Life Lessons from “Train to Busan” #FreakyFriday

Last week, I promised true freaky stories for #FreakyFriday. Well, I am currently working on them. *sigh* BUT, I’ve got something else! *reverse-sigh (is that even possible???)* I happened on my pal Fran’s recent post on Cure4Mondays. Fran is “a full-time homeschooling mom and tenacious seeker of what feels good….currently the CEO and the undisputed demi-god” of her household. I got to know her after I left the print publication and she just got in. That seems weird, but that’s how it went. Fran is a really nice and talented lady.

But we’re talking about her post. I thought I’d share her post today 🙂

7 Life Lessons You Can’t Miss in “Train to Busan”

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Agree or disagree? Tell us what you think!

Have a nice weekend!!!

 

An American Crime (post-)#MondayReviews

***NOTE: Sorry, this is late guys. Anyway, it is something I wrote a few years back. And since it’s November, I felt this would be appropriate because it’s a “horror” story. It’s probably scarier than RINGU, now that I think about it. DO NOT watch the vid until you’ve read what I’ve got to say. Then you can decide if you’d like to watch it…This post is supposedly a review, but it could very well be a feature.

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AN AMERICAN CRIME

I must have an invisible genie somewhere because just a few days after wishing for it–lo and behold–I found the movie An American Crime! And now, I am obsessing myself with it. Well, actually, with the story behind it. I am slightly a closet-psychologist wannabe, so for this movie, my curious button was definitely on.

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The movie centers on two people–on sixteener Sylvia Marie Likens (Ellen Page) and on mother-of-six Gertrude Baniszewski a..k.a. Mrs. Wright (Catherine Keener). The year is 1965.

Sylvia is a pretty and likable girl whose parents, Betty and Lester (Romy Rosemont and Nick Searcy), operate a concession stand that travels with carnivals, therefore, they have moved not less than 14 times. That October, she and younger sister Jenny Fay (Hayley McFarland) are to be left behind again so they could go to school and have more time to have friends. Meanwhile, Gertrude is a woman who has had a hard life. Thrice married, twice divorced, once lived in with a boyfriend more or less 10 years her junior. All the men have been abusive and deadbeat dads, leaving the responsibility of raising all six children, including an infant, to Gertrude alone. Her first daughter Paula (Ari Graynor), 17, does try to help with meager earnings. They live in a squalid home with hardly any food on the table. To top it all, Gertrude has an ailment that is not often attended to properly with much-needed medicine.

Somehow, the Likens girls cross paths with the Baniszewkis. Mrs. Wright then meets Mr. Likens one day and offers to take in and care of the girls for a fee amounting to 20-dollars a week to be sent to her. A deal is made and the relieved father promptly encourages Mrs. Wright to discipline his daughters as she sees fit. “Discipline” them is exactly what Gertrude does, and so on October 26, 1965, Sylvia is found dead by the police in the house at 3850 East New York Street. She is covered with bruises and burns, mutilated and beaten to a pulp.

That is the synopsis. Now, I’m pretty sure it’s under the drama category, but any sane person who has seen this will agree when I say it could very well blend in with the ghost and slasher flicks under the horror category, too. There’s no one coming back from the dead nor is there lots of gore, so why horror? Because the thought that this could happen to a loved one, to your kids, all that Sylvia went through, should already be terrifying.

But what makes it doubly horrifying is IT’S A D*MN TRUE STORY. It is based on actual testimonies during the trial of the Baniszewski v. The State of Indiana case. The name “Gertrude Baniszewksi” is said to be right up there on the notoriety level of serial killers Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer.

sylvia-likens-murderThe case of Sylvia that was soon to be dubbed The Indiana Torture Slaying became a sensational story that shocked people everywhere. How could this woman torture the young girl? And how could a sickly woman like her ever be physically able to do it? Well, the answer is both simple yet very disturbing–she had the complete cooperation and assistance of her children and other neighborhood kids!

“The crime had been perpetrated by an informal group of teenagers and children, some as young as 11 and 12, led by a 37-year-old woman” (The Torturing Death of Sylvia Marie Likens).

