Sparing the details: on media restraint

Ted Failon, host of Failon Ngayon


News and current affairs programs nowadays have apparently lost all restraint in depicting heinous crimes. This is regardless whether their time slot is in the late evening or five in the afternoon when children are glued in front of their television sets. The most recent Failon Ngayon episode sounded like a television version of the popular tabloid column Xerex in the 90s.

I urge you don’t misinterpret my intention in writing this; my sympathy goes to the victim of the gang rape.

In an interview with her, the woman recounted how she was repeatedly abused; her three abductors ravaged her while a gun was pointed at her. She was crying, anger was clearly sensed in every word she dropped while giving an account of what happened that evening.

Right from her work as a guest relation officer in an establishment on East Avenue in Quezon City, while waiting with her sister for a jeepney ride home, three men forcibly pulled her inside a van, brought her to an unknown location and gang raped her. Except for some extreme close up of the victim’s un-rouged lips or teary eyes, otherwise the camera focused the entire time on Ted Failon, the program host, as he listened intently, like any responsible program anchor, to the story of the raped woman.

She is married and has children. Her children, according to her, are her reasons for holding dearly to her life, the reasons why she did anything the rapists told her to do if only to keep herself alive.

But what struck me as strange was how Failon Ngayon failed to edit using that very familiar onomatopoeic toot, probably out of lack of regard for decency, ignorance, or malice, the more graphic descriptions of the crime. “Pinasubo po nila sa akin ‘yong ari nila habang ‘yong isang lalaki ay pinapasok ang kanyang ***** sa ari ko (They forced their penises into my mouth while one of the men inserted his ***** (a more graphic Filipino word for penis) into my vagina,” she said while the camera zooms in on the flowing tears to her mouth. “Nakatutok po ang baril sa mukha ko, nang kumatok ang driver at siya naman po ang humalay sa akin, naalala ko pa po ang kanyang tattoo, pinipilit niyang ipakain sa akin ang kanyang ari habang ‘yong isang kasama naman po niya ang nasa likuran ko (The tip of the gun was at my face, when the driver knocked on the door, I remember his tattoo. He forced me to take into my mouth his penis while one of them was behind me).”

I understand the requirement of the program to remain faithful to the account of the victim of the crime and to maintain the ever-important television value of realism (a result of the public’s uber-fondness for reality TV programs that border on unevaluated fanaticism). To be very explicit about it, however, to broadcast the details as if letting the public know what the rapists did to her will enable the people to protect themselves from these criminals, is stepping beyond what is acceptable on national TV broadcasts, not to mention it is useless. Useful if its object is to titillate, but hardly if the crime is rape. The media need to leave it to the court to dissect the gritty elements of the crime and spare the viewing public, the children most especially, the horror of the crime.

In the mean time, I am well aware and am grounded on reality enough to know that the news and current affairs departments of the biggest TV stations in the Philippines will not bother reading this post much less heed the simple call for self-restraint. Nor will they change anytime soon.

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Blocked SIM: on privacy

I woke up this morning finding out that the SIM card of my mobile has been blocked. I desperately tried to reconfigure it, but to no avail since I already threw away the card that contained its PUK (Personal Unblocking Key). I felt at a loss; a part of me got chipped off  like a piece of white chalk off the cliff of Dover.

Because of the complexity of the situation and the inappropriateness of this medium to write my narration of what happened before my SIM got blocked, I will rein myself from blurting everything that I felt this morning as it is not anymore sensible to do so, and as I am already feeling better this time.

I will instead talk about the precariousness of privacy. I find myself cognitively dissonant whenever people tell me secrets I have no interest in hearing, personal information I do not want to have anything to do with, or snippets of facts, that are although true, will jeopardize their good image, change how they conceive themselves, and influence me in viewing them negatively.

An individual’s privacy is his most sacred right after his right to live. Only the dead is stripped of its right to privacy. I was raised by my parents and learned from experience to be open about my thoughts and feelings but be very protective of my privacy. In our time when most people think it natural to shamelessly promote themselves, I hold on too tightly on this value that seemed to contradict our Facebook-status mentality. Let’s spare ourselves little dignity.

I care less if the becoming old woman seated next to me in the church has a roomful collection of gadgets she use to pleasure herself. I care less if the young man I sit beside with on the MRT this morning sleeps with the sister of his girlfriend’s mother. I care less if my favorite 80 year-old-professor goes out every evening to prowl Quezon City Circle and prey on boys with powder-encrusted faces.

Without sounding self-righteous, I respect other people’s other life. I think I am committing sacrilege if I encroach on the sacred line that separates the public from the private.

