I really did not care for this book. I guess, somehow, even though I knew the story, I had never read it, or seen it for that matter, and the plot holes were just gaping.

Why is the good Dr. so repulsed by his creation immediately? The Dr. has been assembling this guy from body parts. He is aware of his visage, hell, he made him. And yet, the moment after the magical spark of life is created, he is so repulsed by the creature that he immediately casts him aside. We are told that it is the body plus the spark of life, the movement, the near human-ness which makes the monster so utterly repugnant. Yet, where else in the story is the character so moved by aesthetics? Sure, he mentions the beauty of his home, the grandeur of his Alps, but the care and tenderness he repeatedly states about his friends and loved ones is always defined on their character, their humanity, never their grace or beauty. So why is the monster never allowed a genuine opportunity to become more?

And it is the touching quest of the monster to be more, to become human, to share in their joy and humanity that eventually turns his soul into a fair relation to his visage. The section where the monster desperately waits in a small shack adjacent to a family is one of the most touching of the book (if only my language students could do so well by merely sitting silently and soon become so eloquent). The problem with this whole scene is how it undercuts the main premise of the book. The beauty of his longing, and the inevitable brutal rebuff and casting out into isolation only captures the monster’s humanity. Yet, somehow we are supposed to empathize with the good Dr., or at least understand his choice of abandoning this hellish creature. The cruelty displayed towards the poor creature justified, at least in my mind, the eventual path he takes, and the inevitable brutality and revenge that follows.

I was never able to get over this juxtaposition: the rejection out of hand of one who had such longing and humanity in his soul. It made the Dr. entirely unsympathetic, and I felt that in the end, he got his just desserts. I thought we were supposed to understand his torments and tortures for playing God, and creating a monster. Yet it was his all too base humanity that got him in so much trouble. (Also, I guess we are supposed to not judge the literary failure too harshly when the Dr. is unable to make a routine inference about how the monster might best be able to exact his final revenge against his loved ones, especially since his encounter with Cervil showed us exactly how well the monster understood his maker)

I guess I just left the book confused. Am I supposed to think the Dr. is afflicted by his hubris at playing God. If so, then the author shouldn’t have done such a great job documenting his base humanity. On the other hand, if I am supposed to condemn the Dr. due to his visceral hatred due solely to aesthetic, then there REALLY needed to be more development on this theme. I am glad the book is short. By the end, I simply felt it was a chore, taking away my time from other books that might better know what they are trying to say.

She was a truly brutal woman, but a brilliant chameleon, who was able to always change her shape in the quest for something more. (More being money/stability, the power of poverty being a very real motivator for this story) Without giving anything away, the main character, Ricardito, meets this Chilean girl as a youth in Miraflores, Peru, and then conveniently stumbles upon her repeatedly, in her various, and ever-brightening incarnations. It is a typical story,  in that it never ends well when one party loves the other SO MUCH MORE. The story of such powerful imbalances have been written before, but this one was crafted exceptionally well.

There were some parts of the story I struggled with. The main character professes that his only love, his passion, is to live in Paris for the rest of his life. That is fine, but then where does his passion for this woman come in. He burns so eternally and constantly for her, that it just seems strange that someone would be so ardent in this one area of his life, but so neutered in the others. It also seems weird that his chosen profession, translator for the UN, would be a job that would so frequently take him out of the city he is dying to live in.

There is also a strange part where he finally makes his first real non-Peruvian friends in Paris, a charming couple with their mute, adopted Vietnamese child, who does eventually speak to the bad girl much to the delight of his family, but in the end, she does eventually leave, and the relationship with his first ever friends also seems to simply wither and die. I was not real sure why this relationship was constructed at all. Sure, they do provide a means to vocalize his struggle, but there were probably other literary techniques that could have done the same thing.

Perhaps the best part of the book was the bad girl’s enslavement to a Japanese businessman. The usual sexual deviance flowed, which I loved. He turns out to be particularly brutal to her, both physically and psychologically, which was deliciously written and fairly sadistic.

Overall, it was a wonderful book, and as a man it makes you hate the power that women can have over you when they hold all the cards (EG: you love them more than is reciprocated). I had mixed feelings about the ending, but I don’t really want to spoil anything here. It is a quick read, while being emotionally challenging. I thoroughly recommend it.

