Saturday, July 2, 2022

Eusebius Halsema: The American Who Built Halsema Highway and Transformed Baguio City

Eusebius Julius Halsema was an American civil engineer and politician who served as mayor of Baguio City from 1920 to 1937. Halsema first arrived in the Philippines in 1908 and worked as an engineer for the Philippine Government's Bureau of Public Works. In his first 11 years in the country, Halsema was assigned in Cebu, then Pampanga, then Manila, then Zamboanga. 

In 1920, he was sent to Baguio City. For 17 years, he served as mayor and city engineer of Baguio City as well as district engineer for the province of Benguet. It was during his watch that the Halsema Highway was first carved out of the steep mountain slopes of Benguet and Mt. Province. Construction commenced in 1922. Back then, it was referred to as the Mountain Trail because it started out as a foot trail. It was only during the succeeding years that it was slowly transformed into a road fit for automobiles.

Halsema Highway is without a doubt the most important highway in the Cordillera region. Stretching for 150 kilometers from Baguio City to Bontoc, Mt. Province, the highway is an indispensable economic artery in the region. Without it, the economies of the provinces of Benguet, Mt. Province, Kalinga, and Apayao will find it very difficult to move forward. Halsema Highway is the line that connects the provinces together. Farmers use it to transport their highland vegetables. Goods and services to the northern provinces are transported through it. In other words, it's the main street of the region's economy.

Halsema left his government post in 1937 but still decided to live and retire in Baguio City. He died in Baguio City on March 15, 1945. Around this time, the city was under the control of the Imperial Japanese Army. Also during this time, the city was being besieged and bombed by Allied forces trying to liberate the city from the Japanese forces. Halsema was buried at the Baguio Cemetery. His remains to this day are at the cemetery marked by a simple white tombstone.

Quick Facts About Eusebius Halsema

1. He was born on March 12, 1882 in the village of New Bremen on the plains of western Ohio in the United States.
2. His father (a watchmaker and jeweler) and his mother were migrants from the Netherlands.
3. He studied at the Ohio State University and graduated in 1907 with a degree in civil engineering.
4. He died in Baguio City in March of 1945 while the city was under the control of the Imperial Japanese Army.
5. He was the 5th and last American mayor of Baguio City.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Did Bontoc Igorots Practice Earlobe Stretching?

The Bontoc Igorots may have practiced earlobe stretching both for decorative and practical purposes. I say "may" because this needs a bit more validation from other sources. This the first time I've heard about it being practiced among our ancestors. This is the first time I saw the picture (see below) and the accompanying description from a Princeton University catalog. I did a little bit of digging on the files and documents I have on Cordillera history and I can't find one that referenced the practice.

Growing up in Mt. Province, it was quite common for me to see old folks with overextended holes in their earlobes. However, the explanation I usually got when I asked about the holes was that these were the effects of heavy earrings that were often made of gold, silver, or bronze. The earrings were so heavy that the holes in the earlobes stretch and enlarge over time. It's a logical explanation. But it's also possible that the immensely larger holes in the earlobes of older folks were due to intentional stretching.

This photo is from the Graphic Arts Collection of the Firestone Library of Princeton University. It's just one of 30 photographs of various indigenous groups in the Philippines that the university library digitized. The photographer who took the images wasn't identified. It's presumed that the photos were taken from the early 20th century. Probably between 1904 and 1910.

The description for the photo goes:

"Showing ornamental stretching of the ear lobe and taken in Bontoc Province, Island of Luzon. While a baby, a hole is made in the lobe of the ear with a splinter of bamboo or wood. This hole is gradually made larger by the insertion of a wooden wedge until it often reaches as much as 2 inches in diameter and is used for carrying a hugh metal or stone ornament, a pipe, or a package of betel nut."

It's difficult to identify the item (or items) that were stuffed in the woman's earlobes. I zoomed in on the image but I can't still figure out what it is. It looks like strips of cloth/textile that were meticulously folded and inserted into the lobe. It also looks like dried and folded corn leaves. 

