Monday, May 09, 2005

Mother's Day

Another Mother’s Day and the papers full of schmaltzy stories of great mothers and the great relationships they have with their children. I always wonder about those stories…Perhaps because I know similar ones, or should I say dissimilar ones. For example, I can’t mention the name, she (the daughter) once wrote an essay saying that the one person she so deeply admired was her mom. Her Mom had studied overcoming many obstacles and still managed to make their family life easy, blah, blah. The usual clichés. As soon as her Mom committed the great fuax pas—can’t mention what that was either—she turned her back on her. Of course, now they have come together again. Perhaps because her mother wasn’t willing to sever ties… Another story, “My mom is the best, blah blah …” But the young woman feels a lot of resentment. “She treats my sister better than she ever treated me…” I guess those stories in the newspaper are intended to make readers feel validation. Or perhaps they're intended to convince people that the nuclear family works when Mom is willing to give it all for her children: You've heard the spiel: Mom's are all giving, have no life beyond the call of motherhood, are selfless etc. Yet, they hide the underbelly of the dragon, the tortured relationships between mothers and their children. I like to think I have a fairly sane, stable relationship with my son. But I suppose it could be better. Maybe that will come later when we can see each other as confidantes. We do some of that now. It once seemed as if Helen Reddy’s “You and Me against the World” was our anthem. But ever since someone else entered the our family life, the song no longer works. I suppose he must feel alone in his own world, now that Mom can no longer be an accomplice, not entirely. I myself have an uneasy relationship with my mother. I guess it might be because we are so different! And yet, my husband says we are so alike. Ironic, I guess how you struggle all your life to be unlike some one, some specific person and then you end up being just that person. A cautionary tale, I guess. In this case instead of beware of what you wish for…turns into beware of what you don’t’ wish for… And then how does she feel about me? But I won’t go there.

So who is the person I would most like to be like? I don’t know. I wasn’t lucky enough to be surrounded by role models I wanted to emulate. Certainly I admired qualities in some people. I wanted to have like the gift of gab. Definitely a quality to strive for. There was also social conscience, environmental awareness, political savvy, a fast and prodigious wit. But you don’t often find all those qualities in one person. Of course, there’s also wisdom and intelligence. My husband has those qualities. I want to grow up to be like him and then some more. Always unsatisfied. Who said “satisfaction is death”? Always wanting more. I once wrote a poem about satisfaction—included below---but for me the state of satisfaction is always temporary. Although I no longer yearn for “another place, not here”(yes, an allusion to Dionne Brand for those who know her, and those who don’t) I still long for other things, not material necessarily—I think at times that I’ve got too much of that already—but other things, things to still the existential angst. And now, can that be silenced?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Strike

This whole strike thing is getting to be very frustrating, especially for someone like me. I want to go and shake people up, the students especially. What are they waiting for to take a stand? What are they thinking about in the comfort of their homes? I have tried to elicit some response from my students by sending them emails about the situation and no one seems to be stirred. Mae says our students need to be angrier. I am going to have to agree with her on that. How can they allow this to go on and not react? There have been only twenty at most twenty five students at the university gates—when they had agreed that at least hundred were needed, and yet not one of the anti-strikers challenges what is going on. I have mixed feelings about the strike because I don’t think tuition should be raised, but to go an indefinite strike?? And what the hell is an indefinite strike? Does that mean that if the certification 70 is not overturned we will NEVER get back to school. I think that an effective strike would be one that impedes the employees from getting paid. As it is right now, professors and employees are in the comfort of their homes getting paid!!! Hello!!! Who’s going to complain about that. Yeah, nut cases like me. Geezers that think that the university has meaning, that education is important, that satisfaction and passivity are synonyms for DEATH!!! Impotence is the word that best fits what I’m feeling right now, wanting to do something but having neither the leadership nor the charm to stir the masses to action.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Para entonces

by Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera

Quiero morir cuando decline el día,
en alta mar y con la cara al cielo;
donde parezca un sueño la agonía,
y el alma, un ave que remonta el vuelo.

