Whispers on the crack that will shatter that wall

21 May

I just finished binge-watching The Keepers on Netflix. It only has seven episodes, but it made for a slow, uncomfortable torturous viewing. (Spoilers hereafter.) The story starts with the disappearance and murder of a nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik in 1969. A captivating whodunnit all of a sudden morphs into something more sinister in the next episodes. And from here on out it becomes very painful to watch. Sister Cathy’s murder is still unsolved to this day, but it becomes apparent that it is only one piece of a puzzle, one that leads to a dark web of abuse within and protected by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, apparently aided and abetted by at least the Baltimore Police and the State Attorney’s Office (that interview with Sharon May was one of several instances where one is tempted to punch the screen). The abuse was perpetrated by the counselor of the all-girls Catholic school Keough, Father Joseph Maskell. The details provided in the interviews were spare, but enough to make one’s hairs stand on end: Father Maskell kept an eye out for troubled girls, especially those who experienced sexual abuse previously, so that he could snare them. And he didn’t work alone. Jean Wehner, who later on tried to sue, said that she was marked by a different priest, Father Magnus, when she confessed about being abused by her uncle when she was younger. After getting the attention of Maskell, she experienced horrific and unspeakable violence in the hands of these priests and other men. Sister Cathy must have noticed that something was happening, and she assured Jean that she would do something about it and that things would be alright. It didn’t, because Sister Cathy ended up dead. And in Jean’s recovered memories, decades later, she recalled that Maskell himself took her to Sister Cathy’s body in the woods to warn her about speaking out against him.

Despite the many numbers of victims that reached out after Jean and another victim, Teresa Lancaster, decided to sue in the early 90s, and other evidence such as the documents that Maskell asked to be buried and was later recovered by police, and the incessant coverage of local media, Maskell was never brought to court. There apparently was no paper trail, evidence were destroyed or lost, and the words of 35 to 100 women were not enough to move it forward. For the viewer, this is where the intense feeling of helplessness and anger just builds up. And it wasn’t even the worst of it: it turned out that Maskell had an earlier victim: an eight grade boy whose mother went to the office of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and reported the abuse in 1967. The Archdiocese knew about Maskell, and instead of punishing him or turning him over to the police, transferred him to Keough where he went on to abuse dozens of young girls for years. Had they taken action, these young women would not have had their lives and futures taken away from them. And perhaps Sister Cathy would not have died.

The most disturbing thing about this entire series is not just the role of the Church in the cover up and the lies to make Jean think that she was the only victim and no one can corroborate her story: it is also the possibility that the Church colluded with the authorities to keep things hush-hush. I think Maskell was ultimately running a pedophile ring, and the reason for the apparent incompetent investigations and the lack of legal action against him was because he had too many friends in high places. People who have a lot to lose if the atrocities were brought to light.

I think The Keepers will cause much more of an outrage than Making a Murderer did. Ultimately there were many lives which were destroyed, real people died, and the injustice continues on (interestingly, the Church had apparently made a way to stop a bill regarding the extension of the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases to be passed). I read somewhere that the city of Baltimore is actually bracing itself from the public reaction from this series. It only got released this week, so the uproar will only get louder in the coming days and weeks.

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Seeking a friend for the end of the world

19 May

My brother sent me a text last night, “Chris Cornell is dead.”

Somehow, I wasn’t surprised. I haven’t thought of Chris Cornell or Soundgarden or Audioslave in years, but the information didn’t really shock me. The news was just breaking, and my brother suggested it could have been an overdose. I was thinking it was suicide.

I have a cassette copy of his solo album Euphoria Morning, from when I either just graduated high school or just started college. Back in those days money was really scarce, and even if there was Limewire I didn’t have the funds to buy a cheap MP3 player. So it is one of the few records that I bought during my lean years, and it was one of the albums I often listened to on our old karaoke/cassette player.

I was struck with how melancholy his songs were. The cheeky lines: “I only love you when I’m down… I’m down all the time.” The lonely hopefulness of “Preaching the End of the World”. I listened to it again just now (on YouTube), and as with feelings long hidden and forgotten, it suddenly came to the surface. When I first listened to that song, it was years before a major depressive episode, but somehow the words were prescient, like a person I was bound to meet later on. Okay, maybe I was just an angsty teenager like most teenagers were then, but the words evoked a familiarity akin to a stranger that you somehow felt like a friend.

