17 May 2015

Movie Review: Lilting

Death is the great mystery of life. Denial is its most favored remedy. Lilting traces the curvature of the pain and grief that an untimely or an unexpected death provides. We've got the husband and the mother. Both are in tremendous pain, grieving yet unable to grieve. The mother, who is a Cambodian Chinese immigrant, makes contact with her dead son's "roommate" to come to understand her son's life. It a strange way, it seems that the only way that she can grieve and make peace with her son's death is to force herself to accept the fact that that he is dead.

It reminds me of this journal article I read years ago where the psychologist somehow used Lacan to adapt Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of loss and grieving to the loss of a projection -- such as a parent believing their child is heterosexual when in fact they are not. It was a read that I apparently noted for something to remember. But in this movie, the mother is using the opposite approach. Using the acceptance of her son's homosexuality as a way to accept his death.

16 May 2015

Movie Review: Vito

I was once asked by nun if I felt I had been born a little late -- if I felt I had been born a decade (or a few) late. As the sassy, precocious adolescent I was, I told her no -- I was needed in my own time to deal with the problems of now. But of course, when I watch movies like Vito, I wonder about her question.

Vito is really the story of the American gay movement -- its passion, its revolutionary sparks, and AIDS. It is difficult to believe that anyone can really understand the history of modern global LGBT movements without having a firm understanding of what this period looked like. Vito does a great job of telling this story and does it through one of its most well-known leaders, Vito Russo.

It is history, biography and hagiography. Its method of storytelling has the same effect as a hagiography or a passio. It inspires one to imitate the martyr, the saint. And it does so not in a limited gay men's rights sort of way, but is inspirational to activists of any progressive stripe.

10 May 2015

Be Worried, Be Very Worried

Prasertsri Kosin

The brouhaha over the not-so-anonymous posting of Prasertsri Kosin (known online as Koko) on the internet making highly offensive and derogatory remarks about Filipinos should leave anyone who believes in creativity or the freedom of expression worried.

As has been reported, the Bureau of Immigration has commenced an investigation into whether Kosin should be deported from the country. I believe the inquiry is being characterized as whether he has broken any laws for which deportation is warranted. In theory, deportation is warranted against an alien when the alien has violated immigration laws. And there are some broad categories upon which an alien may be deported:

1. The alien entered the country with false or misleading statements or entered without inspection and admission by the Bureau.
2. The alien was not lawfully admissible to the country at the time of entry.
3. The alien is convicted by a Philippine court for a term of one year or more involving moral turpitude.
4. The alien is convicted and sentenced for violating drug laws.
5. The alien is a prostitute or connected with prostitution.
6. The alien becomes a public charge for reasons existing after entry.
7. The alien has violated the limitations/conditions of his non-immigrant admission.

8. The alien advocates, advises or teaches the overthrow by force and violence of the Government of the Philippines, is an anarchist, who advises, advocates or teaches the unlawful destruction of property, or who is connected with any organization that entertains or advocates the above positions.
9. The alien violates or evades immigration laws or assists another in violating or evading immigration laws.
10. The alien violate the alien registration act. 
11. The alien engages in profiteering, hoarding, or black marketing irrespective of whether criminal charges are brought.
12. The alien is convicted of an offense prohibited by the naturalization law.
13. The alien defrauds his creditors by absconding or alienating property to avoid court process.

As you can see, offending people through the use of national caricature is not on this list. And why would it be? With the exception of No. 8, each of these justifications for deportation do not reach the expression of an alien but rather conduct that is already unlawful or that seeks to deter avoidance or evasion of immigration laws. In fact, general commission of crime is not a grounds for deportation under C.A. No. 613, "The Philippine Immigration Act of 1940". Only crimes involving moral turpitude that obtain a sentence of one year or more of confinement are grounds for removal and deportation.

Nevertheless, the Bureau of Immigration through custom has seemingly acquired an unwritten power to deem an alien undesirable and to remove and deport them. There are no standards for what constitutes undesirability -- with the consequence being that the bureau has unfettered power to decide which aliens can remain in the country.

So as the written law does not allow for the Bureau of Immigration to remove and deport this individual, perhaps we should ask ourselves, should the Bureau have the power to do this? (This will just side-step important policy questions such as: Should the Bureau of Immigration be spending its limited resources on policing Facebook and the internet generally instead of preventing convicted criminals and fugitives from entering and living openly in the country?)

Philippine caselaw is replete with cases of the U.S. colonial government persecuting individuals for criticizing government officials. Consider cases like People v. Perez, 45 Phil. 599 (1938) where when faced with a clear confrontation with the right of free speech, the Philippine Supreme Court took it upon itself to find a different crime upon which the justify the conviction.