No escuchar en los últimos instantes
ya con el cielo y con el mar a solas,
más voces ni plegarias sollozantes
que el majestuoso tumbo de las olas.

Morir cuando la luz, triste retira
sus áureas redes de la onda verde,
y ser como ese sol que lento expira:
algo muy luminoso que se pierde...

Morir, y joven: antes que destruya
el tiempo aleve la gentil corona;
cuando la vida dice aún: soy tuya,
aunque sepamos bien que nos traiciona.

I learned this poem when I was in college but couldn't remember who wrote it, but the internet is a wonderful thing. I wrote the first line of the poem and voliá. I found it. I remember feeling that this poem expressed exactly how I felt about life. So you see I have always been concerned with the question of death.

Link to his bio:http://www.ale.uji.es/gutnajer.htm

Terri Schiavo

So something new, for me at least, came up on the Terri Schiavo case. The chemical imbalance that induced her heart attack and eventual brain damage came about as a consequence of bulimia. Teri had been a chubby teenager and was obsessed with not gaining weight. That gives a totally new meaning to accusations that she is being starved to death. Especially if one considers that she was already on a pretty destructive path.

But then as a spouse, as a parent what do you do when a thing like this happens? Which brings me to thoughts of euthanasia. I think it is much more painful, cruel and costly to let her die slowly than to mercifully end her life. As a parent myself, I can not see myself allowing my child to die a slow, painful death. Would I have the courage to help him die peacefully? I don’t know, but I do know that that is the choice my mind, if not my heart, would make. I worry that something catastrophic like that will happen to me and that I will literally rot in a bed, an unnecessary expense and a nuisance to those left to take care of me. I still haven’t’ seen Mar Adentro, but from what I know of the film, the main character wanted someone to help him die. It took a practical stranger to see his wish come true.

There’s an episode—first season—of Law and Order in which an AIDS activist is accused of killing several men diagnosed with AIDS. His defense argues among other things that the onslaught of AIDS is terrible and that these men wanted someone to help them end their lives so that they did not have to suffer through the illness. (Of course, this is in a time where AIDS medication was still not common, nor accessible. I understand that one can live a pretty healthy life now even if afflicted with the virus.) The point is that one should be able to choose how one wants to die. Death with dignity. Why wither away causing pain and inconvenience to others? oh well…

Monday, February 21, 2005

On death

They say that with the arrival of spring come thoughts of love. Perhaps, that ‘s true. But it isn’t spring yet. And lately I’ve been feeling kind of morose. And then I see a movie, The Whole Wide World I think it’s called. Not a major movie I suspect ‘cause I hadn’t heard of it, but a moving one. It’s the story of Robert Howard the creator of Conan the Barbarian. Funny, but of course someone had to create Conan; he just didn’t pop out of no where, but I never thought of it as the work of a “real” writer. From the movie—which doesn’t have to stick to the facts, but is allegedly based on facts, Howard was a tortured soul. A man who had a grudge against the world. The only person he loved was his mother who had nurtured his talent and had believed in him when others scoffed at his writing. He was a master of pulp fiction. He published in magazines with funny names like Weird Tales. When his mother who was suffering from consumption, I think, takes a turn for the worse, he becomes desperate. He cannot conceive life without her and commits suicide at the age of thirty. His mother died the very next day.

Today another tragic story, or is it? Hunter Thompson committed suicide. Thompson who lived and wrote in Puerto Rico called what he did "gonzo journalism." I guess gonzo journalism is the equivalent of pulp fiction. It is the kind of underground stuff that “serious” writers/journalists don’t engage in. The feature that differentiated Thompson’s kind of journalism from the mainstream was his total lack of objectivity. He prided himself on not being objective about a story he was reporting on. According to Wikipedia Thompson can be considered “the grandfather of the blogging movement." Like pulp fiction, gonzo journalism was also an aggressive, hostile kind of journalism that focused on the depraved side of life. Thompson wrote what he knew about. A quote attributed to Thompson on the act of writing reads, “You have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you're writing about before you alter it." And he did just that. He was often on drugs or booze and lived a pretty bizarre life. Not a life to emulate. Some people think that a lot of HT's life was a performance for his audience, some which allegedly have a cult-like reverence for his life-style and writings. Unlike Howard, Hunter was sixty seven years old when he decided to terminate his own life.

