Tag Archives: Philippines

Could be Tomorrow

Lungs

I’m off to Vietnam this week. I don’t know much about the country and its beautiful people, so I’ll talk about The Handmaid’s Tale instead. What a wonderful, wonderful adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s work (a Canadian treasure)! Good job, Hulu! What’s really interesting about the book and the show itself is that if there’s ever a more apt book to adapt for the times, it’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Being a work of “speculative fiction,” much like books like The Road or Blindness, it doesn’t need much fantasy in order for something to become our reality. In the case of The Handmaid’s Tale, religion and military dictatorship just needs to marry together, something which humanity has experimented with several times before.

And it’s not like we’re that far off from Ms. Atwood’s fiction. The world is becoming more and more militaristic. Many countries’ police officers are starting to look more like military forces. There’s a loud growing movement of conservatism with their adherence to religious dogma and a distrust of science and news media. And more and more, dictatorial rule seems to be coming back into fashion with many people blindly supporting strong men. Even my father pines for the days of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law and praises the likes of Duterte. The show did a great job of incorporating current trends and technology and making it part of the narrative. It almost screams at the viewers, “this could be you! You’d better do something about it” It’s not enough that we trust our collective goodness as a society. Our hubris, our confidence that several others will do good despite of our inaction, will lead to our eventual downfall. I’d like to believe more Americans are sensible, and yet Donald Trump and his ilk run the country. I was impressed at how friendly, welcoming, and seemingly sensible everyone was the last time I visited the Philippines, but they’re the same people who would deny their neighbors are being killed for their vices, even if it happens almost every day. My workplace is surrounded by people who yearn for the days of dictatorial rule in Korea.

It is scary. It really wouldn’t take much.

 

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Father’s Day Post

Waiting for my turn

I don’t write too much about Canadian politics because as much as a faux-progressive Justin Trudeau has been, he’s still miles better than Harper. I really can’t complain too much with regards to Canadian politics. But if there’s one thing that’s continued to be ignored regardless of whether it’s Harper, Trudeau, or even Chrétien, it’s Aboriginal issues.

As much as I applaud the CBC for featuring the works of Drag the Red (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/drag-the-red-bones-1.4166029), it’s still the same old effort with no real response from the government. Concerned citizens are still out there, dragging the river looking for bodies or any evidence of people missing. Members of the First Nations, specifically Aboriginal women, have a higher risk of ending up missing compared to other groups, and despite this trend, there hasn’t been any real change to correct this. And what’s tragic is, with all the Aboriginal women missing and being ignored, if there’s ever a white woman missing, her case would dominate the headlines. This is why people are out there trying to find members of their community by themselves. And perhaps it might not be the most effective means of trying to find bodies or evidence; I believe they do it mostly as a means for catharsis at this point, especially with the rather gloomy approach of dragging the river for bodies instead of looking for a living person.

I learned about Drag the Red a few months when the group started first started looking for bodies. I’m afraid the group will continue to exist well into the future, and the government will continue with their same replies. “If they feel like they’re doing something to address what THEY SEE is an issue, then we support that.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8iDzIQW0XE) I could understand the risk versus reward approach, especially if the authorities in Winnipeg in particular are working on a very limited budget. But how often are we as Canadians going to keep on saying to the First Nations every time they have a problem that we just don’t have the resources for them?

And while I already linked a VICE video, here’s another VICE feature on missing Aboriginal women (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz63Vppw3gE)!

Before I forget, happy Father’s Day!

As much as I love my father, he’s the biggest Duterte supporter. I have two problems with that. One, Duterte is everything Canada and most western democracies are against. He’s a strongman dictator who happens to think casually about rape and thinks anyone involved with drugs should be murdered. Second, why is my dad so involved with Philippine politics? Shouldn’t he be more involved with Canadian or American politics? That’s where his kids and his grandkids are! It’s like he moved to Canada and enveloped himself into this hyper-nationalistic shell.

In any case, I’ve debated people like him regarding the whole Duterte situation and I’ve written about him before, but one argument that annoys me most is the line, “you don’t know how it is as an outsider; people who live here know better,” which basically means that any outside opinion is disqualified since we don’t get the whole breadth of the experience- we don’t see how much the country has improved under the tyrant Duterte.