Everyone was out to “punish” poor Sylvia for sins mostly made-up and imagined by Gertrude and her children. Jenny was spared perhaps because she was younger and less outspoken, aside from her having a disability. Not to mention, Paula was keen on taking revenge on Sylvia for ratting out her “condition”. Everyday, kids would visit the Baniszewskis’ house just to make fun of Sylvia and beat her up in every way possible.

She was their entertainment. They ridiculed her, tied her up, punched her, kicked her, scorched her with cigarettes and matches, threw hot water on her, and hosed her down. One of her most painful ordeal was when Gertrude branded her with words etched on her stomach saying, “I’M A PROSTITUTE AND PROUD OF IT!” as a form of getting even for her kids. Another boy would be tasked to finish it. Prior to that, there was an incident with a bottle which I find hard to mention…Oh, all the wonderful things those perverted souls could think off!

And those were the only ones shown onscreen. In reality, Sylvia suffered so much more in the hands of her tormentors. Gertrude repeatedly kicked her on the crotch and made her striptease in front of everyone. The kids practiced judo moves on her, flinging her on walls and everywhere else. Investigations would show that Sylvia also suffered assaults that were sexual in manner although there was no actual rape involved.

By now, questions are probably going through your minds, the hows and the whys, the same questions I found myself asking. Why didn’t the Likens girls tell anyone? Why didn’t any adult try to help? And why, oh, why did the neighborhood kids do such terrible acts? To get your answers, I suggest a research. That’s what I did and now, at least some aspects of the true story have become clearer.

The movie is literally a torture to watch but I dare say it is relevant. It reminds us to think twice or a hundred times about our responsibilities as adults. Could we really trust anyone with our kids? How much should we give our trust? I am already worried about my own kid…and I don’t even have one yet! [Ed. Again, to remind you, this was written years ago.]

Mostly, I can’t get over the fact that neighborhood kids joined in the ‘fun’. It was bullying taken to horrible extremes. Gertrude’s kids, I can still understand. Twisted parents can bring up twisted kids. They were probably their mother’s victims as well until Sylvia, the scapegoat, came along. But for the other kids to keep coming back to inflict torture? Sick is what that is. My brain cannot fathom the depth of this mystery. I’ve heard about serial killers in groups. Could it be they were going down that road? How much of it is proof of the great evil hidden inside of us and that we are very capable of?

I can’t say much about the writing of the story except there were a lot more in the true story that were left untold. The writer did take some liberties near the end that left me a bit baffled for a while. Casting-wise, they should have made Paula look heavier to emphasize her insecurity with Sylvia (she is said to be actually heavyset with a sort of mean streak). But aside from those, I have no real complaints.

Ellen, as always, did her part well, except the script required her to do a lot of lying down and screaming. It’s not one of best performances, methinks, not because she couldn’t act, but because the script did not ask much from her, really. Catherine was great and convincing in her role in the sense that you see her own vulnerability and you question if you should really hate Gertrude. Personally, though I believe that convicting her was just, I felt sorry for her. I think she was seriously ill in the head. But she was sober at times as well and did not stop herself or the kids from torturing poor Sylvia. That still made her accountable.

So while watching this disturbing film would be hard to bear, I still recommend it, if only to make us open our eyes more. If you want to be all happy without a care in the world, go rent a dumb movie. Pretend that all is well in the world and be blessedly ignorant. Meanwhile, I will be on the lookout for a copy so I can share it to more people. Sometimes, we need to have our world shaken up to see the whole picture.

 

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Any thoughts? Reactions? Have you seen it? We’re free to discuss at the comments section. Let us know what you think! 🙂

My Evolution as a Writer

So I finally found out what “Remove formatting” could do, so this is now much more readable. I have also done some editing and have updated the thing. Do share your own story. I’m sure you have one 🙂

The End Justifies the Journey

NOTE: I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been curious about how writers started. Well, here is my story, if you’re interested. I thought I’d start with this post (well, technically, this is the second post…) as it’s a good introductory of myself as a writer.

