Update: 100 Book New Year’s Resolution (goal)

We’re almost two-thirds of the way through the year 2008, and it’s about that time to look back at how well we’ve kept up with our New Year’s resolutions. I only made one this year: to read the top 100 books from the Modern Library’s Reader’s List. So far, I’m not doing as well as I hoped. But all is not lost, at least not yet. I’ve got about 34 books down with 66 more to go. Two books I’m dreading are “Ulysses” and “Gravity’s Rainbow,” which are lying on my bookshelf and seemingly weighing it down.

I will admit that I’ve made some modifications to the original list. A keen observer had noticed–and wrote a comment–that the list was excessively biased to a few authors, particularly L Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology as you know) and Charles de Lint, an author of whom I’ve never in my life have heard of before. Since there were about a dozen novels by Lint on the list, I replaced a few of them with some of Jane Austen’s works. L. Ron Hubbard books on the other hand have been completely expunged and replaced by others works including Gilman’s “Herland,” Octavia Butler’s “Patternmaster,” and Zamyatin’s dystopian novel “We.” I haven’t quite completed my “modifications.” More Lint books are sure to get the axe soon, and be replaced by some suggested Latin American titles, that is, once I’ve acquired them.

I’m also taking another suggestion, and I’m going to start writing brief reviews on each book as I finish (something I wish I had thought of doing sooner).

Well, I hope your doing better at your own New Year’s Resolutions. Or maybe your one of the smart ones that didn’t make one at all!

A Misogynist Woman

My friend Anja (I’m just going to use her name and hope she doesn’t mind) said something that kind of threw me off-balance the other day. She began by relating how “surprised she is that there isn’t more general misogyny in the world.” Apparently, she has this sort of antipathy towards her own sex, a hatred towards women, which I don’t quite fully understand yet. I suppose she can get away with making such an assertion, because, well, she’s a girl. To this, she started to elaborate some, and I was bit shocked at what she said. The general assertion she was making wasn’t by itself groundbreaking, or pertaining to thoughts I hadn’t perhaps on occasion entertained myself, but it was the fact that it was being said out-loud, on Westminster Street, with the occasional finger literally pointing at passersby as walking hypotheticals that made me blush. — And if the melanin in my skin didn’t abscond manifestations of all shades of “blush,” the world might have seen it as well.

Thus, she began her little treatise, speaking out-loud unabashedly, inviting some very nasty looks and head-turns. We continued to walk together down the highly trafficked street, like Morpheus speaking to a Neo in a simulated Matrixed world. Apparently Anja is a bit old-fashioned, and is quite critical of how her sex has evolved within the last couple of decades. To her, she claims women have digressed into something she is ashamed to call her own. They are (or so she claims) the “lowest denominator of a Russian nested doll,” the matroyoshka, suggesting a stripping off of every last bit of modest decency, with nothing remaining but a tiny little caricature of assumed worth. I listened, impressed by her imagery and eloquence (though a little wary of the blanket generalizations), and it wasn’t long before she pointed to a 35 year-old plastic Corporate Barbie, smoking outside, wearing shapely office-attire, low-cut reveling top, a gray tight skirt-short, with heels comically high, to which she branched into a new [paragraph] on the “working-woman.”

In short, to Anja, the full-time woman-professional that strives to be at par with her male contemporaries, filing reports, attending meetings, firing people, is a digression. This is of course ironic since Anja is herself a professional, though she will rub this nuance off as unimportant, — not germane to the issue, — and to me, frankly confusing. She takes umbrage not at the women who needs to work to support herself and her family, but the independent woman, the woman that needs “only herself, a one-bedroom apartment, a man-hating cat, a good wine-bottle opener, and a sufficient enough quantity of ice-cream in the freezer to last through one complete disk of Sex and the City.” I nervously laughed through most of this: it seemed to be almost borderline “hate,” which the Christian side of me tends to abjure like the plague. How can anyone be against “woman’s rights” when it seems so fundamental to the equality of existence. There is no way I could be in support of anything like inequality for women, or support any suggestion towards disenfranchisement — just seems too unethical. But to hear this from a girl, no less, and girl that is being so vocal and passionate about her ethos, which seemed long-thought and pressurized in her head to finally erupt into such a mountain of vitriol, was too much for my meek and humble self to quietly bare — in a public venue no less.

