Thursday, August 11, 2011

On Voltaire's Candide: soon, I shall cultivate a garden

Voltaire's novel, Candide, was surprisingly an easy read. I loved the fantastic plot and the humor I get in every chapter. Since my computer is not conspiring with my impulse to write, I'm gonna give a quick overview of the book. 

Basically, it's a battle between optimism and pessimism as a world view. Dr. Pangloss embodied optimism through his philosophy that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds" -- that is, everything that happens in the world, even mankind's suffering, is part of God's "grand" plan.

But with the events witnessed by Candide -- rape, murder, disease, earthquake, betrayal -- he came to conclude that optimism is simply "a mania for insisting that everything is right when everything is going wrong." 

On the other hand, pessimism is characterized in the person of Martin, an extremely cynical scholar who accompanied Candide is his travels. Martin believes that God has abandoned the world in his view that "man was born to live in either the convulsions of distress, or in the lethargy of idleness".

Monday, June 27, 2011

Like a balloon with a broken string: Murakami's Wind Up Bird Chronicle

After a month of reading this book (always before I get to sleep), I finally conquered Murakami. Conquering in the sense that many ideas from his other works became more familiar to me.
First, what I like about the author is that he understands women -- actions and overall psyche. The theme about the complexity in the mind of a woman appeared both in Norwegian Wood and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. For instance, in one of the passages, May Kasahara pointed out how girls just like to be mean for no reason at all. Just like that: the mood for nothing. I know many women understand this and Murakami spelled it out for us. 

Anyhow, I'm not going to give a review of the book. It would take me hours to summarize the plot of the 600-page novel. But what I need to say is that the feeling of loneliness never leaves me when I read Murakami's work. It's how he presents his characters as ordinary people -- so ordinary that it makes you ask if there's ever a meaning to our fleeting existence. This inner self is just too chaotic, too complex to understand.. and yet there's the outer world that demands order and normalcy from us. 

I am sure there's Toru Okada or May Kasahara in any one of us. For instance, my understanding of the self   was expounded by May Kasahara. I could relate about her grim views of the world and her preference to see ducks than people as they come "flapping through the air and land on the ice, but their feet slide and they fall over. It's like a TV comedy!". Ah, that happiness that arise not from being with people but from observing nature -- from seeing creatures who do not know us or couldn't care less about us! Like May Kasahara, I do wonder what ducks think "deep down inside, about ice and stuff." 

But you can't know everything. You are placed in this world to know people which is almost impossible to do. As May Kasahara pointed in this question:
"Is it possible, in the final analysis, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another?
We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close can we come to that person's essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?" 

I share her skepticism. I also share her confusions about the future:
"So you're going to stay here a while longer?", I asked 
"I think so. I might want to go back to school after enough time goes by. Or I might not. I might just get married -- no not really" She smiled with a while puff of breath. "But anyhow, I'll stay for now. I need more time to think. About what I want to do, where I want to go. I want to take time and think about those things." 
"Tell me, Mr. Wind Up Bird, did you think about those kind of things  when you were my age?" 
"Hmm. Maybe not. I must have thought about them a little bit, but I don't really remember thinking about things as seriously as you do. I guess I just figured if I went for a living in the usual way, things would kind of work themselves out all right. But they didn't, did they? Unfortunately."
It was a good one month read. I must admit that the middle chapter about historical parts bored me a bit. I also thought that the ending of the complex plot was not as "neat" as Marquez's (of course Murakami is never comparable to Marquez). BUT! I'd like to commend Murakami for bringing up that inexplicable loneliness n every one of us, even those who are "living in the usual way" like Toru Okada. 

And so, I'll end this post with few of my favorite quotes from the book: 
"I'd be smiling and chatting away, and my mind would be floating around somewhere else, like a balloon with a broken string."  
"Here's what I think, Mr. Wind-Up Bird," said May Kasahara. "Everybody's born with some different thing at the core of their existence. And that thing, whatever it is, becomes like a heat source that runs each person from the inside. I have one too, of course. Like everybody else. But sometimes it gets out of hand. It swells or shrinks inside me, and it shakes me up. What I'd really like to do is find a way to communicate that feeling to another person. But I can't seem to do it. They just don't get it. Of course, the problem could be that I'm not explaining it very well, but I think it's because they're not listening very well. They pretend to be listening, but they're not, really. So I get worked up sometimes, and I do some crazy things."  
"To know one’s own state is not a simple matter. One cannot look directly at one’s own face with one’s own eyes, for example. One has no choice but to look at one’s reflection in the mirror. Through experience, we come to believe that the image is correct, but that is all."  
"It's not that either one is better," he said. After a brief coughing fit, he spat a glob of phlegm onto a tissue and studied it closely before crumpling the tissue and throwing it into a wastebasket. "It's not a question of better or worse. The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you're supposed to go up and down when you're supposed to go down. When you're supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you're supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there is no flow, stay still. If you resist the flow, everything dries up. If everything dries up, the world is darkness. 'I am he and/ He is me:/ Spring nightfall.' Abandon the self, and there you are." 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Adele's Music: "Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead"

It's not everyday that I get moved by a musical performance. The great thing about music is that it transcends emotions to any kind of listener.

