Day 114: The Man and the Bellowing Sorrows; ‘Smoke’

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Finally an opportunity when things have relatively calmed down. It has been a hell of a week which has been quite the shame considering how great the past weekend was.


Got a chance to watch The Accountant with Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick. Great movie. I don’t know why the critics panned it so much. I feel somehow somewhere along the line, perhaps around the Giglii era, Ben Affleck turned into critic and box office poison. He has since proven himself again. The Town was great, Argo proved his abilities as an actor, producer, and director. Yet everyone was so eager to see him fail as Batman that I cannot really get a sense of where people are in terms of Ben Affleck anymore. I was always a fan and Anna Kendrick, though she pretty much plays the exact same person in every one of her films, still plays it well and convincingly and she’s just so damn beautiful. There was an entire subplot with JK Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson that, though interesting, provided very little to the actual story. But the character was compelling and the intrigue was captivating. Highly recommended.


Saturday my friends and I got to go to Six Flags Fright Fest. The day was perfect for it. Fright Fest.jpgOvercast, slightly misty with sporadic rain, and 50°. The rain was moving through southern Jersey heading north so by the time we got there it had pretty much cleared up, but the weather did exactly what I hoped it would. The cold and rain kept most people away from the park so as soon as we were in it was nonstop rides. The shortest lines I’ve ever experienced and that made the cold so worth it. Plus, it’s crazy to feel the wind just freeze your teeth off as you’re screaming down a long drop. I’m a ride junkie so it was great but I was most proud of my one friend K, who hates rides. Something about Saturday just lit something in him though and he was on most of the rides with us. Some only I got on because everyone was too nervous to try. Joker was a solo ride because no one else wanted to try it. If you haven’t seen the ride or know anything about it, it’s a free-rotating and spinning rollercoaster ride. It goes straight up like an elevator and goes along the track with the carts suspended over the railing and Joker Ride.jpgspinning off. Green Lantern was fun and I love the gimmick of standing to ride. Superman you ride on your stomach. Batman the track is above you so your feet are hanging off. I love rides that are beyond your standard car and track. Having said that, the BEST ride experience of Fright Fest was after sundown, in pitch darkness, seeing nothing in front of you and going down an INTENSE drop at 70mph on El Toro. The frights of Fright Fest were okay, predictable, and the haunted mazes were unfortunately an extra cost, but just being able to do roller coasters in pitch darkness was entirely worth it. That and the hot cocoa and churros. Six Flags churros are the best.


Sunday was a thrill as well. I met my cousin in the city to try an escape room experience and take her to a bar in the Lower East Side that has some great drink and oyster specials all day on Sundays. I’ve done escape game before and I love them. Open ended puzzles, usually some great theatric elements (our had secret panels coming out of fireplaces and Mission Escape.pngsecret doors that opened to other rooms and chessboards that lit up when you placed pieces in certain places), wonderful opportunity to be working with friends or even strangers in small groups, and themes that to be honest, I could take it or leave it. The ones that are too over the top or try too hard actually turn me off to it, but just enough to create ambiance are fine. The one we went to was called The Hydeout, where we had to investigate what happened to Dr. Jekyll and how it relates to the mysterious killer Mr. Hyde. It was my cousin’s first time trying it and she admitted it was a bit out of her comfort zone, but I was so happy that she was willing to try it and I think the level of difficulty, the intricacy of the puzzles, the friendliness of the staff and our group, made for a great first experience and I think she sincerely enjoyed it. Afterwards I took her to The Essex, a restaurant in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It used to be an old warehouse which gives it a great setting with high windows and a second floor loft. Unfortunately a rather…rowdy….birthday party was going on literally right next to us but as soon as they left it quieted down and we were able to have conversations without yelling over each other. The drinks were great (and half off on Sunday) and the oysters were only $1 each. Essex.jpgFresh, good flesh and flavor, enough saltiness, great pairing for the night. Actually almost missed my bus because we spent so much time talking and drinking! I’ve been really looking forward to these opportunities to spend time with my cousin since I never got to really know her whenever I would visit the Philippines. We talked about relationships and life decisions and all these wonderful engaging complicated topics. Always fun to stretch the mind that way. Feel bad though because I know it can be exhausting as well. Maybe next time I’ll talk to her about the weather. Hahah.


