Bliss Or Just Another Male Gaze Horror Film

Because female orgasm is so artsy, let’s just use it for style. Because we don’t have enough rape in horror films, let’s do more of that. Because there’s just soooooooooooooooooo muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuccccccccchhhhhhhhhhhhh good lesbian/queer women representation in films or any Filipino art forms for that matter, let’s put one in and make her a rapist with a *tragic* I was raped by a butch when I was a child backstory. Because it’s the 90’s and not 2017, more (and only) suso and puke reveal. Yeah, so edgy.

Okay, but you know, feminism and queer rights aside (supposing we can actually put necessary shit aside), how did Ms. Nurse get the job of taking care of Ms. Actress so easily after getting caught with her first molesting gig? Like, my health professional friends, enlighten me on this, but don’t you guys have employment records with complete 1×1 or 2×2  ID or something and then a track record of your shift/duty corresponding of course with your data, like, I don’t know, the rest of the working world in Metro Manila?? Wouldn’t they have released the picture of Ms. Nurse much earlier and she would have been barred from all the hospitals, at least all nearby? Or did I miss something with the jumpy timeline? (I came in a bit late in the theater too. Got in when Ms. Actress was doing her soliloquy haha.) Or it has something to do with that shot of Ms. Nurse’s ID and uniforms..? Or, since Mr. Husband didn’t react too much when he found out Ms. Nurse is the Bad Nurse, he… knew all along… and let it ha… ppen…????????????? Why?????? Just ’cause he’s an asshole???? Or again, I missed something with the timeline. Anyway, if the answer is our country has fucked up data-gathering system, that’s a very lazy excuse for that plot hole.

I was rolling my eyes at the Misery reference too. I haven’t watched that film but I remember loving the book (Stephen King opkors <3). I don’t know how the film did, but the book was just pure horror because the nurse was an actual threat and you really feel the victimized patient fighting to no avail. I guess, Ms. Actress ~kinda~ fought here too but I. Just. Got. So. Bored. Because one, it wasn’t that hard to figure out the ending and it wasn’t even halfway through the film–actually start of the film you already should know? I mean, it’s labelled as psychological horror… (I really was just hoping for an enjoyable ride towards that ending, ako pa ba? I thrive on good cliches. And I really thought it was intended that the audience would already know what was happening with that make-up on the Nurse.) And two, LOL it’s not believable how an actress would be so easily afraid of the nurse–class relations, knock knock.

Oh, that’s another thing, the kind of nurse representation in this country that exploits the nurses it set out to mass produce to begin with. Anyway, ahistoricism aside, what we ended up with is a non-horrific nurse because she was so annoying. Haha. I was *super* frustrated with both Ms. Nurse (’cause she’s a bitch) and Ms. Actress (’cause I wanted to help her fight goddammit) that I wanted to tear out my and someone else’s hair. LOL. And then I just wanted it to be over and everybody should just die. But it wasn’t over and I felt like I was trapped in that theater like Ms. Actress was trapped in her head, because I chased after the last full show sched, hurrying straight from work, and ticket prices are wtf and I just have to finish it now.

Redeeming factors: Camera work and nice shifting of color, I guess. (But I’m not really well-versed on that, so.)


I woke up angrier with this movie. It tries to make a critique of the Philippine entertainment industry by being a rape movie and that critique is so generic and not even worth it to make a rape movie–but yeah, is there really a critique so important to make a rape movie like this today? Glorifying rape scenes for the sake of being edgy disturbing is not really new in this genre and in the tradition of our “serious” Filipino films brimming with machoness.

I read a tweet before watching it that it had Black Mirror vibes or something. I have yet to watch beyond Season 1 but from my vague memory of watching the series, the rapes and violence had actual clear context and *use* there–more than some tragic back story to explain away a crime of a character and more than a tool to rely on to scare or thrill.

With that said, I will leave this link here talking about rape scenes in American comics. It focused on how rape was used to provide evil-ness to the villain or to prop up the story of male characters or urge them into action, but I think, stretching it a bit, there are points that can still apply to Bliss (the entire film being repeated rape meant to horrify people and make a supposed critique of society):

“…Writers who write about rape don’t always understand the implications of that trauma.  For the writer, the horror of the act ends when the rape is over.  The scene has served its purpose, the lines drawn and so on.  For the character, that’s just the beginning…

“…I also don’t understand how most writers stand writing rape scenes, let alone end up writing rape scenes that feel like they were getting excited while writing it.  (I debated a lot about if I should write that last sentence, but I absolutely have read sequences like that where the writer took a perverse glee in inflicting that violence.  And if it horrifies you to be told about that, it should.)  Even so, I will concede that a story might call for that.  Don’t take the message of this post as “never write rape.”  But really, use some restraint…”

The post argues that it might be a bit acceptable if the rape was central to the female character’s journey. So to Ms. Nurse, it became central to her being a serial rapist (people who are idiots might even link it to her becoming queer, and we are in the age of idiots, and I already pointed out how problematic this is as we are lacking representation in the arts). To Ms. Actress, it became central to her being an eternal victim who tries to find herself but ends up just being raped over and over and over…

Hindi pa ba sapat ang karahasan sa babae na kailangan itong ipagdukdukan, na kailangang ipagdukdukan na wala tayong takas dito? Sa ngalan ng ano, ng kritisismo? Ito na lang ba ang pinapayagang papel ng babae sa pelikula at sa sining na tumatalakay ng karahasan? Ito na lang ba talaga ang kapalaran ng babae sa sining at lipunang pinanginigibawan ng lente ng kalalakihan?


