Sunday, March 29, 2009

Matt Starts and Puts Out a Fire

(Véase la version en español en la parte inferior de la página)

Saturday 28 March was Earth Day, with a call for lights out between 8:30 and 9:30 to save electricity. I had gone to pick up William at a friend's house, and Matt, 14, decided that he would get candles ready. He lit a candle on the nightstand beside my bed. The phone rang and he answered it, in doing so shifting the pillows on my bed into the flame. They caught quickly. When he realized they were on fire, he pulled them off the bed and hit them against the floor until they were out. Then he called me, crying, on the cellphone. I could barely understand what he was saying, but I got: 1. fire; 2. he was okay; 3. the house had not burned down.

When we got home we discovered that two pillows were burned right through. A third one was scorched, but can probably be cleaned. The corner of the pine headboard of my bed was burned. There were bits of melted synthetic material from the pillow stuffing stuck to the walls and the chair, from when the pillows were being banged around. The carpet fibers were melted together in a black clumps in few places. Matt had a bad burn on the back of his hand. And he had moved the hamster to the far end of the house so that it wouldn’t suffer from smoke inhalation.

Matt was tremendously upset. All I can say is that he reacted quickly, did everything right, and it could have been a lot worse. Ah yes, and no more candles when I'm not home.

Mateo prenda y apaga un incendio

Sábado 28 de marzo fue el Día de la Tierra, con una convocatoria para apagar las luces entre las 8:30 y las 9:30 para ahorrar electricidad. Me había ido a recoger a William en la casa de un amigo, y Mateo, 14, decidió que iba alistar las velas. Encendió una vela en la mesa de noche al lado de mi cama. El teléfono sonó y contestó, en el acto empujando las almohadas de mi cama en la llama. Ellas prendieron rápidamente. Cuando se dio cuenta de que estaban en llamas, las tiró de la cama y las golpeó contra el piso hasta extinguir el fuego. Después me llamó, llorando, por el celular. Apenas pude entender lo que me estaba diciendo, pero capté: 1. fuego, 2. estaba bien; 3. la casa no había quemado.

Cuando llegamos a casa descubrimos dos almohadas bastante quemadas. Una tercera quemada, pero que probablemente se puede limpiar. Le esquina de la cabecera en pino de mi cama se quemó. Había pedazos derretidos de material sintético de relleno de almohada pegados en la pared y la silla, que salieron volando cuando las almohadas fueron golpeadas contra el piso. Fibras de la alfombra se fundaron juntas en puntos negros en algunos lugares. Mateo tenía una quemadura grave en la parte posterior de su mano. Y se había trasladado el hámster al otro extremo de la casa para que no sufriría de inhalación de humo.

Mateo estuvo muy alterado. Todo lo que puedo decir es que él reaccionó con rapidez, hizo todo bien, y que podría haber sido mucho peor. Ah sí, y no más velas cuando no estoy en casa.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Inheritance of Loss

The Inheritance of Loss is set in the town of Kalimpong, in the district of Darjeeling, Indian, during the ethic uprisings that took place between 1986 to 1988, with a subplot set in New York.

The book examines cultural identity on the Nepalese-Indian border, in the post-colonial context, and in terms of being an Indian immigrant in New York City. Each setting and each character's experience is described in a wealth of detail that brings the richness and the impoverishment to life. The story is told with great gentleness, celebrating human pride along with the foibles, hopes, prejudices and resilience.

Each character is blind, imperfect, and judgmental, seeking to make the world into the place they want it to be, but confronted with reality that thwarts their aspirations. Loves and hopes are dashed, or else achieved only to discover that the goal, so hard won, is disappointing. Despite their fatal flaws, each character is portrayed with tenderness, from the bitter old judge who once yearned to accomplish something more, to the ignorant peasant boys caught up in the brutality of revolution under the banner of justice. Ideals go astray; aspirations turn out to be misguided, "learning, as everyone does in this country, that old hatreds are endlessly retrievable." (p.177)

Immigration, discrimination, and identity are the main themes, examined in terms of colonial and self-rule, clashes between ethnic groups, the ability of foreigners to adapt or not to a new land. As characters yearn for purity, the romanticism of old times, or the allure of comforts according to their notion of civilization and modernism, the reality unflinchingly reveals both the truth and the fallacies of these beliefs.

Each main character is carefully developed as an individual with feelings, needs, wants and context, before being thrust into the maelstrom of social and historical imperatives.
The story is told with bittersweet humor, as some characters are fighting to be who they are, while others are fighting to be who they are not.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Quicksilver by Ko Murobushi

(Véase la version en español en la parte inferior de la página)

Many people feel alienated by modern dance because they come away from the experience saying things to the effect of "It was interesting but I didn't understand it." That would not be their reaction to Ko Murobushi's Quicksilver. The understanding is clear: It was utterly painful.

This was not an easy performance. First of all, by way of explanation, what is butoh, for those of us who don't follow the minutiae of dance technique: Butoh is the collective name for a diverse range of activities, techniques and motivations for dance, performance, or movement inspired by the Ankoku-Butoh movement. It typically involves playful and grotesque imagery, taboo topics, extreme or absurd environments, and is traditionally "performed" in white-body makeup with slow hyper-controlled motion, with or without an audience. But there is no set style, and it may be purely conceptual with no movement at all. Its origins have been attributed to Japanese dance legends Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno.

Okay got that? Ready to stop reading now? Doesn't sound like the kind of thing you'd go see? As alienating as the technique may be, because let's face it, this is not accessible dance, the performance nonetheless had some interesting moments.

The first scene involved the use of a suspended mirror with which Murobushi, dressed in a suit, with a stocking mask that covered his face and makes his features indistinguishable, interacts in a sort of struggle. But whereas our expectation is that the mirror would reflect the same image that we are seeing, this mirror is flexible and vibrates, creating distortions and a trembling image that give the impression that the flesh and blood performer is in fact dominating the mirror being (who is in fact himself). The inner struggle is suddenly thrown out of kilter to suggest that the inherent balance between inner and outer self cannot be relied upon.

In the second scene has a soundtrack of what sounds like spoken words played backwards. The movements are as grotesque and distorted as the sounds. Movement that attempts to approximate the human is struck down, as if the effort were too demanding. The result is minimal gesture: the hunching of the shoulder blades, the eyebrows subtly moving upwards and wrinkling the forehead; and resounding defeat: attempts to make the legs support weight result in crashing to the floor; clawed, clutched hands gesture uselessly and helplessly, trembling as the mirror image of the body trembled in the previous scene, and making it appear as if Murobushi had more than five fingers on each hand.

In the third scene Murobushi has shed the suit and appear naked (wearing a discreet smooth half-body leotard). He is covered in silver paint, in keeping with the butoh style. The movement is animal, it is quick and alive, animate but inhuman. The body has become a flow of motion and gesture in keeping with the sound, that rolls like pebbles and then thunders like rushing water.

The title Quicksilver also, obviously refers to the fact that mercury has been used in mirrors. Quicksilver is a synonym of mercury, and mercurial means characterized by rapid and unpredictable changeableness of mood. Quick, as well as meaning rapid, means alive. And this piece suggested that the state of being alive was a constant battle with the ever-present doppelganger of death. The only constants in human existence are life and death, and this performance distilled that notion to the point that it was subhuman, superhuman, inhuman, and painfully human.


In terms of the conductivity experiment, I am apparently a non-conductive material. Perhaps rubber. After the show I walked along the Parkway en La Soledad. My plan was to go to the Café de La Luna Azul but when I got there it looked pretty crowded and I didn't feel I had the psychic energy to go in and seek out a table by myself, even though it is a cosy and non-intimidating kind of place where I could quietly occupy a corner and sip a glass of wine while I write up my review, but let's face it, sometimes I chicken out which is why I find myself at this moment, quietly occupying the usual corner of my study, sipping a glass of wine, as I type away.