Earlobe stretching is common among indigenous groups from around the world. It was practiced (and some still practice it) by the Mayans, the Aztecs, the Lahu tribes of Thailand, the Karen-Padaung of Myanmar, the Fulani of Nigeria, the Maasai of Kenya, and the Mursi in Ethipia.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Reasons Why I'm Voting for Leni Robredo

To friends and acquaintances who are supporting either Marcos, Lacson, Pacquiao, Moreno, or de Guzman, here's my answer to your "why Leni".

1. She passes the "corruption check" with flying colors. This has been mentioned a million times already. But it needs repeating again. And again. And again. She's not corrupt. Her clean record speaks for itself. Everybody agrees that most of the ills and problems of the country today are due to corruption. Robredo has never been involved in any corruption issue. Ayaw mo ng corruption di ba? So sino iboboto mo? Yung kandidato na malinis ang record or yung kandidato na patong-patong ang kaso ng corruption?

2. She has the proper educational credentials. Credentials that are 100% real and verifiable. These are not manufactured in any way. She has an Economics degree from the University of the Philippines and a law degree from the University of Caceres. This country needs a president who studied law, a president who respects the law, a president who understands the lawmaking process. 

And yes, this country badly needs an economist as a leader. The economy is in shambles right now due to the pandemic. Fixing the economy is going to be among the top priorities of the next administration. An economic problem requires an economist. Sino ba sa mga kandidato ang ekonomista? Si Robredo.

Aside from her economics and law degrees, Robredo has been conferred with honorary doctorates from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (Doctor in Public Administration), the University of Saint Anthony (Doctor of Humanities), and the University of the Cordilleras (Doctor of Laws).

3. She has worked extensively in the development sector. Community development workers are a rare breed of people who often put the welfare of others over their own. If you want to know what problems communities are facing, talk to a development worker. If you want to know what solutions are needed to fix these problems, talk to a development worker. For years, Robredo has worked alongside development workers. She rubbed shoulders with them. She championed their causes. She supported their initiatives. 

For example, Robredo served as coordinator for the Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligan (SALIGAN) for 10 years. This is a group that encourages young legal professionals to offer their services to communities and residents who otherwise have no access to such services. Masakit sabihin pero we all know na hindi pa rin patas ang justice system dito sa bansa. Kung may pera kang pang-hire ng abogado, the justice system will more likely be on your side. Pag hindi mo kayang kumuha ng abogado, wala na, mahihirapan ka talaga. This is the reason why groups like SALIGAN exist. The group also helped rural women and farmers get funds to support their livelihoods.

4. She is against political dynasties. This is very important. It's equally important that she doesn't come from a political dynasty. Many Filipinos doesn't seem to realize that political dynasties are among the roots of corruption. Kung ang congressman, mayor, vice-mayor, at ilan pang mga nasa puwesto ay galing sa iisang pamilya, wala na, finished na. They can do whatever they want because there's no one there to question them. Political dynasties kill the concept of "checks and balances". 

We all agree that political dynasties cause corruption. Sino sa dalawang leading presidential candidates ang hindi galing sa isang political dynasty? Si Robredo. It's also worth mentioning here that in her previous stint as a congresswoman, Robredo co-authored a version of the Anti-Dynasty Bill. She has been very vocal against political dynasties. She's serious about it. There's a reason why she co-authored a bill against it.

5. She passes the recency check with flying colors. To apply the recency check, you go back and review what the candidate has accomplished in the past 6-10 years. Robredo was congresswoman from 2013 to 2016 and vice-president from 2016 to 2022. Within this time-frame, she has accomplished a lot. Her legislative portfolio is impressive kahit naging conresswoman siya for only 3 years. 

The first law she authored in Congress was the Full Disclosure Policy Bill which mandated that all government agencies fully disclose their budget and financial transactions. She authored the People Empowerment Bill. She authored the Participatory Budget Process Bill. She wrote the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill. She sponsored the house version of the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act of 2009 which promotes transparency in the taxation process. 

As congresswoman, she was the vice-chairman of the house committees on good governance, public accountability, and revision of laws, and a member of 11 other house panels. She supported the Bangsamoro Basic Law and she advocated for the Freedom of Information Act. Ilan lang ang mga ito sa mga nagawa niya bilang congresswoman. 