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I have always loved stories, that is the clear and honest truth. It is the reason why I began to write. It is the reason why even in my own dreams, I make up stories and watch how they unfold. Perhaps, more than a writer, I am actually a pen-toting storyteller. But it wasn’t always like that. When I was small, I used to have this ritual. At night, I would lie in bed and imagine stories in my head, stories of adventure and drama—oh, I was such a masochist, making myself cry and loving it!—until I fell asleep. Which is probably…

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My Evolution as a Writer

NOTE: I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been curious about how writers started. Well, here is my story, if you’re interested. I thought I’d start with this post (well, technically, this is the second post…) as it’s a good introduction of myself as a writer.

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female-writer-typing

 

I have always loved stories, that is the clear and honest truth. It is the reason why I began to write. It is the reason why even in my own dreams, I make up stories and watch how they unfold. Perhaps, more than a writer, I am actually a pen-toting storyteller. But it wasn’t always like that. When I was small, I used to have this ritual. At night, I would lie in bed and imagine stories in my head, stories of adventure and drama—oh, I was such a masochist, making myself cry and loving it!—until I fell asleep. Which is probably why they made it  in  my dreams. I don’t daydream anymore, but I can’t say I don’t dream of movies still. And in colors!

I started with writing, though, by writing literally. In school, we had handwriting exercises and we tried to write legibly, neatly and nicely. My penmanship still leaves much to be desired, but no matter. I know I enjoyed writing, enjoyed the letters perhaps because they presented to me a whole lot of possibilities. I felt liberated for some reason. That was during second grade. The next year, I wrote my first story.

See below for individual credits

Well, technically first. It was about a horror story writer who was no good in his so-called craft and couldn’t get published until he unwittingly sold his soul to the devil. Things then went really well, except the devil made him pay for his part of the bargain in the end.

Would’ve been quite an interesting piece from such a novice writer if only it was not a story I read from one of the Tagalog (a Filipino dialect) comic books that were already near extinction back then. My version ironically made my parents (and me) laugh. So much for horror. Just imagine a story ending with the word “typewriting” — that should kill the story, ha ha!

I really enjoyed writing exercises in grade school especially when we had to summarize stories that we were made to read. I may have misconstrued summary as re-telling, though. But I did write my first stories within the next years.

I was still quite “un-well-versed” and not sure how to go about creative writing properly, so my early works were in script form written on extra notebook sheets. That was probably because I was too impatient and wanted to do it fast, and I loved reading the short plays found in our textbooks. I also loved to watch TV that my first stuff had characters from a well-known sentai (Japanese live action shows for kids) and those from a local action-comedy movie intended for teens and pre-teens. My own plots, but the characters were not my own. There is a term for that now: fan fiction.

Seems like I have always been partial to adventure, be it action or fantasy. My road to the world of adventures got temporarily sidetracked, however, when I entered high school. You know high school, it exposes you to crushes and drama. Soon enough, I was writing romantic dialogues, words that I thought I fully understood. No more fan fiction. However, my plots were shallow, trying-hard-to-be-mature, and unoriginal, culled unintentionally from TV and movies. I did find a technique, which was to “have” actors “act” in my stories as I imagined them.

Despite that foray into pretentious writing (by “pretentious,” I am referring to my own writing), high school actually brought me to newer heights. I started my first non-fan fiction (supposedly) action-adventure, a detective story called Ticay where a young girl was a secret agent. My father happened to see that one though I wasn’t sure how much he got to read. He mentioned it to me because I think he saw what little of the draft I wrote when I decided to throw it away. After the horror-thingy, I had not let my family read my stuff.

Meanwhile, I wrote my first poems then, which made me think deeper about things and study myself more. I was uncomfortable about writing poetry before simply because I thought poetry was only for smart people. I realized that it was more for people to understand themselves and the world. Around this time, I began composing and experimenting with songs as well, themes ranging from friendship, social relevance and, what else? Love, or the lack of it. Still, storytelling was/is my first love and it was swell getting some kind of recognition as a writer. I was soon given tasks to write scripts for group and class presentations. That started when a friend volunteered for me when our Literature teacher asked, “Okay, who will write the scripts?” The wheels started turning.