Am I saying this only because I am hiding something sinister, malevolent? Yes. But modern society through its institutions guarantees me this right to privacy. Whether I keep secret something evil about me is immaterial.  It is not the world’s, or the other person’s, business to know.

Worse than a stupid film for stupid people

A film is judged based on multifarious, sometimes unclear, criteria, as, however we look at it and attempt to make the language of ‘reading’ sound elegant, any judgment that has to do with art will bound to be a judgment that has to do with taste, or at least the taste of people who control power or those with hegemonic interests, as my Soc Sci teacher at UP indulgently referred to these.

Despite agreed upon universals  such as believable narrative, motivated acting, clear direction, and seamless editing, most aspects of the criteria are genre-specific. Some people who are not schooled in film-making or film analysis, like this writer for instance, rely on more primitive, almost instinctual means, to judge whether a film is good or not. No, this is already too lofty. Say, whether a film is able to achieve its objects or failed unequivocally.

We working-class people, who work ourselves to death from Monday to Friday, only look forward to a Friday night of senseless entertainment, to feed our need to escape from our boring and tiring existence, much like the Russian in the 1800s who drown themselves in vats of vodkas after a day of plowing the fields of their landlords. People like us do not demand much from the films we watch. A good laugh here and there that would help us forget, for an hour and thirty minutes or so, how we are oppressed by the prevailing societal and economic systems, is but all we ask from a movie we paid 160 pesos (4 USD) to watch. But I guess, this oppression we sustain in workplace, forgive my very Marxist tone, is extended beyond its walls.

Mamarazzi is directed by Joel Lamangan and starred by the most bankable, to use the term of some media pundits, comedy actress of present, Eugene Domingo. It is a story of Violy, an owner of a funeral parlor who has a triplets born out of wedlock and the conflict that arises when the supposed father of her children resurfaces one day. To sum up, Mamarazzi is a film of loosely sewn parts, a comedy of the worst sort, a none sense parading to address social issues like death, parenthood, and homosexuality, which must have been the director’s suggestion, utilizing wry comedy in its unintellectual sense.

This film reflects Joel Lamangan’s decline as movie director. To say the least, he is overrated. And this film shows without doubt his ineptitude as a director. Lamangan ruined the film with his sloppy and pretentious direction. The camera shots are unvarying and ugly, the acting is uninteresting, and all the rest seems to be forced fed on movie goers. But what is most enraging is the fact that the film is not funny, at all.

We patiently sat in front of the screen waiting for something to laugh about. That was the most we tired members of the proletariat expected from our Friday-night movie.

It was, however, clear after fifteen minutes of watching Domingo and the rest of the cast trying their best hard to make the audience laugh that Mamarazzi has got virtually no story to tell. So we the pitiable audience dope ourselves in believing that a slapstick act or a punchline is on its way. A handful made it, but most didn’t.

Yes, I am certainly aware of the assumption. This is a stupid film for stupid people, but had this been the premise, then the director should have gone all the way down the slope of senselessness, without any half-baked commentaries on issues that he feels strongly about, he being an ‘activist director’. I want my movie, if it has to be stupid, to be plainly stupid. The condescension of the director to the intellect of the viewers enrages me.

After coming out from the cinema, I realized I was robbed with my hard-earned 160 pesos.

Media coverage of a hostage in Manila

If one does not have access to television, radio or any form of media, he would not know that something horrific has occurred several minutes ago. Of the fifteen, based on the estimate made by the media, that were hostaged by a certain Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza, six were killed. Aljazeera, CNN, BBC, and even a hardly known Russian English news channel called RT covered the breaking news live using videos either taken by their own cameramen or signals taken from ABS-CBN, the country’s biggest TV network.

The Philippines is back to world prominence again, this time because of the barbarism of its people, a slight deviation from the usual images of the Philippines in international media, where these barbaric people are being killed by typhoons, earthquakes, or any imaginable natural calamity except maybe an avalanche.

For a long time, I have not watched prime-time news programs on TV because news are predictably reeking with negativity, boring soap operatic narratives of the schmaltzy lives of local celebrities, or uncalled-for commentaries by newsreaders; and because I have other better things to do, of course. But this evening was different.

I came from an intensive one-hour work-out in the gym and several lapses in the pool, when a friend of a friend texted me that he’s staying in the house this evening. I accompanied him to our unit and not wanting to wade in ghostly silence, I switched the television on and we were greeted by this breaking news that seemed to have been inspired by Tagalog action movies in the 90s.