As vice-president, she spearheaded programs the most prominent of which is the Angat Buhay program. For the implementation of the program, her office partnered with hundreds of organizations all over the country. The program addresses six key advocacy areas namely public education, rural development, food security and nutrition, women empowerment, universal healthcare, and housing and resettlement. Given her office's limited budget, a huge chunk of the funds mobilized for the program are from the private sector. In short, she finds ways to get things done despite the hurdles and limitations.

Her office's work in response to the pandemic is also impressive. Her office provided free shuttle services for frontline workers, swab tests, telehealth services, and raised funds for relief operations across the country.

6. She elevated the Office of the Vice President to higher standards. The office of the vice-president is often described as a spare tire and rightly so. If you go back and look at the track records of previous vice-presidents, they really did not do much. Robredo is different. When she got elected, she made sure that her office was always busy pursuing programs and advocacies for the Filipino people.

7. She's an advocate of women empowerment and gender equality. There's a reason why she has the support of many women's groups and LGBTQ organizations. In 2016, Robredo travelled to Thailand to receive the "Honorary Outstanding Woman Award of the Year" from the Thai government. The Thai government cited her for her work in empowering women and pushing for gender equality. 

As a congresswoman, she wrote the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill which aimed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

As coordinator for SALIGAN, Robredo helped rural women find funding for their business ventures and livelihoods. Robredo also founded the Lakas ng Kababaihan ng Naga Federation. This is an organization that provides training and livelihood opportunities for women.

8. She is for government transparency. The office of the vice-president received the highest audit rating from the Commission on Audit (COA) for three consecutive years: 2018, 2019, and 2020. Napaka-importante ito because transparency is one of the best solutions against corruption. Kapag transparent ang isang opisina o agency, they are open to scrutiny. Alam mo kung saan napupunta yung pondo nila. Alam mo kung saan nila ginagastos yung binabayaran mong buwis.

What Robredo did for the office of the vice-president can be replicated in all other offices, agencies, and departments. And keep in mind that Robredo authored the Full Disclosure Policy Bill. This is basically a bill that directly addresses corruption.

Also, Robredo has consistently disclosed her SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth). And she had encouraged all public officials to do the same. Again, disclosure of SALN is another way of fighting corruption.  In the words of Robredo, "as public officials, we have an obligation to be transparent not only in our work but also in our public life".

9. She has been endorsed by the country's top educational institutions (universities). Universities are bastions of learning and knowledge. These are centers of education. When choosing between multiple candidates, it's always better to go for the candidate being supported by educators. Educators know what's up. Educators know which candidate is qualified for the job. Educators know which candidate will champion educational causes and initiatives. 

10. She showed up during debates and interviews. Debates are a salient feature of any democratic election. It's one of the best ways to prove to the people that you are deserving of their vote. That you are worthy of the position. That you have a political platform to present. That you are not afraid to be questioned. 

Robredo showed up. She answered the questions thrown at her. She presented a very comprehensive political platform. 

There are other reasons why Robredo has my vote. But I think these reasons I listed are more than enough. For me, at least. If you are voting for the other candidates, I hope that you also did your research.

And one last thing, Robredo has read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. She even referred to it as her favorite book. If you've read To Kill a Mockingbird and loved it, I'd say you have good taste. That's an automatic PLUS point. :)

Thursday, April 28, 2022

On the Jillian Robredo - Baguio City Public Market Controversy

Dahil sinipag ako magsulat ngayon, here's my two cents on the controversial issue regarding Jillian Robredo's visit at the Baguio City Public Market. There's a lot to unpack here so isa-isahin natin. Let us look at the facts instead of falling prey to our emotions or worse, relying on misinformation. Maybe some people are not going to agree with me here, but hear me out.

1. Bawal ba mangampanya sa Baguio City Public Market? Hindi. Kahit saang sulok ng Pilipinas ka pumunta, walang nagbabawal na mangampanya ang isang tao o grupo ng supporters sa merkado publiko. In fact, political candidates like Benjamin Magalong and Mauricio Domogan recently held campaign sorties right inside the public market. Wala pong mali sa pagkampanya sa loob ng public market.