And When We Touched She Didn’t Shudder at My Paw

I wonder why I’m still surprised that the ratings, positives reviews, and cash are coming in for this musical. It has the perfect combination of star power, huuuuge empire for a company, nostalgia, plus, well, overall the movie was sort of… decent. I mean, yes, the added songs were forgettable but the lyrics and their points of placement really added to a clearer characterization and story. The falling in love through literature was believable, not forced or hipstery (even if it obviously would appeal to all those young bookworms who identified with Belle as a kid and might now be intellectuals who have fallen in love in the same way lololol).  The touch of feminism was appropriate, not just tokenistic.  The intricacies of the set and clothes reflected so much care to get it right. Alan Menken and Tim Rice were there. Ewan McGregor as Lumiere. Like really, you can just feel how much they wanted for everything to fall into place. It’s the reason why I was still so hyped even though the initial reviews were not as thrilled as those we have now. And I wasn’t really a Beauty and the Beast baby. I’m… a Disney baby. I loved the show tune parts in the film, I loved Belle’s dresses, but I always got bored with Tale as Old as Time True as It Can Be~ and Be Our Guest! Be Our Guest! Also, as a child, I wasn’t really invested with the main characters’ love life. And though I was crushing on lions in Lion King, I was judging Belle for falling in love with a big furry dog. But maybe it was because I wasn’t really into Belle’s snobbishness as a child. Haha. ANYWAY. So I was hyped. I was like, yeahhhhhhh I don’t care about all those negative stuff I read, it’s a musical! I’m sure I’d be okay with it! I have low standards when it comes to musicals! I have loved enough musical movie adaptations critics nitpicked! This one is going to be nice even if Emma Watson can’t sing! I’m sure she’ll make it up through acting! But! This is now the part where I’ll tell everyone I was wrong about my hype! In its entirety, the movie was so decent, that it was so mediocre. I know I’ve used this metaphor time and time again, but I feel that among all that I’ve used this on, it is best used on Beauty and the Beast:  it was perfunctory sex. I know they cared enough to wanted to bring good sex to the table, but maybe that just made it… overthought sex? Like how much worry and effort they brought that they’re all like, kiss here, touch there, do this, do that, that’s how it should be done right? Okay, and then say this, groan here, moan here, flirty eyes there, annnnddd then they ended up completing a checklist for what good sex is instead of actually serving it. Beauty and the Beast was okay since it met what it wanted in making a fantastical animated story into a believable this-is-what-it-would-look-like-in-real-life display. But the problem is, that kind of display is meh. Because, after watching this, I realized that love for musicals is anchored in the magic they bring. This made me realize how much vocal prowess, or at the least, vocal characteristic, is not to be dismissed. With a movie that sapped all the magic away by trying to keep the fanstastical set and design feel closer to realism, it would need to rely on its songs to blow its audience away. But the talented voices could do only so much to support heavy boring CGI and the main characters’ singing. They were supposed to make up for it by their acting but Emma… Emmmaaaaaa. What happened, Emma? I just thought that years of acting in a special-effects heavy franchise would make this a breeze for her. Was my memory of her acting in Harry Potter wrong? Because every time she was in a fantastical setting in Beauty and the Beast, I keep wondering where her sparkly eyes were looking at (that you can almost feel sorry for Lumiere in Be Our Guest because Belle seemed like she was faking interest hahaha). Dan Stevens piercing eyes did much better, I think. The way he moved also brought so much character into Beast. And oh! Did I shudder so much when Belle didn’t shudder at his paw HAHA. But Dan Stevens didn’t really need to make up for much since his singing was quite… nice. Which is what the whole movie was really, ellipsis followed by adjectives of the hesitant satisfactory kind.

Food! (Batch 1)

I’m always hungry.

But since having episodes of acute gastritis, I learned that there’s nothing wrong with that. I found out that I am supposed to eat small portions of food every two to four of my waking hours, or else I’m putting my health in danger. So when someone says “Kakain mo lang ha!” to my declamation of hunger, I shove my diagnosis to their face and if I’m in the mood, preach about how this technological globalized world has normalized starvation in the timeline of our everyday lives because of work, work, work, work, work.

Still, there’s no escaping this technological globalized world, that aside from the knee-jerk reaction of referencing Rihanna even if I haven’t listened to her latest album–or actually, even just the whole song of what I referenced–we are forced to face a bombardment of food, stalls, and restaurants produced by such system. We have to weigh all of these vis-a-vis our travel expenses and our incapability to wake up early to plan and prepare our food. Or our lives in general.