Quicksilver por Ko Murobushi

Muchas personas se sienten alienados por la danza moderna, y salen de una función diciendo cosas como: "Fue interesante, pero yo no lo entendí". Eso no sería la reacción a Quicksilver de Ko Murobushi. La comprensión es clara: Fue absolutamente dolorosa.

No es un espectáculo fácil. En primer lugar, a modo de explicación, lo que es butoh, para aquellos de nosotros que no sigan las minucias de la técnica de danza moderna: Butoh es el nombre colectivo de una amplia gama de actividades, técnicas y motivaciones para la danza o "performance" inspirado en el movimiento Ankoku-Butoh. Normalmente implica imágenes lúdicos y grotescos, temas tabú, ambientes extremos o absurdo, y se realiza usando maquillaje corporal blanco, con movimientos lentos, hiper-controlados, con o sin una audiencia. Pero no hay ningún estilo definido, y puede ser puramente conceptual sin ningún movimiento en absoluto. Sus orígenes se atribuyen a las leyendas de danza japonés Tatsumi Hijikata y Kazuo Ohno.

Entiendes? Listo para abandonar la lectura ya? No suena como la clase de espectáculo que iría a ver? No obstante el factor alienante de la técnica, porque seamos francos, esta no es danza accesible, la presentación tuvo algunos momentos interesantes.

La primera escena hizo uso de un espejo suspendido con el cual Murobushi, vestido de un traje, con una media velada que cubría su rostro como máscara y hacía sus rasgos indistinguibles, interactuaba en una especie de lucha. Pero mientras que nuestra expectativa es que el espejo se refleja la misma imagen que estamos viendo, este espejo es flexible y vibraba, creando distorsiones y un imagen tembloroso que da la impresión de que el artista de carne y hueso está dominando el ser del espejo (quien es, de hecho, él mismo). La lucha interna es exteriorizada para sugerir que el equilibrio inherente entre el interior y exterior no es una constante.

La segunda escena tiene una banda sonora que suena como palabras habladas al revés. Los movimientos del bailarín son grotescos y distorsionados como los sonidos. Movimientos que tratan de aproximar el humano son negados, como si el esfuerzo fue demasiado exigente. El resultado es gesto mínimo: la recogida de los hombros, las cejas que se desplazan sutilmente hacia arriba, arrugando de la frente; y la derrota contundente: los intentos de obligar a las piernas a soportar el peso del cuerpo resultan en caídas al piso; manos recogidos como garras hacen gestos inútiles, temblando como la imagen del cuerpo temblaba en el espejo en la escena anterior, y dando la impresión como si Murobushi tuviera más de cinco dedos en cada mano.

En la tercera escena Murobushi abandona el traje y aparece desnudo (llevando una malla de danza discreta de medio cuerpo). Está cubierto de pintura plateada, conforme con el estilo butoh. El movimiento es el animal, es rápido y vivo, animado pero inhumano. El cuerpo se convierte en un flujo de movimiento y gesto, conforme con el sonido, que roda como los guijarros y luego truena como el agua corriendo.

El título Quicksilver obviamente se refiere al hecho que el mercurio ha sido utilizado en los espejos. Quicksilver es sinónimo de mercurio, y mercurial también quiere decir caracterizado por estados de ánimo cambiantes e impredecibles. Quick, además de decir rápido, significa vivo. Esta pieza sugirió que el estado de estar vivo es una batalla constante con el Doppelganger siempre presente de la muerte. Las únicas constantes en la existencia humana son la vida y la muerte, y esta presentación destila este concepto al punto de volverle infrahumano, sobrehumano, inhumano, y dolorosamente humano.


In términos del experimento de la conductividad, me parece soy de un material no conductor. Tal vez el caucho. Después del espectáculo, caminé a lo largo del Parkway en La Soledad. Mi plan era ir al Café de La Luna Azul, pero cuando llegué allí era bastante concurrido y sentí que no tenía la energía psíquica y para entrar y buscar una mesa sola, a pesar de que es un sitio acogedor y no intimidante, donde podría ocupar un rincón tranquilo y disfrutar de una copa de vino mientras escribía mi reseña, pero seamos sinceros, a veces falto valor, razón por la cual me encuentro en este momento, tranquilamente ocupando el rincón habitual de mi estudio, disfrutando una copa de vino, mientras tecleo.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Experimenting with conductivity/Experimento con la conductividad

(Véase la versión en español más abajo en esta página.)
Experimenting with conductivity

I have a friend who swears that all of life is pure "conductivity," in the sense of "one thing leads to another."

You know that funny sensation when something works out in a way that leaves you feeling that it was "meant to happen"? That is the notion I'm talking about. That feeling that everything that has passed has been leading up to this point in time which, if you want to be literal about things, is completely true in an empirical sense. But beyond the literal, it is nudging into the metaphysical, because it suggests the existence of a logic to the universe, be this a sort of Grand Plan or the Taoist notion of effortless action. It is a matter of letting the universe take its course, which for take-charge people is a challenge in itself.

In life and love, opportunities that present themselves are related to what has come before, in terms of learning, preparation, and readiness. They are a matter of inhabiting a certain time and space, with the self-awareness to say: This is what I want. This is what I need. This is what I can do. This is what I have to offer.

I have decided to do a little experiment in conductivity: if I want to meet people with similar interests, I should therefore do what interests me. I should seek out activities that I enjoy.

I am concerned that this experiment may have some possible design problems: If I am both the experimenter, and the subject of the experiment, does my presence skew the results? If the purpose of my experiment is not to actively seek anything, but rather simply to be there and to be open to what may unfold, does not the very act of making an effort to participate in a certain activity belie the notion of simply allowing things to happen? I have not resolved these questions, but I am ready to go ahead and see what happens.

The mantra for this experiment is:
Do what I want to do.
Let the world come to me.

One of my passions is theater and dance. Tonight Japanese dancer Ko Murobushi is performing at the Casa del Teatro in La Soledad. I will go and see the performance, and afterwards I will go out for a glass of wine while I write my review. In summary, I will do what I like to do, and by doing what makes me happy, I should therefore attract others who enjoy the same sort of activities and who appreciate my own autonomy and sense of enjoyment in what I do. There is no negative outcome to this experiment. Even if my mere presence is not enough of a guy magnet, I will still have had an excellent evening.

I will do what I like, and let the world come to me.
Experimento con la conductividad

Tengo un amigo quien jura que toda la vida es pura "conductividad", en el sentido de que una cosa conlleva a otra.

Conoces esta sensación extraña cuando las cosas se desenvuelvan de una forma que te deja con la impresión que era "destinado a suceder"? Esa es la noción a la cual me refiero. Es la sensación de que todo lo sucedido hasta ahora está llevando al momento presente en el tiempo, lo que es literalmente cierto en el sentido empírico. Pero más allá de lo literal, se está abordando la metafísica, porque sugiere la existencia de una lógica en el universo, fuese un Gran Plan o la noción taoista de acción sin esfuerzo. El asunto es dejar que el universo toma su rumbo, algo que es un desafío para las personas quienes están acostumbrados a tomar control de la situación.

En la vida y en el amor, las oportunidades que se presentan están relacionadas con lo que vino antes, en términos de aprendizajes, preparación, y de estar listo. Es un asunto de habitar un cierto tiempo y espacio, con el auto-conocimiento de decir: Eso que lo que quiero. Eso es lo que necesito. Eso que lo que puedo hacer. Eso es lo que puedo ofrecer.