It really is such a shame then that as fun and exciting as the weekend was, this week has been complete and utter trash. A new update that we were supposed to give people time to prepare for and teach them how to handle was sprung on the company on Monday Dwight.gifmorning and suddenly it was mayhem and chaos. People are emailing, messaging, texting, everyone has no idea what’s happening and our responsibility within our team is to disperse the information as quickly as possible. While my team, who were consultants longer than I was and who know more of the agents out in the field, were handling the smaller requests and one on one messages through our FB@Work program, I was the medium between the actual programming team and IT desk and the area stores. I had to talk to our program director and my manager. When our support desk didn’t know what to do, I was the one who spoke to them and coached them through the updates and how to fix it and what to tell people so that they were armed and equipped to help everyone who was calling and emailing in. But this put me way far behind the front line. I was far removed from where people could see who was giving them information so my boss was wondering where I was, asking why I wasn’t helping, at the same time that I was coordinating with our entire support staff and answering the questions of my team members because they weren’t aware of the changes. I was the one who, at the end of the day, had to give a report of my activities because no one could see me posting on Facebook or responding on emails. It was my work pride that took a little bit of a hit when everyone else was getting shout outs and thank yous and special head-eskmentions for how wonderful they were and how on top of things they were. My colleagues are not ones to easily give credit to others (you don’t get far in sales by giving other people your commission, now do you) and I am not one to ever seek or expect recognition. I trust enough in meritocracy that a good job should be recognized as such. I’m not the type to ‘blow smoke’ up someone’s ass nor am I the type to particularly enjoy the sensation of it being blown up mine. I’ll praise a job deserving praise and I’ll accept praise for a job well done, but I can’t ever support anything else as more than superfluous. Yet here I was dealing with the stresses and demands as I should but watching the ones I armed getting credit. It just hurts the motivation and incentive sometimes, vain as it may sound.

On the bright side it’s almost the weekend, and next week I am on the road, getting to enjoy the traveler life again, staying in my favorite hotels, and I even organized my schedule so that I am working my down the shore so I can spend next weekend in Atlantic City by myself. I have a favorite late night Chinese restaurant that has real authentic dishes for delivery like oxtail noodle soup and salt and pepper squid and jellyfish, the hotel I always stay at is giving me a free night and half off their buffet, Philips Seafood does happy hour drinks and oysters all day Sunday, and I’ll spend some time gambling and maybe catch an IMAX film. Next week it’ll be about me and the road and my work and my writing. No reports, no checking in, and the immediate benefit of my efforts will be leaving a store better than it was when I first walked in.

But on a lighter, more humorous note, let’s talk about the origin of the phrase ‘to blow smoke up someone’s ass’, shall we?!


In the late 1700s ‘blowing smoke up your ass’ more than just a figurative expression for meaningless praise to ‘inflate’ your ego. It was an actual medically accredited method of Smoke Ass.jpgresuscitation, particularly among drowning victims. Much as how nowadays you are expected to know the location of an AED in your office or home, the people of the 1700s were expected to know where smoke bellows were found hung along the routes of popular waterways and by bridges such as in London and along the River Thames. To use the device, a tube was inserted into the victim’s rectum which was connected to a bellow and fumigator to create smoke and push it up into the victim. The nicotine was thought to be an accelerant that would speed up heartbeat, thus reviving circulation. The smoke was also thought to be able to warm and dry the victim’s insides, removing excess water. This practice was so prevalent that the Royale Humane Society offered the equivalent of $750 to anyone who successfully revived a victim through this method. Much like how we nowadays tell those who are administering CPR to sing Staying Alive by the BeeGees to remember rhythm, in 1774 the Royal Humane Society released this little ditty to help remind people what to do for drowning victims when administering the smoke enema.

Tobacco glister, breathe and bleed.

Keep warm and rub till you succeed.

And spare no pains for what you do;

May one day be repaid to you.