I couched my objections for the time, (I mean, where to start?) and then begged first for a little more elaboration. According to Anja, you cannot find a women in the current time — or a least one worth commitment: your only recourse is to turn to fiction. To her, the model of true feminine grace and modesty are sealed forever in centuries past: the 18th, the 19th, century. The heroines of Jane Austen’s pen: Elinor Dashwood, Lizzy Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, Catherine Morland, and Anne Eliot. Women today, she claims, have stained that sacred veil of purity that was once their most precious garment. Holding the self-low, in terms of virginity and feminine modesty, have turned Sarah Jessica Parker into the modern day heroine, and “what kind of life is that really?” she questioned: women in their mid-to-late thirties, unmarried, going out and glorifying their own promiscuity in the name of female independence; it is a “rebellion against natural gender roles that have sustained human life for 200,000 years.” This is when she took an angry and rather vocally harsh turn towards homosexuality, particularly against what she called “post-” lesbianism, which I should mention is quite dangerous to do in the middle of Providence and all — but again, she’s a girl. While she doesn’t take aim at homosexuals in general, she objects to the winked approval of lesbianism, and the high-esteem it has attained as a highly sexualized, and desirable practice. This, she claims, the curtain-approval and sealing of homosexuality as a purely normal and natural occurrence, that needs to be embraced and open as such, has attracted many otherwise straight women to lesbianism purely as a surrogate to men — who are now unneeded as the gender divide collapses.

“What has equality brought us,” she asks, rhetorically. “Voting, equitable wages” was my immediate response. To my disbelief, she actually attacked “voting” as something that has only perpetuated the problem: “Hillary Clinton” was her one-name response to it — which I found a bit weak and unconvincing. I mean, really, how is Hillary Clinton and her large pool of her supporters really perpetuating this new kind of implosive feminism? Anja claims that women have given up too much in exchange for too little: a pawning of their gentle femininity, to gain an illusory promise, that has yet to realized. The chivalry of the past, lasting fulfilling marriages, and a life of motherhood has been traded in for an insatiable appetite for power and independence that gives birth to bastard children, and second-divorces. The once prized domestic skills of the woman cast off like chains of bondage, when in truth, they were the pillars of a noble home. Anja suggests that men look at her, and other women, cheaply: grouping all women into the homogeneous batter of stereotype; that instead of seeing a life-long companion, and a mother, they see a 3-month fling, and a night of off-the-books fun.

After all this, I didn’t really quite know where to stand, or how to respond. Her plea was doleful, her face in mourning, and the arguments at times were convincing. I hope she’s wrong.

Candy Aspirin

Oh man, if this is what my back feels like at 25, I can’t imagine what it will feel like at 75! Yesterday morning, I woke up in agony grasping my back and making geezer-like guttural squawks of pain—to no one in particular. However, the pain was slight enough to allow me to momentarily hustle with nimble alacrity to my computer where I subsequently emailed myself out of work. And once that submit button depressed, the smile and effusions of steady dopamine that had suddenly lifted my spirits from that successful call-out-sick feeling, was all divested, transmogrified back into sharp-shooting pain.

The next several minutes was spent trying to open the ibuprofen container, and which, after having succeeded, I quickly swallowed, chased with nothing but desperate swallow noises and some fist pounding to the chest. Then, after several hours, the miracle happened. The pain mollified away from those awful pinching sensations, into a quiet and steady annoyance—nothing more. This I could live with; this I could rightly go to work with (I didn’t of course).

I praised the efficacy of the ibuprofen! Wonder drug! How you mitigate all out fears and dumb our nerves into subjection. But then, it hit me. How do I know it was really the ibuprofen, and not just, the natural healing effects of, well, time? And then, seeing how I had all day to do nothing but ponder, I then extrapolated my curiosity into all medicine. For how many years have we displaced credit to our bodies natural healing propensity, and instead in genuflected wonder, worshiped the capsule? I wonder if the pain in my back would have alleviated just the same had I taken a white mint tic-tac. They say (as in the “royal they”) that placebos, inactive sugar pills, have in many instances proved to have the same effect as actual medicine. It is the act of fooling our minds to believe in our own chemical-cocktail and innovation to prompt healing. Fascinating! It’s like we want to go out of the way with to avoid giving credit to the miraculous regenerative capacity of our body. Even Chicken-soup is implicated!