Basically, I’m always hungry as a petite bourgeoisie in its most flipflopping meaning… poor but not poor but really poor!… but kinda picky… but laughably poor to be picky… but not poor enough to be unable to sabotage one’s own pockets leading to becoming poorer afterwards…

More basically, I’m really cheap but I still like to eat, preferably from an accessible place that doesn’t look like it will poison me. Bonus if it’s a place comfortable enough to chill.

This is my first batch of food review that I’ve been meaning to do since I had enough money to eat out. (So that was when? When I was 17?) I kept taking pictures of food because food is a wonderful thing, but I never got around to actually talking about it in writing. I’ve always thought that I don’t have a vast knowledge of food spots, and that’s still true.

But I do have a vast knowledge of eating after contemplating very hard and long about where I would burn money I don’t have. So here you go, people like me. 😀 😀 😀

1. Mang Inasal

I was there when Mang Inasal wasn’t under Jollibee’s claws (Paws? Tentacles? Uhh) and the servings were huuuuuuugggeeeee and plenty and the food was very tasty that I’m drooling right now remembering the ~good ol’ days~. I ate there almost every time I had to eat out because grilled chicken (though still oily) was what my tummy could take compared to the deep fried trans fat chicken of other fast food restaurants.

I stopped eating there somewhere along the way, because the food serving size and taste started declining after the acquisition. Not to mention the fact that they started wanting to beat Chowking off its Almost-All-Our-Branches-Are-Dirty-And-Mostly-Disgusting throne (the cleanest Chowking branch I’ve ever been to was in SM Marikina and that closed down, my best friend claiming it was because it violated the rules of physics for being a clean Chowking restaurant).

However, due to one night of intense indecision between my hungry boyfriend and the hungry me, we ended up eating at Mang Inasal. I was pleasantly surprised that the serving size is huge again and it didn’t taste so bland as I remembered. I also loved their halo-halo, which is a lot coming from me because I don’t like halo-halo. The only other halo-halo that I like is Razon’s.

After that, I started eating at Mang Inasal again.

Araneta-Center branch

So far, I think their Pork Barbeque meal is the most sulit.  If I remember correctly, it’s around P75. Even just a piece of Pork Barbeque is enough to fill the stomach. Up in that picture, I also bought Lumpiang Toge… which is not as sulit. It’s too small for P20, since I’ve been munching down on huge Lumpiang Toge from UP at just P15 (I’ll have to take a picture of that in the future). But their accompanying customized(?) sauce is not disappointing enough.  

What is disappointing, though, is their Pork Sisig. It’s more expensive than their cheaper products like the Pork Barbeque yet it… sucks. LOL.

The serving size of about P100 worth of pork sisig was so small; I wondered if the cheaper Sisig Hooray had began serving in teacups for Mang Inasal to have the audacity to charge high for such serving. But I guess it was okay since I couldn’t finish it either, being composed almost entirely of pure fat and skin and the taste and texture of rubber.


Manhattan branch. It looks a lot here, but it’s really not.

2. Salu-Salo

During my boyfriend’s birth month, I wanted us to eat in a place that’s different from where we usually hang. Also, preferably, somewhere along the way to school for my enrollment.

With that, we decided to look for a place to eat on the burial grounds of affordable education.

As we were just about to end up in Max’s, we passed by this Filipino restaurant with friendly servers and the price on their menus seemed… reasonable.

Also, I was attracted by their chandeliers. Heh. I was naive enough to think that my money would be going to their dishes, not their interior design.

We ordered this tiny plate of Hipon sa Aligue because, of course, in the picture it seemed ample enough for two. I was thinking, at least it might taste fancy, because, you know, chandeliers~.

So. It’s not. It’s so pedestrian, and that’s even probably an insult to pedestrians.

We paid P390 all in all along with the two cups of rice. There’s free appetizer though, but the most tasteless kamote chips I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.

Thought it was banana chips, at first.

3. EC Twin Lion or The Magical Snack Not Because It Tastes Magical But Because I Have No Idea Where The Hell It Came From

One day, I wanted to watch something while munching on something, and then I saw this in our living room.

“cheese bone curls”

Because twin lions and cheese are totally associated with each other. Not just one lion. Two lions… Is this a Chinese thing? ._. Just asking, being there’s some Chinese characters on this junk food…

I’m not sure if it’s out in stores yet or this is just some free taste thing that a house member acquired, but I looked for it in their website and Facebook page and saw nothing about twin lions. Is a sentence I never thought I’d say. I also wonder if research has been done on what aesthetics would appeal to their target market, or their marketing team just wanted to screw this company over. Or was high.  Or unrecognized geniuses of our time.

Either way, it actually tastes nice. It wanted to be Cheetos which it kind of did without the being spicy. Which is good because I’m not really much into spicy. It’s a bit uh, hard? I’m not quite sure if that’s the proper term. It’s not like Cheese Curls soft, but it’s not that difficult to bite and munch though.