I saw on TV policemen, very hesitant and fearful for their own lives, approaching a chartered bus that contained fifteen Chinese tourists, the driver of the bus, and a policeman who sought to be reinstated through means of a violent nature after being fired a year ago.  After more than 10 hours of waiting, the policemen finally decided to take the matter in their hands and do what they should have done several hours ago. The hostage taker was brutally killed. In one of the least graphic descriptions made by a news reporter, he said without any remorse– “tumilapon ang ilang bahagi ng utak niya sa direksyon namin” (some portions of his brain flew toward our direction).

It’s a story that is not uncommon in a third world country like the Philippines. But it was a news story that  the news-starved media in the Philippines has been waiting for. Not that they are always deprived of it, in fact they have enough and consistent sources of materials for a high-rating story such as this story, only that they can’t get enough.  So they positioned their men/women around the scene, some of them even had the privilege of being with the policemen who attempted to forcibly (how else?) open the bus and pluck the victims one by one, most of them got in the way in the already sloppy operation done by the Philippine National Police.

The 12-hour hostage drama, a ‘drama’ as all the newsreaders of both stations lovingly call it, ended violently as it can end in no other way than violently because the media have determined it to be so. All the coverages, whichever channel one chooses, were closest to a farce because the media thought this is only some sort of a reality TV, by nature, farcical and spectacular.

But if there is one thing the media did impeccably well, it was showing without missing a single detail the ineptitude of our police and their obvious inutility. Bravo, Philippines!

Optimizing site clicks

What SEO or Search Engine Optimization exactly means still eludes me. Although I think it’s a statement not worth writing since I have after all access to the web and without any problem, I can type the phrase in the Google search box found in the upper right hand corner of my monitor and in a matter of milliseconds I’ll get the answers to my question. But doing it the easy way is a no-brainer.

It is a learned behavior of those who work in outsourced industries to congregate in coffee shops and talk/orate about subjects of non-import using their uniformly mixed nasal-guttural voice audible within a 200-meter radius. As is often the case, this is a bane, especially if one stays in a coffee shop to read a paperback schedule to be read by as many times as the even-numbered pages but has been postponed by as many times as its odd-numbered pages. In some rare instances, however, one can pluck useful information from eavesdropping in these conversations that are more like a public address system announcements than private exchanges. I learned from one of these that SEO has to do with maximizing the number of clicks a website receives (which reflects on the number of people who visits it and therefore more opportunities to advertise), roughly.

It concerns me, though it does not bother me to I point that I deprive myself of sleep thinking of ways to get as many clicks as I can in a day. But is it a natural course for my blog readership to plummet? I ask. From a peak of almost 700 to a thousand in a day, I now only have, on average, 400 on weekdays and 300 on weekends, and based on how things look, the drop will not stop any time soon.

Partly, this drop can be attributed to my lack of new posts for weeks now. But this isn’t the whole picture since majority of my most popular posts were old ones. This has caused me to wonder, until…

I began reconsidering the objective I had when I started this site. I was only after expression of my thoughts (though eventually, I realized that they cannot be only mine), and this is regardless whether they’re read or not. And the clicks, yes, they give me some bragging rights, but that’s all. Also, I am a bit driven by a little vanity.

Academic B.S.

http://www.cartoonstock.com

I didn’t know it is this pervasive. But here’s a sampler (and I leave it to my readers to place these inside their mouths, masticate, and then digest these hard to swallow strings of ‘complex’ high order thinking):

  1. Expound on the exclusion/inclusion, private/public identity dichotomy faced by the protagonist. Frame her personal struggles vis-a-vis her communal values and their conflict with the personal.
  2. How does the imagery used by the author support the contradiction confronting the main character (i.e. her barrenness)? How does this strengthen/weaken the obvious paradoxes posited by the text?

Verbal gymnastics and ostentatious display of erudition cloud and slow down thought processes rather than enlighten and streamline what should be a smooth exchange and/or transfer of knowledge. Now, if an intellectual thinks that he strengthens his position in the academe through constant use of these fireworks, if the supposed scholar thinks that by utilizing these intellectual calisthenics he gains respect and prestige in the academic world, then either his values are problematic or he is a moron. A classic case of missing the point.

www.newyorker.com

To judge whether a particular thought is pedantic or otherwise rests heavily on context. Context dictates whether a situation calls for the use of terms such as leit motif, othering, subaltern, exclusion/inclusion principle or it is an obvious waste of one’s precious time trying to understand words like these that do not easily lend themselves to shallow reading, and when there is an easier and more accessible way of saying them.

