities and villages of the outright theonomies of the Middle East.
    Arvin's father Willard (Bill Skarsgård) is a PTSD-ridden veteran of one of America's (supposedly-for-democracy) wars abroad who comes back home to this religion-enveloped culture, and we know at once that his guilt suffering as well as his grief over the oncoming death of his wife Charlotte (Haley Bennett) is not likely to be helped by prayers alone, although we can see that he can definitely help himself and his son from the jokers around town via the power of his military-trained fist and his threatening gun (a fact that his son would not forget). If there are two things that go together in religion-based cultures and societies, it's prayers and guns (or some things else that would take the place of guns). In the end, the film tells us: be careful what you wish for, faith-leaning NRA, for the very weapons that protect you and give you and your friends power as well as profits could breed a contrasting use among deviants in your domain, and deviants in not-so-democratic circles who become victims of all sorts of abuse or neglect or a justice-denying justice system are almost certain to crop up.
    The story gives us Arvin, a boy whose background is ripe for the birthing of a revolutionary. But The Devil All the Time is not a journey film, it's a place film, and the only way for the story to complete itself is to connect different kinds of people, including the not-so-religious hypocrites in that town, within that setting and all its semblance of community-making. The extreme in this sort of representation of variants came about with the story's introduction of the persons of Carl and Sandy Henderson (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough), a Bonny and Clyde kind of couple who likes to murder people after taking photos of them having sex with Sandy. It's too much of a representation, you might say, but it's actually a necessary example of one of the many insane citizens in the American landscape, and it has to be there to give us a contrast with the insanity of the "sane" world of religion-based societies itself and all its all-too-self-aware corruption and hypocrisy and ill deeds. Remember, also, that the most devout Roy Laferty (Harry Melling), who strongly believed that God was in him, went out to kill his own wife Helen (Mia Wasikowska), Charlotte's sister, believing that he had the ability to resurrect her, and when he realized the craziness of his deed went on to kill himself.
    Arvin's revolution doesn't stop at protecting his "step-sister" Lenora (Eliza Scanlen), daughter of Roy and Helen, from the scourge of bullies (who incidentally are in abundance in switchblade-poor United States), he also ends up killing the preacher (Robert Pattinson) who raped his step-sister after the former refused to acknowledge being the father to the latter's baby in the womb (a refusal that led to her death by suicide). Then he also shoots in self-defense the serial-killing couple who picked him up when he escaped the town, and finally the sheriff (Sebastian Stan) who went after him to kill him to avenge the death of his serial-killing sister Sandy.
    All in all the film sends this message to present-day Trump America, in these days of religion-backed Proud Boys and other far-right and neo-Nazi groups: Arvins are not just going to sit back and let the religious-culture crap backing all the corruption and bullying and sexism and rape and racism and corporate and police and legal abuse, as well as the neglect of a less-government-is-more neoliberal utopia, have its way by way of power and the rule of their laws. The guns they have would be the very same guns that the latter and all their liberal hippie friends can have too.
    In short, it's saying: are you really sure you want a civil war after Trump loses in November? Because you may have all the bullies and the sheriffs in your armies, but there will always be a lot of Arvins (and Willards) out there too in all those moonshine-started towns like Knockemstiff. Sure, Putin would rejoice from the eruption of a new US civil war, but if that's what you want, what choice do Arvins have but to keep the NRA rich too before they go after these gun manufacturers themselves later for helping the Christian Right-backed far right? We've actually already seen some of that in the protest rallies that have made sure not another Kenosha happens.




(Documentary film)

The official trailer for Rising Phoenix. [Uploaded 13 August 2020, Netflix]

Rising Phoenix
(Launched 1 September 2020, Netflix Philippines)

