What happens to the Universal Championship now? What happens to WWE Crown Jewel now? …Who even cares?
This past week on Monday Night Raw, Roman Reigns announced that he was back, and, more importantly, in “remission, y’all.”
The world basically freaked out again. Many, like me, are just utterly delighted. Some people—some smart people—did it in really dumb ways, spouting off conspiracy theories. As in, maybe the leukemia was a work because he’s not bald and frail and it’s way too soon.
…if this is how you process grief, do what you’ve got to do … but remember that on the other end of these dumb stories and wacky characters and horrible, horrible creative decisions are a bunch of human beings who are not the characters they play, and they deserve your common human decency even when they aren’t performing for you. If that’s too much to understand, here’s the quick version; learn to be kind, and if you’re struggling with it, consider shutting the fuck up.
In March 2015, I was a newly married man, teaching Theatre part-time at an international school, and finishing up my academic courses as a graduate student in literature. One of the requirements of my final course was a “short” 8-page-minimum creative non-fiction piece.
What I ended up submitting is one of the funnest things that I’ve ever written. It was a playful way of indulging in my love for things—sometimes expensive, often beautiful, and ultimately trivial material things. I’ve decided to share the piece with you in its entirety (minus the footnotes, which was basically just information about where to purchase some of the things I write about—very little essential or creative about them). It sounds younger, somewhat raw, and I cringe at some of the parts, but, I guess, it was me then. No use denying it. I’ve also decided to annotate some parts with updates from me now. In some weird way, it reinforces the strangeness and wonderfulness of ephemerality.
I’ll try my best not to try and save face by editing the parts where I cringe. Annotations are in boldface. Highlights within the original text are underlined. Also, consider the piece a State of Hurry up the Cakes Address, since it hits all of the points I usually talk about over here anyway.
So. Here I am, or was, on a weekday in March 2015:
In the past seven weeks, I’ve been asked a few times about how fatherhood has changed me. I never know how to give a satisfying answer. “I feel just like myself,” I would say. “Only more so.”
No dramatic realizations. No drastic changes. I just feel like I’m more Mikey than ever—more of and closer to what and who I’m supposed to be. Closer to God, even. I’m a father now: everything I am and aspire to be will, for the rest of my life, have an immediate and palpable effect on someone else—so I have to be my self more, and better. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s awesome. And I couldn’t be happier.
No, seriously, I couldn’t. There is absolutely nothing I can do, nothing more I can gain or attain, that can give me more joy than I currently have. My joy tank is full. Every other earthly thing—great coffee, a new iPhone, a trafficless drive—seems like a nice silly extra. It’s perfect. Life is perfect.
But I miss my dad.
On the rare occasions that I’m alone with my son, I hear replays of beloved voices in my head. If I carry him with one arm, I hear my mom’s angry reprimand: Mikes, hold his back! If I’m messing around on my iPhone, and Max starts fussing about, I hear my wife’s gentle reprimand: Love, your son. Interact with him.
There are moments, though, when I gaze upon my Max, and I hear my father’s voice.
O! Ang guwapo!
O! Ikaw talaga! You’re so big! You’re like your dad!
O! Good morning, Attorney Maximus!
But these are words he never got the chance to speak.
I missed marking two occasions this year: my dad’s death anniversary on September 24th, and his “birthday”—really his born again day—on October 12th. The former, I would mark by writing a letter to him on yellow legal pad, or a simple social media post honoring him. The latter, he and I would usually celebrate by having breakfast food at Floating Island in Makati Medical Center, a tradition that my wife and I continued after he died. But this year, I spent them with my family, preoccupied with how amazing life was, making sure we were happy and fed, and cleaning up Max’s poop. I truly believe that my dad wouldn’t mind—he’d even get a kick out of knowing that I was fussing over my son’s (multiple) messy diapers than celebrating some silly earthly anniversary.
I can even hear him saying so right now.
I can also hear him ask me if I still read my Bible, if I’m being a good husband, and if I need money—and he’d give me money anyway, no matter how I’d respond.
I wish I could tell him that I’m totally okay. That I’m fine, thank you. I also want to tell him that I understand how much he loved me, now that I see how my little sticky pork bun of a son has carved up new spaces in my heart—I get it now, I get how my dad saw me, because that is how I see Max. I also want to tell him that I do not need him, and how that is to his credit, and I just want him to hang out with us, with my wife, with my son, as often as he wants, whenever he wants. I want to thank him.
I want to hear him tell me he is proud of me, except for the fact that I never went to law school. I want to hear him tell me he is joking, and then joke again about how Max will be a lawyer. I want to hear him warmly speak to my wife, and gush over his only grandson, and say goodbye and go home, excited to hang out with them again. I want to hear him say he loves us.