2. Did Jillian say "let me educate you" which allegedly provoked the person to start shouting at her and her group? Ang dami akong nakikitang posts na sinabi daw ito ni Jillian. But it’s not true. Imbento lang po ito. Walang basehan. Walang video evidence. Walang recording evidence. Walang confirmation evidence. Kung meron kayong ebidensiya na sinabi nga ni Jillian ito, send me the evidence. I will readily change my mind.

3. Cliff, the man caught in the middle of this controversy has released a video statement addressing the incident. According to him, nanigaw lang daw siya dahil binastos siya ng isang Robredo supporter. Here's his version of the story:

Cliff: "Excuse me po, padaan po dahil nagmamadali ako."
Robredo supporter: "Wala akong pakialam, ang importante iboto mo si Leni."

Read that exchange again. Kapani-paniwala ba? Does it read like a normal conversation to you? I don't know about you and no offense intended to Cliff pero sorry, medyo mahirap itong paniwalaan. A normal person will not answer that way pag may nag-excuse o nagrequest ng padaan. The group didn't even know who Cliff was so why would they talk to him like that. Baka pa nga akala nila isa din siyang supporter. Pag nangangampanya ka, hindi mo sinusungitan kinakampanyahan mo. Again, if Cliff can show evidence that someone really said this to him, his version of the incident will be more believable.

4. Cliff said in his statement na hindi nararapat ang pagkampanya sa loob ng market. In his own words, referring to Jillian’s group, "hindi nila nirespeto ang market". Again, hindi bawal ang mangampanya sa loob ng market. Refer to point number 1. And I repeat, Magalong and Domogan and their fellow candidates have recently campaigned inside the market. They even held events there. Would Cliff also say to Magalong and Domogan na "hindi nila nirespeto ang market"? Yung grupo ni Jillian, dumaan lang. Yung ibang kandidato, nag-rally sa loob mismo ng merkado. Tapos yung grupo ni Jillian pa ang considered na disrespectful? Double standards ito kung sakali. Mali po yun. Dapat patas tayo sa pagpataw ng standards.

5. Cliff says hinaharangan siya ng grupo ni Jillian. Crowding is normal during campaign events especially on public places. Ako pag naka-encounter ako ng maraming tao at hindi ako makadaan, naghahanap ako ng alternate routes. For example, pag may event sa Session Road at madaming nakaharang na tao, dumadaan ako ng Mabini or Harrison or sa Assumption. In short, maghanap ng paraan. Maghanap ng ibang puwedeng madadaanan. Maki-sama tayo. Dahil hindi mawawala mga ganyang siksikan pag may events. Honestly, maraming puwedeng daanan sa Baguio Market kung medyo siksikan sa main alley. Daming corner alleys dun na puwede daanan. Gaya ng sinabi ko, normal lang ang crowding at siksikan sa mga ganitong events. Totoo, nakakaperwisyo pero minsan kelangan talaga na tayo yung mag-adjust. We have to give these events leeway dahil hindi naman araw-araw ang mga yan. Yung grupo ni Jillian, andun lang ng ilang oras. Kung ginawa nila araw-araw, eh mali yun. Pero once lang naman at dumaan lang sila. Maliit na bagay. Supportado man natin o hindi yung kinakampanya nila, hindi dapat nauuwi sa confrontation.

6. Cliff said in his video na ipinaglalaban lang niya kanyang mga karapatan bilang mamamayan. If he's referring to his freedom of speech, I agree with him 100%. Other than that, I'm curious what other rights he's referring to. Or better yet, what were his rights that he thought were being violated. I'm genuinely curious.

7. "Dayuhan ka lang, mga Igorot kami." I don't know kung ano punto ni Cliff dito. If I remember correctly, the woman in the video he was speaking to is a Baguio local. Many of the supporters in the group are also Igorots. Hindi ko alam kung bakit napunta sa point na naging lapagan na ng tribal roots. I hope this is not a case of a fellow Igorot harboring misplaced pride over non-Igorots. I'm an Igorot myself and minsan nakaka-alarma when fellow Igorots pull out the "Igorotak card" in issues where race and tribe are non-factors.