He decidido hacer un pequeño experimento en la conductividad: si quiero conocer a personas con intereses similares, entonces debería hacer lo que a mí me interesa. Debería participar en actividades que me dan gusto.

Tengo la inquietud que este experimento tiene unas fallas de diseño: Si soy a la vez el científico y el sujeto, mi presencia sesgará los resultados? Si el propósito del experimento es no buscar activamente a nada, sino de estar presente y abierta a lo que podría suceder, el hecho de hacer un esfuerzo para participar en cierta actividad no contradice la noción de simplemente permitir que las cosas suceden? No tengo resueltas estas preguntas, pero estoy lista para proseguir a ver qué pasa.

Los lemas para este experimento son:
Hacer lo que quiero hacer.
Dejar que el mundo viene hasta mí.

Una de mis pasiones es danza-teatro. Esta noche el bailarín japonés Ko Murobushi se presenta en la Casa de Teatro de La Soledad. Iré a ver la presentación, y después a tomar una copa de vino mientras que escribo mi reseña. En resumen, haré lo que me gusta, y haciendo lo que me complace, entonces debería atraer a otros quienes disfrutan de lo mismo, y quienes aprecian mi autonomía y sentido de disfrute. Este experimento no tiene posibilidad de resultado negativo. Mismo si mi mera presencia no es suficiente para atraer a nadie, no obstante tendré una velada agradable.

Haré lo que me gusta, y dejaré que el mundo viene a mí.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stones from the River

Stones from the River
by Ursula Hegi

Trudi Montag, a manipulative, resentful, nosy dwarf uses the secrets she gathers to extract her revenge on the townspeople who consider themselves superior and shun her, during the period from the First to Second World Wars in Burgdorf, Germany. As far as synopses go, that would be pretty accurate but it wouldn't make you want to read the book. The main character may be less than sympathetic, but she is sharp and observant, and paints finely tuned, sensitive, and insightful pictures of her fellow citizens and the German psyche, as they are sucked into the tragic spiral of WWII. Inexplicably, Trudi herself is saved from being sent to the death camps, because although she is arrested, the German officer handling her case lets her go because she saves her life by charming him with her storytelling (à la Scheherazade), plus the fact that he is having an existential sturm und drang crisis that will eventually cost him his life, so we are told.
At the end of the story, Trudi reveals that the reason she has told this story is to honor the boy who was once her best friend Georg, and to tell each person's story. She also expounds on the imagery of the river, drawing comparisons to herself and the accumulation of experiences of her life. As a pretext, it is pretty flimsy. In terms of storytelling, it is a reasonable effort, but it does tend to meander and get lost in different eddies and currents that might make you think that they are leading somewhere as part of a directed narrative with deliberate construction, when in fact the end result is a sequence of tangentially linked incidents. That is the problem that historical novels often face: they are driven by the necessities of telling the story to fit the historical facts as they unfolded, as opposed to having a literary and narrative structure. Author Ursula Hegi also has a bit of trouble handling the large number of characters. Because there are so many characters, she ends up having to provide contextual information each time they reappear. The result is that the writing becomes over expository. The reader is given all of the information, interpretations, and explanations; there is nothing subtle, nothing that goes unstated. It is a reasonably good story, but not a great novel.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

El Amor y el Sexo / Love and Sex

The English version begins halfway down the blog.

El Amor y el Sexo

Por medio del ciclo de conferencias para padres de familia del colegio, asistí a la charla "Afecto y Sexualidad en la Adolescencia" dictado por el sicológo Diego Roveda.

A estas alturas del partido uno cree que ya se sabe todo sobre el tema, pero a veces se necesita una conferencia como ésta para aclarar y formular en palabras algunos conceptos sobre los cuales uno no tenía plena claridad, hasta preguntas claves fueron formuladas de cierta manera. La charla era sobre cómo abordar el tema del afecto y el sexo con los hijos adolescentes, pero creo que también sirvió a más de un adulto al nivel personal.

El Amor
Según Roveda, el amor es el resultado de la sensación de bienestar y tranquilidad que produce el otro. Lo que significa, obviamente, si la otra persona no aporta a esta sensación de bienestar y tranquilidad, o deja de hacerlo, no habrá amor. No hay amor con alguien cuyas acciones hace la otra persona miserable.

El amor no es incondicional. El amor sólo puede existir mientras que las dos personas cumplen con este requisito de brindar bienestar y tranquilidad al otro. Es altamente condicional y requiere atención constante y buen trato.

Cuando nos estamos enamorando, actuemos sobre esta premisa. Nos preguntamos, qué puedo hacer para que la otra persona me ame? También preguntamos constantemente: Qué es loe que quiero en esta persona? Porqué quiero a esta persona? Qué es lo que esta persona quiere en mí? En el transcurso del tiempo las respuestas a estas preguntas pueden cambiar, y la respuesta puede ser la de darse cuenta que ya no ama la otra persona.

Amor romántico
Todo eso va en contra de la noción romántica que el amor es incondicional y por siempre, una creencia que da lugar a muchos abusos. Toda la vida, nos ha vendido un concepto del amor romántico que es francamente nocivo.

Roveda dio el ejemplo de cuando se casó, dijo a su novia: "La quiero hoy, esta semana, y tal vez este mes, pero más allá no puedo garantizar." La novia quedó sorprendida porque es una posición que va en contra de la expectativa del amor romántico, pero cuando se explicó los términos y las razones, ella estuvo de acuerdo. Cuando planteé este concepto con los niños, no les gustó para nada. Estamos trabajando en modificar la creencia en el amor eterno, para cambiarla por una expectativa del amor real, que es un proceso constante de renovación y crecimiento, en el cual brinda y recibe tranquilidad y bienestar.

Amor platónico
Roveda también mencionó el amor platónico, como un amor que es basado en el concepto que uno tiene de la otra persona. Es un amor idealizado, en el cual se espera que la otra persona se confirma con las expectativas que uno tiene. En efecto, es una forma de auto-amor o amor narcisista, que tiende a derrumbar cuando la realidad no cumple con las expectativas.

Como adolescente y joven, uno tiene muchas atracciones y siente deseos, pero no es el amor. El amor es algo construido entre dos. Todos estos pequeños noviazgos son de práctica, y son necesarios porque cada relación enseña sobre el proceso de llevarse con otra persona.


El deseo sexual no es el amor, es la biología. La atracción sexual es un poco inexplicable, en el sentido que se puede sentir el deseo por personas de todas las características, siendo altas, bajitas, flacas, gordas, dotadas de diferentes grados de belleza. Por supuesto la persona querida se ve más atractiva.

También es posible sentir deseo por personas por las cuales no se siente ninguna clase de afecto. Cuando las hormonas están alborotadas, se ve sexo por doquiera. Pero el hecho que se sienta el deseo no es suficiente motivo para actuar para satisfacer este deseo. Hay que tener claro los criterios de con quien, por que, y para que, antes de tener una relación sexual. Los adolescentes quienes tienen claro estos criterios tienden a postergar el inicio de la actividad sexual, y tienen relaciones más emocionalmente y físicamente sanas. Y mientras tanto, hay que asegurarlos que la auto-satisfacción es muy normal y sano.

Cuando se aborda una relación sexual, ésta debe ser con afecto, con respeto, con entrega y con pasión.

Lo importante para guiar a los adolescentes, y para guiar a sí mismo en el amor y el sexo, son:

1. Entender qué es el amor.
2. No confundir el amor con el deseo.
3. Confiar en sus propios sentimientos para saber cuándo está listo.
4. Tratar bien a sí mismo y a la otra persona, en el amor y en el deseo.

Love and Sex

As part of the series of school conferences for parents, I attended the conference "Love and Sexuality during Adolescence" hosted by psychologist Diego Roveda.