4. Leann’s Tea House

Except for Chinese food, East Asian food isn’t really my cup of tea. But it’s really nice to look at. Annndddd…. now and again, I crave for it. Sometimes, I get dragged by friends to go to places that happen to serve East Asian food too.

I mention my friends’ involvement because this is one of those eating out where the main goal is to bond with friends. Because I wouldn’t really go out of my way to go to eating spots. Though these places offer food that is more inexpensive, worth it, and delicious, I don’t have the time, energy, and travel money to embark on a journey towards these spots. So there should be a good reason to go such as friends. Or one of your friends having a car.

I am thankful to my friends, not just because of the car, but because they know good food. Even if East Asian food is not my thing and I wasn’t craving for Korean then, I enjoyed the dishes a lot.

So, I got Bibimbap. ^______^ It was nice with just the right healthy amount of oil for my taste. The spicy sauce is served separately, so I was able to mix it to my own liking. :3

My friend said it was good for one person, but I told her she lied because I couldn’t finish the entire bowl. Which was more than I could ask for P210.  I initially thought I’d be wasting a couple of hundred bucks for a lousy single serving.

That lying friend and I shared Fried Mandu. WHICH WAS ❤ Well, I already love dumplings to begin with, but the mix of meat and vegetables in their Mandu was lovely and did not make me feel nauseous afterwards, as usually fried dumplings do for the gastritic pasaway me. It was soft and crunchy at the same time~.

It was priced at P140.


Another heavenly dish was Kimchi Fries. Cheese-topped kimchi, bulgogi, and tiny pieces of random vegetables are apparently way better than Nachos~.

I don’t know how much it was since I wasn’t the one who paid for it. LOL. But, I do know that my couple friends bought a P400+ something worth of unlimited rice and pork belly, the one people have to grill themselves because people love to pay to cook their own dinner. 😛

I don’t know if there’s anything unusual about the taste of the meat, but my friends seemed satisfied. Like I was. They probably had me at, “Let us serve you with a plethora of tasty appetizers.” :]

I love how their chopsticks are not large toothpicks. But not too heavy either that I’d embarrass myself with my incompetent authentic chopstick skills.

Studs Terkel – Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do

“You can’t eat for eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours a day–all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy.”

William Faulkner

A few months and nights ago, I was sitting by the bush in front of a building with A. His face was buried in my lap and my arms were around him, as if trying to keep him from literally falling apart. It was quite a melodramatic sight, as attested by the people who couldn’t help but gaze at the scene. At that time, I was wondering if they were thinking of us as lovers who had a quarrel of some sort, and it amused me (whatever the measure of amusement was allowed in a situation where the person you care about was sobbing) that out of all the possible assumptions that could have popped in their head, work was probably not at the top of this list.

A had a job. He had been on this job for years. That job drained his body, his soul, his every waking day, in exchange for a meager amount of money that couldn’t pay off his debts or set him and his family on a good future, something to provide a family with just the stability of food, clothing, and shelter. In short, that job sucked. A had been applying to other companies to no avail. And to him, life didn’t just suck; he sucked.

This wasn’t the first time friends and colleagues have shared such strong emotions about their work. I remember B from an office, who would always send me messages of violent fantasies she has of blowing things up just to end her suffering of having to work on weekends for tasks that didn’t contribute to eradicating violence against women or maybe world hunger. I remember C, a colleague in teaching, who would share her rants about the administration during breaks so short it could hardly even be called a break. Teachers were expected to be teachers all the time. And that meant the school always comes first over health as heard from growling stomachs, that teachers should accept the low pay because “teaching is a calling,” and that teachers couldn’t go home early for “the sake of the students” even if their wife was about to deliver their baby and called for them. These stories of D, E, and F were just the tip of the iceberg of things that were shared with me or even personally witnessed. And all of these are also the tip of the iceberg of the rest of the working alphabet, all of who are facing violence in one way or another and that back and forth tug of what work should be and what work should be not.

Studs Terkel’s 1970’s Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do gave us a front seat view of these similar lives, some familiar and some not, depending on which part of the iceberg we make up of course. As for Terkel’s subject position, he is a Chicago-based oral historian that made it a point to collect the experiences of the American alphabet of his time: from farmer to miner, from receptionist to prostitute, from writer to janitor, from policeman to hotel clerk, from housewife to tv/radio executive, from a retiree to a gravedigger, and so on and so forth.

“This book, being about work, is, by its very nature, about violence–to the spirit as well as to the body. It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations. To survive the day is triumph enough for the walking wounded among the great many of us.”

Studs Terkel, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do

Studs Terkel’s Working is an ode to the daily struggle–mostly violent, sometimes profoundly joyful, and not rarely enlightening–as well as the tension between meaning and discontent at the work place. For three years, he collected over 130 conversations with “ordinary” people that discussed the “ordinary” part of their lives. It was one of his works that meant to place a mic in front of voices that are rarely heard in the mainstream, that revealed how much such an “existential” question about work is not exclusive to the middle-class sector to ponder, it “turns out to be crucial to a great many workers, of all ages, with little education and less ideology but plenty of passion and intelligence” (Marshal Berman 1974).