Well, first off, that is one of the most common defense of battered spouses. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jZqwq7N-ps) “You don’t know him like I do. We’re doing fine.” I would argue that anyone on the inside is far too gaslighted to know what’s good or not, and that anyone who actually thinks that Duterte is good is too deep in the bubble to know any better. It would take a concerned outsider to point out what’s wrong in the situation.

And like many things Duterte, it doesn’t take too much to point out the hypocrisy in the whole situation. If outsiders’ opinions regarding a situation are not qualified, then what qualifies an outsiders’ opinion regarding a drug user’s lifestyle? Perhaps drug users totally fine with their lifestyle and believe it doesn’t affect them negatively. Who is to say, as an outsider, that they are doing society wrong by getting involved in drugs? Maybe the outsider, in this case Duterte and his followers, should try some drugs to get more insight. And what about the Muslim crisis in Mindanao? Why is the rest of Philippines forcing their some of their minority to be part of the bigger country? Maybe those smaller communities are happier are Muslim nations.

Lastly, as prescribed by Godwin’s Law, it is exactly outsiders’ opinions that got Hitler and the Nazis to stop murdering Jews. What’s chilling however is that it was Duterte who initially compared himself to Hitler, and his supporters didn’t even bat an eye.

So what am I saying to the lost Duterte supporter who happened to have stumbled into my page? Look at your neighbors. Perhaps it’s a good idea to listen when they tell you that you’re in a bad situation.

Oh and yeah, happy Father’s Day!

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Killing Catholics

Rat_King

The problem with Twitter is that it’s a vortex that gets you sucked in to arguments where you’re trying to convince people who have no interest in being convinced. This happened to me last night for the better part of an hour, arguing about the Philippines and their outrageous leader, President Duterte. The last time I visited the Philippines was 2011. Back then, like many people, the country’s problem with poverty is quite apparent. But the problem is not only that. At the time, I also noted that the country had a tendency to elect leaders based on populist appeal, with several people banking either on their celebrity appeal or regional political dynasties. I also noticed that there is not much concern about the separation of church and state, and thus some, if not the majority of people, don’t mind if religiously-inspired policies affect them negatively. So last night, I ended up arguing based on the Filipino Catholic background, the pretense of doing the purge for law and order, and the two-tiered justice system when it comes to Filipinos and their worship of celebrities.

I always found it very ironic that the only Catholic country in the Philippines would openly insult the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, the representative of Christ in the planet. By condoning the extrajudicial killings, the president and his followers are going against the very teaching of Jesus Christ. Love thy neighbors, thou shalt not kill, etc. I’m not a theological expert, but I always thought that one of the foundations of the Catholic Church is the concept of forgiveness. And while many of the president’s supporters are quick to defend him and forgive him for his brashness and errors as a leader, they don’t extend that same spirit of forgiveness to victims of the killings. It would seem that the country is not as religious as many people would have you believe. After all, why would the country elect and give high approval ratings to a person who promised to kill several people and so far has made good on that promise. Duterte on his campaign had two major political goals: A) kill thousands of drug dealers and users and B) reform the country into federalism in order to spread the country’s wealth and resources among its different regions. So far, he’s only killed people. Killing people is not only against the Catholic Church, it also won’t put food on people’s plate.

Now, the president claims that he is doing things for law and order. He even mused about instating martial law to quell lawlessness. Forgetting the abuse of the Marcos regime and the horrors of martial law, his supporters say that martial law wouldn’t be a bad idea; after all, it is well within his rights in the Philippine constitution as the leader of the country. Looking at the Philippine constitution, it is well within his rights. Article VII, Section 18 states that he may take command of all armed forces and suspend habeas corpus to prevent or suppress lawless violence. That’s well and good. But the last time I checked, the Philippines is still quite orderly. There is no lawless violence. In fact, it is the president who is encouraging lawlessness with statements like, “Please feel free to call us, the police or do it yourself if you have the fun… you have my support. Shoot him (the accused) and I’ll give you a medal.” Article III, Section 1 of the Philippine Bill of Rights states that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” Yet, people conveniently shrug when people get shot without spending their time in court, examining evidence of their guilt, or facing their accusers. There is nothing lawful about this anti-drug campaign. And as for people saying that the murder are done by phantom “killers” and not by the government or the police, and that the president regrets such extrajudicial killings, let me quote that again, “Please feel free to call us, the police or do it yourself if you have the fun… you have my support. Shoot him (the accused) and I’ll give you a medal.”