It suppose it’s just easier to believe in what we can understand, our own concoctions, than something we can’t: life, the enigmatic body.

Okay, Nobody Cares Anymore

(This is the last despondent political post of the year, I promise.)

Is it me, or has this been the longest presidential campaign season ever? What’s worse, it’s just the primaries! We’re only preparing for the real thing. It’s primer! The heavy white ugly gelatinous stuff you cover you house with before you paint. Sandpapering the deck before you stain it. Gesso! It’s all tedium.

If any good thing can be said about this primary season, it is that it has served to disillusion me to the whole process—like Dorothy unveiling “The Wizard”. The process is broken. The American Pride-O-meter is starting to look like our automobile’s fuel gauge. Families can’t talk about American foreign policy without wanting to beat each other up; the presidency has never been spoken-of before with so much ridicule. We all have strong positions on specific matters, but none of it really leaves dinning room chatter, or blog posts—none of it is actually implemented. We can talk till we’re blue in the face about how stupid the Iraq war is, but, we’re still going to be in Iraq. I’m not an advocate for despondency—nor can that ever be a cure. But like any real problem, the first step—before any treatment can be prescribed–is admitting one has a problem.

The first problem is, of course, the media. The parade that has become the presidential primary campaign is nothing short of nauseating. It’s float after float, in a short repetitious route of the same few people. Hilliary, then Obama, then Hillary again, oh no, it’s that loony McCain, appearing on the cover of Time as some newfound hero. Then you read the article, and discover that you’ve discovered nothing new. We are guilted into being “informed” people, chasing an illusory high of current events—which is perhaps one of the most brilliant and subtle commercial techniques of all time. News is a product. We often equate reading a magazine, or the daily newspaper as something akin to eating our daily vegetables, or getting our daily dose of fiber. But really, this does not deserve a pat on the back. The more we consume it, the more we are hurting the process. It is a gossip triangle we can only get caught in — ultimately offering nothing of true value, other than consuming our time, and grasping our subliminal attention to the Ford Wrangler on the top of Mount Green-Room separating the 4-page story of Obama and his lifelong suspicious church-affair with Reverend Wright.

The news manufactures news. Don’t you ever find it suspicious that every day the daily newspaper is exactly the same size? That every week, Time magazine has a new “fascinating” cover article. I don’t know about you, but sometimes, an empty inbox is a happy inbox. It tells me: “nothing to see down here, best just go enjoy your life.”

Rock the “No Thank You” Vote

Have you ever told anyone before that you’re choosing NOT to vote in the presidential election? I imagine you have. And I can guess the response you’ve gotten, the almost involuntarily emetic regurgitation of that same cliqued expression, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain!”. To me, that is just one of the dumbest things someone can say. Seriously, would you apply the same logic to a Cuban for electing Fidel Castro their president? You know, despite him being the only one on the ballot. Is it really that much more different to us in the US when you only have a whopping two people to choose from?

This presidential election period, I went in with some naïve optimism. I really liked Ron Paul. I felt that he was an honest person, good hearted, and holstering some excellent ideas for change. However, it didn’t take too long for optimism to deflate back into a more stable state, that is, realism. Ron Paul’s beliefs of equality were a bit too unorthodox for main stream media, so they effectively lowered the volume on his campaign– silencing his chances of winning in the primaries. Now, I’ve reached a Zen of complete and unabated disillusionment with our democratic process. At the moment, it looks like McCain (of whom, I can’t actually find a single breathing supporter) has taken the Republican nomination. And on the Democrat side, it’s still a toss-up between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I have nothing against the two democratic nominees (nor anything to say ‘for’ them); I’ve been focusing all of my energy on the republican candidates, which is the party, among a paucity of choices, I tend to align closest with. But I am not going to vote for McCain, so what am I left with for options?