There are a whole series of recent attempts to chill or stifle the freedom of expression in this country. The government, in cooperation with the Catholic Bishops, persecuting Carlos Celdran's protest for the RH bill under an medieval "offending religious sensibilities" crime. Journalists are routinely harassed and subjected to defamation suits. This wholly fascist piece of law was extended recently in the so-called Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 extending defamation to a twelve year jail sentence if done online. It was subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court. The martial law era MTRCB still exists and continues to act as government censor of movies and television.

If the constitutional protection of freedom of expression means anything, it means that objective legal tests must be used by the courts to strike down government action that infringes on this fundamental human right. It also means that the courts may not allow themselves to further unconstitutional actions by the government.

Content Based Regulation

When the government seeks to regulate expression based upon its content (the communicative impact of the expression), it must have a compelling government interest and the means of regulating the expression must be necessary and narrowly tailored to meet the compelling interest and no more. For example, it is said that society has a compelling interest in protecting children from exploitation by child pornography. Prohibiting production or possession of child pornography is a narrowly tailored method of addressing the compelling interest of preventing exploitation by child pornography. Prohibiting production or possession of all pornography would be overbroad -- and invalid -- under this rule.

Content Neutral Regulation

When the government seeks to regulate expression without regard to its content, it must have a significant governmental interest, the regulation must be narrowly tailored to serve the government interest and the government must leave open alternative means for communicating the information. For example, if a group seeks to conduct a politically themed parade down EDSA, the government may require a permit be obtained and create certain requirements for obtaining the permit that relate to the public safety and traffic control -- both significant government interests. However, under this rule, the government could not deny a permit because they do not agree with the messages to be shouted in the parade.

If we assume that the Bureau of Immigration can detain and deport an alien unilaterally, such as Kosin, for writing offensive and inflammatory messages on a publicly accessible internet site such as Facebook, we must ask ourselves, what is the compelling government interest (if its content based regulation) or what is the significant government interest (if its content neutral). The case has not been made. Preventing people from being offending is not a compelling or significant government interest.

Now, let's look at my other examples. The case of Carlos Celdran is clear -- the government has no compelling government interest in regulating what he said. The crime he was convicted of was content based, it was based on what he said. Had they charged with him tumult or simple trespass, that would have avoided the issue of content based regulation. Instead, they charged and convicted him based on the content of his message. There is no compelling government interest and so his conviction should be vacated by the Supreme Court on those grounds. (There are others also in that the application of penal law to protecting religious sensibilities both entwines government with religion prohibited by the non-establishment of religion provision and also could impair the free exercise of religion provision.)

With respect to penal laws against defamation, the rule that the freedom of expression prohibits a public figure from recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood unless he proves that the statement was made with the knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false. This is an alternative phrasing of the content based regulation rule. In other words, using the courts to obtain a money judgment through defamation is content based regulation. The only compelling government interest in preventing defamation is (1) when false statements are published against a public figure knowing that the statements are false or recklessly disregarding whether the statements are true or (2) when false statements are published against a private figure negligently. Defamation actions can only be sustained when the actions are brought to vindicate those very narrow windows of exceptions. That means that investigative reporting seeking to review the sexuality of Piolo Pascual would never be subject to a defamation suit. And if someone like Lolit Solis were to publish statements about a showbiz actor's sexuality, truth would be a defense because defamation actions can only be brought to remedy falsehoods that are known or recklessly published without regarding to their truth. Speaking the truth cannot be curtailed through defamation because there is never a compelling government interest in preventing people from knowing the truth.

In regulating broadcast television accessible over the public airwaves, the government generally asserts that it has a compelling government interest in preventing children from observing indecency. The MTCRB system, with respect to television, may be a narrowly tailored method of prevent children from observing indecency. However, the censoring and control of the content of movies under the MTCRB system does not stem from the same compelling government interest. Unlike the public airwaves of broadcast television, movies are produced and distributed primarily through threaters and video sales -- although some movies do end up on Saturday television. The rating system of the MTCRB (and the more often experience of directors changing the content of their films to qualify for a more expansive/inclusive rating) is undoubtedly a prior restraint on the director and violations the requirements for Content Based Regulation. There are less intrusive methods of preventing children from observing indecency in movies than to directly censor movies. Narrowly drawn regulations of movies theaters and distribution of video can achieve those goals without interfering with adults ability to choose to view movies that might otherwise be indecent. It is because a movie theater does not have a captive audience the way a broadcast television station using the public airwaves does that television and movies cannot be regulated the same further. (And just in case you were wondering, cable television could not and should not be subject to the same regulation as broadcast television since cable television has the technological means of preventing indecency being seen by children and people have to opt into cable television by buying a subscription.)