Not the kind death I want for myself. I want mine to be clean and neat. No bloody mess for others to have to clean up after. I guess the way you choose to die, for those who can afford to choose, says something about you. . .a lot actually. When my time comes I want to lie down and not wake up. Perhaps find out that the end has come through a dream. Two relatives of mine have committed suicide that I know of. One of them chose to kill himself in a bathroom on Christmas Eve. At least that’s the story as I remember it. The other one, a charming man, as I recall, was found hanging from a tree. Enough sad stories, but that’s how memory works by association…

Thursday, February 10, 2005

To be or not to be

My latest theory is that one should die at forty. After forty your body starts to betray you and you begin to discover bones and muscles you didn’t know you had. At forty, my knees first started forcing me to become aware of their existence. Before that, knees were used only to determine the length of a skirt. Under the knees was too old; above the knee was hip. Now I am constantly aware of that funny looking joint that connects my thigh and my leg. Shortly after the knee, the back started vying for attention. First, it was the upper back and then the lower back. At this point I had my first encounter with a physical therapist. It was a good, pleasant experience, but when his touch wouldn’t make me better fast, I opted for a chiropractor. Now, when the hands (carpal tunnel) and the back (years of poor posture) start yelling for attention, I call my Chiro for a re-alignment of the spine. I don’t know if it’s a placebo effect, or if it actually does the job, but suffice it to say, I no longer visit a physical therapist. That is, until recently when of all the weird things that can happen to you after forty, I developed facial paralysis. It really was a strange sensation. I felt like a doll whose eyes won’t close properly. The general practitioner recommended a physiatrist who prescribed physical therapy, or rather facial therapy. So now that I got over the fp, and my eyes are back to normal as well as my face—it has regained its normal symmetry, I will resume my visits to the Chiro for a readjustment. I wish I could get one of those trash cans Homer Simpson uses when he had his little bout as the local Chiropractor, but it really isn’t that easy. And I still haven't found the trash can that will do the job better than MR--those are his initials.

The above entry is not suitable for anyone over forty; it is definitely not appropriate for anyone over sixty, and people over eighty should not be exposed to this venomous material in any way or manner. This is not a call for mass suicide. This is intended only as a warning to the young. A gypsy curse says "May you live a hundred years." Now you know what it means.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Museums

Museums
Today is my wedding anniversary. So, I suggested that we go see Jaulabra. Jaulabra is an installation project created by the Puerto Rican artist Antonio Martorell. We left the house around 1:30 and set out to San Juan. We were both certain that the project which we had seen reviewed on TV and the newspapers would be at the Museo de Puerto Rico. When we got there and after we had already paid the entrance fee, we were told that the Martorell piece we went searching for was at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo. We had already paid and our last visit to the MAp had been some three or four years ago so we figured we'd see the new stuff. I'm certainly glad we did for there was an interesting exhibit by an artist named José Alicea. It was dedicated to Neruda, the Chilean poet, but there were pieces that were about Lorca and Che Guevara. His work has a political edge that appeals to me. There is a denunciation of the war and the many tyrannies in Spain, and South America. Moving pieces with fragments of newspapers, real ones, plastered in with the rest of the work.

We then dashed over to MAC. When we got there we were told they closed at four, and as luck would have it, it was five to four. The woman at the reception noticed our frustration and asked us if we couldn't come by tomorrow. We told her we come from far. She relented and let us go upstairs in hopes that we could convince the person in charge to let us see Jaulabra if nothing else. We were satisfied since that was the object of our trip after all. But what do you know? When we reached the second floor, the woman in charge, Aurora, ushered us into the room and even gave us a tour, allowed us to touch the pieces and even wear the robes. Afterwards she even asked if we might be interested in watching "the making of." These people were just great! A young guy called Ramón who turned out to be a site designer for the museum took us to all of the other exhibits that would be leaving the museum soon. We were in awe. These people really wanted us to see the museum and enjoy the experience. I truly recommend the place.