The importance of such reflections is apparent in the sameness, the differences, and the variety of the people’s insights and answers to this “existential question” that give birth to more insights and questions to the readers, especially those from forty plus years later.


Work and Identity

Over and over in the book, these questions were asked and answered in so many different ways: Are we defined by our work? Are we our work?

In the book, work and identity went head to head in both an unconscious and conscious manner.

For instance, in his interview with a photographer and film critic, the women who held these jobs talked more about the ethics and state of their respective industries instead of what they were exactly doing step by step as per their profession. Their manner of discussion presents them as women imbibing their work. Even while they were discussing with Terkel, they were still working, like a tick they could not stop and like a habit they could not break; they were part of their respective fields and they could not simply detach themselves from these.

In contrast, there were people under what are more commonly known as menial jobs, such as those who work in steel mills and car manufacturing. The drudgery of their work most often led them to draw a clear marker on when their life starts, at the punching out of the time card, on who they were and on who they were not. Outside work, they were students or they were family men. Outside work, they were humans. Such is the desire to be human, to differentiate themselves from being the cliche cog of the wheel, that they would purposely make an indent in the steel, that they would purposely let a mistake go by and down to the end product, just so they could make a mark on the otherwise perfect machine. These are individual yet telling rebellions against the imposition of discontent.


Happiness and the Work Ethic 

This impulse to rebel was, however, shown not to be present in every exploited worker. What is to be made of the people who actually have faith in the work ethic, that labor is good regardless the circumstances surrounding the unfair solicitation of labor from the worker? These are the people like the supermarket checker who looked forward to doing repetitive and tiring tasks, her reflections, no doubt insightful on the nature of her everyday life, but an insight that refused to see beyond so that she would be able to glimpse the big picture and see the injustice done upon her and many more. As Berman said:

“By political standards, these people are drowning in “false consciousness.” They don’t even know they’re being exploited! And yet, they are the salt of the earth. Oblivious to politics, living as if they were outside history, they have been able to pour meaning and beauty into social niches and activities that appear to be barren and empty. Their sort of creativity can generate self-deceptions, can (in Rousseau’s phrase) teach them to love their own slavery. And yet, without their capacity to create meaning, the human race would be lost. We must wrestle with contradictions like these, and there is no end in sight” (1974).

But these people and reflections also remind us that work in itself is not truly evil. Regardless of this seemingly “coping mechanism” of the enslaved, we are reminded that people find joy in such tasks however menial they may be to others. It is when we are not well compensated for such tasks that we are exploited. Here then, do we ask, not just the meaning of work, but also the meaning of compensation.

“Everyone needs to feel they have a place in the world. It would be unbearable not to. I don’t like to feel superfluous. One needs to be needed. I’m saying being idle and leisured, doing nothing is tragic and disgraceful. Everyone must have an occupation.

Love doesn’t suffice. It doesn’t fill up enough hours. I don’t mean work must be activity for activity’s sake. I don’t mean obsessive, empty moving around. I mean creating something new. But idleness is evil. I don’t think man can maintain his balance or sanity in idleness. Human beings must work to create some coherence. You do it only through work and through love. And you can only count on work.”

– Barbara Terwilliger, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do

According to to Terwilliger, creation is the gift of work. But how does this gift fit and do well in the same big picture the supermarket checker did not glimpse?


Humanity and Globalization

The stories about work are the stories about the people that make up the big picture.

According to Carolyn Kellogg, “Work is one of those basic human activities so crucial to life and identity that to pursue the detail of doing and the feelings it compels inevitably leads to something more: the way we feel about ourselves and our experiences, our children and our friends — and enemies, our country and the way we live, our past, present and future. For the subjects, and for the reader, the book is a deep penetration of American thought and feeling, evokes the lives of more than 130 men and women in their own words, candid, insightful and honest, challenges them and us to the hard question of those homilies, banalities and Fourth of July abstractions which our politicians recite with such smug certainty and more often than not with self-delusion.”

But one of the powerful aspects of Terkel’s work was not just his choice to give the “ordinary” person a mic, but that he gave every “ordinary” person a mic, however differing these voices were. He was able to present various perspectives such as the newspaper boys who loved delivering newspaper and the newspaper boy who didn’t. He shared the story of the car factory’s spot-welders who stopped work briefly in solidarity of their co-worker harassed by the boss. Still, he facilitated the story of the factory owner who refused to be called a boss and saw himself as a fellow worker in his company. He presented people that proved and disproved the stereotypical dichotomies of good guys and bad guys. Nevertheless, his American liberal left bias was still apparent in the big picture he was able to present–though of course, it can be argued that we could only do what we could do with the material in front of us and the material in front of Terkel drew the big picture on its own. In any case, he gave space to the white policeman who believed the need to discipline and punish people and believed he was treating all citizens equally regardless of color, while also giving space to the black policeman that poked holes through the belief of the previous one, revealing the corruption, racism, sexism, and police violence rampant in this armed force of the most powerful government of the world.