At this stage in life, one would think that there is nothing more to discover on the subject, but sometimes it takes a conference like this to clarify and put into words things that one had not realized clearly until key questions were posed on a certain way. The conference was about how to talk to your teenager about love and sex, but I suspect that more than one adult came away with information that contributed to bettering their own understanding.

According to Roveda, love is the result of the feeling of peace and wellbeing that one's partner produces. What this means, obviously, is that if one's partner is not contributing to a feeling of peace and wellbeing, or stops contributing, love will not flourish. There can be no love with someone whose actions make the other person miserable.

Love is not unconditional. Love can only exist so long as the two people uphold this requisite to give each other peace and wellbeing. This is highly conditional, and it entails constant attention and good treatment.

When we are falling in love, we act on this premise. We ask ourselves, what can I do to make the other person love me? We also question constantly: What do I love about this person? Why do I love this person? What does this person love about me? Over the course of time, the answers to these questions may change, and the answer may even be the realization that one no longer loves the other person.

Romantic Love
All of this goes against the romantic notion that love in unconditional and forever; a belief that lends itself to considerable abuse. All of our lives we have been sold the idea of romantic love, and frankly it is not healthy.

Roveda gives the example of when he asked his girlfriend to marry him, he said, "I love you today, this week, maybe even this month, but beyond that there are no guarantees." His girlfriend was surprised, because this is a position that goes against the expectations of romantic love, but when he explained his terms and the reasons, she agreed. When I broached the subject with the boys, they did not like it one bit. We are working on changing the belief that love is eternal, to replace it with a more realistic expectation of love as a process of constant renewal and growth, in which one gives and receives peace and wellbeing.

Platonic Love
Roveda also mentioned platonic love as a kind of love that is based on one's notion of the other person. It is an idealized love, in which the other person is expected to fulfill one's own expectations. In effect, this is a sort of self-love or narcissistic love, which tends to fall apart when the other person does not live up to the expectations.

Teenagers and young adults have a lot of attractions and feel desire, but this is not love. Love is something built between two people. The process of dating is practice and it is necessary because each relationship teaches something about the process of getting along with another person.


Sexual desire is not love, it is biology. Sexual attraction has an inexplicable component, in the sense that it is possible to feel desire for all sorts of people, tall, short, fat, thin, blessed with differing degrees of physical beauty. Of course when you do like someone, they start to look more attractive to you.

It is also possible to feel desire for someone that you don't even particularly like. When the hormones are raging, sex is everywhere. But the fact that you want to have sex is not in itself reason enough to act on that desire. It is important to be clear about the criteria of with whom and why, prior to embarking on a sexual relationship. Teenagers who have these criteria clear tend to delay becoming sexually active, and have healthier emotional and physical relationships. And in the meantime, they need to be assured that self-satisfaction (masturbation) is completely normal and healthy.

When embarking on a sexual relationship this should be with affection, with respect, wholeheartedly, and with passion.

Key points for guiding one's teenagers, and oneself, in love and sex, are:

1. Understand what love is.
2. Do not confuse love with desire.
3. Trust your feelings to know when you are ready.
4. Treat yourself and the other person well in love and desire.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dos cuentos de mi vida y un chiste por el Día de la Mujer / Two stories from my life and a joke for Women's Day

La Mujeres Toman las Calles de Bogotá y un hombre quien superó los demás de su género
Uno de las ideas geniales de la administración de Antanas Mockus fue de decretar un toque de queda para los hombres en el Día de la Mujer. Participé en dos ocasionales. El primer año fui al centro y caminé las calles en compañía de centenares de mujeres de todas las edades; de las más viejas hasta las más jóvenes, mujeres quienes generalmente nunca saldrían de noche. El segundo año fui con mi amiga Estela a tomarnos algo en el Parque de la 93. Igual como el año anterior, había muchas mujeres con los ánimos volando, incluyendo quienes estaban montaron a los hombres, enviándoles a casa. Un grupo estaba especialmente alborotado, y estaba hasta echando harina a los hombres. Se acercaron a un carro, que avanzaba muy lentamente por la cantidad de tráfico, y por la ventana abierta echaron harina al hombre quien estaba conduciendo. El carro paró en seco. La puerta se abrió y un hombre grande, negro y fornido salió. Un silencio de aprehensión cayó sobre el sector. El hombre quitó su chaqueta, untada de harina. Quitó la camiseta que llevaba por debajo, mostrando unos pectorales y un abdomen plano espectaculares. Sacudió su camiseta, varias veces. Se estiró y flexionó sus músculos, y volvió colocar su camiseta. Todas las mujeres aplaudieron y silbaban su apreciación. Fue un gran hombre (en todo sentido).

When Women Took Over the Streets of Bogotá, and a man who surpassed all others of his gender
One of the cool ideas that Mayor Antanas Mockus implemented during his administration was that of declaring a curfew on men for Women's Day. I participated twice in the women take over the night events. The first year I went downtown and walked the streets in the company of hundreds of women of all ages; from the very oldest to the very youngest, women who normally would not go out at night. The second year I went out with my friend Estela to Parque 93 for drinks. Like the previous year there were lots of animated women, and some who were giving the men a hard time and sending them home. One group of women was particularly high-spirited, and was even throwing flour on the men who were out. They approached a car that was moving very slowly in the heavy traffic, and through the open window threw flour on the man who was driving. The car came to a sudden halt. The door opened and a tall, well-built black man got out. Apprehensive silence fell over the area. The man took off his jacket, covered in flour. Peeled off the t-shirt he was wearing underneath, revealing a gorgeous set of pectorals and abdomen. He ostentatiously shook out the t-shirt. Stretched and flexed his muscles, and then put the t-shirt back on, to wild and appreciative applause from all of the women. He showed himself to be the bigger man!

Una Mujer Igual a Todas Las Mujeres
Una vez un hombre quien buscó criticarme me dijo: "Eres igual a todas las mujeres". Me quedé pensando en esta frase. Con esta frase sentí que no era sola, que no fui la única quien tuvo que vivir esta experiencia, sino que mi experiencia, mi historia, hacía parte de la historia de todas las mujeres del mundo. Sentí una identificación infinita con la condición femenina. Sentí como la diosa de todas las mujeres.

Just Like Every Other Woman
Once a man who was trying to criticize me said, "You are just like every other woman." I thought about that statement for a long time. That statement made me feel like I was not alone, that I was not the only one who had gone through something like this, but rather that my experience, my history, was part of the history of every woman in the world. I felt an infinite identification with the female condition. I felt like the goddess of all women.

And now, a joke:

A Great Wisdom

One day a seamstress was sewing while sitting close to a river. Her thimble fell into the river. She cried out, the Lord appeared and asked, 'My dear child, why are you crying?'

The seamstress replied that her thimble had fallen into the water and that she needed it to help her husband in making a living for their family. The Lord dipped His hand into the water and pulled up a golden thimble set with sapphires.

'Is this your thimble?' the Lord asked
The seamstress replied, 'No.'

The Lord again dipped into the river. He held out a golden thimble studded with rubies.

'Is this your thimble?' the Lord asked.
Again, the seamstress replied, 'No.'

The Lord reached down again and came up with a leather thimble.

'Is this your thimble?' the Lord asked.
The seamstress replied, 'Yes.'
The Lord was pleased with the woman's honesty and gave her all three thimbles to keep, and the seamstress went home happy.

Some years later, the seamstress was walking with her husband along the riverbank, and her husband fell into the river and disappeared under the water. When she cried out, the Lord again appeared and asked her, 'Why are you crying?'
'Oh Lord, my husband has fallen into the river!'

The Lord went down into the water and came up with George Clooney.
'Is this your husband?' the Lord asked.
'Yes!' cried the seamstress.
The Lord was furious. 'You lied! That is an untruth!'