If you have ever seen the movie “Waking Life”, you’ll recall a character in that movie that describes our democratic process rather well: “The powers that be wants us to be passive observers… And they haven’t given us any other options outside the occasional purely symbolic participatory act of voting. You want the puppet on the right or the puppet on the left?”.

The notion you’re fed to believe all your life, that voting is this pure form of self-expression, that you’re a small, yet vital cog in a democratic machine that requires your voice, is incredibly overstated. I’m not suggesting that voting is unimportant, or irrelevant. Because, to some small extent, it is, especially at the local level. But where it is most important, the big decisions, when deciding who will control the lever for this massive train that is the US, that decision, is not yours to make. If no candidate fits your liking, I say don’t vote. That is a decision you (thankfully still) have a right to make. So, adieu, go forth, and “let [your] own lack of a voice be heard” (Waking Life).

Txt-Msg-Speak, LOL

I sometimes talk/write like what I’ve recently been exposed to. When in the company of London folk, I can’t help but talk London-esque — over-pronouncing every syllable, resorting to olden juvenile forms of censure, words like “Mikey”, “Lick”. Such the same with the Scottish, when I visit the ol’RiRi. “What’ll ya Halve boys?”. In this instance, I’m influenced by neither of the colors of the British Isle. Instead, it happens that just a few days ago I saw the movie A Clockwork Orange. (Excellent film!) I’ve read the book — years ago — but haven’t till recently seen the Kubric film. Words — especially my paltry descriptions and poor writing — can do a review of it no justice, so I’ll dismiss even the thought of such a proceeding. Let me just say, the movie is rather rich and filling. And as consequence, it makes you feel fat and happy. There is no better feeling; those happy seconds after gross indulgence (before guilt sets in) is a transient joy often denied in our Atkins friendly, South Beach anxious lifestyle. All I really mean to say is, that for a while, I may adopt some of the expressions of that “charming and faithful narrator”. And do pardon the solecisms. (Tis a breathy aside.)

As I was saying (or rather, as I “wasn’t” saying) my Friday afternoons are typical. Two of my fellow collegues (or said rightly, two of my closest friends), head along the cobbled streets of downtown Providence — jolly-like being a Friday — and head over to the looonie-loo Starbucks round the corner, to fetch ourselves a nice cup’o’tea and maybe a scone to nibble some.

After getting our tea, and making a few involuntary side-cracks over “Ethos” (the Starbucks-brand water) and pushing ourselfs out those heavy doors back into the duldrums of Providence, it is often at that point, we pause, in respect to Chris taking a moment to light a smoke-stick, ‘fore we continue on our way, with airy confidence and — perhaps — unwarranted arrogance over society-at-larger. It is usally at this leg of the journey, from the exit of Starbucks, with a burnt engram of Ethos water still fresh in our mind, that we often muse about one particular habit of society(-at-larger) of which we find must disconecerting.

Today, it happened that Chris had recently received a text message from a friend of his, a younger girl laconically stating the words: “AT WORK LOL”.

To this, my friend pointed out the blatant misuse of the acronym “LOL”. For, in truth, if we were to take the acronym literally, how silly would that image be? Is it truly gut-bustingly funny, the idea, the very notion, of being– hear me out –, ahem, “AT WORK!” (HAHAHAHAA!). It is a word carelessly used and slowly shedding meaning. If it were always meant to be taken literally, walking down the hallways of a college dorm would feel eerily similar to that of a traveling circus of clown trailers. You’d expect students commute on unicycles with 3 foot shoes, red bulbous noses, and polka-doted bow ties. It would be a silly, silly world. Right, right?

Well, fortunately, it’s not the case. The word “LOL” is not be taken with the pretension of any meaning. I imagine it wont be long till it’s replaced by three spaces instead of letters and then vanish from existence — like so many other words. To this, my friends and I had a jolly-fun laugh at the matter. Chris made an interesting comment that our generation (not their generation) invented the very notion of tech-speak via the IRC channel days. However, we are getting older (truism), and as such, our influence over what is cool is fading out at every placental wash and umbilical snipping.