MOST of the time, art is associated with luxury (not hardship), or with comfort (not discomfort), the reason why even left-leaning people would prefer to wallow in songs about love when they're already at home. Punk rock music screaming about fascists or theonomists in government can be played, say, while cooking breakfast (not while eating breakfast). After all, to activists, the latter content about the plight of the powerless trodden by the shameless or hypocritical powerful are part of Work and should probably not be allowed to enter their lives at Home (at least not until the start of such moments as the family-dinner conversations and banter). Art comes with rest, after all, or with rest comes art, the comfort of art, delivered via art's glimpses that return the mind to the beauty of life after one's day or week immersed in ugliness. . . .
    But then the ugly, or "the horrible," or "the pitiable," is, of course, derivative of a concept of beauty or art that has been leaning on concepts of luxury (not hardship) or comfort (not discomfort). And because comfort informs on our daily lives tremendously (well, at least certain important hours of our daily lives), a cottage industry was created to define ideals of beauty within comfort. This industry then led everyone to a common acceptance of the uncomfortable as anathema to those idealizations of theirs regarding beauty, or art, needed for comfort.
    The view of the disabled as an uncomfortable stimulus is not only due to society's appreciation or recognition of the normality of a human physique qua norm and the supposed opposites of that normality, it is also borne out of an aesthetic philosophy crafted by the human mind from these idealizations of normality as an adjunct of an appreciation of the common. Perhaps humanity's phobia for the uncommon is due to its . . . well, propensity to fear. The opposite of fear is comfort.
    And if the disabled is deemed as the uncommon, thus as the fearful symbol of a certain human state, it is only natural that the most inflexibly "idealistic" or illiberal political utopias the human mind created, such as fascism, Nazism, neo-Nazism, white nationalism and other modes of xenophobia, including Communism and conservative religion (which latter would every now and then show its influence on secular governments, even left-leaning governments such as Brazil's in 2016), would include this vision of disabilities as a part of their design stipulating human elements that have to be excluded or hidden or labeled as a liability in their perfect societies. That is, as shameful or sorry elements qua manifestations of divine punishment or earthly misfortune.
    Then again, liberal governments have also displayed a similar culture towards disabled elements of our society, as was amply illustrated by that Netflix documentary launched just last March 25, Crip Camp, executive-produced by Barack and Michelle Obama and made by Nicole Newnham and James Lebrecht. Among other things, Crip Camp is also about the Carter government's long refusal to heed disability rights activists' demands for the ratification of what would later be the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. It was a refusal that looked like a continuation of the social spending-wary Nixon government's own. To viewers of the historical documentary, the Nixon government's wasn't surprising. Nor was the bill's heavy cruising through the Reagan years. The Carter government's refusal would be the shocker to those who've only learned about it now. The ADA, the global influence of which law many disabled people today reap benefits from, would be signed ironically by the George H. W. Bush government, and we say that that's ironic because the Carter government did advance a number of policies sympathetic to civil rights, as was expected of Democratic administrations of recent times, while Bush's presidential campaign was actually the one that had a number of racist statements attached to it. . . .
    Now, however, there is in contrast a real sympathy for disability that can be gleaned from certain parenting governments, with this sympathy actually translating to a diminution of the disabled citizen's capacity to perform actions expected of elements of the norm. This diminution leads to disbelief at even the mere possibility (not probability) of a disabled person surpassing the achievements of above-average representatives of the so-called norm. . . .
    Well, welcome to Rising Phoenix. In the film, this false sympathy would be surprised at the fights legless Russia-born T54 track and marathon star Tatyana McFadden fought, even after she was adopted by influential Deborah McFadden and brought to the US (one of Tatyana's fights in this latter country led to the passage of the Maryland Fitness and Athletics Equity for Students with Disabilities Act). Or the struggles that one-footed Australian swimmer Ellie Cole had to overcome. Or those physical and emotional battles fought through by Burundian-French sprinter and long jumper Jean-Baptiste Alaize, one of whose legs received four machete blows when he was three years old during the Burundian Civil War (that event where he also saw his mother killed in front of him). Or those by armless American archer Matt Stutzman, whose humor is just outstanding, probably because of his fortune in having adoptive parents who chose him despite his physical drawbacks. Or those by one-legged British 100-m runner Jonnie Peacock. Or those by Australian Ryley Batt, a wheelchair rugby player without legs and some missing fingers, who couldn't be content with a Beijing silver for his team and nudged himself to "get out of bed" to "be an athlete" for the return fight against the USA team in Rio 2016. Or those by legless South African runner Ntando Mahlangu. Or those by Italian Bebe Vio, a wheelchair fencer with amputated legs from the knee and amputated arms from the forearms due to meningitis that attacked her when she was 11. Vio's nickname "Rising Phoenix" inspired the title of the film. The Netflix-supported documentary is a castigation of those norm creations.
    Now, there are two types of disabilities on show here. One is of physical disability, which the film as well as the Games inspire us to see as a disability no worse than the norm's inability to juggle 25 balls, although some of us within the norm can actually get ourselves to juggle as many as 9-11. The other is of a disability of the norm-creating mind, which is harder to train to attain higher levels of thinking. Many consider this latter form of disability as the hopeless kind, having been caused mostly by a complex syndrome of fallacies. But Dr. Ludwig Guttmann battled hard to cure such disabilities of the mind, and the Paralympic Movement-established International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is continuing that fight. It seems that that fight is making some headway, what with China's having started to expose its erstwhile-hidden handicapped talents during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
    One thing everyone should notice: every time the athletes are interviewed, directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedguiy would have each occupy only about 1/12 of the entire screen that mostly shows details of a room with lateral and diagonal forms with a color scheme contrasting with the athlete's color. It's as if the disabled athletes are the only biomorphic forms in these aesthetic compositions, which should be a sneering statement, considering that geometric abstraction itself has been associated with certain forms of idealizations akin to the idealizations of Classicist figuration. (When it gets to people like then-IPC CEO Xavi Gonzalez or then-PIC President Sir Philip Craven or current IPC President Andrew Parsons, or to Eva Loeffler, daughter of Sir Ludwig, the composition of their setups would still be largely geometric, but they as subjects would occupy something like 1/8 of the camera already. The only exception is with The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, founder of the Invictus Games, who is here given the same treatment as the athletes, in recognition perhaps of the larger world he also had to contend with).
    You'll get the entire point of the film at the end and may even leave the screen better informed. You might even put the Paralympics above the Olympics itself. But if you're ever going to want to watch the film again, aside from wanting to get the statements again, it'd likely be for the sporting acts' footage and then for those interview shots. We guarantee that that's what you'll want to do. Because those interview shots . . . are just beautiful. And comforting, not discomforting. For, here, the erstwhile "uncomfortable stimuli" are now looking like they completely belong to their surround, like Sir Ludwig with the order of chivalry, well-placed in a deserved spot within a national palace.