The seamstress replied, 'Oh, forgive me, my Lord. It is a misunderstanding. You see, if I had said 'no' to George Clooney, you would have come up with Brad Pitt... Then if I said 'no' to him, you would have come up with my husband. Had I then said 'yes,' you would have given me all three. Lord, I'm not in the best of health and would not be able to take care of all three husbands, so THAT'S why I said 'yes' to George Clooney!'

And so the Lord let her keep George.

The Moral of this Story is: Whenever a woman LIES, it's for a good and honourable reason and in the best interest of others. That's our story, and we're sticking to it.

Feliz Día para todas las mujeres
Happy Women's Day!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The English Patient: A reader's guide by this reader

Preparing to facilitate the discussion of this book for book club was a methodical and lengthy process. As I came across different references and looked then up, I found an enormous number of connections to other aspects of the book that I had not realized were related until that moment. I felt like Kip, uncovering the logic of the wires in a bomb, and I was impressed by the complexity (and looking for the joke). At such, the book was slow reading, because of the richness of the language and the fact that nothing (or practically nothing) is gratuitous. I took copious notes because there were so many memorable lines and so many references to follow. This note-taking process turned out to be extremely valuable because it allowed me to draw the necessary parallels and contrasts between the characters and their situation. Our book club discussion is only a couple of hours on a Tuesday night, and so obviously we only touched on a few of the issues that the book raises, and it is to Michael Ondaatje's credit that we wanted to keep on exploring his text and characters.

My favorite quote from the book was: "We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience."

This was a rich and challenging book, and it made for an excellent discussion.

What follows is a summary of the documents I prepared for the discussion:
1. Brief biographical information about author Michael Ondaatje.
2. A summary of the BBC Book Club interview with Michael Ondaatje from November 2007.
3. Notes on characters and themes for discussion.
4. Cross-references to my copy of the text (Vintage Books, 1992. 305 p.)
5. Some background references that I looked up.

1. Biographical Information
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Philip Michael Ondaatje, OC (born 12 September, 1943) is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist and poet of Colombo Chetty and Burgher origin. He is perhaps best known for his Booker Prize-winning novel, which was adapted into an Academy-Award-winning film, The English Patient

Life and work
Michael Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and moved to England with his mother in 1954 (11). After relocating to Canada in 1962 (19), Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. He studied for a time at Bishops College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, but moved to Toronto, where he received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen's in Kingston, Ontario. He then began teaching at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. He is currently teaching at the Glendon College Campus of York University in T.O.

Ondaatje and his wife, novelist and academic Linda Spalding, co-edit Brick, A Literary Journal, with Michael Redhill, Michael Helm, and Esta Spalding.

His style of fiction, introduced in Coming Through Slaughter (1976) and mastered in The English Patient (1992), is non-linear. He creates a narrative by exploring many interconnected snapshots in minute detail.

Although he is best known as an novelist, Ondaatje's work has also encompassed autobiography, poetry and film. A semi-fictional memoir of his Sri Lankan childhood is called Running in the Family (1982). He has published thirteen books of poetry, and won the Governor General's Award for two of them, namely The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1970) and There's a Trick With a Knife I'm Learning to Do: Poems 1973-1978 (1979).

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid and Coming Through Slaughter have been adapted for the stage and produced in numerous theatrical productions across North America. Ondaatje's three films include a documentary on fellow poet B.P. Nichol, Sons of Captain Poetry, and The Clinton Special: A Film About The Farm Show, which chronicles a collaborative theatre experience led in 1971 by Paul Thompson of Theatre Passe Muraille. In 2002, Ondaatje published a non-fiction book, The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, which won special recognition at the 2003 American Cinema Editors Awards, as well as a Kraszna-Krausz Book Award for best book of the year on the moving image.

Ondaatje has also, since the 1960s, been involved with Toronto's influential Coach House Books, supporting the independent small press by working as a poetry editor.

He is also known for five other works of fiction:

Anil's Ghost — winner of the 2000 Giller Prize, the Prix Médicis, the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, the 2001 Irish Times International Fiction Prize and Canada's Governor General's Award.
The English Patient — winner of the Booker Prize, the Canada Australia Prize, and the Canadian Governor General's Award and later made into a motion picture, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture. The English Patient can be considered a sequel to In the Skin of a Lion (1987).
In the Skin of a Lion — A fictional story about early immigrant settlers in Toronto, it is the winner of the 1988 City of Toronto Book Award, finalist for the 1987 Ritz Paris Hemingway Award for best novel of the year in English, and winner of the first Canada Reads competition in 2002.
Coming Through Slaughter — a fictional story of New Orleans, Louisiana about 1900, very loosely based on the lives of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden and photographer E. J. Bellocq. Winner of the 1976 Books in Canada First Novel Award
Divisadero — Winner of the 2007 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction.
In 1988, Ondaatje was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (OC) and two years later a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He has two children and is the brother of philanthropist, businessman and author Christopher Ondaatje. His nephew David is a film director and screenwriter who made the 2009 film The Lodger.[1]

2. BBC Book Club interview with Michael Ondaatje

BBC World Service Book Club, hosted by Harriet Gilbert
Nov. 2007

Ondaatje born in Sri Lanka, spent teenage years in England, went to Canada for university. Mid-1960s attracted attention for his poetry.

EP most successful of his books.

Promoted to write in part because he saw a lot of English films about war in the 1950s, and we wanted to tell the story of others who were involved in the war.

Idea began as a small moment, an image of a conversation between a patient and a nurse. As he begins the story he has no idea where it is going to lead.

Anthony Minghella who directed the film version of EP comments on the difficulty of adapting a fragmented, mosaic story to film, and asks to what degree the author should lead the reader or whether the reader must go through the book for clues, like a detective.
Only Almásy was allowed flashback. Films follows different rules from books. In the film all scenes between Katharine and Almásy had to be chronological. Book is a freer form. Less linear.

Tracy Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring), notes that he is a poet. Poetry as precision of language.

Q. about the real Almásy. Read short book called Cat and Mouse, about Almásy who took a German spy across the desert. Used that incident and the fact that in the 1930 he was part of a group of explorers in the dessert; that was all that he took from the real person. Says that in retrospect should have changed his name.

Hana and Caravaggio appeared in The Skin of a Lion, his first all fictional novel. Ondaatje was missing his characters. He debated whether or not to bring back characters. They have gone through new experiences. Did not know that he was going to use them when he started.

Bomb specialist says that he identifies with a lot of Kip's characteristics and praises the accuracy of the bomb descriptions. Ondaatje says that Kip was not based on anyone in particular. Focus, tunnel vision is what is convincing.

Reading as an activity. Almásy reads the Histories, Katherine reads it, Hana reads it.

Ondaatje wanted the book to have illustrations. Would have like to have had NC Wyeth (died 1945) illustrate his book. Illustrated many classic books.

Race and racism. Ondaatje said was criticized for Caravaggio's line about the bomb would not have been dropped on a white nation. Kip's reaction is more because of his profession than his race.

How did Ondaatje's skill with language evolve? Does not know. Really started reading at 11-12. Not a writing family. Family was oral tradition. Everyone spoke well. Reading is the other source. The excitement of the story, the excitement of language. Met poets in Canada.

3. Discussion Notes on Characters and Themes
I structured my discussion around the themes that spoke to me. There are other themes that we did not address, that could also be used to discuss this book. Plus, these are only the notes that I rook. As the discussion unfolded, everyone contributed their own discoveries and perceptions. It was an excellent discussion.