I'm so touched with this performance by Adele.. so moved by the song.. coz.. i don't know..i think..i thought to myself, gosh I must have sung same song if.. if I wasn't too careless tsk... That fact I guess moved me.. and I wept with her.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Retail Therapy @ BookSale

It's almost a history that I spent 262 pesos on books today. Call it retail therapy: searching for cheap books at Booksale for hours and hours. The search-for-good-books-among-harlequin-crap-activity drained all my anxieties.. ah life!

I awarded myself -- for coming up with a Plan B on my career.. and my life.

Here are the "great-find" books that fixed my day:

  • 37 php - John Irving's The Cider House Rules - apparently I loved the movie so I got to read the book!
  • 37 php - Margaret Atwood's Bluebeard's Eggs and Other Stories - coz I thought I gotta learn her writing style.
  • 37 php - John Le Carre's The Secret Pilgrim - I read from somewhere that it's a good book. Hope they're right. 
  • 37 php - Ernest Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls - borrowed this last year & I deserve a copy, don't I?
  • 32 php - Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - I should know how to read a play!
  • 37 php - Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits - I loved the movie and how much more the book!
  • 45 php - Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle - gotcha on booksale, Murakami! 

Mabuhay ang BookSale!

A Good Song I ought to Share

Great song from my favorite UK band, Keane. 
Reminds me of the London Bombing.
Lyric's really poetic.
Tom's a total singer/performer.
I love how piano sound's so prominent in their songs.
Perfect song for a perfect morning.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Soviet Kitsch, Regina Spektor, & the Unbearable Lightness of Being

Just finished reading Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being and I felt like praising the book by giving a short write-up. Because of the 50-peso book bought at Booksale, I became familiar with some concepts in philosophy and religion. 

Here are the ideas I’ve learned from the book:

·         1.)  Nietzsche’s argument of eternal return that everything recurs once we experienced it and that the recurrence itself recurs and ad infinitum! Das Schweste Gewitch (the great burden), as Nietzche puts it.

·        2.)  the last movement of Beethoven’s last quartet wherein he inscribed “Muss es sein? Es muss sein! Es Muss sein!” (Must it be? It must be! It must be!). I thought that every time I’d be caught making major difficult decisions, I might as well just remember to utter these phrases.

·        3.)  how the character Tomas used the story of Oedipus to criticize Czech communists. Communists claimed they didn't know what they were doing and thought that this absolved them of their guilt over the atrocities they’ve done to the people. But unlike them, Oedipus held himself responsible for his action and punished himself to suffer in the end.

·       4.)   the rather funny idea of shit in religious discourse: does God have intestines? did Adam emptied his bowel on Eden? did they have intercourse in paradise? Lol. Or as Kundera puts it, “Either/or: either man was created in God’s image – and God has intestines – or God lacks intestines and man is not like Him."

The best chapter for me in the book was Part 6: The Grand March. I loved how Kundera defined the word kitsch as “the absolute denial of shit” as quoted in these lines:
Kitsch is the absolute denial of shit, in both the literal and the figurative senses of the word; kitsch excludes everything from its purview which is essentially unacceptable in human existence.
Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch.”
From reading this chapter about kitsch, I now understand why Regina Spektor named her album as Soviet Kitsch. Like Sabina in the story, Regina moved to America wanting to escape kitsch – to hide the fact that she comes from the former Soviet Union. She perhaps feared that people might ‘over sensationalize’ her struggle as an artist persecuted back home. But the more rational explanation would be Regina Spektor’s approval of Kundera’s definition of soviet kitsch as “the vacuous aesthetics of communism".

I had the ‘eureka moment’ when I read that part because it was overwhelming to know that your favorite musician actually read the exact same book you’re reading and you realized that this may be the reason why you understood her way of thinking.

Lastly, I thought that the book Soviet Kitsch had a really beautiful ending. I was moved at how the couple, Tomas & Sabina, (now old) put their dog to "sleep" also because of old age.  This is a beautiful passage from the book:
"She was experiencing the same odd happiness and odd sadness as then. The sadness meant: we are at the last station. The happiness meant: we are together. The sadness was form, the happiness was content."
It was perfect, the book's ending.. as when the couple was about to sleep, "a large nocturnal butterfly began circling around the room". Wow what beautiful read

(For more information about Regina Spektor's take on Soviet Kitsch, visit this link.) 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

30 minute poem written inside XU library

Palm Trees

To be swayed by the wind
and yet remain standing --
your grace is mending

my thoughts: how I have legs
of those size but are plagued
to take a step, to go
with the flow of gushing air

That invisible push
you resist from the roots 
and you grip the earth
without mashing its crust.

My world is made of dust
and the wind sings the sound
about us on the ground

blown to wander, lost
and without roots.
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