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High school was really the highlight of my writing “career” and I somehow had Bantam Books’ Sweet Dreams (S.D.) to thank for. Even back in gradeschool, and I knew this because of my big sister, the old S.D. was still the romance book of choice for teens. The same was  somewhat still true when I got to that stage. I began to dream of being a novelist and S.D. fanned this desire in me because, aside from I loved to write, I realized one thing: the endings were mostly so predictable. In fact, you could guess the stories based on what were written at the back alone. I thought, hey, if they could do it, so could I!

I would write my own S.D.-like stories and hopefully submit to them. So I did write (though not submit mainly because I had no idea how). I believed in the idea so much that I created my own series called Roseville Books and it even had its own simple logo. In a span of a little more than a year, I wrote seven—I repeat, SEVEN—novelettes! Wow…I had never been so inspired, so prolific in my entire life, ever! It was a feat that I unfortunately have not been able to duplicate. I laugh now when I re-read them, but that stage was still good training ground for me, judging from how my characters and plots grew with more depth and maturity.

Too bad I became busy with school that my eighth Roseville book, as well as some other stories that were mostly SciFi (my friend Raine and I were obsessing over Star Trek then)  were left unfinished. College life then started and everything seemed to be in boring, uninspiring slow motion. I was able to write a few songs and poems, but not short stories, or the eighth Roseville Book, or the unfinished novel called King Arthur’s Daughter. All I had were all drafts that kept accumulating and lists of fictitious names.

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When I joined the school paper, it was only then did I get to concentrate again on short stories/vignettes. Campus journalism was a whole new ball game and I had to dabble in-between creative and journalistic writing. It seemed that writing became an evolution for me. My Development Communication degree taught me to write for various media, including for radio. I found that though there are obvious differences in the technical aspects, there are not much differences when you write for film, radio, and other stuff. Only a few adjustments and change or additional terminologies to consider.

These knowledge gained were particularly of use to me when I worked for a tertiary school as scriptwriter-producer of (mostly) their institutional videos. I also had the privilege to join a writing-for-film workshop under the great Armando “Bing” Lao. Who would have thought that story-writing could be scientific as well? Honing my chosen craft and wishing to learn further, I joined several writing groups and blogs online. Meanwhile, while these were going on, my dream of becoming a published writer was not diminished. This dream was realized when I joined The Big C magazine team where I became the editorial assistant and staff writer. I not only wrote, edited and proofread, but got to learn more about cancer that I could ever imagine.

Still, the “novel idea” is yet to see fruition, an idea I’ve had before I finished school. It is said that we should write what we know. And so I try to find more information as much I can to make it work. I did use to stress over it, but now, I try to take it in stride. Stress does not solve anything and if I die without ever publishing any book, so be it. Meanwhile, I try to finish a whole lot more in my collection of unfinished “business.”

bigc-magazine

Copyright © The Core Group Publishing, Inc. Unfortunately, I heard they folded up so the dotcom of the magazine is no more. The Tripod account was the first and reeeaally old one that was there even before I joined the publication

Currently, I write content for the web. For those unfamiliar with the actual meaning of “web content  writer,” the job mainly entails writing articles and information you read from businesses’ websites and blogs. For instance, if you were new to WordPress and would like to know what it’s all about and how you should go about things, you go to WordPress.com and the information they provide have been written by their web content writers, not any random writer or blogger who simply wants to write about WordPress.

I still love fantasy, suspense and adventure, with my interests lying on psychology, psychiatry, parapsychology, psychoses, the paranormal, forensic science and other things that boggle the mind. I will never stop writing. Take a hiatus every now and then, perhaps, but never really leave it.

Fiction, essays, poems, songs—they all have their stories. It is just a matter of knowing how and what to write.

Comic book images in collage credited to/found in:

Komiklopedia (for Tagalog Klasiks)

ComicBookMovie.com (for Pilipino Komiks)

Video48 (for the ff.: Hiwaga Komiks, Espesyal Komiks, Extra Komiks)

en.wikipilipinas.org (for Universal Komiks-Magazine and Halakhak Komiks)

 

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So that’s how this writer evolved. How about you? What is your writer’s story? Let us know. Let’s exchange stories 🙂