Now, let's briefly get back to this unwritten power of the Bureau of Immigration to deem someone undesirable and deport them. This unwritten power that appears to lack any standards (and be different from the standards set out in statute) violates the protection of freedom of expression and to due process as being vague. Due process requires that someone be given fair notice of what conduct is prohibited. In the realm of free expression, a regulation is vague when one does not know precisely what is prohibited and ends up having a chilling effect on expression. Sometimes its impossible to determine what the compelling government interest is in a vague regulation and will always fail the "narrowly tailored" requirement since it is impossible to know what is being regulated. Vagueness is such a danger to freedom of expression because it empowers government actors with unfettered discretion to make determinations about content which can only occur when a compelling government interest is present.

I'm sorry for such a long and windy entry about this issue. The Bureau of Immigrations detention and possibly deportation of Kosin, however, cannot be justified in view of the limitations it has regarding the freedom of expression. It's targeting of Kosin is content based regulation. It has failed to demonstrate a compelling government interest (especially since he has been convicted of no crime and it doesn't appear that he otherwise falls under the justifications for deportation) and therefore deportation is not narrowly tailored to meet this non-existent government interest.

Everyone who believes in creativity and the freedom of expression should be worried. The use of government power to pick and choose whose ideas may be legitimate and punishing those whose ideas have been deemed illegitimate has a chilling effect on all of us. It distorts the landscape of ideas and prevents, by degree, the ability to come to know the truth at all. Expression should not be permitted based on the popularity of its content. It is only in being secure in our beliefs in the face of difference do we really encounter the touchstone of our truth.

22 February 2015

Movie Review: To Russia with Love

Because Johnny Weir headlines this documentary, I was somewhat suspicious that this was a marketing piece for Johnny Weir, who was a sports commentator for NBC at the Sochi Winter Olympics.  Leading up to the Olympics, Russia passed a law prohibiting the communicating of anything LGBT called an 'anti-propoganda' law. Various LGBT movements around the world responded by demanding a boycott of Russian (and at first Eastern European) products and a boycott of the Olympics. Johnny Weir as a Russophile/Sovietphile called those LGBT activists "idiots."

The short of it is is that Russia is presently a fascist-imperialist state that has used LGBT people as the Othered common enemy (hence the "anti-propaganda law"). The official fascist line is that the economic problems of Russia are not incompetent cronyism of Putin and his inner circle, it's LGBT people infecting the youth with subversion. This translates in the remote and rural areas of the provinces, as one Russian activist from Sochi, who was followed by the documentary explains, being attacked by Nazis on the way home every day and then blamed for it by the principal of his high school.

So Johnny Weir is one thread, the youth is another. This youth meets Billy Jean King -- who US President Obama had appointed to lead the US Olympic delegation. She is so moved and it was so unexpected that her handlers had to "move her along."

One other thread is a Russian athlete who holds the "Open Games" in Moscow. He tours North America and Europe drumming up support. After the Sochi threads, we turn to Moscow where the police harass the Open Games activities except for table tennis and the events attended by US Olympic medalist Gregg Louganis.

In the end, the Sochi youth makes it to New York City and meets Bill Jean King again who promises to help him by sending him to school in the US. The movie ends with him boarding a bus to California and it cuts to a black out and it says he will seek asylum.

19 February 2015

Happy Lunar New Year! Tashi Delek

May a rich timely rain of the nectar of auspicious blessings shower upon you hundreds of times,

Enlivening the leaves and petals of your longevity, merit, glory, and wealth, which sprout from the seeds of virtuous acts, source of happiness and excellence.

May magnificent fruit—spiritual experience and realization—ripen as a spontaneously appearing crop that fulfills your and others’ well-being.

16 February 2015

Book Review: Queer Compulsions

Amy Sueyoshi is associate Dean in the College of Ethic Studies and an American associate professor jointly appointed in race and residence studies and sexuality studies at San Francisco State University.

I have to admit that I had a vague remembrance of the name Isamu Noguchi, the creator of the Noguchi table. But I had never heard of Yonejiro Noguchi (pictured right).

Yone Noguchi, was the father of Isamu Noguchi. He was also a turn of the twentieth century Japanese and American poet. He is apparently well studied in some Japanese and American academic circles and has been consistently considered heterosexual.

But as it turns out, he was far from it. Before he was straight, he was gay. He moved to the US when he was young and he mingled through out the bohemian scene where he came into his own sexuality. And what was that? Gay love with older white men.