In fact, smoke enemas became so popular as form of treatment that its use spread to more than just drowning victims. Smoke enemas were used to treat headaches, hernias, and abdominal cramps. One of the earliest and most popular examples of a smoke enema successfully resuscitating someone was when a young man’s wife had nearly drowned and was unconscious. Without the proper bellow and tube, the husband took a lit tobacco pipe, shoved the stem into his wife’s rectum, covered the other end with his mouth, and blew as forcefully as he could. His wife regained consciousness, though I can’t help but think maybe it was really from the sensation of burning hot tobacco embers being blown literally up her ass.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century when tobacco was found to be harmful to the cardiac system that the practice of ‘blowing smoke’ up someone’s ass was finally considered more harmful than helpful and the expression stayed in the figurative sense. Personally, I’m glad for that.

Day 114

Man: 93 Loneliness: 21

Day 107: The Man and the Oldest Penis Joke in the World; ‘Ancient’

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This is no joke. The world’s oldest joke, written on an ancient Sumerian tablet in cuneiform, was as relevant 1900 years before the birth of Christ as it is today. That is a fact. This is the joke.

Something which has never occurred since time immemorial: a young woman did NOT fart in her husband’s lap.

Sumerian, ~1900 BC

I myself have never been married. But I have dated a fair share of beautiful, elegant, bright women. And almost every single one of them has done this with me. It is amazing to me how, though the delivery and subject material may have changed over the years, what our ancestors found funny thousands of years ago is still what we laugh about today. The sheer timelessness of good comedy is something that transcends not only time and generations but borders, religions, and cultures.

How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of women dressed in fishing nets down the Nile and invite the pharaoh to go fishing.

Egyptian, ~1600 BC

Most jokes and comedies, regardless of era, have stuck to the same variants of delivery and method. The common question (setup) and response (punchline) form is evident in ancient Egyptian as much as it is evident in contemporary stand-up routines. I think this is largely because of how simply and naturally this flows in any language or time. By asking a seemingly inane or innocuous question, we are setting the stage. Calling on our shared common histories and experiences we create assumptions and expectations about where this exchange will go. By the time the punchline is delivered we are thrown off guard by the response and it is that unpredictability and surprise that creates the joke. We are not only acknowledging and utilizing the bonds that connect us, we are then outwitting our own expectations to create the witty, the sly, and the humorous.

Comedy Tragedy.jpgThe origins of ancient comedy, as far back as the 400s BC were not necessarily so noble in scale. ‘Old Comedy’, plays from ancient Greece typically from the 480s to 400s BC, were often just chock full of bawdy and raunchy jokes about genitalia and scat (yes I said scat). Aristophanes, who remains the most influential and most preserved writer of that period, elevated this just a tiny bit by using this absolutely raw and racy literary form to mercilessly lampoon and skewer his political and literary rivals. What Aristophanes capitalized on, and what we still now realize today, is that if you can effectively disguise political, professional, or personal attacks in what seems to be satire or parody, you can get away with delivering even the harshest of messages.

Laughter naturally lowers the defenses so even if you were the target, either you are so overcome with the humor of it all that you take it in good nature or the disguise is so complete that everyone else but you is aware of every jab. Some of the best political messages have been delivered in effective satire. Stephen Colbert made an entire successful show based on his satirical portrayal of a die-hard conservative Republican on his Colbert Report. Some of my favorite segments are when he invites Republicans or other targets for interviews and they are completely unaware that he is in character. Quite frankly this has to be the only reason why he was invited to speak at the White House Correspondents dinner and ‘shocked’ everyone when he started roasting President Bush.

Perhaps the greatest contribution of ancient comedy to modern comedy are the archetypal stereotypes that now define the very formulas of comedy. Later Greek comics like Menander and Plautus created a catalog of characters that are still evident in western comedies. You have your ‘angry old man’, your overbearing parent who tries to thwart his child’s romantic ambitions with someone he deems unworthy, the prostitute or thief or someone else of questionable moral standing who hides a heart of gold, or the buffoon who is rough, rude, and arrogant. While you may not know of any characters from Menander or Plautus, you most likely have seen various iterations of these same stock characters in modern comedies. In fact most modern sitcoms and comedic films are what you would call ‘character comedies’ versus ‘situation comedies’. The difference is that while ‘situation comedies’ rely on absurd environments and circumstances to create humor when thrust upon seemingly normal and standard characters (think Seinfeld), ‘character comedies’ create an ensemble of outlandish and exaggerated caricatures of various human follies and watches them try to tackle normal interactions and events (think Big Bang Theory).

