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Small Talk Starters: That Bizarre Max's Ad; Lipstick for Marawi; Pride Week

Chitchat for the next cocktail party or lunch with the ladies, other than the weather or heavy traffic.
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So you're at still another cocktail party. How do you make small talk with that new girlfriend of your old boyfriend from high school? Here are a bunch of topics that people have been talking about the past week to help you break that awkward ice.

1. The recently released Max's Fried Chicken social media commercial

Talking point: Max's Fried Chicken may be the Filipino equivalent of the American apple pie but the four-minute advertisement released last week was anything but traditional. A half-naked man wearing a chicken head building a house to the tune of "Rock Baby Rock" was kitschy enough. But when he starts looking for roommates, the film defies all convention. What does it all mean? And more importantly, can one un-see the pig and cow soaking in the hot tubs?

A step further: Entertainment has taken a turn toward the dark side. Those late to the party might resurrect the 13 Reasons Why debate and how it glamorizes revenge-suicide. The normal add on comments here would be to stress how important it is to be attuned to what our kids are clicking on and “liking” while admitting it is technically impossible to filter out everything. 

Another viewpoint: If you do not understand the commercial, it doesn’t mean the campaign has failed. It merely means you are not the target demographic of this highly niched campaign. Max’s is making a play for the millennial tastes so to express bewilderment is merely to belie one’s age. The wiser, if not a tad jaded, approach would be to comment that all publicity is good publicity.

2. Lipstick for Marawi

Talking point: Over a month into the armed conflict, calls have been emerging for donations for either the government troops or the Marawi residents who have been displaced by the fighting.

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A step further: Cash donations for the soldiers or for the injured would be the most conventional approach, but for those who prefer giving in kind, different groups are facilitating different projects. A group in Alabang is collecting toys and art materials for the Marawi children. RockEd put out one very specific call for diapers for baby refugees. To boost morale, schoolchildren have been asked to write and send letters of encouragement to the deployed troops. And perhaps most unusual of all, Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) headed by Brother Armin Luistro is collecting lipsticks and other cosmetics to give the affected Marawi teachers a little beauty boost amid the conflict.

Another viewpoint: President Rodrigo Duterte has uttered many surprising words in his time, but earlier this week, he was filmed apologizing repeatedly to Marawi residents in an evacuation center. He asked for forgiveness for declaring Martial Law, and for the destruction in the city caused by the fighting. He pledged to help the residents rebuild the city.

3. Ongoing Pride Week

Talking point: Metro Manila Pride held a march over the weekend with the theme of solidarity between the LGBT community, and those people outside the community who support their rights. Big name supporters like Senator Risa Hontiveros and Nora Aunor were there to fire up the LGBT community in asserting their rights. On the sidelines of the festivals were protest groups, mostly from religious sects, who held up placards that ominously warned, “Jesus or Hell” among others.

A step further: The artist formerly known as Charice Pempengco, the young Filipino singer who appeared on Glee, now prefers to go by the name Jake Zyrus. For those of us unsure how to refer to the new celebrity, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has issued recommendations on references to transgender persons. The former name of the transgender person should not be mentioned unless the person gives permission because it might be perceived as the person’s “real name,” which undermines the very idea of revealing what the person feels is the true name. Grammar Nazis, take note: Pronouns should follow the new gender. In other words, Jake will be referred to as a "he."

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Another viewpoint: While conservatives may shake their heads at the shifting terminology and norms, there is a noticeable change in language from the church as well. Father James Martin, SJ, who recently wrote a book that urges building a bridge between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church, identified exactly why firing a person on the grounds of their sexual orientation is discriminatory.

“To be consistent, we should fire people for not helping the poor, for not being forgiving and for not being loving. That may sound odd, but why should it? Jesus’ teachings are the most essential “church teachings.”

4. Conspicuous consumption becomes old school

Talking point: A recent article published by Quartz puts forward the hypothesis that the true mark of the upper crust has shifted to intangibles, ince designer bags and luxury cars have become already become accessible to the middle class. Quartz says that instead of material goods, this new elite expresses its status by spending on education, retirement, and health (Read: ubiquitous consumption of quinoa and organic vegetables). 

A step further: You know the international summer has begun if your Instagram feed shows high schooll teens getting a taste of life in the Ivy League through summer camps in Stanford, Columbia, Yale or perhaps Cambridge or Oxford. For the artistically inclined, immersion experiences on Broadway where they get backstage access to a real show or intense conservatory training with professional musicians are in order. Those with more mainstream interests are pursuing internships in big name companies, volunteer opportunities in exotic locales with endangered tribes, or entrepreneurship think tanks that allow budding businessmen to road test ideas. There are peace camps for sheltered young ones to meet kids from other cultures, and Model United Nations camps for those who want to spar over world issues. For passionate athletes hoping to step up their game or perhaps be spotted by university scouts, sports training camps are the way to go.

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Another viewpoint: Will our kids know the joy we experienced as children, savoring the endless days of summer over pick up games of basketball or aimless bike rides with neighbors? Can trips to old favorites such as Baguio and Tali beach be as much fun as an African safari or a butter beer-fueled trip to Hogwarts? Some parents have chosen to pull out of the rat race for a spell and instead quietly bond with their kids and/or with nature by spending a week on a deserted beach or by taking camping trips or road trips to local places to give everyone a low-key way to recharge. 

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