When arguing these things, I got accused of being prejudiced against the Philippines, of seeing the country as some sort of backwards banana republic and not a sophisticated metropolitan society. The problem with prejudice is that it also applies to the poor and those with drug history. The killings only seem to apply to the poor. Doing a quick search on Google, it’s not that difficult to find Filipino celebrities with histories of drug abuse. I doubt if they would be affected by this anti-drug campaign. No one is gunning for them. Drug use is often brought on by poverty. And the prejudice against the poor leads to the rather nonchalant local attitude towards the killings. Crimes against the pretty people on this page (https://kami.com.ph/29157-filipino-celebrities-involved-illegal-drugs.html) would elicit national outrage, but there’s not so much outrage when the victims are poor, young drug users and their families have to deal with the aftermath.

The most inane argument I get is that I’m not a true Filipino; I’m not in the country and thus have no say in such things. I am not familiar with their problems. True, but I am also unfamiliar with the problems of impoverished family members of drug users. While my opinions might insult Duterte’s supporters, the unfortunate consequence of supporting Duterte is the murder of people. Their opinions and support kills people. One does not need to be a Filipino citizen to realize this. You don’t need to be in the Philippines to see the hypocrisy in regards to Duterte versus religion, the law, and prejudice. The thing is, I actually have high hopes for the country. There are even some things that I agree with Duterte about (his stance on contraception and birth control for one. And I actually think federalism would benefit the country. ). But this zeal for a strong man worries me. Civilization and law evolved as such. First there was the literal strong man in very primitive groups. This was the man who could physically implement his personal view of law and order in his small community. Then came more democratic tribes; this was when communities established rules and mores, and power was not centralized into one figure. Perhaps there was a council of elders and influential members of the community. Later on, law and order became more complex, and we now have the many checks and balances of current systems in different countries. This devolution to needing a strongman leader is a sign of a more basic urge, a return to a primitive way of looking at things, a need for simplistic solutions to more sophisticated, nuanced problems. This is not the Philippines moving forward.

Of course, with Twitter and the Internet, I find myself arguing against unmovable converts. The same goes with Trump supporters and proponents of Brexit. Ironic that in a platform which allows for the free access to different opinions, we all tend to gravitate to information and “facts” which reflect our own opinions. Perhaps, at the risk of sounding arrogant, this is Duterte’s supporters and the Dunning-Kruger effect.

And speaking of the Dunning-Kruger effect, but I believe true Canadians are immune to the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s not that Canadians are smarter than the average person, but compared to our southern neighbors, we’re not as adamant with our opinions. We tend to be more pliable. Just as Catholics have an enduring place in their hearts for guilt, Canadians have an enduring place in their hearts for self-doubt. It is the part of us that says, “I believe this, but maybe I’m wrong.” So with that in mind, maybe I’m wrong about the Philippines. But for now, it looks like a total disaster.

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Chickens

bloody_cock

I drew this based on an actual cockfight I saw when I visited a cockfighting ring in the Philippines back in 1998. I remember it being a bit gruesome especially in how a much cared for pet quickly becomes a casually manhandled broken animal after losing a fight. Attitudes change after a minute-long fight. I also remember the chaos at how the participants bet on fights: yelling odds and wagers, and throwing money owed. I don’t know how the system works and how it’s policed, but everyone there seems to be content with the chaos.

The birds are beautiful creatures which unfortunately are tied to evils regardless of how enthusiasts wax poetic at how the fights are metaphors to their own struggles. In the end, it’s still about animal cruelty and gambling.

I started drawing another bird last week, the greater prairie chicken, which is really a grouse. I’ve been on a Canada-kick lately, and I think I should do a tribute on one of Canada’s poor extirpated bird. Why can’t we reintroduce these beautiful birds back in the western provinces? C’mon Prime Minister Trudeau! Let’s get this done!