To go back to the story: my friend readily accepted our instruction to reply to her “txt” in like manner, with the message: “ME 2 ROFL”

And again, on the compression of the “send” key, a belch of condescending laughter continued.

I fear text-message-speak is approaching the eerie 1984-esque dictionary of Orwell’s Newspeak. Where words are being deleted, and only a limited few, 10, maybe 20, are left to express our needs, and desires. Imagine an 11th edition dictionary of text-message-speak: small enough to copy onto your right palm. What then? When the vocabulary of language diminishes, isn’t precision of thought and expression choked along with it?

Right, Right? lol.

Melodie

After several months of programming — and several months of NOT programming — I’ve finally finished a new programming project, codename: Melodie. There are still a few tiny rough edges in the program (as in any program, see MS Vista) but at this point, the application is functional enough for me to distribute for a wider audience.

Okay, I imagine the first question is “What is Melodie?”, and the second, “Why does anyone care?”. Well, Melodie is a song projection software that allows churches (or any such assembly) to present onto a screen hymns or songs, or bible scriptures, for an audience. It is built with a whole slew of features: including, the coveted “Dual Screen” capability, a very capable search mechanism, a scrolling text feature, and even a neat little playlist module. And, best of all, Melodie is free to use. I’ve preloaded the software with about 200 public domain hymns, and the entire version of the King James Bible (most of the other bible versions are copyrighted, can you believe it?). I’ve even given Melodie its own website: http://melodie.ariyam.com (yes, melodie.com was taken).

So, If you’re running a church-like assembly, and looking for an application to project your songs, and looking for a really neat and powerful little tool that is free. Well, here it is! Enjoy.

The Melodie Download Site

100 Book, New Year Goal

I am so underread. (And only someone underread would even dare use an expression as ‘underread’.) It’s true, I don’t know a lick of contemporary literature. Except for the names you can’t escape, like Dan Brown, Rowling, or Tolkien, the rest of the authors’ names stir no recall to me. You might as well be reading off the batting order of the ’87 Cubs for all I know– and it would indeed produce the same dumb look in my expression.

So in effort to combat my own literary ignorance, I’ve taken on a new campaign for the new year. My goal is to read all 100 books from the Modern Library Best 100 Reader’s list. Firstly, I refuse to call it a “New Year’s Resolution”, and thereby nominate it for failure. Instead, I’m going to stick to using the word “goal”. Sounds silly and irrelevant, I imagine. But you see, with the word “goal”, you don’t feel like such a loser when you fail– like when use the word “resolution”. Actually, I would even suggest that with a goal, no one really expects you to succeed, and when you do, your accomplishment is met with nothing but lavish praise and incredulity.

So there you have it: my 100 book reading list. And I extend to you the same challenge. Let’s make it a goal.

Desert of Sorrows

Desert of Sorrows

A Strange Desert,
Wretched and ill foreboding,
A land of Barren plains.
Yet ‘fore hope went dry,
Steady rhythm resounded,
And upon me a Rider came.
“To where’s the sun?”, I asked,
“And its lesser lantern pair?
Or that speckled net of wonder
Sprawling endless through the air?
To what score Dynasty age
Has the Blight claimed rule?
Royal famines, imperious plagues,
Ranks of disease boast unsubdued.
Why does my soul unceasing suffer,
The threads of flesh tear ripe anew?
Why do I see Evil’s shadow cast
Onto every space, mixed in every hue.
O, Rider Hear, and make good a Christian friend,
Gather first this wandering soul,
and make my sorrows end.”

As the rider mutely listened
O’er my desperate plea,
His eyes cast solemn answers,
Perhaps, to where my solace be.
He wiped upon a sweaty brow,
A lamp flickered o’er his chin,
And with words moist in sorrow
Here did he begin:

“O Pilgrim hear, a fellow Christian friend.
I can not save your wandering soul,
Nor make your sorrows end.
For the sun reigns not o’er these skies,
Nor doth the Moon reflect its light.
But sorrows come and fester here,
While we wail and repine our life.
Hope’s in the past, the present is torment
And the future and present are one.
Pain writhes and scorches,
The soul faints and flinches,
Though nothing has near yet begun.
But stay, good friend, sip this bane
While we sit and wait for death.
And when it comes, though sting be great,
Still we’re cursed with life and breath.”