By now, most people have heard about Prof. Chua’s book, see above title, where she basically documents the strict and harsh regime that she used to raise her children. Apparently, the tantrum that her youngest daughter throws while on vacation in Russia is supposed to show how the book is really an autobiography of change, since many of the harshest techniques that she had previously used, she now has abandoned. However, the media has done a damn fine job job NOT reading it that way, and I doubt Mrs. Chua minds as her book is racing up the best seller list.

What I found tragic in the analysis of the book is that the mothers admitted craziness and extremism gets in the way of her good points. To wit: you have to master a music instrument, but only piano and violin. Why exactly? Were we facing a deficit of Asians playing these two instruments? I understand that there are very powerful neurological benefits to learning and playing music, but they only work on these two instruments: cello players’ brains won’t equally benefit? No sleep-overs. Really, none? Why? Why single them out. It seems that this would fall under the aegis of control of free time, which also occurs, but why single it out? Are sleep-overs some especially egregious attack on free time that I am not aware of? Is there a large amount of work and learning that is happening between Friday night post dinner, and Saturday morning? Throwing a homemade birthday card back at her own daughter because she didn’t like the effort? Really, that is necessary?

It is clear that this woman is not anyone I respect, due to her extremism, but I have to say, I respect her message. This just in: kids in America are no longer special: simply being born there and putting in below-average effort is not going to get you were you THINK you deserve to get. I know this crazy Asian mother is doing herself and ‘her group’ a disservice by coming across as a wack-job, but it really is a shame because she is telling a basic message that more American parents need to hear. The massive imbalances, in equality, of your youth are going, if not already gone. If your kid doesn’t work his/her ass off, he/she most likely will not be getting a very good job, with corresponding economic outcomes. AMERICANS, YOU MUST WORK HARDER!!!

I am often troubled by my co-workers out here. They are always bemoaning the nature of Singaporean kids’ lives, from the lack of play to the brutal extra-study schedule that is a daily feature of their lives. I am certainly glad I don’t have to do it, but then again, I would hardly want to be poor either. That is the dichotomy facing kids in today’s world. There are more and more of them getting the education to compete globally for the good jobs. So if you don’t want to work hard and sacrifice the free time in your youth, someone else, or 1000 someone elses’ will, and you can live your life according to that brutal economic reality. My co-workers don’t seam to realise that the relatively easy life we lead, and the correlating economic rewards, would never be achieved if we were born in Asia yet did change anything else about our youth. Life is tougher now. It sucks, but it certainly doesn’t help burying your head in the sand about it.

P.S. While Mrs. Chua is quick to claim her ‘Asian-ness’ is the reason for her parenting success, I would say that airing your family’s dirty laundry in public and profiting off said lack of privacy is pretty American.

Matthew Yglesias had a post up about Robert Bentley’s comments as the new governour of Alabama:

“There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit,” Bentley said. ”But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.”

Bentley added, ”Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”

I think what scares me about a quote like this, is that I can’t put into practice what would be required of a good governor who simultaneously held this belief. It is clear that his relationship with Christ is the most important thing in his life. If not the most important (and here I am totally guessing to be honest) it is of EXTREME importance, perhaps equal with other concerns. So you have a man who cares deeply about this relationship, is governor of ALL PEOPLE IN HIS STATE, and has to treat all of them equally, despite cleanly dichotomising his constituents into two ‘separate but equal’ parts.

I personally have passionate views on racism and homosexuality. I believe that the are no massive (perhaps minor) inherent differences betwenen different races when they are born. Now, after going through specific regional culturalisation procedures, they BECOME different, but they aren’t inherently thus. I also believe that homosexuality is not a choice, it is a natural occurring phenomenon that affects somewhere around 10% of populations (more in areas where women have been removed from the equation). I fervently believe these things.

I am going to be totally honest. If I encountered a man who told me homos and N&^%ers were animals, I would NOT be able to view him equally. I would hold him in mental contempt for his pathetic, retrograde beliefs and do my damnedest to not have to deal with his/her again. I certainly would not respect them, or think of them as an ‘equal’, in any way shape or form. I do not cotton racism or homophobia, and I will tell people directly EXACTLY how I feel about their pathetic values. So this is me dealing with people who hold different views.

So I sure hope Mr. Bentley is a big/better man than I. As the current governor of a state, I am sure he is able to ‘hide’ his feelings better than I have to on this blog, but what about what he actually believes? I hope he is able to simultaneously believe that a relationship with Christ is paramount, while treating those who ‘are not his brother and sister’ as equals, despite lacking the most crucial relationship in his life. Could you do it? More critically, how will we know he is doing it.