Actually, I do hear him. I hear him, so clearly, like he is right here.
He isn’t, though. But my son is. And my wife is. Life is perfect.
The problem is that a supply chain CEO who lacks a passion for products and has yet to articulate a personal vision of where to Apple will go is ill equipped to make the right organizational, business model and product bets to bring those to market.
I, of course, wanted to contest this very reductive view of Tim Cook, who, by most (if not all) metrics, is the perfect successor to Steve Jobs, and is perfectly equipped to lead Apple for the foreseeable future.
So I did:
1. Zero basis for Cook lacking a passion for products — it’s probably only because he’s being compared to Jobs. Or Phil Schiller. Or he’s simply not a super charismatic rock star CEO like so many try to be
2. He/Apple has totally articulated his personal vision of where Apple will go concerning the products that exist (Siri, HomeKit, etc.). See WWDC ’16 and the past few Financial Results conference calls (including the one this morning) when asked about Apple’s direction in the impending AI battle. (tl;dr — Effective AI AND protection of privacy is their mission statement)
Except unlike Google/Amazon, he/Apple only gives enough of the vision that is relevant to products that actually exist—products Cook supposedly lacks passion for. The rest of the grand vision that Blank thinks is missing (aside from that which he simply ignores), Cook keeps close to his chest. Because they never talk about products they don’t have.
(I will say that their execution on AI is sorely lacking, and that Google and Amazon are probably about to eat Apple’s lunch.)
But Steve did exactly the same thing. He was even worse, because he’d often relay exactly the opposite grand vision before he (or Apple) would flip over and offer an unexpected product (see iPod nano, iPod video, iPad mini, larger iPhones).
Of course if Blank acknowledges this, it weakens his argument. So I guess I understand.
Jaga responded, and then I responded, and now we’re having a very long (civil) conversation about the Cook/Jobs-Ballmer/Gates analogy, the future of Apple, and the meaning of “innovation”. It’s a very good discussion, and if you can, follow the fun on Facebook.
Otherwise, wait for my summary, which I will post here when our debate reaches its conclusion.
(Unless he thoroughly trounces and humiliates me.)
I met the Big Show last week. He was large. The experience was also large—too large for my brain to grasp as it was happening. The Big Show, for all that everyone says about his slowness and corniness and lack of fictional1 moral alignment, is still a gosh darned professional wrestler in the WWE, and one with a storied career, at that.
He’s the guy who did all of those things, and he’s the guy I met last week.
Everyone always says that Big Show is a Really Nice Guy™, but I can confirm that he’s a really nice guy even when he’s dead tired. The poor giant flew in to Manila that morning, posed with jeepneys in the 9 AM Manila Humidity of Death, gave a slew of media scrums before lunch, and was in the process of doing a whole afternoon of one-on-ones. My interview was at 3:45 PM. When I entered the room, he was seated next to a tableful of empty Red Bull cans, with giant eye bags on his face, and as warm and honest a smile as he can muster.
(Now, when I say “my” interview, I really mean CNN Philippines’ interview. CNN correspondent Paolo Del Rosario called me up the week before and asked me to tag along with him for the interview because, like most humans, he no longer keeps up with the wrestling product, and he needed my help to ask the heavy-hitting Sportz Entertainment questions. Also, I think he felt sorry for me because he knew I’d be missing the live event that Big Show was here to promote. Thanks again, Pao.)
When it was my turn to speak, I congratulated him on the previous week’s (fictional) WWE Draft. “I was sitting at home watching when I saw it,” he said. “Number 13? I thought Vince was ribbing me! I didn’t even think I was gonna get drafted!”
That was surreal for me—a professional wrestler answering my question and referring (ever so subtly) to the backstage machinations of the art.
I followed up:
Mikey: When Mauro Ranallo announced the draft pick, he said “The Big Show still has a lot to prove when he comes to Monday Night Raw.”
Big Show: (interrupting) A lot to prove? That’s optimistic!
Mikey: Yeah, I’m thinking, you’ve done everything there is to do in the business! Is there anything else you actually want to prove?
I expected him to go back to the fiction and start talking about winning championships or competing with the young guys. Instead, he very graciously continued to open up the curtain. He talked about how much he loves what he does—whether he’s performing in silly angles (“and you’ve seen me on the short end of really some really strange stories”), wrestling in dark matches, or dancing on the grandest stage with the biggest stars in the world. What Big Show wants to prove is that he is willing to do whatever the program requires, because he loves it. (My theater teacher brain geeked out and whispered: there are no small roles, only small actors.)
At that point, Paolo nudged me to hand him back the microphone because we had run out of time. Big Show ended his spiel, Paolo thanked him for his time, Show thanked us and said it was a great interview.
