Friday, March 21

Professors Strike Back

Stephanie Rosenbloom writes in The New York Times that professors are now using the web, either via social networking sites, blogs or personal webpages, to reveal information about themselves in the hopes of "becoming more human" in the eyes of students. And there's even a show on mtvu called "Professors Strike Back," which gives the maligned professors to refute the comments in

The show has become more popular than the music premieres on that channel. Which only goes to show that for a lot of students, the thought that professors have lives beyond the classroom is almost unthinkable. Sam Gosling, psychologist and associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, narrated an anecdote where a female student saw him in the street near the campus and looked absolutely horrified. "Like, ‘Wait a minute, you have a life?’ The idea that I would continue to exist — it was sort of a violation of her expectations.” Gosling goes further to say that students today think professors are not doing their jobs unless they convey information in zany, interactive ways.

Teaching has lost some of its god-on-the-podium status. To teach these days means also means to entertain. It's such a taxing demand, to relay information and to make like a talk show host at the same time. What matters is the ability to teach. But students seem to be under the impression that learning is like being part of a talk show audience. "Here we are now, entertain us," and if you fail to do so, you get comments on evaluations like, "Bring a pillow."I tend to agree with the article that this is an unfortunate trend, this need to know that your professor likes Project Runway or has climbed the rockface in Galera. Some are of the opinion that knowing these little things make for a more comfortable learning experience. Whether the "humanization" of professors come in the form of dishing out jokes or crazy anecdotes along the lines of "I have a life, too, you know" or posting more of the same in blogs or social networking sites, this need for transparency seems doubly unneccessary for me.

And yet, I'm posting this on my blog. So take everything with a grain of salt.

Monday, March 17

Why We Write

Damon Lindelof, co-creator and executive producer of the TV series "Lost", tells us why he writes:
I write because I can’t help but make things up.

I write because I love to tell stories.

I write because my imagination compels me to do so.

I write because if I didn’t, I’d be branded a pathological liar.

Oh, and also because I’m still trying to make my dead father proud of me.

But that’s none of your goddamn business.
It's a freaking good story. Of course. We all write for the drama. This convinces me to finally break out that DVD of Lost I've had on my shelf for like 2 years already. But there's still a lot of things to do. So maybe I'll sneak in the viewing in between checking and writing my own papers.

There's also Bill Lawrence, creator of "Scrubs" and co-creator of "Spin City," who tells us he writes because he is "full of shit," and that writing is primarily a game of "truth/lie/exaggeration" and then you get paid for it. Not a bad way of earning a living. But, of course, this only works if you do film & tv work, and only if you don't get screwed up badly. Otherwise, all other kinds of writing pay minimal to nil amounts of money. Doesn't sound too encouraging noh?

Why We Write features essays on the topic by writers who work in the television and movie industries. Also found other "why we write" essays on the net. Here's the one by George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm.


EDIT: One of the comments in the Why We Write blog pointed to this news article which seems to have inspired Lindelof's story.

Thursday, March 13

Hello Kitty is a drug dealer

Sort of. A Colombian drug lord e-mailed his minions with his directions coded in Hello Kitty images. But the police wised up and were able to decode them. Authorities say that this kind of message transmission (not necessarily Hello Kitty though) were used by the Al-Qaeda to prepare for the 9-11 attacks.

According to the report, suspected drug lord Juan Carlos Abadia "apparently picked Hello Kitty as his courier because his wife was a big fan of the Japanese icon -- she had even decorated one of her rooms in a Brazilian house with Hello Kitty-themed chairs, watches and wallpaper."

Maybe Abadia was living in Hello Kitty hell and this is way to get back at his wife. Hehehe.

Wednesday, March 12

Sedaris and Kureishi

The transport strike is ostensibly over--at least for today. There are people stranded in the streets.

But what I'm more concerned of is that classes have been suspended--and we lose one very crucial day in the tailend of the academic year. The last day of classes is Tuesday next week, after that is the mandatory break that comes with the remembrance of the Holy Week. Then students have to come back for exams and the submission of papers. Before we can do that, there's still a few things to discuss.

Today we were supposed to take up an essay by David Sedaris, "Remembering My Childhood in the Continent of Africa." Instead of doing it in class, we'll do an online discussion. To be supplemented by a live, in class one when we see each other later this week. I left my books in my office in the university, but that doesn't stop me from reading up on the author and the text. Time Magazine has ten questions for Sedaris. Sedaris writes a lot about his childhood and his family, and Time asks him whether his family opposes being written about. He says quite the contrary--they like appearing in his stories.

Tell that to Hanif Kureishi's sister, who told his brother through an interview with The Independent to "keep [her] out of his fiction."

Sunday, March 2


Outlaws 2
Originally uploaded by xkg

Received e-mail from editor Sarge Lacuesta that my short story "Outlaws" came out in the Philippines Free Press this week. Grab a copy of the 23 February 2008 issue, the one with Jun Lozada on the cover.

Overrated? notes that a copy of the first US edition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude goes for a minimum of $500. Solitude also consistently appears in every must-read list of books. When I get visitors in my office, they instantly check my shelves and get disappointed not to find a copy there. Solitude is also almost single-handedly credited for turning on the spotlight on Latin American literature, or particularly creating the brand of Latin Am. lit known as "Magic Realism."

However, Jonathan Bate of the Sunday Telegraph notes that Solitude may as well be one of the most overrated books ever:
The book is so in love with its own cleverness that it is profoundly unreadable. It is generally credited with inaugurating the genre of "magic realism" novels which combine the matter-of-fact narrative style of conventional realistic fiction with fantastic nonsense such as levitation and alchemy. García Márquez is at his most characteristic when a woman ascends to heaven whilst hanging her washing out on the line. Other ingredients of magic realism include gypsies, tarts with hearts, dwarves, tricksters and a cast so large and confusing that you need a family tree to keep track of the plot. Márquez and his followers are sophisticated urban intellectuals who feign reverence for the simple wisdom of peasants. Myth, fairytale and folklore are wonderful things in themselves, but it is preposterous to imagine that mingling them with domestic mundanity will somehow puncture the bourgeois complacency of our time.
He goes on to tell the readers that Solitude opened the territory for Salman Rushdie and Angela Carter and the intentionally epic-scale storytelling that they are noted for.

So is Solitude really overrated?