Due to a busy schedule, and honestly, bouts of depression, I haven’t had much time and energy to do art. Usually, working on art gets me through depression and anxiety, but lately I’ve just been torpid and it’s been extremely challenging to get myself out of it. So to artists out there who are making art to deal with their issues, good for you! You might be depressed, but at least you’re making something and have the energy to create despite being in a dark place.

As for me, I’m still looking into this fat bird to get myself to a healthier mental state. It’s easier to draw birds than to actually work on the things that are negatively affecting my life, but that’s another entry for another time. Unfortunately, I’ll be on vacation soon, and ironically, that may leave me with even less time to draw. Hopefully I could finish it soon.

 

 

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The Curious Case of Reluctant Canadians

beaver

Becoming a Canadian citizen can be perceived differently depending on the observer. To some, it is the reward for years in the naturalization process. However, despite the innocuous and rather malleable nature of being Canadian, others see it as a betrayal to one’s identity and culture.

I’m an immigrant. My family moved to Canada from the Philippines when I was a young boy. I became a Canadian citizen and I grew up thinking I would live my whole life in Canada. After all, my parents worked hard to bring us there. We worked hard at becoming citizens. It’s only natural that you enjoy what you have worked hard at becoming, Canadians. Now I’m in South Korea. I’ve been here for a long while now, but I never really thought about becoming Korean. There’s more to explore there and I will come back to it, but let’s start first with the whole “becoming Canadian” experience.

There’s a good argument that an immigrant to a country is more of a citizen than the one who was naturally born there. The natural-born citizen did not make a willful choice to be where he/she is. It is mere luck of the draw. An immigrant however chooses to be in that country, and in the process of becoming a citizen, they have to pass tests and work to become a contributing part of the community. In many instances, they would end up knowing more about the country’s history than the average natural-born citizen. In return, Canada gives immigrants full benefits of being a part of Canadian society. In fact, being in Winnipeg, I got to enjoy rights and privileges that even some Native people do not (There are books that could be written about this topic). This is the extent of Canada’s generous embrace to immigrants in exchange for becoming a part of the country.

The driving force to our move to Canada was my late mother. I don’t know how enthused my father was at moving to Canada, but my mother immersed herself more with the Canadian experience than my father did. In any case, the move was probably the best for the family. We had a better future moving to a more prosperous country.

Now, the pride of being a Canadian doesn’t stem from the shame of one’s heritage. But in many cases, it is seen as being so. “So you think you’re a Canadian now. You’re no longer a Filipino. Don’t forget, you’re still a Filipino.” etc. It almost seems like resentment from the people who are “left behind.” “Don’t think you are too good. You are still one of us.” It’s like an odd amalgamation of crab mentality and jingoism.

This isn’t unique to Filipino-Canadians, of course. Eddy Harris, on his book Native Stranger recounts how going back to Africa, “Motherland,” he encounters an almost resentful attitude from the Africans he has “left behind” long after his ancestors were taken as slaves to North America. Hearing “welcome home” can be very heartwarming at the beginning of his trip, but after a while, hearing “how come you haven’t helped us?” several times, rings of a sense of entitlement and resentment from people he has nothing in common with except for their race. In the end, he comes out of the trip not being grateful for slavery and for bringing his ancestors to America, but being grateful for being alive as an African-American person. America has provided for him a great life, but to some Africans, there’s a debt owed, there’s a responsibility to give back to the “Motherland.” But in reality, what has brought him to his current position is not so much Zaire and his ethnic heritage, but the virtue of being an American.

The United States and Canada being multi-cultural societies, people try to adopt an attitude of recognizing all citizens as part of the country regardless of their ethnicities. The keyword is “try.” Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II because they were suspected of not being truly American despite many of them being born in the country. Given the choice prior to being sent to internment camps, I suspect they would have fought for the country that has adopted them as oppose to fighting for the country they have long since left. This is a rather extreme case, but I believe once a person has been naturalized, they have already taken sides. It does not mean forgetting one’s ethnicity and culture, but it means belonging to the country and becoming a true citizen. It’s participating in the great Canadian experience. It’s like converting from Judaism to Christianity. You’re still the same color and your past hasn’t changed, but you now celebrate Christmas.