8. Cliff says he did not have direct confrontation with Jillian. The confrontation was with a supporter. I believe him on this one. It's very clear naman sa video. So I agree with him, the media outlets which wrongly reported that Cliff personally heckled Jillian need to apologize to him.

9. Cliff claims that “dinuro-duro” siya ng isang Robredo supporter. To verify this claim, we need to look back at the video. In the video, the woman is seemingly trying to pacify Cliff to diffuse the situation. Sa video, sino ba yung nagtataas ng boses? Sino ba yung sumisigaw? The woman o si Cliff? It's very clear that the woman is trying to calmly address the situation but Cliff just kept on shouting. Sa mga ganitong situation, ang bastos ay yung patuloy na sumisigaw hindi yung taong willing naman makipag-usap.

10. In the video, Cliff is recorded shouting “kayong mga Leni ang magnanakaw, hindi Marcos”. Well, that’s a very serious accusation. Ano mga ninakaw ng mga Robredo? Magkano ninakaw nila? Cliff needs to back up his accusations. If he has evidence to show, that’s great. Ilabas niya. If he can’t back up his accusations, these could be grounds for a legal case. Pero sana hindi hahantong ito sa demandahan.

11. Based on the videos from various angles of the incident, kitang-kita naman na hindi ganun kasiksikan at the time sa market. Maluwang pa nga eh. Based on the videos, mabilis naman si Cliff na nakalusot through the crowd.

12. Last but not the least, Cliff said na dinuro-duro siya at pinagbabastos ng babaeng Robredo supporter. Again, based sa videos on the incident, mukhang wala namang ganun na nangyari. The Robredo supporter he's referring to is actually a lawyer and a Baguio local. You can hear her say "hoy, taga-Baguio din ako ha" when Cliff kept on shouting at her and screaming things like "dayuhan ka lang dito, mga Igorot kami". Kahit sino naman ganun ang sagot pag pinagsisigawan ka tapos inaakusahan kang dayo lang eh taga-Baguio ka din mismo.

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Itogonia Wild Country Trail Run is Back After a 2-Year Hiatus

"There is something magical about running. After a certain distance, it transcends the body. Then a bit further, it transcends the mind. A bit further yet, and what you have before you, laid bare, is the soul." - Kristin Armstrong

The trails and mountains of Benguet are slowly opening up. That's music to the ears of those whose passions and hobbies are married to the great outdoors. To finally be able to hike and run. To see the mud on your shoes. To feel the grass crunch under your feet. That's bliss. That's love.

Speaking of love, I first feel in love with trail running back in 2018 when I threw caution to the wind and signed up for my first trail running race. That race happened to be the first edition of the Itogonia Wild Country Trail Run. It was both a humbling and a motivating experience. Humbling in the sense that you realize that you don't own the trails, the trails own you. Motivating in the sense that you learn something new about yourself. Who would've thought that it's possible to run 32 kilometers in one go. 

Trail running encourages you to go even further. Once you are done with 30 kilometers, you want to run 40 kilometers, then 50 kilometers, then 100 kilometers, and some even go beyond the 100-kilometer mark. It's literally a kind of addiction - but of the good kind.

Another edition of Itogonia was held in 2019. Then the pandemic struck which basically locked down everything including trails and mountains. But here were are in 2022 and things are looking good. Outdoor events are slowly going back to normal. And another edition of Itogonia is coming up. The race will be happening in the 5th of June with 4 distances to choose from - 32K, 16K, 8K, and 3K. Whether you're an experienced runner or a complete beginner, there's a distance fit for your level of experience.

The race starts at Camp John Hay whose trails are a favorite training ground for local runners. The route then takes you to the mountain trails and rugged roads of Itogon. The route has its fair share of knee-breaking downhills, flats, and steep uphill climbs. You really need to train for this one - especially if you are going to sign up for the 32K category. There's a reason why previous editions of the race had DNFs (did not finish). 

If you love running on trails. If you are an admirer of the great outdoors, this is a race you wouldn't want to miss. See you in June!