What do we know about the characters before we know their names?
Almásy - The English Patient (ah-MAH-she)
Hana, 20 (turns 21) damaged nurse, healer, what she touches she loses, p. 84. Nurse's job: to lead dying men to their death.
She hardened herself to those around her, called everyone Buddy.
p.50 Hana cuts her hair because "as she had leaned forward it had blood in a wound .She would have nothing to link her, to lock her, to death." p.218 Kip's hair pours over Hana as he bends over her.
Caravaggio, around 45, thief, friend of father's
p.117 Caravaggio had trained spies, lived in a time when everything was a lie.
In the villa: "But here they were shedding skins. They could imitate nothing but what they were. There was no defence but to look for the truth in others."
Kip. Kirpal Singh, 26. Sees danger everywhere. Never lets down his guard.
p.110 Sappers have a hardness and clarity in them. Kip recognizes it in other but not in himself
p.52 Hana. Why she stays with the EP "There was something about him she wanted to learn, grow into, and hide in, where she could turn away from being an adult."
p.230 "I had reached that stage in life where I identified with cynical villains in a book. I don't believe in permanence, in relationships that span ages. I was fifteen years older. But she was smarter. She was hungrier to change than I expected."
Katharine Clifton
Geoffrey Clifton


Canduales story (Herodotus, Almásy's book, Katharine tells it as a warning/invitation, Caravaggio the naked thief.)

Water, in the desert, Katharine her gardens, her moisture, bath scene in film (Kristin Scott Thomas), swimming pool reference, Cave of swimmers in the desert. Zerzura, the legendary oasis. Kip in the water defusing bomb, temporary bridges, Queen of Sheba p.69
Detail about Clara, she canoes, lives on the edge of .

Rivers and Bridges
p.59 Let go after thumbs removed, Caravaggio suspects that he is being followed so that he will reveal his contact. Thrown into the water by the explosion of the San Trinita Bridge, mined by Germans during their retreat.
Kip took medieval scholar to see Maxentius at the gothic church in Arezzo (Western Roman emperor 306-312. In crossing the bridge fleeing from Constantine, Maxentius fell into the Tiber River and drowned.)
And Piero della Francesca frescoes: The Queen of Sheba conversing with King Solomon, the wise king and the guilty queen.
p.70 "He fell in love with her downcast eye. This woman who would someday know the sacredness of bridges." (Queen of Sheba, consulted Solomon for his great wisdom-- she recognized the wood of the bridge over the Siloam River as having been made from the wood of the tree of good and evil)
p. 295 In his escape Kip's motorbike goes into the Ofanto River.

p.47 Caravaggio preferred talking to women "and when he began taking to women was soon caught in the nets of relationship."
p.120 "Tell me, is it possible to love someone who is not as smart as you are?"
How convincing are the love stories?
p.152 "What do you hate most?" he asks. A lie. And you?" "Ownership."
p.157 "He cannot alter what he loves most in her, her lack of compromise, where the romance of the poems she loves still sits with ease in the real world."
p.158 "How does this happen? To fall in love and be disassembled."
p.234 "With the help of an anecdote, I fell in love."
Words Caravaggio. They have a power.
p.238 Their mutual fears, mistrust, drive them apart.
"Women want everything of a lover. And too often I would sink below the surface. So armies disappear under sand. And there was her fear of her husband, her belief in her honor, my old desire for self-sufficiency, my disappearances, her suspicions of me, my disbelief that she loved me. The paranoia and claustrophobia of hidden love.

Almásy-Katharine, Hana-Kip (how are they alike)

Why does Almásy not want to reveal his identity as the EP?
p. 138 "Gradually we became nationless. I came to hate nations."

Kip, nationless, invisible, but accepted by Lord Suffolk, befriended by medieval scholar, Hardy was the only one who kept him human. Accepted by the three at the Villa. At first does not come in from his tent in the garden.
p.78 With the troops. Light a flare in the Sistine Chapel, and sees Isaiah (who warns The land will be completely laid waste and totally plundered, foreshadowing atomic bomb.).
p.176 Almásy says "Kip and I are both international bastards…"

Ownership and loss
Caravaggio thief, liberates things, but get involved in what he is doing, cannot remained professionally distanced.
Loss of loved one
Hana, her father, her soldier lover, her child,
Almásy loses Katharine, Madox.
p.152 "What do you hate most?" he asks. A lie. And you?" "Ownership."

p. 5 She reads to him, she lies beside him in bed
p.7 "She fell upon books as the only door out of her cell."
"A scurry in her mind like a mouse in the ceiling."'
She reads to the EP but does not provide continuity
The EP has written a diary in between the lines of The Histories of Herodotus.
It is his commonbook

p.261 "We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience."

4. Cross-references to the text

I. The Villa

The nurse
p. 5 She reads to him, she lies beside him in bed

The EP
p. 5 You said you were English
The Bedouin rescued him when they came to salvage what they could of the crash airplane.
Villa San Girlamo had been a war hospital. The other nurses transferred out, the war almost over. 20 min outside Florence, in the hills

p.7 "She fell upon books as the only door out of her cell."
"A scurry in her mind like a mouse in the ceiling."'
She reads to the EP but does not provide continuity
p. 11 Many of the rooms were mined.
p.12 Retraces her footprints in the library "as part of a private game, so it would seem from the steps that she had entered the room and then the corporeal body had disappeared."
p.13 April 1945 She and the Englishman had insisted on remaining behind when the other nurses and patients moved to a safer located in the south.
p.13 "She was twenty years old and mad and unconcerned with safety during this time.
Protected by the simple fact that the villa seemed a ruin. Plays hopscotch at night.
(Name Hannah means beauty or passion)

The EP has written a diary in between the lines of The Histories of Herodotus.
It is his commonbook

The Bedouin kept him alive for his knowledge of maps, geography, and to translate the guns, explain their mechanics

II. In Near Ruins p.27
Man with bandaged hands at military hospital in Rome, revealing nothing.
Enquiring about the burn patient and the nurse, "That was how he felt safest. Revealing nothing." C.
Caravaggio goes to see Hana.
He was her father's friend in T.O. before the war.
Thumbs chopped off for stealing. Spy/thief. Accidentally photographed at party. Goes to steal the camera, naked a ploy to pose as innocent if caught. (Opposite of story of Canduales)
p.40 Six mo. Earlier Hana was working at hospital in Pisa, shell shocked, broken by news of her father's death.
p.44 Caravaggio finds her crying, naked at the table. She is in love with the EP
p.47 Caravaggio preferred talking to women "and when he began taking to women was soon caught in the nets of relationship."
p.50 Hana cuts her hair because "as she had leaned forward it had blood in a wound .She would have nothing to link her, to lock her, to death."
She hardened herself to those around her, called everyone Buddy.
p.52 Why she stays with the EP "There was something about him she wanted to learn, grow into, and hide in, where she could turn away from being an adult."
p.59 Let go after thumbs removed, suspects that he is being followed so that he will reveal his contact. Thrown into the water by the explosion of the San Trinita Bridge, mined by Germans during their retreat.
p. 61 Hana writes about Caravaggio in the Last of the Mohicans. C is about 45.
"He is in a time of darkness, has no confidence. For some reason I am cared for by this friend of my father."
p.64 Hana is playing piano, remembering practicing even though they had no piano. Two soldiers from a sapper unit arrive.