When Paolo introduced me to him earlier, he mentioned that I actually carried my World Heavyweight Championship belt replica during my wedding. After the interview, I asked Show to sign it. He asked if I wore it while I consummated the marriage, and I said no, of course not, but I didn’t tell him that the belt actually doesn’t fit me if I relax my belly.
While he was opening up my silver Sharpie, he told me that the original version of that belt was his favorite—the WCW title that he won from Ric Flair on his very first show. “Yeah,” I said, dorky wrestling fan that I am, “and you had to go around the airport wearing it that night,” referring to the story he told on the Stone Cold Podcast earlier this year. He laughed, signed the belt, wished me and my wife and my future child well, and posed2 for a picture.
Then I shook his colossal hand, and left.
I felt buzzed after the experience—that awesome fan experience feeling that I hope every person gets to experience a few times in his or her life.
On the way home, I realized that I only got to ask one question, and that I didn’t get to tell him about how I wanted to be like him when I was growing up, and how older kids would make fun of me by calling me “Big Show”, and how I looked up to him because he was a big guy and he embraced his bigness even if people around him are almost always apprehensive, and how my wife was 30 weeks pregnant but my baby’s size appeared more like 32 weeks because I’m about to have a large baby, and does he have any parenting advice for raising a large child?, because growing up as a large child must have had its challenges, and he was a large child, and I was a large child, and my baby will be a large child.
I also realized that it’s still true: I still do want to be like Big Show. Like him, I want to bust my ass off loving what I do, with a smile on my face, knowing in my bones that there are no small roles, only small actors. In this way—this way that I fight every day to be—the World’s Largest Athlete is simply the largest of them all.
I broke my iPhone 6 Plus screen for the third time in 6 months.
The first time was back in November, and it was because I was careless. I was seated on bleachers, overseeing rehearsals of the Rude Mechanicals production of Twelfth Night. I grabbed my old trusty the Sahara Tiger 1.9L (RIP), popped open the lid, took a swig of cold water, closed the lid, and then placed the bottle down beside me. Right on top of my iPhone.
Crack. I yelped. Rehearsals stopped for a second. And then it dawned on the actors that I used my phone as a coaster. They laughed.
I contacted Apple to inquire how much it would cost to have my out-of-warranty iPhone repaired. They said that they can’t offer repairs of screens, but that I could have the whole unit replaced for Php10000 (about $200). I opted to have the glass (which is laminated on the display) replaced at a local shop instead, for Php3500 (about $75).
One month later, while using my newly repaired iPhone, I noticed that there was a small gap between the display and the aluminum, near the top of the phone, above the earpiece and the FaceTime camera, like so:
Thinking that keeping the gap exposed risked further damage on my phone, I tried to pop the top of the display back in with my thumb.
Crack. I yelped. My friends stopped eating and wondered what happened. Then it dawned on them that I just broke my own phone myself, and it was no accident. They laughed.
I had the glass replaced at the same shop, for cheaper. Then the repairman warned me that there was no way for him to insert the display into the aluminum body so that it’s flush with the rest of the unit. I told him that it was fine, and that I would be ultra-careful this time.
I immediately went to the nearest Otterbox store and purchased one of their Symmetry leather cases, along with one of their Alpha Glass screen protectors. While inserting the phone into the case, the glass display popped itself into the unit, and it became a perfectly flush iPhone again. Yay, right?
Last week, before heading off for a short drive, I opened up my phone and typed in my destination details on the Waze app. And then I tried to insert it into my dashboard holster, like I usually would, so that it could display turn-by-turn navigation while I drove. The holster felt a little tighter than before, so instead of loosening the holster first like a decent human being would, I decided to use just a little more force to squeeze my phone into it.
Crack. I yelped. My wife tried her best not to laugh. She failed.
My phone still works perfectly fine. The Alpha Glass remained pristine, and it still holds the display together so that it doesn’t shatter. The cracks don’t reach the display itself, and they (thankfully) don’t cross the FaceTime camera or the proximity sensor.
But it’s ugly now.
And I don’t like that my phone is a phone that can break via gentle squeezing. So this weekend, I’m gonna head to Greenhills, the amazing local gray market shopping center, and look for a decent swap deal for an iPhone 6s. If I can’t find one, I might consider just getting an iPhone SE, and then I’ll just have the glass on my 6 Plus replaced yet again, and give it to my wife. I doubt that she’d ever break a display with her thumb. Or use it as a coaster.
Sigh. I love you, iPhone 6 Plus. But you are the wrong phone for me. I wish we could make this work, but you can’t seem to handle me.
I may have broken your face again. But you have broken my heart for the last time.