One of the difficulties I always had with my brother is his support for things politically due to his religious stance that have a profoundly negative effect on those groups that he professes to love. I don’t doubt his sincerity, I have just never been able to mentally get over the hurdle that this doesn’t seem like love to me. I guess I would rather have someone be more unpleasant to me in person, but more supportive of me in a voting/abstract way, but this is just me.

I will bring this rambling to a close. I am going to hope that Mr. Bentley is a bigger/better man than I. As a Republican governor from Alabama, it is a fairly safe bet that we won’t exactly be seeing eye to eye on just about anything, but I at least wish him the strength to legitimately treat and believe those who don’t accept Christ as Lord as equals.

I was chatting with my cousin today, and were discussing our respective jobs. She was a bit disillusioned with hers because she said it took no effort to do, and a trained monkey could just as well perform her required tasks. Aside from the slight caveat about how a trained monkey might be able to do her job, there is no guarantee that one could get it, there was a big distinction between our levels of satisfaction; mainly I like mine. I like mine because I am just ok at it.

There is nothing easier than being an average teacher. Ok, nothing is pushing the realms of language, but lets just say that it certainly isn’t hard to be ok at teaching. A huge part is showing up, being patient, being interested, and not being a Muppet. However, to do teaching well is a whole other story. To wit, the past perfect continuous.

Take these three sentences:

They had eaten lunch when the phone rang vs. they were eating lunch when the phone rang. Those two tenses are fine, and easily contrastive. However, why can’t we use, ‘they had been eating lunch when the phone rang.’ Of course, we could, but we don’t. Why? Sure, the technical answer has to do with the durational aspect of the first verb, but that is HARD to explain to people who don’t have a mastery of language.

It is the hard part of teaching that I love. Sure, I can do it, because I take the effort to care, and am willing to put in the time to get it right, but it certainly isn’t easy. I just had a teacher who has taught longer than I, but isn’t all ‘papered up’ ask for my help, and I wasn’t able to do so at a very satisfactory level. Hey, what can I say, the grammatical examples he was working with were not easy. Anyway, this is not a pity party about how hard my job is, because it isn’t, but it is hard to do it well, and I like that.

I keep saying to people that I like my job, somewhat because I need to be grateful because it is great, somewhat because I am trying to keep myself believing it, and somewhat because it really, truly is. But I wouldn’t be able to convince myself of this fact is I couldn’t actually be challenged by it on a semi-regular basis.

Who wants a job that merely rolls over and plays dead?

My friend is dating a Chinese Malaysian woman. Did you know that the information presented in the first sentence means you can treat her like sh%t? Not that my friend can do so, because he is a good, decent person, but her boss can, because she is Asian.

The scenario: it is Chinese New Years within a month, so my friend scheduled his leave to match up with girl’s, who, of course, needs that time off to go home and see her family. (FYI, to truly understand this yearly migration, you really have to see the pictures out of Chinese railway stations at this time of the year) So this girl gets leave, but there is a catch. See, the wiley and capricious boss gives her ORAL approval. That is not accidental. Thus, if he then decides after the fact to cancel her leave (as he did) then he can clearly point to a lack of a paper trail. Of course, he himself deliberately made sure there was a lack of paper trail. Never mind the fact that she and my friend have already shelled out a significant amount of money to purchase tickets. (2nd FYI….traveling over Lunar New Year is BRUTALLY expensive)

My friend has learned to temper his anger. He has extolled her of numerous occasions to simply quit, which is really a silly thing to do, because quitting implies that there is actually a BETTER job that won’t treat you like an animal. Of course, Western companies aren’t entirely blameless here either: of course, they would never pull this particular stunt, although they do offer less wages, seeing as they have a competitive advantage of some sort. (We won’t cancel your right to have the Chinese equivalent of Christmas off capriciously, so please take 20-30% less because we are such good guys)

So being born in Asia effectively means you have no rights because market pressures allow the people in power to behave like jackasses because the sheer weight in numbers of people here means that there is always another alternative around the corner…

This last line seems at odds with my headline, which it is. The headline is really just a hope, truth be told. It would be nice if people collectively told the jackasses who behave so badly to simply F off, formed a Union and got some much needed protection. But that is hard to do, especially when there are another 500 people who want your job…

This started as a dialogue with my brother, and I am sure that he will not mind me reproducing it here, as he is very open and plain-spoken about his faith, and the discussion has not been rancorous. (If it becomes so, that almost assuredly would be on mind, for that is just not the nature of my brother.