I've failed to talk about Jaulabra so here's a link that will explain it: http://www.wrtu.org/articulo.php?id=714. OR http://zonai.com/noticia_mainm.asp?ZONAI:69111&pos=b&title=PALABRAS+DE+ALIENTO&catid=49

I also recommend the museum page. It takes a while to download so be patient. http://www.museocontemporaneopr.org/

Monday, January 17, 2005

On faith

What can I talk about today? Here’s something: I’m not a religious person but I grew up in a family that went to church on Sundays. And oh I almost forgot, I went to a Catholic school when I was young. I actually went to two different ones: St Thomas of Canterbury and St. Josaphat. Yeah, who the hell was St. Josaphat? I had never thought of that before…hmm. Well the thought came because Dalia (my husband’s cousin) convinced her father to re-marry her mother, but this time in a Catholic church. The argument she used to convince him was “Mom is a devout Catholic and she can’t take communion.” He readily agreed though he usually avoids church like the plague. I thought that was touching. It also got me thinking about how important that must have been for Gloria all these years wanting to fully participate of the church going experience and not being able to. I know other people not married by the church who take communion, but I guess it takes true devotion to your faith not to, even though no one would even know or care whether you did or not.

Another similar thing happened to my father. A priest once said during mass that no sinner should take communion. Dad took it to heart and has never ever taken communion again. Eventually he even dropped mass altogether. I always thought that a big gesture on his part—not taking communion. So many sinners do. But then if people really recognized their sins, petty as some may be, two things would have to happen: the priest would (1) choke on the communion bread himself and (2) he would not have anyone to offer it to.

So now I have to find out who that Josaphat guy is.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

On the future

Today, I will comment a column by Mayra Montero. She is a Cuban writer who lives in Puerto Rico and who writes about Puerto Rico. In today’s paper (she has a weekly column in El Nuevo Día) she wrote about how people dare to complain about bats that are mainly inoffensive but do not say anything about the destruction of the environment. Mayra is like Anna Quindlen once was, a voice that needs to be heard. She has no party affiliations and is willing to offend those who she considers vermin. Her complaint today made me think that we are leaving future generations a very sorry looking planet. In science fiction anti-utopias the world is a gray place where color is secured only for a few, the ones who control the world. That’s how I see the future, a bleak place where the sound of a bird chirping on a bright sunny morning is only a faint memory or a recorded sound only a few have access to. Mayra said a very wise thing again and I quote “al verdadero gobierno, que es el poder económico, nadie le vota en contra porque no se presenta a elecciones. Lo sagrado no está en juego. Y por eso se derriban 4,000 árboles de una sentada.”( I won’t translate because I am assuming that if you are interested in this log you are either a Puerto Rican or can read Spanish. ) Here she was griping about the politicians and their petty fights and squabbles. She argues that they are, in the big picture, meaningless. The ones who really control our destinies are the ones who control the big money.

Roberto Carlos (Brazilian singer/songwriter) wrote a song about how would we explain the ecological disaster to our children: "Los niños te preguntarán que es lo que sabes, de las ballenas que cruzaban viejos mares.....o en los libros o en imágenes de archivos de un programa vespertino de televisión, responderás con el silencio de tu boca, recordaras batiendo el mar con furia loca,....una proa expuesta al viento y en sus últimos momentos, un recuerdo es un trofeo en forma de arpón" I wonder...

Friday, January 14, 2005

Harry Potter anyone?

I think that this blog thing is cool. It allows me some precious and needed writing time. Perhaps after the first two weeks are up, we/ I can move onto other things without dropping the writing exercise. What do you think? Still haven’t seen anyone else’s writing. I wonder how it will go after we become involved in school work etc.