This is obviously the big picture found in Working. The reflections about work in the book painted a reflection of humanity of the 1970’s. It was a period of inflation, Vietnam war, and dislocations. The significant event of that time was the American economy shifting from a manufacturing to a service-oriented industry.

Working has been referred to as “a time capsule of the agricultural and industrial eras that preceded the Information Age” (Stuart N. Brotman 2012). But it seems that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

The same reflections of humanity found in Working can be argued still applicable today. Aside from the brief stories that this review started with, stories that are shared seas away from where Working was positioned, the necessity of humanity’s push and pull with labor, who owns and should own it, who defines and who gets to define it, is as alive now as it was then and there. There are, of course, nuances that come in today’s big picture, with our own significant event, with the the tsunami of Information Age, with today’s version of colonization and imperialism–globalization: narratives of racial tensions are growing beyond 1970’s United States, solidarity and struggles now also exist in cyberspace, dislocations, discontent, and meaning are concepts still questioned but probably have moved from the 130 men and women Terkel talked to towards the thousands and millions of men, women, transpeople, queer, and so on and so forth, of different third world countries that have caught the leftover jobs from the machine’s takeover in the United States.



*This is a book review assignment for my Women and Development 230: Women and Work class during 1st Semester AY 2015-2016. I had to jump-start my brain that I actually started it as a blog post, forcing myself to think of an anonymous audience waiting for what I had to say. I edited it a bit, some grammar stuff I saw, and corrected myself for saying that Terwilliger was a retired woman. She just had lots of jobs when she was younger and at the time of the interview, she was in her thirties who then had an “independent income.” It wasn’t ever elaborated, I think, but it was put there to show “hard” types of work weren’t necessary for her anymore. Basically, she could afford to be idle. She had a very short interview but she was my favorite. I quoted another thing she said in my other blog. Featured image from here.

My Top 5 All-Time Taylor Swift Songs

I have been recently hearing newly Swiftie converts say they like 1989 because Taylor Swift “has matured.” I think this is partly because Taylor Swift did change, pushing her penchant for pop into its inevitable conclusion, and because some people needed an excuse to like Swift because you know, she’s kinda cool now–maybe?

There’s a bit of hesitation in these converts, who really haven’t had the time yet to backtrack her highness’ wisdom and awesomeness who can dish out lines so profound and catchy like “Life makes love look hard” (“Ours” Speak Now 2010). And it’s okay, I understand them. For a long time, I was worse than how the newly converts were–I was one of the many Taylor Swift haters. I thought she was sexist and fake and all her songs sound the same. That was before I realized that I was the one being sexist, wanting to box her up in a harmful stereotypical WHAT A CELEBRITY WOMAN SHOULD BE and was putting her songs on a high pedestal of quality criteria that I wasn’t putting on other pop artists. Plus, I was brainwashed by this Jezebel article, which eventually, I would realize was just a tabloid-y site and harmful to the feminist movement (this one was easier to realize than finally declaring my love for Swift though and I’m thankful for posts like this).

Taylor Swift has always been a mature person. One of the basic Swiftie knowledge is how assertive and passionate she is about music that she hauled her whole family from their hometown to pursue a career in that field (okay, I said mature, not exactly poor). She has always maintained a success in the industry by playing the game to her own advantage without having to resort to the usual options opened to young women pop artists like her (i.e. skimpy clothes, not that she would make other girls wore more clothes she said). This. Girl. Knows. Her. Shit. And like I’ve said in a blog post almost two years ago, she has always been able to take back her celebrity tabloid image narrative to promote her music and sell her records–a move that she didn’t stop doing, hence, her satirical take with “Blank Space.” She knows when to fan the flames, and she knows when to throw cold water at it. “Blank Space” has been a long time coming, like how she has long been mature. Yes, she “has matured” but not because she wasn’t before, but because she has become more awesome.

With that said, here are my 5 all-time favorite Taylor Swift songs. My classmate asked me about this, and I just needed so much time to think about it that I had to wait for the semester to be over so I can decide. It’s like making me choose between butter and cheese T_T. And since it’s that hard, I decided to pick only one song from each of her 5 studio albums to be able to come up with this list. Huhu, I’m sorry other songs~

5. Our Song (Album: Taylor Swift)

This one is my first favorite Swift song. Even though I was a Swift hater, I do listen to her music before like I would listen to all other pop artists that I hated/still hate. That’s just how I roll. I can hate your work but not hate you and vice versa. I’ve always found Swift’s vocals palatable. I would listen to “You Belong With Me” because that competitive girl shit is damn funny and it’s so fucking 90’s teen movie material, but it was just some song to pass the tedious office hours back in those days, along with whatever random pop hit at that time.

That was until I heard “Our Song” (as my Grooveshark randomly played it for me). That was the first time I saw Swift in a better light and started to question my motives for hating her. It was another 90’s teen movie material, but this time, more fluffy sugary that is better suited for Asian pop (mainly k-pop) but surprisingly actually existed in the West. This drew me in. The song was heavier on vivid happy images and lesser on complaints than the other few songs I know from Swift.