I have started, and subsequently paused, reading Dawkins’s, ‘The God Delusion’. I only made it through the prologue, in which he defends himself from several broad strokes of attack made upon his work between the hardback version and the paperback revision. To be honest, I am never quite sure why I read these things. It just feels  a bit like beating the proverbial ‘dead horse’. Why bother to analytically deconstruct faith with a rational argument. It just seems like trying to ‘solve a problem’ with an entirely inappropriate tool. Anyway, the comment that he made that did strike me was that he objected to children being spoken of as ‘Christian/Muslim’ children, since they, at that point in their life, could hardly have made a conscious decision about their future faith, and instead he wished that these kids be spoken of as, ‘Children of Muslim/Christian’ parents.

It seemed eminently sensible, but it also got me thinking about people born where Christian teachings were not dominant, or completely absent, and what happened to their eternal soul as a result. I sent this question to my brother, and he wrote back an excellent response. Below, is his response in its entirety:

First of all, this is an important question you and Dawkins raise. The evangelical church is somewhat divided on this issue. Some would say that people are only held accountable for what they know of Christ. So, someone who has heard the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection in our place to forgive us of our sins, but rejects him is held accountable for this decision, where as those who have never heard of Christ can be saved simply by means of Jesus’ atonement on their behalf because they have no opportunity or possibility of believing.

Others would say that what we are judged for by God and held accountable for is our sin, not simply our rejection of Jesus Christ. Those who hold to this view point out that this is essentially Paul’s argument in his letter to the Romans (Romans 1:18-25 if you have access to a Bible). Therefore, those who have never heard of Christ are still held accountable because everyone is given the light of God through his general revelation in nature but chooses self-worship over creator worship. This camp then concludes that those who have never heard of Christ are held accountable for their sins at judgment.

Finally, there are those who hold to the latter view, but maintain that those who do not have the cognitive abilities to even understand categories of sin or general revelation may very well not be lost and covered by the atonement of Jesus. Therefore, this camp still holds to the more exclusivist view, while maintaining the biblical teaching that infants/the mentally handicapped may very well be saved by Jesus’ atonement.

I personally hold to the last view, but sincere evangelicals disagree on this. Please take a second and watch this brief video and listen to this brief audio by John Piper offering a more articulate explanation.

I did what my brother asked, and listened to several of the audio clips. I found that I disagreed with myriad statements, many of which were not utterly core beliefs. I am profoundly glad that I did so, however, because it has enabled me to answer one of my brother’s questions:
I am curious, for you personally, what is it that keeps you from embracing/following Jesus?

Thanks to listening to the aforementioned preacher, I can now answer this: I don’t believe in original sin. I remember reading in my early Chinese philosophy classes about the battle/debate that raged over this very question. I guess I now know what side of the argument I was swayed by.

Now, I have never been one to hold up Man as a beacon of goodness, and I often rail against the numerous stupid things they do, but I don’t believe this is inherently because they were ‘born’ this way. I personally find it is often an amalgam of poor, outdated cultural practices, the inability to truly understand the consequences of your actions, and a general sense of laziness/casualness that all so easily occurs when you have to work 2 jobs, have a child struggling with school and a car on its last leg that you can’t afford to die. (Note: this is a hypothetical person, not me, and I say this not as in ‘it couldn’t possibly be me, but just that I am fortunate enough not to have ever been in this dire financial situation)

But notice the ‘original sin’ of man is not in that list, and without it, the basic underpinnings of the faith seem to go with it. The preacher stated, as has my brother, that we need Jesus’s sacrifice to expatriate our original sin, without which we are doomed to Hell. My brother, as an Evangelist, has clearly stated that it is this belief which is necessary for salvation, which I never truly understood before. (I am more of a ‘judged solely by your actions sort of guy). But if you believe you are an inherent sinner, then belief in him, and by extension the idea that said belief saves you from Hell, then I totally understand the need to believe.

But if I feel I am going to hell, it is solely for the poor way I treat humans and my inability to always treat people as well as I usually do when in a good mood (The Confucian definition of a gentleman by the way.)

I guess I just fundamentally don’t get it: why would God need to test people this way, presenting a dichotomy of belief or hell? Aren’t we tested and asked to prove our divinity a million times a day when we interact with others?