III. Sometime a fire p.69
Allied troops 1943-44 English, Americans, Indians, Australians, and Canadians.
Sapper takes the medievalist scholar who befriended him to see the Flight of the Emperor Maxentius at the gothic church in Arezzo (Western Roman emperor 306-312. In crossing the bridge fleeing from Constantine, Maxentius fell into the Tiber River and drowned.)
And Piero della Francesca frescoes: The Queen of Sheba conversing with King Solomon, the wise king and the guilty queen.
p.70 "He fell in love with her downcast eye. This woman who would someday know the sacredness of bridges." (Queen of Sheba, consulted Solomon for his great wisdom-- she recognized the wood of the bridge over the Siloam River as having been made from the wood of the tree of good and evil)
p. 72 Sikh sets up tent and at first will not come into the house at all.
Clearing the mines in the town.
p.74 Kip Still very much a youth
Defuses a bomb in the library,
He is noisy
Still in uniform
p.75 Was drawn to the villa by the sound of music, knowing that many instruments were mined.
p.76 Hana: "I'm from Upper America."
p.78 With the troops. Light a flare in the Sistine Chapel, and sees Isaiah (who warns The land will be completely laid waste and totally plundered, foreshadowing atomic bomb.).
p. 79 Marine festival of the Virgin Mary in Rimini, she is their protector, as is he.

p. 82 Hana tells Caravaggio that she was pregnant and decided not to have the child after the father was killed.
p. 84. Nurse's job: to lead dying men to their death.
p. 87 Kirpal Singh get nicknamed Kip, because his first bomb report had a butter stain. "What's this, kipper grease?" officer exclaimed.
p. 88 Kip discovers that the EP is a wealth of information about Allied and enemy weaponry.
p.95 The EP turned over to the British, knows classical art, cave art, gallery art.

p.100 Kip calls for help to take the wires, Hana takes them so that he can free his hands. She thinks she is going to die, and she wants to lie down and curl up with him first.

p. 109 Long introduction "The phrasing so slow, so drawn out, she could sense that the musician did not wish to leave the small parlour of the introduction and enter the song, kept wanting to remain there, where the story had not yet begun…"
p.110 Sappers have a hardness and clarity in them. Kip recognizes it in other but not in himself.
p. 113 Comes back after discovering Hardy's death. Sits by window again, "If he could walk across the room and touch her he would be sane. But between them lay a treacherous and complex journey."
p.117 Caravaggio had trained spies, lived in a time when everything was a lie.
In the villa: "But here they were shedding skins . They could imitate nothing but what they were. There was no defence but to look for the truth in others."
p.120 "Tell me, is it possible to love someone who is not as smart as you are?"

IV. South Cairo 1930-1938 p.133
Almásy narrates his life as a desert explorer.
p.135 EP talks about 1930 Libyan desert mapping expeditions, 400 mi W of the Nile
p. 138 "Gradually we became nationless. I came to hate nations."
p. 139 "But I wanted to erase my name…It was easy for me to slip across borders, not to belong to anyone, to any nation."
1936 Meets Geoffrey Clifton (Katharine)
Young, rich, and interested in their search for Zerzura.

V. Katharine p.149
Dreams of lust, violence after meeting Almásy.
p. 150 propinquity - kinship or proximity
p.152 "What do you hate most?" he asks. A lie. And you?" "Ownership."
p.157 "He cannot alter what he loves most in her, her lack of compromise, where the romance of the poems she loves still sits with ease in the real world."
p.158 "How does this happen? To fall in love and be disassembled."

VI. A Buried Plane p. 161
p.163 Caravaggio tells Hana that Almásy was a guide for German spies in the dessert.
p.165 Almásy went to school in England. In Cairo he was referred to as the English spy.
p.167 Caravaggio gives Almásy alcohol and morphine to get him talking.
p.167 A's story In 1942 he went back into the desert to get Katharine where he had left her in the Cave of Swimmers in Uwienat, where Madox's plane was buried. His truck exploded.
p. 170 She was a woman of gardens and moisture. A tactile line to her ancestors, he had erased the path he had emerged from. "He was amazed she had loved him in spite of such qualities of anonymity in himself."
-suggestion of necrophilia
It has taken him three years to get back to her. Brought petrol for the plane, what he lacked to get her out after Clifton's crash.
p.171 Clifton's plan was suicide-murder, even though the affair was over. Katharine ended it because she was too proud to be a lover, a secret.
p. 175 Madox's plane catches fire as he is bringing her body back. He is exhausted from solitude. Tired of living without her.
p.176 Kip and Almásy "international bastards"

VII. In Situ p. 181
Kirpal Sigh trained as a sapper to defuse undetonated bombs in England in 1940.
p.188 Indian mechanical resourcefulness.
Kip learned to keep emotions repressed as he works, just as Hana learned to do with the soldiers she nursed.
-Had to keep Lord Suffolk, Miss Morden, the driver Harts, alive in his mind while he worked.
p.195 Kip reenlists and is sent to Italy.
Escape from the responsibility of having been entrusted with Lord Suffolk's knowledge.
p.196 Invisibility of being an anonymous members of another race.
p.197 Revealing his past or qualities of his character would have been too loud a gesture. Just as her could never turn and inquire of her what deepest motive caused this relationship.

VIII. The Holy Forest p.207
Defusing: Kip figures out the intricacies, the variations, the joke.
p.218 Kip's hair pours over Hana as he bends over her.
p.222 Caravaggio loves (Hana) "What she was now than he had loved her when he had understood her better, when she was the product of her parents. What she was now was what she herself had decided to become."
p.223 Hana playing hide and go seek with Kip, used Caravaggio as bait in the library.

IX. The Cave of Swimmers p.229
"I promised to tell you how one falls in love."
Almásy continues to talk to Caravaggio about how he met Katharine and fell in love with her.
Upon returning from Cairo, Katharine was discovering herself, she read constantly.
p.230 "I had reached that stage in life where I identified with cynical villains in a book. I don't believe in permanence, in relationships that span ages. I was fifteen years older. But she was smarter. She was hungrier to change than I expected."
Falls in love with Katharine because of her growth and because husband Clifton is always singing her praises. She reads the story of King Candaules, the Queen, and Gyges.
p.234 "With the help of an anecdote, I fell in love."
Words Caravaggio. They have a power.
He began to be doubly formal around her.
p.236 Katharine tells Almásy "I want you to ravish me."
p.238 Their mutual fears, mistrust, drive them apart.
"Women want everything of a lover. And too often I would sink below the surface. So armies disappear under sand. And there was her fear of her husband, her belief in her honor, my old desire for self-sufficiency, my disappearances, her suspicions of me, my disbelief that she loved me. The paranoia and claustrophobia of hidden love.

p. 246 Trek into the desert, losing touch with civilization.
"he was alone, his own invention." Inside the mirage

After leaving Katharine, walks three days and is picked up by the English at El Taj. They don't listen to him (and he was a suspicious character) because he gives his own name and not Katharine's or Geoffrey's.
p.254 Almásy volunteered to take German Eppler, the Rebecca spy, across the desert, in order to get back to Uweinat.
Caravaggio explains that he had been considered the enemy ever since he began his affair with Katharine. Almásy surprised to have been in the sights.
p.258 Almásy had seen Katharine for the first time years earlier at the Oxford Union Library… (or perhaps not). Langella uses this as a visual convention between Kip-Hana.
In the cave, paints, anoints her with color from the cave paintings, Wepawat jackal as spirit guide the "opener of the ways."
The importance of dying in a holy place.
p.261 "We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience."

X. August p.265
Kip has sought and found acceptance in a foreign country, but he rejects them after hearing the news about the atomic bomb.

p. 282 Hana in the future
Aware of the movement of the line of movement Kip's body followed out of her life.

p.300 Kip sees Hana, her serious face… that was something searched for and that it will always reflect a present stage of her character.