A sharp witted observer witnesses a slow runner and says ‘I know exactly what that man needs’. ‘What’s that?’ the runner’s sponsor asks earnestly. ‘A horse.’

Greek, ~400 AD

Two of my favorite recent sitcoms, Big Bang Theory and Modern Family, are great studies of ‘character comedies’. You have your stereotypical dumb blond who also plays the prostitute who turns out to be hiding a gentle and noble compassion, the foreigner in strange lands, the overbearing and neurotic black sheep, the seeming ‘every man’, the patriarch who tries to assert authority but is constantly subverted, the gay couple (which is a modern character trope to be fair), the bumbling naive idiot, the sex appeal, all hyperbole of real life but done so well that we can relate to each and enjoy watching the various aspects of ourselves and our personalities try to navigate every day life.

I think there’s a reason why comedy has, out of all the forms of literature and theatre, remained so prevalent and so timeless. Why we constantly study old and new humor and find such striking resemblances. Humor is honest. Forced laughter is so obviously forced and unnatural. Our laughing faces, much like our scared faces, cannot be controlled or restrained. Laughter is an involuntary and immediate response to a situation we find humorous. So the more we understand what immediately affects us, the closer we get to understanding what connects all of us, past and present, east and west, young and old. Laughter makes friends of enemies and strangers. We haven’t yet evolved so far that we cannot still find humor in the same things our ancient ancestors did. And to prove it, I will leave you with the oldest recorded joke in British history, dating back to the 10th century.

What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before?

A key.

Anglo-Saxon, ~900 AD

Day 107

Man: 87 Loneliness: 20

Day 91: The Man and the Taste of Identity; ‘Daring’

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So apparently October is National Filipino-American History Month. Another reason for a guy to love October I guess. Filipino-American History Month was established by the Filipino-American National Historical Society back in 1988 but was only recognized nationally starting in 2009. The FANHS decided on October as the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the US was on October 18, 1587 when ‘Luzones Indios’ (natives of Luzon) were brought on the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza to the shores of Morro Bay, California.

It’s pretty cool and all. And I am damn proud to be Filipino-American and that they have set aside this month for us and everything but I’ll be honest with you…I can’t say much to Filipino identity or notable people or culture, really. When I say I’m Filipino, I really mean that my parents are from the Philippines. I never, and I emphasize never had any desire or interest in joining any Filipino culture clubs or anything in high school or college. It actually just *shudder* made me cringe just to think of it. UAASO, United Asian-American Student Organization, was the largest Asian club on campus in college and it was completely run by Filipinos. You’d think I would’ve run there with arms wide open, burst through the doors and yell ‘My people! I have come to you!’ Instead I went the complete opposite direction and became President…of the Chinese Student Association.

I think it might be a Filipino-American thing though, honestly. When I visit the Philippines it’s not like I think ‘oh god I can’t stand being around all these Filipinos’. I find the native Filipino spirit and personality very friendly and agreeable and a lot of fun. But Filipino-Americans around here…eeh…yeah not so much.

My family and I are perfectly content and happy to be proud Filipinos…on our own. We really don’t feel the need to broadcast this to everyone or to be with others just to tell ourselves how happy we are to be us. We still behave and act and think and do things in very Philippine ways. Yes we have a painting of the last supper hanging in our dining room (and another in the kitchen). Yes we point with our lips and pick things up with our feet. But we never thought we would ever want to make that our ‘thing’ or identify with all of this. We just wanted to do it because it made sense, whether culturally, historically, logically, or emotionally.