Race details:

Race Director: Don Santillan / Active Pinas
Distances: 32K, 16K, 8K, 3K
Registration Fees: 2500 (32K), 1500 (16K), 1000 (8K), 800 (3K)
Registration Period: April 1 to May 21
Website/Facebook Page:

Photo by Itogonia.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The Rise of Unfounded Toxicity: Lacruiser P. Relativo, Leni Robredo, and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird"

During an interview by a Rappler reporter, Leni Robredo was asked "what is your favorite book of all time". Robredo said it's To Kill a Mockingbird, the classic 1960 novel by Harper Lee. She then expounded why she chose the book. It was a great question and Robredo had a great answer for it. She even provided some context by explaining her choice. She effectively used her positions (as a lawyer and a public servant) as background for her explanation. Anyone who has read the book by Harper Lee can see her point. Even if you have not read the book, Robredo's answer still sounds rational and completely on point.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a huge number of people who think her answer is "tanga, bobo, lutang, etc." A person by the name of Lacruiser P. Relativo, a Marcos supporter, posted a clip of the interview on Facebook. As I write this, the video clip has been shared more than 30 thousand times and garnered more than 50 thousand "laugh" reactions. Basically, they are laughing and making fun of Robredo's answer.

So the obvious question is this: What is wrong with Robredo's answer to the question? None. Absolutely none. There is nothing wrong with it. She was asked a question and she answered it well. She went further by providing context for her choice. And she chose a great book. This is a book that won the Pulitzer Prize. This is a book that's widely considered as one of the greatest books ever written. This is a book that tackles humanistic themes like prejudice, family values, courage, justice, and the never-ending battle between good and evil.

So we need to ask follow-up questions to the people who think Robredo's answer is "bobo".

1. Anong mali doon sa sagot ni Robredo?
2. Anong nakakatawa doon sa sagot ni Robredo?

I watched the clip several times. I still don't see what's the issue there. She was asked a question and she answered appropriately. In conclusion, the problem is not in Robredo's answer. The problem is in the people laughing at her answer.

I went through the comments of the people sharing the video. And it's crystal clear that the problem is that many of them don't know about To Kill a Mockingbird or they didn't hear Robredo mention it. Robredo literally mentions the title of the book in the video.

So yes, these people are mocking Robredo not because Robredo said something wrong but because of their own ignorance. She literally named the book in her answer. But because these people are not aware that a book called To Kill a Mockingbird exists, they make fun of her. They are basically laughing at a person who is more well-read than them. This proves that the more ignorant you are, the more arrogant you become.

Hindi mo alam yung libro na To Kill a Mockingbird kaya hindi nagregister sa utak mo nung na-mention ni Robredo. At dahil wala kang alam sa libro na ito, hindi ka maka-relate sa pinagsasabi niya. Ang mas masaklap, hindi mo nga naintindihan, tinawanan mo pa. Tinawag mo pa siyang "lutang". Parang kasalanan pa niya na hindi mo alam o hindi mo nabasa yung libro.

See the irony here?

There's one last question to the people laughing at Robredo's response. Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee? If yes, then what is your issue with Robredo's answer? If no, you should find a copy and read it. It's an awesome book. And then maybe you'll understand why Robredo named it as one of her favorite books.

The lesson here is this:  

If you are going to criticize something or laugh at someone, make sure that your criticism/reaction is founded on facts, reason, and truth.

Last but not the least, here's a quote from Atticus Finch, a character from the book:

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." 

Really, everyone should read the book. It's fantastic.

That is all. Thank you for listening to my lazy Wednesday afternoon TED talk. Hindi ako nang-aaway. But we really need to push back against the rampant misinformation and toxicity online.

Image source - Crosscut

Sunday, March 6, 2022

On That Salty Air, Why We Write About Ourselves, The Legend of Tarzan, Etc.

That Salty Air by Tim Sievert (Graphic Novel, 2007) - First off, the artwork in this book is gorgeous. Done in black and white, it perfectly fits the theme of the story. Turning the pages, I felt like I'm swimming through an ocean of black and white ink. Unfortunately, that's just about the only thing that I liked about this graphic novel. Sievert touches on a lot of themes with his sparse story - love, loss, redemption, and nature's wrath. Sounds good but the two main characters in the story didn't really connect with me. Hugh is a jerk and his wife is too soft on him. I agree with a good number of reviewers who say that the book has amazing artwork but has bad writing. If you check out Tim Sievert's website, it can't be denied that he has mad talent. Apparently, he has written a good number of books. Here's to hoping that these have better stories than That Salty Air. I already ordered a couple of the titles because I love his artwork. 