Wave goodbye, now. Before I uglycry. Lol.

13 Reasons Why

9 Apr

Just so you know, spoilers galore.

I just finished watching the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, mostly because I was down with the cold and could only roll around in bed. There are 13 episodes, but unlike most I guess I couldn’t binge more than 3 episodes at a time, which does not really constitute bingeing. Anyway, I had to force myself to watch it, especially halfway through, because I actually put it in my bujo list. Lol. Gotta shade ’em squares, right. The middle part was excruciating slow and everyone seems to be painfully stupid and self-absorbed except for the “unhelpful Yoda” Tony.

So, I finished it today. The last three episodes were good. Although I do feel like Hannah was just trying to fuck people over with killing herself. Okay, that’s actually a real reason why people kill themselves: to get revenge. That was pretty evident with the last episode, when she goes to the counselor’s office. She secretly records her conversation with Mr. Porter. She speaks about her assault. Mr. Porter asks if she told the guy no, and if she wants to press charges. Negative on both, and Mr. Porter tells her that if she is unwilling to go to court, then she should just move on. Admittedly, that is cold. But Hannah herself stands up and ends the conversation. She goes out of Porter’s office, looks back, and waits for him to call her back in to his office. He doesn’t. So his door is closed behind her. She goes home, gets into the tub, and slits her arms.

There is no epilogue. There are still some unsettled stuff, such as Alex’s attempted suicide. Justin going away with a bottle of vodka and a gun, creepy Tyler prepping to become a school shooter, Hannah’s parents starting to listen to the audios. I guess the producers were fishing for the possibility of a new season. I haven’t read the book so I wouldn’t know. But I think doing a season 2 would be a bad idea. For one, it’s not a crime procedural. We can pretty much guess how it will go for Porter. And for Bryce, for that matter. Poor Porter, though. Hannah fucked it up for him real good. Everyone has something going on for them, but of course with the state of mind Hannah was in, everything was about her and the punishment she has in store for everyone who she thinks wronged her, including Porter whom she thinks as someone who didn’t save her.

So yeah, while all of it is valid (i.e., high school can be terrible, we should be mindful of how our actions affect other people, what we do have consequences) I didn’t have much patience for all the self-centered teen angst. Actually, I can relate. I have some points in my life (even as an adult) where I have felt something similar. But looking back at those days, I wish I had realized that I didn’t have to go at it alone, that the world was not out to personally make my life hell. Everyone has issues. I wish I wasn’t so focused on mine.

I think even if one is hurting really bad, it is necessary to ask for help. Essentially it is not a move to find a savior: it is a decision to save oneself. Because your life is yours, and at the same time it is not yours. Your life is also tied to the people who love you and care for you. Should you decide to end your life to end all your suffering, you are consigning everyone else who loved you to suffer for the rest of their lives.

Depression is real. But it is also something that can be managed if one has support. The first step you take should always be your own, but you can only know that if you know your options and their consequences. That is not something we see with 13 Reasons Why. If there is any epilogue or last message that should have been shown, it is for suicide support hotlines. I think the producers missed an opportunity to reach out to kids who might be going through the same thing Hannah does in the show.

Thirteen reasons why….

5 Apr

I should stop watching this show. Okay, I have fewer than 13, but still…..

The slow pace is totally frustrating. But then the only way to get to 13 episodes is to slow dance through the tapes, one side at a time. I’ve already read spoilers elsewhere, because really, it’s getting tedious. I’m two-thirds done with episode 7, and the pace is just maddening. 

Damn Clay for listening to it one at a time instead of bingeing like what mere mortals do with Netflix and Game of Thrones. But wait, it wouldn’t be 13 reasons if he binged on em rite. 

Sigh. 

Back to reality.

2 Apr

Or at least back to Semarang. 

I flew out of the Philippines Friday night. Said goodbye to all the cats except for Tiny. He must’ve been sleeping somewhere on top of the ceiling escaping the heat. I’m gonna miss round little Blitzy. She’s been a good dog of late, only eating cat poop when no one is looking. Lol. 

I only had one mango this summer. Regrets. 

I spent the weekend in Jakarta with Shirley. Booked at a nice serviced apartment in Menteng. It was when I was browsing stuff at Grand Indonesia that I realized that I could have bought a bag for the price of that one night stay. Lol. But yeah, not really regretting it. We got to watch the midnight screening of Get Out and went back to very comfortable lodgings. The only regret that it was only one night instead of two. Lol. 