5. Supplementary References

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Herodotus of Halicarnassus (Greek: Ἡρόδοτος Ἁλικαρνᾱσσεύς Hēródotos Halikarnāsseús) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC (c. 484 BC–c. 425 BC) and is regarded as the "Father of History" in Western culture. He was the first historian to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a well-constructed and vivid narrative.[1] He is almost exclusively known for writing The Histories, a record of his "inquiries" (or ἱστορίαι, a word that passed into Latin and took on its modern meaning of history) into the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars which occurred in 490 and 480-479 BC—especially since he includes a narrative account of that period, which would otherwise be poorly documented, and many long digressions concerning the various places and peoples he encountered during wide-ranging travels around the lands of the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Although some of his stories are not completely accurate, he states that he is only reporting what has been told to him.

Bonfire of the Vanities - 1497 Florence, burned objects believed to be the occasions of sin.

David Caravaggio, dramatic naturalism. Mainly religious themes, but painted naturalistically with flaws and defects, not idealistically.

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
The story takes place in 1757 during the Seven Years' War (known in America as the French and Indian War), when France and the United Kingdom battled for control of the American and Canadian colonies. During this war, the French often allied themselves with Native American tribes in order to gain an advantage over the British, with unpredictable and often tragic results. The story concerns--in part--a Huron massacre (with passive French acquiescence) of from 500 to 1,500 Anglo-American troops, who had honorably surrendered at Fort William Henry, plus some women and servants; the kidnapping of two sisters, daughters of the British commander; and their rescue by the last two Mohicans, and others

Sapper - a sapper/combat engineer may perform any of a variety of combat engineering duties. Such tasks typically include bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences as well as building, road and airfield construction and repair.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Is Email Communication? Part II

In this day and age it is now a given that we all make use of technology for communication to varying degrees, and many of us have mixed feelings on the subject. I know that the advent of technology changed my communication experience, but I have also observed its "dark side." And to top it all off, see the final comments for some past and present observations on the postal service.

Susan Schwartz responded (reprinted here with her permission):

I agree with you about the power and importance of the written word – but I know also that I don't consider email a record. Not really. Not a permanent one, at any rate, in the way that a letter is permanent. In the stacks of letters I have written and kept, there is part of the story of my life – no less. I would never say that about the emails I have exchanged. Another thing about email: I question whether it's the real me coming across much of the time. That's a discussion for a different time and place, but I know there are things I say in emails that I would never say face-to-face or, for that matter, in a letter. Emails have gotten me into trouble in a way that conversations and pen-on-paper letters never have. There is something disinhibiting about the medium, to my mind, and not in a good way.

I'm totally with you about how people who can't express themselves coherently in writing – or in conversation, for that matter – are not people with whom I'd like to be involved. That said, I question whether it's the real person who comes across in an online profile, or rather some construct.

As for iPods, to me they encase people in a kind of bubble: true, I'm unlikely to strike up conversation with strangers on the subway, iPod or no iPod, but i will NEVER start a conversation with someone wearing an iPod, will I? That said, it's not so much that iPods themselves hamper communication as that they make us unavailable to it. They close us off. I used to wear a Walkman while jogging and found that when I stopped I was far more aware of my surroundings.

The teenaged and young-adult children of some of my friends are forever texting, with the result that, while we can inhabit the same space physically, we are not communicating.

I wrote back to Susan:

I am certainly aware that as a columnist you are a public figure, and that many people feel free to express themselves in the most disobliging of terms… I suspect that is what you mean with your reference to a lack of inhibition in the medium. I translate for a press agency, which means that I read a number of publications online and when I have particularly enjoyed or disliked an article, I glance at the comments and often find the level of vehemence to be disturbing. You are certainly right that people seem to feel entirely justified in making gross verbal assaults by email, which they would not likely do face-to-face or in a letter.

This is probably due to the ease and immediacy of communication. After reading an article that has provoked a reaction, especially if you are already sitting at the computer, it is easy to bang out a response on the keyboard and hit send, without taking the time to let one's thoughts settle. Not everyone will save their rough draft and read it over the next day before sending. Mind you a conversation doesn't get saved either, but you will be made accountable for what you say if it is a face-to-face interaction with another person. Email does seem to have given rise to a culture of anonymity and impunity.

My sister, a high school teacher in Ottawa, does not use Facebook because it is not worth the grief of being exposed to the crude ramblings of some of the students.

So is email a permanent record? I guess it depends on how it is used. Is it for me, but then I segued into the medium as a logical extension of letter writing. It also depends on the technology. I have a box of 5.25 and 3.5 floppies of letters written using WordPerfect 4.2 that are now irrecoverable. I didn't make print copies and now it is too late. I have deleted folders of correspondence to and from people who are no longer part of my life (mainly old boyfriends). Letters are subject to this sort of hazard too. They are sometimes disposed of in the process of ending a period of one's life, or wind up the casualties of physical contingencies. A couple of years ago, my mother get told me it was about time that I cleared out the papers I had stored in her basement. There were a lot of letters and everything I had ever written from Cegep and university. So the boxes and their contents went out to recycling. I live in another country; there is no way I was going to haul all of those papers back with me. Come to think of it, I think that the box of floppies may have gone out in the garbage too.

[Here I respond to a couple of less than satisfactory social encounters that we both had with texting/iPod bearing individuals.] I guess it boils down to what is considered acceptable behavior. You cite the examples of text messaging during a wedding. I agree that that is completely unacceptable and disrespectful behavior. The same with messaging or taking calls during a meal (there had better be a house on fire, or someone in the throes of labor).

iPod's have their place. I wear one sometime when walking, when I feel the need for something to set the pace. And sometimes I leave it at home, when I want to listen to the wind and the birds in the park. They definitely impose a barrier to communication and send the message: "I am not available right now." But sometimes we need to take that personal space and claim it for ourselves.

On the subject of declining writing skills, chat, and iPods, Lori Weston wrote:

Some time ago, I would have been an indignant supporter of the "decline of Western civilization" school of thought on internet and virtual communications, if only because of the spelling errors and grammatical horrors that abound. But now, a few years later, text chat and email have become an extension of my communication with friends, not a replacement for it, and I have become much more tolerant of less than perfect grammar and syntax, especially when communication emanates from non-English speakers and teenagers (who one might argue speak their own dialect). I could even argue that those little smiley icons inserted in a text chat give it a dimension that communicates my intention to make a joke or be shocked about some bit of news faster than my facial expression.

Like you, I manage long distance relationships for long periods of time and I think that although there are times you need to hear a person's voice on the phone other end of the line, sometimes a text chat is the perfect telegraphic way to "talk" about something difficult, and spoken words might have ended up being a sputtering and inadequate tool. I agree with your point that quick emails and text chats are ephemeral and not always elegant, but speaking as a soon-to-be divorced woman, verbal conversations can also be "poor, nasty, brutish and short". (LOL...and note the advantage of internet that allowed me to double-check the Hobbes quote by googling it)

A final word - I am one of those who has my iPod as a constant companion and it serves the same purpose that used to be filled by the book I carried as a permanent fixture, reading on buses, while walking down the street, etc.: entertainment for an otherwise humdrum existence and a wall to block off conversation from annoying strangers. The one difference is that I can actually see where I am going when I am connected to music.

And as to the postal service, my recent experience:

In November I asked my mother to send my knitting needles because I wanted to make William a sweater, but they never arrived. Perhaps the postal authorities confiscated the package on the grounds that the needles constituted a dangerous item… not that they were going to do any harm to anyone in a package by themselves. Actually that weren't by themselves, she also sent a book and some DVDs. I have no doubt that somewhere, some ill-bred postal employee is watching films while his wife is clicking away on the needles in the background, with the copy of the Margaret Atwood book perhaps propping up the uneven table leg.

Sharon Cheema wrote:

Apparently rolls and rolls of film containing my early life in India were "lost" when my parents sent them to England to be processed. That upsets more than anything else that was taken because I was too young when I lived there to have any recollection of that period. So in fact they stole pieces of my life.