But as he grew older and more famous and Japan began its imperial aggression in Asia, there appears to be some shift in Yone which led to him impregnating Isamu's mother and getting engaged to a Southern aristocrat. But as his most intimate male friend predicted, if he returned to Japan, he would be forgotten.

In the end, Yone was mostly forgotten in the bigger circles of poetry and literature. But what I found most interesting about Yone's story was the life story of his passions and emotions and the historical circumstances within which they were felt. And I'll put it on the record, it really must have sucked to be poor, not white, homo in American in the early twentieth century.

The version I read was a 232 page cloth published by University of Hawaii Press on March 31, 2012. ISBN: 978-0824834975. Lowest price seems to be abebooks.com and amazon.com

02 February 2015

Postmodern Jukebox, A Challenge

They also told me that party girls don't get hurt. That they can't feel anything, but when will I learn? I just have to push it down.

And so this is my story. I'm the one who wrote "for a good time call" on the inside of the bathroom stall. And since then, my phone's been blowin' up. College boys, married men, office workers, even the janitor. They're ringin' my doorbell and I feel the love.

But back to my story. It turned out that he lived close by. So we agreed to meet at the local videoke. I had never been there. It was bigger than it looked from the outside. They also sold hard liquor in addition to Red Horse Beer. He was so handsome which surprised me too.  We made small talk until eventually it turned into "1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 drink" "1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 drink." I kept throwing them back until I lost count.

He talked so sweet. We took a tricycle to the local motel. And I felt that I was gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier, in that super deluxe four hour room. As soon as the door closed, he roughly began to take off my clothes as I helped him with his. I just thought "I'm gonna live like tomorrow doesn't exist, like it doesn't exist."

And after three and half hours, we had finished but then the phone rang. The motel wanted to know if we were going to extend. He said no. We took a shower together where he kept kissing me gently. We got dressed and left. We took a tricycle to my house where he dropped me and left. I just felt like I'm gonna fly like a bird through the night.

This went on for nine months. Two, three, sometimes four times during the week. It was so wonderful. So great. My loneliness had found its cure. I gave up the party nights for his gentle and filling comfort. He told me he worked also at a call center and lived alone. His father and siblings lived in the province and he'd visit them on the weekends. That worked out fine as I also would go home to the province for the weekend. But I could tell I was falling in love with him. And I'm sure he felt the same.

And perhaps if that had been the routine until I died, I would have known nothing else but happiness. I can feel my tears as they dry telling you this. I thought I was gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier. But actually I'm holding on for dear life and I won't, can't look down.

You see. One weekend I did not go home to the province. Instead, I went with some officemates to a mall on the other side of the city. We had lunch and watched a movie. I wanted to buy a book so when we finished I went down to the bookstore and did not join them at the taxi stand. And it was there, that I saw him. He was going up the escalator as I went down. He was not alone but with a woman and two children.

He either didn't notice me or pretended not to have seen me. So I got off the escalator, turned around and decided to follow them. They were going to a movie. I decided to also buy a ticket. I discreetly followed and sat in the row behind them. I was hoping that it was his sister or his cousin. But as I overheard their conversation, it was his wife and children.

I left in a daze. I went straight to the videoke bar to drown my sorrows. And I kept my glass full until morning light. A cute tambay sat down at my table.

"Bro, you okay? 'cause you look like you need some cheering up." he said.

"I'm just holding on for tonight." I said. I told him my sad story. He just listened intently.  I started to tear up.

"Help me, I'm holding on for dear life." I cried. I won't look down, I won't, can't open my eyes. I continued with my depressing story. All the while, the tambay just listened. I continued to get more and more drunk.

"I keep my glass full until morning light, 'cause I'm just holding on for tonight." I rambled at one point. The videoke bar was closing and I invited Mr. Tambay back to my place. I'm not exactly sure why. I guess I'll blame it on the Emperador.

We went inside. As soon as the door closed, Tambay stripped off his clothes and began helping me out of mine. The kissing was so passionate. He kept asking me if this was okay. Did I like it? I did. Very much I thought. We made passionate love to each other until dawn. We took a shower together and then cuddled in my bed as the morning light filled the room.

As I was struggling against sleep with small talk, Tambay told me that he didn't have a job and his sad story about the woes of him and his family. Could I help him out he asked. The sun came out.

"Sun is up." I noted to him -- trying to find a way to get him out, to get the world out. But the truth is I'm a mess and I just feel like I gotta get out now. I got to run from this. Here comes the shame, here comes the shame.