My favorite part was the subtle sexual element of the whole song. The song is about lovers talking late on the phone “real slow” for Chrissakes. LOL. It’s so wholesome yet so forbidden “’cause it’s late and your mama don’t know.” I would also like to think this part is the biggest hint of the whole subtle sexual element of the song: “He’s got a one-hand feel on the steering wheel, the other on my…. heeeaaaart!” On her heart, my ass. Nobody can tell me that the pause between those words wasn’t intentional.

4. Forever and Always (Album: Fearless)

I was torn between “The Way I Loved You” and this song in choosing the one to represent this album. I liked the first one because it’s so goddamn dramatic and I obviously have a soft spot for drama. But I chose the latter for this album because, one, the verses are hell of fun to sing as they roll off your tongue, and two, this is kinda her big FUCK YOU song to Joe Jonas (which the poor boy tried to give back but he doesn’t quite have the talent that Swift has). The latter is very important, because as Swift has already complained in her recent interviews about her highly scrutinized dating life, men get away for being jerks and women are expected to take it so gracefully, meaning keeping mum about it, meaning letting the men get away for being jerks.

Swift did what scorned women and bitter exes have the *right* to do, release all those feelings through whatever art form, and better yet, make money off of it (kind of like what men have been doing for a long time). Swift basically threw Jonas under the bus when she told Ellen how they broke up, and made sure that he stayed under that bus with “Better than Revenge” in her next album. Dealing with questions about boys being afraid to date her because she might write mean songs about them (pft, as if boys would stop running after her), she says that if boys won’t do anything asshole-y, then they should have no reason to be afraid. This pretend interview clip in one of her concerts to defend her right to bitch about assholes, because she fucking can.

That aside, the play of words in these lines are so cute: “Once upon a time, I believe it was a Tuesday when I caught your eye, and we caught onto something.” Add another one of her insightful observations so familiar in relationships that didn’t work out: “Was I out of line? Did I say something way too honest? Made you run and hide like a scared little boy? I looked into your eyes, thought I knew you for a minute, now I’m not so sure.”

Runners-up for this album are: “Jump then Fall” (another sugary fluffy favorite) and “Untouchable” (Swift’s earliest sexy song!).

3. Last Kiss (Album: Speak Now)

Okay, this is the point where it gets harder and harder to choose. Sigh. The only songs that probably haven’t grown on me yet are “Mine,” “If This Was A Movie,” and “Superman.” The rest of this album is just pure lyrical perfection, I want to cry. Each song has their own unique feel, but since I have to choose just one, I have to go with… “Last Kiss.”

This song is not as lyrically loaded as the other songs in this album such as the upbeat but sad story of “The Story of Us” or the Kanye West-inspired “Innocent” (which was really blown out of proportion by her haters since the song talked about not being too hard on yourself more than about West really), but “Last Kiss” has just the right amount of vivid images for storytelling while having the right amount of lines to punch where it hurts. You feel that you are her as his face “lit through the darkness at 1:58” and the beat of his heart jumps through his shirt. And what about this awesome characterization?

“I do remember the swing of your step
The life of the party, you’re showing off again
And I roll my eyes and then
You pull me in
I’m not much for dancing
But for you I did

Because I love your handshake, meeting my father
I love how you walk with your hands in your pockets
How you kissed me when I was in the middle of saying something
There’s not a day I don’t miss those rude interruptions”

Here’s the right amount of show-don’t-tell creative writing slogan. And please, this may be a standard cocky cutie male trope, but not everybody can write it well, much less write one for a six-minute song. Much less these lines that are able to visualize what missing someone is like:

“You can plan for a change in weather and time
But I never planned on you changing your mind”

“So I’ll go sit on the floor
Wearing your clothes
All that I know is
I don’t know how to be something you miss”

“So I’ll watch your life in pictures like I used to watch you sleep
And I feel you forget me like I used to feel you breathe”

It is borderline pathetic, creepy, sad, helpless, and just plain real.

Again, songs that I almost chose are: “Dear John” (Swift perfecting her throwing-shade-at-exes craft) and “Long Live” (the first song that made me realize this girl won’t likely be going away from the music industry for a long, long time, for this girl has ambition executed with a clear vision).

2. Blank Space (Album: 1989)

Yes, I went out of order in terms of album release, because though I will kill for this song, it ranks second on my All-Time Taylor Swift songs, for there’s that one song that will forever hold the throne in my heart. But let’s talk about that later.

1989 has been garnering fans left and right, mostly because of what I’ve already said above, and mostly because, well, it’s full-blown pop now. It’s called pop for a reason. Add that to the fact that she made it all vintage-y which has been quite a thing these past years, add that to the fact that she actually knows how to make music, add that to the fact that she has more edge in lyrics than her contemporaries, she basically got this genre eating from the palm of her hand.

The album shows how Swift’s attention to details shifted from lyrics to music, but she made sure the spare lyrics still don’t get lost on the listeners. The lyrics still did what they had to do: either punch people in the gut again or merge with the music to give birth to a song that presents a visual/audial embodiment of the song’s theme. “Clean” sounded like raindrops; “Style” invoked late-night city lights while driving; “This Love” sounded like the ocean; “Wildest Dreams” invoked echoes; and so on and so forth.