Rather than an expression of knowledge, comprehension, and succinct ability to synthesize, pedantry, erudition, or however you call it, if grossly or moderately taken out of context, is a reflection of the very insecure state an intellectual over-determinedly and over-eagerly wants to place himself in.

Humor and the 15th French Film Festival

I find it annoying sometimes hearing people giggling over sappy or barely audible lines uttered by the protagonist or anyone in the film. I would often question myself if I missed something that was really funny to warrant the guffaw. Has my English listening skill deteriorated to such shameful level a simple funny line could escape me unnoticed? Or has my ability to grasp and comprehend sarcasm or irony turned rusty after years of overuse and abuse.

If I’m in the mood, I wouldn’t mind contributing my share to this senseless endeavor, laughing every now and then just so the person next to me feels that the humor is shared and that I am as intelligent as the idiot seated to my right.

But I am seldom in the mood for fake niceties and I seldom keep to myself my disdain for this imbecilic automatic laughing response. I blurt out, as loud as I can, my commentaries on breached movie house ethics to let these people, who giggle at the slightest effort of the protagonist on screen to crack a joke, know that laughing as if they have a secret understanding with the actors barring all other viewers, me including, is the summit of tastelessness.

I am not a self-proclaimed humor censor or a hater of laughing like that blind character in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, but I am not somebody who easily lets go a social faux pas without leaving a scathing remark, especially something as moronic as this anomaly in a movie theater.

I do not consider this yet as an annual ‘routine’, but I am very happy to have attended the French Film Festival two years in a row now. It’s its fifteenth year that is held in different parts of Metro Manila and Cebu. Sadly, this has yet to reach Iloilo.

This year, I was only able to see three films out of thirteen films that included Brillante Mendoza’s Lola, which I missed, but the spirit of those three films etched permanent marks on me.

La Graine et le Mulet and Welcome tackle the issue of migration and adjusting in a multicultural society while L’Heure d’ete’ fearlessly peers into the universality of Art, death, and the meaning of family. And how will I forget my favorite, Juliette Binoche, sporting a blond.

La Graine et le Mulet (The Secret of the Grain)

The film protrays life at the port via main character Monsieur Beiji, a 60-year-old divorcee with a complicated family. Despite his problems, he dreams of building his own restaurant, which surprisingly becomes the one thing that will bind his family together.

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Cast: Habib Boufares, Hafsia Herzi, Faridah Benkhetache, Abdelhamid Aktouche, Bouraouïa Marzouk, Cyril Favre, Alice Houri, Leïla D’Issernio, Abdelkader Djeloulli, Bruno Lochet, Olivier Loustau, Sami Zitouni, Sabrina Ouazani, Mohamed Benabdeslem, Hatika Karaoui, Henri Rodriguez, Nadia Taouil , Jeanne Corporon, Henri Cohen, Violaine Carné (de)

Welcome

Bilal, a 17-year-old Kurdish youth, has traveled through the Middle East and Europe to join his girlfriend, who has recently emigrated to England with her family. But his journey comes to an abrupt end when he is stopped on the French side of the Channel.

Having decided to swim across, Bilal goes to the local swimming pool to train. There he meets Simon, a swimming instructor in the midst of a divorce. To impress his wife and win back her heart, Simon decides to risk everything by taking Bilal under his wing.

Director: Philippe Lioret
Cast: Vincent Lindon, Firat Ayverdi, Audrey Dana, Thierry Godard, Selim Akgül, Firat Celik, Murat Subasi, Olivier Rabourdin, Yannick Renier, Patrick Ligardes, Behi Djanati AtaÏ, Jean-Pol Brissart, Blandine Pélissier, Éric Herson-Macarel, Gilles Masson, Emmanuel Courcol, Jean-François Fagour, Jean-Paul Comart, Lazare Herson-Macarelle, Stéphane Butet, Carine Bouquillon, Philippe Gaulé, Fanny Drouin, Emmanuelle Dupuy, Derya Ayverdi

L’Heure d’ete’ (Summer Hours)

Two brothers and a sister witness the disappearance of their childhood memories when they must relinquish their family belongings to ensure their deceased mother’s succession.

Director: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jérémie Rénier, Édith Scob, Dominique Reymond, Valérie Bonneton, Isabelle Sadoyan, Kyle eastwood, Alice de Lencquesaing, Emile Berling, Jean-Baptiste Malartre, Gilles Arbona, Éric Elmosnino, Marc Voinchet, Sara Martins, Christian Lucas, Philippe Paimblanc, Luc Bricault, Arnaud Azoulay

Information about the three films here were taken from www.spot.ph.