Ron Paul: disguised as a politician

For a while now, “hopefuls” for the 2008 presidential election, have been, well, “hopeless”. They have been nothing more to me than peripheral annoyance. Like that buzzing fly that keeps flapping in your ears, and after every shoo and slap of the hand, comes right back tauntingly to the same ear. I can’t get myself to trust any of them. Everything they say is so carefully worded to avoid alienating any voter group, and in essence, they end up saying nothing. And when they do say something meaningful — as in something that’s not nothing — they end up recanting the comment or pretend they never said it: a gracious example (ge.), Hillary on driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. But John Edwards cleans this one up quickly before it seeps into the fabric, “Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes.” Talk about pitch pots-o-tea and black kettles!

Just look at all these candidates. Is this really the best we can come up with? It’s like a game of Scrabble, in which after pulling out 7 tiles out of the pouch, our rack has nothing but vowels. If we had the option, I imagine the American people would be willing to lose a turn and try their luck again at another 7 tiles. But with Dubya on the other end mockingly placing down proper nouns on the board like “Iraq”, and “Al-Qaeda” for which we’ve left woefully unchallenged (who also overrode the Scrabble laws to permit a blank to transform into a hyphen), it hastens us to desperately seek out a replacement.

And I have felt this way, invidiously apathetic towards our current candidate pool, till about late this week. No, I didn’t completely hang my coat in despair, it was actually something surprisingly serendipitous. By accident, I stumbled upon a clip of one of the candidates. It was clip of one of the Republican debates where a candidate known as Ron Paul was among the contenders. I have never seen any one quite like him. Normally, for people like Giuliani, Obama, I’d use the phrase “a politician disguised as a nice person”. But, in this rare instance, Paul seems to be a “genuinely nice person disguised as a politician”. I have never in my life, heard anyone — politician or otherwise — talk so honestly before. Ron Paul caught my attention on that clip, and from there I looked up more clips and my appreciation and enthusiasm for him has grown steadily ever since. I’m so enthusiastic in fact, that I’m writing a blog entry about him! And tell, when is the last time I actually wrote a meaningful blog entry? I can’t think of one!

Ron Paul seems honest, clear, precise, and unrelenting to his position despite growing unpopularity with other shnobby members of his party. He’s a medical doctor, an obstetrician, a former army surgeon, and a strict constitutionalist. And although he has been pulling low numbers in scientific polls, he has a tremendous lead on online polls — more than any of the other candidates. His name has been goggled more times than any of the other candidates; he’s raised more money online than any one else; and I believe he has more friends on myspace than “Tom”.

Here are some clips that will give you an idea of Ron Paul’s platform. I recommend you watch at least the first one, or the last one (which is biased and campaign-ish but is still spot on with Dr Paul’s philosophy.)

1. Republican Debate, Ron vs Guliani

2. Sean Hannity is an idiot

3. Great philosphy

4. Great Overview of Dr. Paul’s beliefs

Most of the media would lead you to believe he is not doing as well as the internet data would suggest. My theory on this is that the media is downplaying Ron Paul’s appeal to maintain an illusion that they, the media, are the only qualified bearers of the stethoscope that measures the American pulse. This may have been true at a time, when people had no other choice but to listen to what losers like Bill O’reily, Sean Hannaty, or USA today have to say. But since the internet, I think the media’s true usefulness is starting to erode. The accuracy of the information they have been peddling for years, and the clear one-sided biasness of it is starting to become more transparent. There are some exceptions: Jon Stewart’s Daily Show for one, as well as Jay Leno, and Steven Colbert. It’s interesting that the comedy news sources seem to be the most truthful. But all the rest, I’m really starting to take less seriously – if at all.

Hopefully, the media and the rest will start thinking clearly and take Ron Paul more seriously. Otherwise, we’ll lose again, and we’ll be challenged on simple terms like “liberty”, “freedom”, “rights”, “peace”, and we’ll be forced to take them off the board — they won’t exist anymore in the American Dictionary, and now you lose a turn.