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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Balthasar Gracian: Art of Worldly Wisdom

Aphorism # 260:

We belong to none and none to us, entirely.

Neither relationship nor friendship nor the most intimate connection is sufficient to effect this. To give one's whole confidence is quite different from giving one's regard. The closest intimacy has its exceptions, without which the laws of friendship would be broken. The friend always keeps one secret to himself, and even the son always hides something from his father. Some things are kept from one that are revealed to another and vice versâ. In this way one reveals all and conceals all, by making a distinction among the persons with whom we are connected.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Teaching Freshman Composition

This article speaks about the current state of freshman composition in most colleges and universities. Thisarticle drives home the fact that most people that teach freshman comp are unprepared and the students are usually unprepared. It's a problem because it's hard to be empathic and driven when it's an institutional problem. Most people out of high school are trained to take exams and do well in them (usually). They are not taught how to write or think critically and then write about what they've thought out critically. It's really pathetic. Then to put a barely-qualified graduate student to magically teach undergrads how to write...well, that's another story. That's expecting a miracle.

I'm going to be in the same predicament in the Fall when I start teaching freshman comp. I'm a little more prepared than the girl who wrote the article but it doesn't make it easier...

Miguel Syjuco's Ilustrado

I am currently reading Ilustrado, a book by Filipino (and now Filipino-Canadian) writer Miguel Syjuco. His unpublished work was the recipient of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize. I must say that I am impressed at the breadth of Syjuco's literary vision and I am also quite shocked that a Filipino can write like this. There are a lot of meta-fictions in the piece injected with humor, unrelenting eagle-eyed observations of humanity and "Filipino-ness" (or lack thereof) of being Filipino or being in Filipino politics. Though, in Syjuco's case, it's not surprising that he is intimately aware of politics in the region since he is a son of a politically-involved (aka rich) family. My own prejudice and bias against Filipino writers comes from my lack of exposure to this group of writers. I've read Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters but it did not explode in the chest as this book has. I haven't read Ninotchka Rosca, Carlos Bulosan and other major or minor Filipino or Filipino hyphenated writers. But perhaps there is a cause far deeper in the psyche. I'll leave it at that...

Anyway, I'll hold off on my own opinion until I read the entirety of the book. For now, the NY Times article should suffice. But here is a brief passage from the book where the reader gets a taste of Syjuco's writing:

The boy had always been quickly on his way to becoming a character misled by his own good intentions and assurances of self, and perhaps interesting in that way.
And so, this is where he is declared a protagonist. The dramatic angle to his story begins with recurring images of him fidgeting in his own silence, in deserted subway stations, in classrooms surrounded by schoolmates, in a forenoon queue at MoMA. You can see in his face he is searching, hoping to dispel those things that nettle and diminish him, finding purpose in the conceit of himself as a modern-day member of the ilustrados - a potentiality owned by every expatriate today, a precedent granted by those first Enlightened Ones of the late nineteenth century. Those young Filipino bodhisattvas had returned from abroad to dedicate their perfumed bodies, melliflous rhetoric, Latinate ideas, and tailored educations to the ultimate cause. Revolution. Many dying of bullets, some inextricable exile, others subsumed and mellowed and then forgotten, more than a few later learning, with surprising facility, to live with enforced compromise. What's the difference between them and him and all the other peripatetics, except that the ancestors had already returned? His thick, furled intentions and rolled-up plans would also be shaken out to flap alongside our national flag, one day. So he waited, just as they did, collecting himself into integrity, just as they had, anticipating the final magnetism of native shores.
Now, having come home, we see him, our patriotic protagonist, sitting in bed, wondering. Where are the trumpets?

This passage reflects preoccupations of the "ilustrados" according to Syjuco's interpretation. The boy who is the protagonist might be the character who mysteriously died, Crispin Salvador or perhaps it is the protagonist of the supposed magnum opus of Cripin's - Cristo. Or perhaps Miguel Syjuco is also (or merely) writing about himself.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

V.S. Naipaul: Misogynist

On my drive today, I heard an interesting piece of news from BBC radio. V.S. Naipaul was reported to have said that women writers are no equal to him. In one article written about his dismissive diatribe against female writers, he reportedly said that after a paragraph or two, he knows whether the author is a woman or not, particularly citing Jane Austen as sentimental and possessing a "narrow world view." I can't even begin to comprehend this.

It got me thinking that colored men have complained about the injustice and inequity between them and their white counterparts. Yet when given the chance, some of them take part in the same degradation by putting down women.

Shame on you, Mr. Naipaul.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

BBC Documentary: British Bus Driver Driving Jeepney in Manila

This bus driver's experience in the Philippines is definitely unforgettable. I think what shocked me most was the discovery of "pagpag."

Watch the video


Because of an incident that happened a week ago, I'm actually curious about the people who read this blog. I really thought that it was a handful of people that I know. So if you read this blog regularly, can you do me a HUGE favor and leave a post below? Your mark will show just how many people read this thing. As far as I was concerned, this was really for me and some of my friends and the few others that get to see this at random.