Don’t ask me about famous Filipino figures. Don’t ask me about Filipino art or music or literature or film. I feel like sometimes I purposely go out of my way to avoid Fil-Ams in pop culture because it would just feel like lazy adoration. Like, I’m not going to like or listen to the Black Eyed Peas just because apl. de. ap. is Fil-Am. I’m not going to listen to Bruno Mars for the same reason and I don’t want to give people the chance to assume that of me. Having Dante Basco be the voice of Prince Zuko was pretty bad-ass though. And yes, I admit I did have a crush on Vanessa Hudgens. But an awesome TV show and a pretty face precede any sort of national or cultural affiliation!

I think one of the reasons why I have such a disconnect with Filipino culture here in the US versus actually in the Philippines is because of how fluid it seems to be. One of the greatest strengths (and conversely greatest weaknesses) of the Filipino is adaptability. We are the second largest Asian ethnicity in the United States and why we are so numerous (and why you probably didn’t even realize that) is because of how well we can assimilate into our environment. We really don’t want a lot of attention drawn to us. We would much prefer to be known for how easily and quickly our neighbors felt safe next to us. Hahah. But because of that I’ve always struggled with the concept of ‘authenticity’. I don’t know what it means to be ‘Fil-Am’ when we have no real strong sense of community or identity. A first generation Filipino-American growing up on the East Coast is going to turn out a whole hell of a lot different from a West Coaster and I really don’t feel comfortable or at home with either. I grew up around other ethnicities. My best friends were and still are Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, and white. My entire sense of Filipino identity was derived only from my parents who also quite notably did not really interact with other Filipino families. (I understand their reasons now but…hardly seems apropos considering we’re supposed to be celebrating Filipinos right now. Hahah.)

Even our food, which is usually used as a mark of cultural identity, differs from place to Adobo.jpgplace. We cannot even unite on what should be on our plates. This is more than just a regional anomaly. This isn’t like categorizing Chinese food as either Szechuan, Hunan, Cantonese, or Mandarin. A dish can change from family to family and interpretations abound. You will often times find more ‘Filipino Fusion’ restaurants than you will ‘authentic Filipino’ simply because almost all Filipino food is fusion. No one wants to unify or define Filipino dishes for fear of singling out certain areas or ethnicities or offending the myriad Filipino families who can cook the same dish a thousand different ways. Who would get to define what Filipino food ‘is’ and how would we even establish their credibility or criteria for such a task.

Still, when it comes to cultural identity, you can talk to me about food. I know food. Filipino dishes still share many of the same characteristics despite the variances. I love Dinuguan.jpgthe hearty and flavor-packed ‘sabaw‘, or sauce that comes with each dish. A lot of Filipino food is stew-based and the rich sauce that is the result of that long stewing process is so good over steaming white rice. Unlike many East Asian dishes that focus on exemplifying and stressing one or at most two different flavors at a time, Filipino food is about packing as many flavors and textures into one dish as possible. For this reason many of my friends have had to become ‘accustomed’ to Filipino food because of how strong the flavors are. Now they love it and when they crave hearty and rich, they know where to go.

Filipino food is also all about being daring. We never let any part of the animal go to waste Balut.JPGand we’ll be damn clever about it too. I love dinuguan, a pork stew of belly, ear, and offal braised in pig’s blood (regional varieties include my preferred one which lessens the amount of vinegar and adds hot green pepper for punch). There is of course the infamous (though utterly delicious) balut. Easy shock-TV material for the uninitiated  but really, it’s just a fertilized duck egg.

 

Okay I get it, that might be a bit…tough to swallow. (HAH. Get it. Swallow like to eat and swallow like the bird which comes from an egg.) You don’t have to jump off the deep end just yet. To be perfectly honest my mother and father were born and raised in the Philippines and refuse to eat balut. Personally I think it’s a great breakfast alternative. Regardless, if anything at all, I would highly recommend that this October in honor of Filipino-American History Month, please, find your friendly neighborhood pinoy and ask them to take you a restaurant. Try some Filipino food if you haven’t yet had a chance. I guarantee you that there isn’t one too far from where you are. We’re everywhere. We’re just very good at blending in. But everyone is going to need a nurse or a nanny!

Day 91

Man: 72 Loneliness: 19