The official trailer for Enola Holmes. [Uploaded 25 August 2020, Netflix]

Enola Holmes
(Launched 23 September 2020, Netflix)

THIS is an action-comedic take on the underground struggles of the suffragettes' movement in Victorian England, coming on the heels of 1) the Reform Act 1832 explicitly banning English women from voting, 2) the Reform Act 1867 that only minimally extended the voting rights of the male working class of England, and finally 3) the Representation of the People Act 1884 that still left all women and 40% of the adult male population in the kingdom with no right to vote. The effervescent screenplay by Jack Thorne, adapted from the Edgar Awards-nominated first book of the The Enola Holmes Mysteries series by Nancy Springer, comes into awe-inspiring fruition under the helm of director Harry Bradbeer that seems to be enjoying its spots with the energetic Millie Bobby Brown (who also co-produced the project) as Enola Holmes (sister of the effectively liberal Sherlock and the mindfully conservative Mycroft Holmes). The support of actors Helena Bonham Carter, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Adeel Akhtar, Fiona Shaw, Frances de la Tour, Louis Partridge, and Susie Wokoma, all come together to help shape a cogent symphony of a moving picture with arguments progressing so efficiently on our home screens in this quarter of our year of extended lockdowns.
    Springer must be happy with the outcome of the film project, with Peter Debruge of Variety commenting that Brown's performance somewhat resembles the "effusive spontaneity that Keira Knightley brought to Pride and Prejudice, shattering the straitlaced propriety of so many Jane Austen adaptations before it." Daniel Pemberton's score here is as engaging as his work for Motherless Brooklyn. And Bradbeer's camera uses such details as the floriography of the narrative to perfection to act as springboards and linking cords for the oncoming feminist action that would thence have the taste of both The Da Vinci Code and Les Misérables on it.
    No, Enola Holmes is not just a fictional film about the past. It's also about the present, and, as the narrator's closing lines would have it, about the future that is really all up to "us." Quite an English film this is, but one that America could use in this period of its own history that's undergoing a Victorian era-like nervous progress (or threatening retrogress).







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