I noticed that the new Harry Potter book, HP and the Half-blood Prince will be out in July. When I first assigned that book, the first one, to my classes, that must have been like in 1998-99, I did so because it was being read widely by college students in the US and it was on the list of censured books. There was a ruckus about the book in the states. Some school boards were prohibiting it because of the wizardry and others for God knows why. So, of course it was a book I wanted to read and introduce to my students (always the devil’s advocate). So, I bought it from scholastic for about $5.99. I talked to my son about the book but he showed no interest, so I talked to my sister who has always loved science fiction and fantastical literature. She read it and loved it. Only then did my son decide to read it and then my Dad and it became a family thing. My students, the ones who actually bothered to read it, also loved it. Some went on to read the others (only two books then). Now it has become common knowledge. Everyone knows who HP is and has either heard or read the novels or watched the films. (There’s nothing like Hollywood to promote a book.) Confession: I never got passed book I, but I have seen the films.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Do I need a title?

This is my second entry. I wonder if I could delete these entries after a while. I need to check that out.

Yesterday, my husband and I went La Tertulia, in case you don't know the place, it's a bookstore in Ponce De León, Rio Piedras, close to the UPR. At first, I thought I don't really want to go in there because I can't afford to buy another book (not economically, but time wise). I haven't read a novel I didn't have to in what seems like ages. Well that 's not absolutely true. I read a novel during Xmas vacation just to please my sister, Emily's Secret. It's a fictional account of the true reason behind Emily Bronte's death (the English writer, author of Wuthering Heights). It was as I suspected it would be, more romantic crap than real research into the writer's life. There was a lot of description about how their hearts longed to be together and that kind of thing. The kind of thing I read for the thrill in High School. One of my favorite writers in HS was Barbara Cartland. I know that is terrible, but I got over her and her virginal heroines. Then I moved to Victoria Holt. These were pseudo gothic fiction. I actually even re-read some of those. I still remember Holt with affection. I must have read twenty or twenty-five of her novels. Sounds like a lot right. Well, don't be impressed. I read somewhere that the woman--a millionaire I am sure, died just a couple of years ago--had written 500 novels. How about that?

So anyway back to La Tertulia... we ended up buying four novels. But really only one for me. I might tell you about it after I read it. I don't recall the title right now. My husband--why do I remember his novels and not the one I bought for me?--bought Delirio by Laura Restrepo, La Mujer del Sombrero Panama by Edgardo Rodriguez Julia and got stumped... Tell you later.

BTW, I noticed and I think I will do that myself now that you can write into a word document and then paste the entry into the Blog. That way it's easier to spell check.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

CW101

I created this blog hoping to encourage my students to do the same. It was kind of bewildering at first, but I'm sure we'll get the hang of it. It is not as invasive, of privacy that is, as I thought it would be. It also will show you, my students, how keeping a log of your writing may go. Hopefully your log will be much more creative than mine. If you take a look at some of the blogs created, you'll realize that almost anything goes in a BLOG. I would rather that for now you kept it as a notebook in which you make regular entries about the things that can help you become more prolific..that is the things that will help you write more and better. If you start thinking that you have nothing to write about, write about that. I once wrote an essay--I can share later--on how I could'nt come up for anything to write about and the professor (that was in New York some moons ago) loved the piece. SO you see, I 've already written this much without really having any thing major to write about.

Now to something more substantial. Susan Sontag passed away last week. She was a really interesting character. She had been living with another outstanding character for many years, Annie Leibovitz. As I saw a picture of Sontag on the insert of Claridad, I figured that the photograph, a striking picture of Sontag in her later years must have been taken by Leibovitz. Leibovitz was the photographer of the artists. You can check out the picture at http://chueca.com/fotos/200501/0411442901.htm So one of the big issues after Sontag's death was the gay community's criticism of her obituary because the major newspapers who covered her death failed to mention that she was a lesbian. I wonder whether that should be stressed and how would she feel about being outed after death. It wasn't like she kept her relationship with Leibovitz a secret. But then I'm not a lesbian, maybe people need to know that this controversial woman so many people admired, so many people hated, was a lesbian. That perhaps adds some degree of normalcy to their lives. Perhaps in that way people will understand that lesbianism is not synonymous with perversity that gays, lesbians et al are human too.