I am sure, at this point, that every person who is going to hear about the shooting of a sitting Arizona Democratic Congresswoman is going to do so. (Why some never will might be a subject for another post)

It is clear that the *suspect* was profoundly mentally unstable, as most major newspapers were able, in mere days, to present a laundry list of previous incidents and encounters with people clearly ‘suggesting’ that he might be a mentally impaired person.

*Suspect* is kind of a strange word in this case. When passerbys are able to wrestle you to the ground at the scene only during a lull in the firing because you go to reload, suspect is being used only in a legal sense of the word.

So if the suspect was clearly crazy, who much of impact did sister Sarah have? For those who aren’t OCD about following US election minutiae, the wounded Congresswoman was one of two people who managed to survive the ‘Don’t retreat, Reload’ campaign by Mrs. Palin. In said internet/marketing/media endeavor, a bunch of Congressional seats were shown under military scope cross-hairs, with the attempt being to *beat* them. Of course, beat is what you hope and assume she wanted to do, and not actually shoot them. Here I am being facetious, but I am not honestly sure by what degree.

So this Congress-woman survives the campaign, and then is shot by a lunatic. So Sarah is to blame, and is culpable right? Of course not. Someone else pulled the trigger and he is to blame. Sarah Palin is by no means guilty, but she isn’t innocent. Sarah, along with many other people, myself included, is part of the discourse problem. Now, I recognize it has certainly been worse at various times in our history, but at the moment, it is on a downward trend, and that slide, while already in progress before a desperately craven man thought picking a MILF might help his political aspirations vaulted this woman into out national consciousness, certainly hasn’t been helped by her arrival.

I am going to take Mrs. Palin at her Republican word, and assume she actually believes in God. If you were any sort of human being, what would you say to this statement, “You made it more likely that someone would be shot and killed to better your political aspirations.” How would that feel. I honestly have no idea what she feels or thinks, I just know what her official, public stance on the issue has been. (NADA)

I would respect her a lot more if she came out and said something to the effect of, of course I didn’t want or plan for anyone to actually be shot or killed, but it was a stupid thing for me to do and my campaign didn’t help. What are the odds of her actually making such a statement?

When I was in Japan for my third year, I sent an inordinate number of furious, irate emails to everyone on my email master list about the horrors of Bush. I swore, berated and screamed until I went home to work for John Kerry, but before I did that, I definitely turned a lot of people off with my poison and vitriol. When I talk about my politics, my passion, I freely mention what I did, and how it turned people off, how I regret it, and how I am sorry. This alone makes me more suitable to be President than Palin. I am not saying I am qualified, just that her inability to take any responsibility for doing something damaging is telling.

Still, I hope she runs in 2012.

http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2010/12/why_caltech_is_in_a_class_by_i.html

Personally, I think lowering your standards a bit for minorities is worth it. (Just my personal bias, nothing more profound to be added here). However, in recognition of this fact can we ditch F*&^ng legacies and jocks. What a joke and a waste!

I spent a lot of last year getting an application together for a Public Policy degree, and now I am not sure I ‘want’ to do it.

More accurately, I am not sure I am willing to give up everything else in my life to do it.

Per an older post, I actually did get the 24 hour contract, and I previously alluded to, all the teeth-gnashing ended up being for naught, as the BC has not closed, and I no longer need to worry about my monthly wage, it being strongly set in stone.

However, having gotten this job, along with the increased pay does come increased duties (aside from a position of staff-rep that I am currently applying for) and I am just not sure that I will have my head round everything in 6 months to get started on this big undertaking.

The notion of a full-time job, working out and reading for a degree seems doable…just the added 12 hours of weekly lectures seems a bit too much for me. I just fear that everything else will be stripped bare, leaving me a working-studying-training machine with everything else rendered moot, and I am just not sure I want that.

I have long known I have one of the cushiest work numbers around, and I kind of feel I owe it a bit more than the bare minimum I would be able to give it at the moment, or the moment in 6 months when I start to study as well. Since my application is due at the end of the month, every day I do nothing is, somewhat, making my decision for me, but I am really not sure what to do.

If I was more prolific on writing this blog, another goal of mine that will have to be shelved if I decide to study, perhaps I would have more readers and be able to get their feedback. Alas, I do not. I am pretty sure I have basically decided what to do anyway, but still, it is a great, cheap, convenient course and it is damn hard to pass it up. So maybe I should just think of it as a delay, and not a permanent shelving.

I do not want to be doing the current job I have forever, but it has real, serious perks, and I think about 99.99% of humanity would kill to be where I am…best to just ride it out for a bit longer

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