Saturday, November 29, 2008

Someone's Auto-biography

I just finished reading Barack Obama's first book, "Dreams From My Father." He wrote it shortly after his graduation from law school and with no discernible political aspirations. It was written well, and soulfully - we see both the the good and admirable as well as the darker and confusing facets of his character. As moving as his speeches are his writing is also commendable - the right amount of intellect and emotion to explain his unique background as both white and black, and some brown as well.

I'll remember his particularly poignant discussion on how, as a non-white in America or Europe, you'll always feel alienated and estranged. How it doesn't belong to you. Contrast this with a white person traveling or living in Asia or Africa, who does not need to put his or her best foot forward, is completely at ease, and whose only concern is protection against those who might want what he or she has. That particular insight definitely rings true, and is slightly astonishing - even African-Americans (even half white ones, like Obama), who are already born into it, felt it too.

There are many other insights, but towards the end of the book, just when I was deciding what to read next, Barack Obama describes the law:

"The study of the law can be disappointing at times, a matter of applying narrow rules and arcane procedure to an uncooperative reality; a sort of glorified accounting that serves to regulate the affairs of those who have power - and that all too often seeks to explain, to those who do not, the ultimate wisdom and justness of their condition. 

But that's not all the law is. The law is also a memory; the law also records a long-running conversation, a nation arguing with its conscience."

It's good to know that many people in the world have read, or are reading, this book. Hopefully, they're not all fans like me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Awkward

Do you remember that line in the movie "Bridget Jones' Diary" where she says, and I paraphrase, "I don't need you to humiliate me, I do a pretty good job of that myself already"? For all of the movie's stellar lines, I relate to this one closely, because I am, sort of awkward.

If you know me well (as with most people reading this blog), I may not seem that way and might seem socially adjusted. Truth of the matter is, I'm horrible with meeting people the first time, mostly because I am admittedly shy around people I'm not yet comfortable with. I hardly talk, I stare, I fumble, I giggle. I do warm up to people easily though, and when that happens, I start acting like a human being again.

Now that I'm in my thirties, its a bit more under control, but it was ghastly in my teens. My awkwardness exhibited itself more than a couple of times in high school and early college and produced many cringe-worthy memories. 

A number of gaffes are running through my head right now, and its so embarrassing I sometimes wish I could will it right out of my memories (and of course, more importantly, the memories of those who actually saw!).  The problem is, I can't, and the best I can do is to learn from it and to make sure I walk properly and try not to fall on my face while walking through a hallway with my entire hallway high school class watching.

Lesson for today: I think this was brought on by listening to too much Morrissey.

Friday, November 21, 2008

iTranslate

I've been translating a brochure for kids from English to Tagalog for an international organization that I volunteer for, and its got me pondering on "kid-speak" back home.

I am part of the Sesame Street generation (just in case you don't know my age, its the really late part of that generation) that dove-tailed into the Batibot generation. I remember the days when our leaders, caught up in the fervor of the EDSA revolution, decided to increase the number of elementary subjects taught in Tagalog/Filipino/Pilipino over those taught in English. Science and Math were always exempted, but I do remember a floundering attempt to teach Home Economics and P.E. in our local language, which didn't last very long ("Maglagay ng kaunting 'cinammon' sa timpla ng mansanas, i-hurno ang balat na gawa sa tinapay para sa inyong mansanas 'pie'," or "Ang posisyon ng 'striker' sa larong 'volleyball' ay malapit sa lambat")

The work I'm currently translating is spattered with words like "Internet", "Web page" "cache" and, geez, "sexual education" and "STD". These are definitely words that were not used during my Tagalog education days.

Funny how time flies by so fast and you realize this is how "generation gaps" are created. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Dirty Secret

I read all four books in the Twilight series.

It was awful - the writing was sort of sloppy, I hated Bella, I hated Jacob, the plots were too stretched, there were a lot of wrong tenses and I hated Bella.

Despite all these reasons, I finished all four books in two weeks. This was while we were still in Hong Kong, two weeks before we left for the Netherlands. Yes, I finished all two thousand or so pages despite the twelve hour work days, the dinner parties and the packing I had to do every night. Why? These books were irritatingly compelling, predictably amusing and hopelessly romantic.

Have I said I hate this series?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Amelie, Jr.

L, we have to get ourselves one of these! We'll probably need to learn French though (and find out how to get bigger eyes).


Pack Rats

Our things from HK finally arrived two weeks ago. 

Seeing how many things we've accumulated over the years is an argument for socialism.



What I Read Last Week

Hooray for Spanglish speaking Geek-dom!

Great read.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I Need Illumination

I was reading this article in the New York Times about how the world overwhelmingly preferred an Obama win, and I was a little shocked to discover that the only countries in the world that preferred a McCain victory were Israel, Georgia and the Philippines.

I understand Israel and Georgia, but the Philippines?!? The Philippines?!?

I don't get it. Was it:

  •  McCain's tax plan (the Philippines already uses Obama's preferred system - progressive taxation - which is required by our Constitution)?
  • Obama's youth (many of our Congressmen are under 40)?
  • the Republican preference for smaller government (even if we blame government for many of our social problems, which evinces a preference for a big, welfare type government)?
  • abortion, stem-cell research, gay unions (okay, I understand the opposition to this given the predominantly Catholic population, but it never affected support for Clinton or the other Democrats)?
  • personality (they prefer the folksy, small town America McCain/Palin public profile)?
I have good friends from back home who wanted McCain to win, and the reasons they gave were good and on principle - lower taxes, small government, entrepreneurship. I have a feeling though, that a majority of the Filipinos (those who preferred a McCain victory) would not have been able to articulate it as well as my friends did, and would most likely have preferred McCain for one, far less simple (and sinister) reason, which I am afraid to write down explicitly.

Do let me know what you think. I haven't been home in four years, so I may be completely in the dark about prevailing sentiments.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The West Wing and my unique thoughts

My obsession with following the US presidential elections waned somewhat three weeks ago, only to be replaced by a similar obsession with The West Wing, all seven seasons of which I watched in the succeeding three weeks. 

After watching the last episode last night and while preparing dinner, I was mulling over how best to blog about my almost certainly unique observations on how eerily close the West Wing was to the current US presidential elections. 

Then I saw this, this and this.

The New York Times, The Guardian and Jimmy Smits stole my thunder. Boo.