So anyway, I’m back in Semarang. I regret checking in one of my bags because it took like half an hour before I could pick it up. No fun waiting. 

Work again tomorrow, but at least for this week I’m only doing invigilations and teaching only one class. Not gonna be busy until I start checking papers, that is. Nevertheless, I’m happy with some respite. 

PLDT: Where the least efficient way of upgrading internet services is via the online application system. 

29 Mar

I don’t want this blog to be a repository of my gripes. However, even something as basic as getting a decent internet connection is so fraught with frustrating wrangling that one cannot help but compare how shitty services are in the Philippines and this is why we can’t ever aspire for better things as we are getting left behind by our Southeast Asian neighbors. 

Anyway, I was gonna write/gripe/complain about internet services. Just a background: I live in a small town in Cavite, where the only service available was with Smart. We subsribed to a Canopy internet connection. It was slow and shitty, but one gets used to it. Years later, Smart merged with PLDT and our Canopy connetion was  upgraded without my consent to PLDT Ultera, which is an LTE connection. Now, it was (a bit) faster but it came with a very unpalatable catch: there is a 30-gigabyte data cap. I’d understand if it were for mobile data, but home wi-fi? It’s ridiculous and mind-blowing. Okay, not so much because you can top it up for a pretty penny, but you can only do it twice every billing cycle, for a grand maximum of 50 gb per month. Once you use it up, maybe you’ll be better off imagining like it’s the early 90s and there is no internet and the blackouts stretch for hours every night. Anyway, believe me, I’ve come to that point where I was totally cut off because the quota was maxed out and due to my house’s location in the boondocks, I couldn’t even use mobile data. I called customer service to ask if I can somehow get connected again and they said no, I have to wait for the next billing cycle. 

And then all of a sudden the Canopy connection didn’t seem so bad anymore. 

Anyway, a family with multiple mobile devices and a Netflix subscription cannot live on 50gb alone. Even by myself I cannot do that. So I opted to upgrade to another subscription, Plan 1299 which comes with a landline and no data caps. I go home to the Philippines usually only one to three weeks at a time, and I get so lazy going anywhere, so I took advantage of PLDT’s online application system. I filled up the forms, uploaded the necessary documents, and even left money in case (wishful thinking) the phone and new connection gets installed. After all, they said they’ll get back to me in a few days, maximum a week. That was December 27, 2016. At midnight, March 28, 2017, after several emails asking for updates, a representative got back to me writing that due to prolonged process or aging for more than 30 days (are they talking about cheese???), my application had been cancelled and that I should just apply again. What the fuck, really, it took them three months and another nagging email from me this morning to tell me that? 

Okay, I just wrote another grumpy email in response just now (foregoing the expletives). The thing is, I have no choice. I can get myself red in the face complaining but in the end, I am a trapped customer. The duopoly of PLDT-Smart and Globe has ensured that me and my ilk are well and truly fucked and there is nothing we can do about it because they got rid of all the competition. I have no choice but to apply again. And perhaps when they feel like it, make me wait and tell me to fuck off months later. 

In terms of reliable internet connection, anywhere else is better. Indonesia has many companies offering the same service that it is very easy to just switch to another provider if you are dissatisfied with the one you have currently. I have a 4G subscription with Indosat: a 5GB mobile data package for 30 days that costs me less than the equivalent of PhP 200. For comparison, in the Philippines I use Globe GoSakto50 for 1GB and it lasts only three days…. I don’t even get to use it all up because the connection is very often spotty that something like ordering a Grab or watching a video on YouTube without it buffering is near impossible. And then there are no such things as two-year locked in contracts for home connections in Indonesia. Grass is greener on the other side, but in this case it is very true. The lack of a decent internet connection is a source of immense frustration when I come home, among other things lol. It sucks so much. 

Mild summer days

28 Mar

Been back home for three days now, and halfway til I go away again. It’s been a real lazy summer, minimal reading, planned to only see one friend, a scheduled visit to the internet provider and then getting my hair fixed afterwards. Okay, that was supposed to be done today, but then it was a little cloudy. In fact it showered, very briefly. But I can use any old excuse to stay at home. 

Most of my time is wasted with playing Best Fiends. I did watch a couple of episodes of The Wire but today it is just laying back with them kitties, being a cat bed. I’ll sort out some of my books and see what I can bring along to the salon tomorrow.