Why We Write About Ourselves by Meredith Maran (Editor) (Book, 2016) - I understand that this book was written for aspiring writers who wish to one day write their own memoirs. I have no intention of writing a memoir but I picked up this book because I've always been fascinated by writers and their process in creating their works. It's an easy read and brimming with anecdotes, tips, and advice from 20 well-known memoirists. Each writer has his own unique tricks of the trade so they often contradict each other. That's one of the beauties of writing, I must say. There are hundreds of ways to cook a chicken. There are hundreds of ways to write a memoir. Consider reading this book if (1) you are planning to be a memoirist or  if (2) you are interested in how memoirists approach their craft.

Anna Quindlen on Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time - I came across a 2007 edition of A Wrinkle in Time which contains "An Appreciation" by the American author Anna Quindlen. Here's a quote from the piece that I found really beautiful: "The most memorable books from our childhoods are those that make us feel less alone, convince us that our own foibles and quirks are both as individual as a fingerprint and as universal as an open hand. That's why I still have the copy of A Wrinkle in Time that was given to me when I was twelve years old." Quindlen adds: "On its surface this is a book about three children who fight an evil force threatening their planet. But it is really about a more primal battle all human beings face, to respect, defend, and love themselves."

The Legend of Tarzan (Movie, 2016) - This movie has an average rating of 35% on Rotten Tomatoes. It's a well-deserved rating because it's a truly terrible movie. It bit more than it can chew. In its nearly two-hour run time, never did I feel invested in the story. Why? There's like a dozen storylines going on in the movie. The film kept jumping from one plot point to another. Just when you start to get invested in a story, the film jumps to another storyline. The picture has above-average special effects and some great action scenes. That's just about it. 

The Dig (Movie, 2021) - When I sat down to watch the film, I didn't know that it was based on a book. I also didn't know that it was inspired by actual events. I didn't even watch the trailer nor read the synopsis. I went in blind. I enjoyed the movie a lot. The story was paper-thin but the narrative was handled so well that I remained interested from the first minute until the last. The lead actors, Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan, are in their element. They're great. If actors with lesser talent were allowed to take on their roles, this movie most likely would have been a bore fest. Fiennes and Mulligan elevated the film with their acting chops. Great supporting cast as well. 

Call Me By Your Name (Movie, 2017) - Based on a novel by Andre Aciman (also called Call Me by Your Name), this is a coming-of-age drama about a young man falling in love with his father's research assistant. I haven't read the book so I am in no position to comment if the film did it justice. The film itself is very well-made. The acting is there. The cinematography is there. The pacing is there. It's the perfect drama movie. It doesn't feel like a movie. It feels like you are watching the video diaries of a family. 

Comedy Techniques for Writers and Performers by Melvin Helitzer (Book, 1984) - A good number of the best books I've ever read were written by comedians, humorists, and satirists. So it was with great interest that I delved into this book. This is an old book having been published back in 1984 so chunks of the content may be grossly outdated. Nevertheless, I learned a lot from the book. I was expecting something technical and dense. But it's an easy-to-read book filled with jokes and anecdotes from great and well-respected comics and humorists. The book is divided into several sections covering various topics about comedy - speechwriting, writing for magazines and newspapers, writing for stand-up comics, writing for sitcoms, writing for print cartoons, writing for greeting cards, and writing for advertising.

The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck (Poetry Collection, 1992) - Gluck received the Pulitzer Prize for this collection. This is the first book of poetry by Gluck that I read. And to be honest, I didn't get it. I really didn't understand all, yes all, of the poems in the collection. It's a thin book so I went through the poems two or three times in an attempt to understand them (and like them). Nothing. I still don't get most of them. But to be fair to Gluck, 99% of the poems I've ever read have confused me. I'm reminded of Doug Stanhope's joke about poems: "Children are like poems. They are beautiful to their creators but to others they're just silly and f_ _ _ _ _ _ annoying."