My father in many cases, instead of taking pride in becoming a Canadian citizen, still insists on being a Filipino, or at the very least, calling himself that. I’ve met some Canadians with the same attitude as him too. It’s almost as if they resist the good that the country tries to give them. These days, my father spends a lot of his time in the Philippines. One could assume he’s trying to reverse all of the Canadian-ness he has tried to resist through all of those years. When we were growing up, he tended to nag us whenever we become “too Canadian” in his eyes, whatever that means. I remember him chiding me one time as a teenager for having a “white girlfriend.”

Now I understand that there is value in one’s cultural heritage, and we shouldn’t shed it the way we do outdated clothes, but a new country is not a uniform either. It is not something one should resist, especially if it’s something as welcoming a society as Canada. To become a Canadian, to say that you are a Canadian as opposed to any other nationality, is an exchange for all the good that becoming a Canadian gives a person. It is the least a Canadian citizen can do. I feel that in the long run, my father is making a mistake. The Philippines is a good country, but it is the country of his childhood, of his past. It is the country that he has left behind. To insist on being a Filipino almost feels like a betrayal to the country that has been so good to him all of these years.

Being in South Korea, I realize the extent of Canada’s generosity to its citizens. Becoming naturalized as a South Korean citizen is much the same as being a Canadian. A person must speak the language, be of good conduct, and have the ability to maintain a living. Of course, Canada’s healthcare system keeps a lot of people from revoking their citizenship, but the one thing that I believe keeps expats from becoming South Koreans is the people’s treatment of foreigners. Though being a South Korean citizen does not require Korean heritage, it is plain fact that foreigners in the country get treated as foreigners regardless of citizenship. It doesn’t matter how long one lived in the country or how well they speak the language. If you look foreign, you will often be treated as a foreigner. This is what makes Canada and countries like it quite special. People, regardless of ethnicities, are welcome to call themselves Canadian.

This is why I don’t understand my father’s attitude. Perhaps it is shortsightedness or xenophobia on his part, or perhaps it’s my ignorance or naivety. But I believe the country has been more than generous to him and provided him with great opportunities he may not have had should he have stayed in the Philippines. All of his children have great lives thanks to be being in Canada. He need not adopt the attitude of those who are “left behind.” He is not Eddy Harris’ African people in the “Motherland.” He wasn’t left behind. He became a Canadian.

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Suddenly Sports

Winnipeg_Jets

NHL playoffs.

Five Canadian teams have made it to the playoffs. To pairs have been set against each other, so regardless of the outcome, two Canadian teams will make it to the next round. Surprisingly, the Winnipeg Jets made it to the playoffs as well. They made it despite the Evander Kane controversy, and how many fans were predicting doom and gloom after they star was traded to the Sabres. Unfortunately, despite making it to the playoffs, the Jets have so far lost the first two games, all due to dumb shenanigans on the ice. The games have been quite physical, but the Ducks have been playing it smarter, keeping their defense tight and taking advantage of power plays.

A good friend of mine said that the Jets goalie, Pavelec, reminded her of their goalie from almost twenty years ago, Khabibulin. Both are stars, and the team hung on to them as their key to doing well in the playoffs. Unfortunately, goalies only keep the other team from scoring, and they can only block so many shots. The Jets have dragged behind the Ducks in shots taken. And if they don’t step up their game, and maybe keep the shenanigans to a minimum, then maybe we won’t be repeating the last time the Jets underperformed at the playoffs.

Here’s hoping we learn from our mistakes and score a win next game.

I don’t talk much about sports, but there’s only hockey, which I’ve grown to love the longer I’m away from Canada, and boxing.

The problem with the boxing is that as impressive as Wladimir Klitschko is, there just isn’t much media hype over heavy weight fights despite him being the undisputed heavyweight champion.  And as for the Mayweather vs Pacquiao match, I can’t  push myself to root for either fighter for reasons outside of the ring. Mayweather just comes off as a scumbag. There’s the domestic violence stuff, but there’s  also the obnoxious way he talks and flaunts his money around.

