Friday, September 10, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
It was in the summer of 2006. I had devised a brilliant plan to regularly go to the gym in the middle of the night. I thought it was brilliant because I could avoid the afterwork/evening gym crowd, the traffic and the summer heat. Among the very few patrons who frequented the establishment included a short, stocky man in his mid-forties with a quiet demeanor and a serious disposition. The first time he spoke to me was to ask how old I was. I thought it was a strange question but I replied. He laughed at my answer thinking I was joking because he said I looked very young. On my part, I was surprised he spoke English without any foreign accent because I assumed he was an East Indian. So I ventured with a question that seemed very mundane:
Mi: Where are you from?
Man: Some city, U.S.A (I forgot which city he said)
Mi: Oh! I thought you were from India.
Man (shaking his head): I am White!
Mi (eyes wide-open): White?
Man (hesitantly): ...I am a Gypsy...
Mi (blank stare): Gypsy?
Man: ... but don't tell people that...
Mi (surprised): Why not?!
Man (lowering his voice): People don't like Gypsies... I don't like to tell people... When people find that out, I have to relocate...
Mi: What?... I am sure there are many Gypsies...You know Cher is a Gypsy...
Man: Is She?
Mi: I think so...
The conversation ended as strangely as it began. That night, on my drive home, I felt some remorse for letting my curiosity broach a sensitive issue. When I arrived home, I could not wait to check on the dictionary what a Gypsy was. What did I not understand? My earliest and only clear reference to a Gypsy was La Esmeralda from Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris. It was odd that the only thing I remembered about that character was the mystique that surrounded her and others' contempt toward her.
The American Heritage dictionary defined the word 'Gypsy' as follows:
1. One of a nomadic Caucasoid people originally migrating from the border region between Iran and India to Europe in the 14th or 15th century and now living principally in Europe and the United States. 2. Romany (sense 2). 3. gypsy. One that resembles a Gypsy in appearance or behavior [Shortening and alteration of Egyptian.]
"There is no such thing as a worthless conversation provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation" - James Nathan Miller
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
One day in the early 1990's, he goes to a conference where a colleague, who specializes in African history, is presenting his research findings on Alexander Pushkin's East African ancestry and his future plans for the project. The presenter's position is that Pushkin’s great-grandfather, Abram Petrovich Gannibal, was originally from a border town between Ethiopia and Eritrea and that further research studies need to be conducted. A third colleague and L start to question whether Pushkin should even be a topic in African history. He is Russian and his contributions are to Russian literature. One who is specializing in African history should be focusing on Africa. Why create the illusion of a history? There are many topics within the African continent that need to be explored...The Pushkin expert overhears their remarks, fumes over their discouraging comments and protests to deaf ears...
Long after the conversation ended, I wondered whether my view would have been the same had I not been conditioned by the American view of race and politics. One of the issues that has disappointed, baffled and confronted me in the land of the free is how the free was, dare I say, mentally imprisoned by race. Over the last two decades or so, it has greatly improved. I only imagine it to improve in the future. But still... I sometimes resent the issue and the conditioning.
A recent controversy surrounding a new movie about Alexandre Dumas (père), L’ Autre Dumas, reminded me of L’s Pushkin story. The controversy centered around the fact that a black actor not having the role of Dumas, a person of color, but instead Gérard Depardieu being cast for it. The general American view is probably an emphatic No. It does not matter that Dumas is three-quarter French; he should be portrayed by a black actor and not by Depardieu with a tanned face and curly hair. I wonder what the general French view is.
"The illusion which exalts us is dearer to us than ten-thousand truths.” Alexander Pushkin
I have yet to see the movie and I am already disappointed… not because Depardieu is playing Dumas but rather at the annoying storyline, i.e. Dumas allegedly had a shy collaborator, Auguste Maquet, who deserves much of the credit for the plots and drafts of Dumas’ most famous works. If this is not annoying to a Dumas fan, I do not know what is. I would have liked the illusion that exalted me to remain intact. Oh… how fascinated I was when I first read Dumas’ literary works as a child… and …when I found out his paternal ancestry as a new immigrant... knowing little then how many times I would have to examine and reexamine my illusions.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
This time, as I was taking my sweet little time to shop around for yet another stylish handbag, I heard on ABC World News about the disturbing findings of the Center for Environmental Health. ABC World News reporter, Lisa Fletcher summarized it as follows:
The Center for Environmental Health went to 100 of the nation's top retailers--- including Target, Macy's, Wal-Mart and Kohl's -- and bought purses. The group had the bags tested for lead at an independent lab. Two separate tests were conducted. Some bags were wiped to see how much, if any, lead would simply rub off the material. The bags also were tested for the total lead content of the products. The tests came back showing disturbingly high levels of lead...
- protect my old one from the sight of others because it is embarassingly old and
- minimize any direct physical contact with it because it may have high levels of Pb or
- find a leather handbag
Friday, January 15, 2010
... and you don't know what to do ...
... and you try to remind yourself it could have been worse ...
Saturday, January 9, 2010
I enjoyed the novel mainly because I understood Holden's existential dilemma, i.e. childhood's idealism versus adulthood's realism. I remembered this existential dilemma to be acutely painful during the adolescence-adulthood transition years. To my surprise, upon further reflection, I found some of this dilemma to still linger through the adult years. Who has not tried to hold on to one's childhood innocence?
I thought Holden’s narration of his experiences delightfully funny. He was both perceptive and mature at times, and emotional and impatient at other times. Some of the most memorable quotes of the novel include the following:
Holden on his young brother Allie
My brother Allie had this left-handed fielder's mitt. He was left-handed. The thing that was descriptive about it, though, was that he had poems written all over the fingers and the pocket and everywhere. In green ink. He wrote them on it so that he'd have something to read when he was in the field and nobody was up at bat. He's dead now. He got leukemia and died when we were up in Maine, on July 18, 1946. You'd have liked him.Holden on dancing with smart girls
I’m not kidding, some of these stupid girls can really knock you out on a dance floor. You take really smart girl, and half the time she’s trying to lead you around the dance floor, or else she’s such a lousy dancer, the best thing to do is stay at the table and just get drunk with her.Holden on roommates with suitcases
At first he only used to be kidding when he called my stuff bourgeois, and I didn't give a damn — it was sort of funny, in fact. Then, after a while, you could tell he wasn't kidding any more. The thing is, it's really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs — if yours are really good ones and theirs aren't. You think if they're intelligent and all, the other person, and have a good sense of humor, that they don't give a damn whose suitcases are better, but they do.Holden on people who cry watching sad movies
The part that got me was, there was a lady sitting next to me that cried all through the goddam picture. The phonier it got, the more she cried. You'd have thought she did it because she was kindhearted as hell, but I was sitting right next to her, and she wasn't. She had this little kid with her that was bored as hell and had to go to the bathroom, but she wouldn't take him. She kept telling him to sit still and behave himself. She was about as kindhearted as a goddam wolf. You take somebody that cries their goddam eyes out over phony stuff in the movies, and nine times out of ten they're mean bastards at heart. I'm not kidding.Holden on good books
What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.Well, I thought talking to J.D. Salinger on the phone would have been a pleasure. I thought Chicago Tribune reviewer Paul Engle put it well when he said that the story was "emotional without being sentimental, dramatic without being melodramatic, and honest without simply being obscene" and that it was “engaging and believable . . . full of right observations and sharp insight, and a wonderful sort of grasp of how a boy can create his own world of fantasy and live forms."