“Blank Space” stands out from the rest of these songs, however, for it carries all the good points of the present album (such as the vintage-y goal with its early 2000 track feel), the past album (flirty and fun that you kinda want to hop while singing it and lyrically loaded with lines that are probably already plagiarized on some cutesy Asian novelty shop’s notebook), and Swift’s playful wit in taking back nasty narratives the press paints her with.

Like, I’ve already said, “Blank Space” is a long time song coming. I’ve read some say that it shows Swift finally having self-awareness, but I disagree. She’s long been self-aware, not just because she mocks herself in songs like “Who’s Taylor Swift anyway?” line in “22” or “listening to some indie record that’s much cooler than mine,” but because of how she showered “clues” all over her album’s inlay in previous album Red to all the famous exes she has dated. She knows the public feeds on her dating life for breakfast, might as well use that knowledge to make them more hungry, right? Lure them in with rumors and make them listen and attached and discussing her songs. For all the statements she said in 1989 about how she didn’t want her dating life to be national news anymore, it might be because, now, it doesn’t benefit her anymore. She has been playing that game before and she’s probably cunning enough now to know that people may get bored with the same trick, and she would less likely get her coveted top spot of the music industry with that. Or, maybe she really is exhausted with how her country is watching her every step. Either way, she found another way to get people’s attention.

But the intelligence behind this song is not the only reason why I would kill for it. This song is–I know this word has been overused so forgive me but–fucking empowering. No matter how much and how many times Swift assert that this is a satirical song, I believe that deep down, it’s a song about her fear, a fear many women who have not been lucky in one too many lovers probably share. Swift is obviously a strong, grounded person, but the circumstances of her dating life plus the constant berating of the media of who she is must have cut her one or two times at least. Even the sanest person can have doubts and the protagonist of “Blank Space” is that doubt made flesh. But Swift, the strong, grounded person she is, made sure to defend that protagonist.

The power of female agency was handed onto this protagonist. She actually has a choice, aware of her choice, and she still chooses her definition of love that others may frown upon:

“So hey, let’s be friends
I’m dying to see how this one ends
Grab your passport and my hand
I can make the bad guys good for a weekend”

“You can tell me when it’s over
If the high was worth the pain”

Better yet, the song even actually helps the characterization of men-jerks too. Instead of a flat standee of a chauvinist pig, Swift was able to show how men-jerks actually do have feelings too–they may be handling it in a stupid way, but these are still feelings that validate the relationships that they too often try to dismiss as nothing for it was a relationship with a “crazy” girl. Swift didn’t write a chauvinist pig; she wrote a guy who makes choices because of this kind of love too.

“‘Cause we’re young and we’re reckless
We’ll take this way too far
It’ll leave you breathless
Or with a nasty scar”

“Rose garden filled with thorns
Keep you second guessing like
“Oh my God, who is she?”
I get drunk on jealousy
But you’ll come back each time you leave
‘Cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”

Runners-up: “Style” (just ’cause it’s so goddamn sexy), “New Romantics” (snarkier than “Blank Space” and posher), and “Wonderland” (perfecting her use of fantasy and fairytale tropes, whimsical and dark at the same time–which was what it was based on anyway).

1. All Too Well (Album: Red)

Ah, Red. Her best album of all fucking time. Yes, I don’t care how many people say 1989 is Swift’s best work. Red is still the best *keyboard smash!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!* This is where shit gets more than real, and this is when she produced the magical heartbreaking jewel that is “All Too Well.” “Our Song” was the song that made me take Swift seriously, but it was “All Too Well” that erased all the wrongs that she has ever done in her life.

“All Too Well” is Swift at her fervent songwriting peak. The music, the narrative, the lyrics, the theme, as if all the previous songs were merely her practicing to culminate to this undeniable climax of a perfection. Like “Blank Space,” it has set out and excellently executed its goal to carry the past and present album’s good points and Swift’s wit to lure in listeners with the image she has: in this song, that of her with a pretty little scarf around her neck and sharing a warm cup of coffee with Jake Gyllenhaal. Unlike “Blank Space,” however, which sometimes lean more on towards being smart, and well, a clean song, “All Too Well” carries rawness that represented the intensity of Red. She told a story of extreme high and extreme low. She let you ride a roller coaster of emotions: made you feel butterflies, made you feel like you need to lie down on the floor, made you ask the questions that are oh so familiar, and made you doubt your narratives, made you fearful of the memory’s validity but helping you answer that fear and assert the truthfulness of the past that haunts your present. She left behind sexual subtext altogether, but not to the point where sex was just a marker of her songs turning “mature;” she was able to sing about sex as an actually important part of the story, one of which is treasured but lost intimacy.

It’s a song that she said she wrote to forget, but it’s a song clearly praying for everyone to remember.

I’m gonna cheat on this one. My fangirling won’t do the song any justice. You have to listen to it for yourself. :] Just be sure you’re not heartbroken right now though. It’s not for the faint of heart. 😛