As for Pacquaio, I would argue he is worse than Mayweather despite maintaining a rather clean image. This is a man who doesn’t appear to be able to say no to anything. Who made him a congressman? No wonder the country is where it is at the moment. The man dropped out of high school (albeit due to poverty) and has no legislative background.  I realize the Philippines has a habit of electing celebrities to politics, but at some point a person has to say no and not take everything he’s offered. Also, his politics is dumb and disgusting. He is against same-sex marriage. He is also against the use of condoms, and abortion. That just won’t work in a country that’s over-populated and with high unemployment rate. I realize the country is mostly Catholic, but governments should be run by learned leaders, not by close-minded athletes and religious zealots.

Excellent fighters, horrible human beings.

Oh well. Back to hockey!

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Them Snakes

Snake_bones

I remember seeing the character “Zuma” on the silver screen when I was a small kid. I don’t remember the movie exactly, what the title villain’s motivations were, or why I was even in the theater watching it (Who would take me?!). But I do remember the character vaguely; green skin, shaved head, loin cloth, and two snake heads, which at a young age I wondered, “where are their tails? How do they poo?”

zuma

I gotta say though, the whole things does reek a lot of Freudian imagery: the hyper penises, the ultra-macho character, the allusion to rape, the deflowering imagery, and the preying on white, blonde women.  It even says so right there, the victims are “young, virgin girls.”

I consider myself a feminist, although I’m not one of those hyper-feminists who devote so much effort trying to find patriarchy where there really is none. It is interesting however to see a character that is quite overtly inspired by male aggrandizement and sexual violence. I guess that was part of the appeal. I guess that’s also why it’s still in my memory.

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Global Village Laziness and Crazy Dream Therapists

Faces

If a person has never traveled any countries outside of South Korea and was only exposed to the varied cuisines of the world via the Global Village Festival in Seoul last weekend, they would think that other countries only serve hotdog, chicken on a stick, and kebabs. What a disappointment! The crowd was bigger, but the event was extremely lazy and underwhelming.

All booths from African and Middle Eastern countries were serving kebabs. That’s all they had! There were a couple that served samosas and other more exotic fare, but generally, that’s all they served.

All booths from European and North American countries served hotdogs/sausages or to a lesser extent, chicken on a stick. Same generic sausage all over the place. The Canadian booth, instead of serving poutine or anything Canadian, was serving hotdog on a stick. The Philippines booth was serving the same thing, except they had coconut milk and churros. Lazy, lazy, lazy. And why churros? Isn’t that from Spain, not the Philippines? Well, ignoring the fact that the Philippines is a former Spanish colony, churros are all the rage in Seoul at the moment. There would be line-ups for popular churros places in the city. Why? Because someone mentioned the churros place on TV, which is generally how restaurants get a huge line-up in the country. Sheep. And yes, I’m sorry, but only sheep would line up for over an hour to buy deep-fried, sugary, dough.

My wife and I were in Winnipeg last year. She noted that at the Forks (http://www.theforks.com/dining/show,listing/forks-market), a public space in a small city, there were far more variety and authentic global cuisines compared to this so called “Global Village Festival.” The event was kinda offensive, not just as a Canadian (hotdogs!?), but as someone who’s actually had food from other countries. This is the last time my wife and I go to this festival. We ran out of patient fast. We ended up going to my regular South African bar wondering why didn’t just go straight there in the first place.

Imagine a room with at least three couples and one moderator. The moderator asks everyone to close their eyes. He then says, “Anyone who’s ever wanted to stray from their marriage, especially if that person you want to sleep with is in the room, raise your right hand.”

“Now, if you have your hand raised, open your eyes and look around. Those who don’t have their hand raised, keep your eyes closed.”

“Everyone put your hand down and close your eyes.”

“Now, do what you will with that new information you just learned (or that burning curiosity that’s bound to destroy your relationship).”

I had a dream about that scenario. At the very least, the exercise could open dialogue and spark ideas. At the most, it could arrange amicable cheating arrangements. At its worst, it could destroy marriages. My dreams have a creative yet misguided couples’ counselor.

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Sinking

Octopus

Still here, in the office.

Just realized that many places in the world look the same at 5 in the morning.

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