Studying Korean and My Irresistible Urge

I’ve been so as busy as bees these past few weeks that I’ve not been able to post any of my book reviews. I’ve not even been able to keep up with the books on my list. The culprit? My new interest in studying the Korean language.

It’s ridiculous of me that only this year did I realize that speaking Korean is fun given the fact that I have been teaching Koreans for nine years. In those years, the only principle I held against was that I should only talk to my students in English since their primary reason for going to the Philippines is to learn English.I was so staunch in my belief that my ears would not catch any Korean words, or the words would just go in one ear and out the other. Instead, I would always encourage my students to strike up a conversation with me  in English. However, it’s a crying shame that this illusory belief shattered when I met a teacher who is able to communicate with the students around because he can speak Korean. With that skill, I found out that  a teacher can establish more rapport with his/ her students, especially if a student is a beginner. Besides, the fact that when-you’re-in-Rome-do-what-the-Romans-do effect turns out to be efficient given that the community I am into is merely small. Students would adore you when  you know their mother tongue. Finally, the heart of the matter is that I’ve wanted to read Korean novels and other reads alike.

So far, I have been plowing through the  new characters I have not been used to yet. I can read like a kindergarten trying to get the hang of them. I can somehow speak with my students and catch some words whenever I eavesdrop on my students’ conversation s or within earshot of them. I just have to widen my Korean vocabulary  and study Korean grammar at the same time without cease. As a matter of fact, I’ve been all wound up because the examination day  for TOPIK is a few weeks off. So, I’ve been exerting a lot of effort to study my butt off despite that I usually busily spend time preparing lesson plans.

However, no matter how much resistance I do, I can’t take off my mind the irresistible urge to read novels or non-fictions. Whenever I pass by my favorite stomping ground, I will hold myself from entering it. But…recently, in the long run, I did.I couldn’t help it. I looked around, and was so excited to thumb through the spines of the books stacked on the shelves. As usual, I stayed around for  few hours or so ,determined to not leave the place. In the end, I lucked out and  found two  cheap books included in my 1001-books-you-must-read-before-you-die list.Then, I left  right away  because I saw some more as soon as I paid. Otherwise, I could have bought another sack of books to drag home. Gee whiz!

I’m no longer finicky if the books are  tatty . 🙂

The books are Captain Corelli’s Mandolin , a historical, romance , and war novel written by  Louis de Bernières, and Vox , an erotic novel by Nicholson Baker. Don’t get me wrong. Baker’s books are said to be kind of Anaïs Nin’s styles.  In fact, I’m now giving it a shot. 🙂

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The Super Pig Okja

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Back in my first days in university when I had been weaned on the idea of  vegetarianism, skipping any meat in my diet, the only foods I would stuff myself with were vegetables and fish and eggs with which I made do for protein. I could not stand imagining myself eating another entangled flesh resembling the one covering my whole body. I would even revolt at its smell , acerbic to my nose, causing me to throw up as though I was close to the mental condition of Yeong-hye, a character in The Vegetarian written by Han Kang, who turned into a withered form after a long period of skipping meat. So, my mother would even tell me off for this silly idea.

When I watched Okja, the only thing that occurred to me was that why some  people are  not so satisfied with the natural taste of pork . Rather, scientists with capitalistic attitude develop newly genetically modified organisms given that the word GMO itself is primarily conducted to save lives  because plants or animals  are made less likely to get diseases or safer. As a result, using your common sense without supporting my argument with literary studies, more and more lower forms of life are subject to any forms of cruelties. And Okja, along with the other animals  alike behind the laboratory door, becomes miserable, especially the deep, passionate relationship  established between him and his master falls into ruin. However, it occurred to me at the end of the movie that the blame lies with us people who consume meat  and opportunistic capitalists. We should always consider the fact that we can be healthy enough by eating organic meat. We can just raise animals naturally.

Okja is a movie which concept is that a creature beyond human commonality  becomes the royal center of the universe. The world will be bothered ,and draw  different suspicions and theories  that the creature might pose danger to humanity. Ridiculously laughable! Correspondingly, the creature is persecuted to death. Par for the course, the master of that creature looks heart-breaking because only he or she ,along with his/ her family ,  unconditionally understands the situation. I guess you’re familiar with this scene. You can name some.

Nevertheless, what is new about this movie is that the creature is something we have never seen in other movies. It is a cute super pig!It may look like a threat to you ,but its sheepish face can surely catch your attention. In fact, I even mistook it for a hippopotamus when I watched its movie trailer.I could not even take off my mind this idea that it could also be a mutated elephant.   In other words, since the movie is a hit and bizarre, I bet my boots that Okja is now a character everyone is  and will be familiar with even after the next generations, and one of these days, it will be one of those figurines or dolls to be collected by movie lovers.

Another thing that makes the movie impressive is its  the co-existence of the two ambiance: the rural life and the city life.The scenery of the Korean mountains is breath-taking and  greenish in my eyes.It was relaxing to the audience like me because sometimes I’m sick and tired of scenes held in cities. I wish most of the scenes had been taken in the mountains. On the other hand, the movie portrays the fact that in this complicated world, life is a matter of survival  of the fittest. In fact, I won’t forget the last dreary and gloomy scene when all the pigs about to be slaughtered roar all at once while Mija and Okja, along with the piglet  hidden inside her elongated mouth, leave the Auschwitz slaughterhouse. I likened it to a holocaust. Gee!

I’m not sure if  the movie Okja could drive  off people’s epicurean habit to eat meat. Obviously, Okja does not look like a pig. Instead, it  looks like  something else more than a hippo  people have never seen. One thing is for sure, people will have this fleeting and passing realization that animals are like us: we have feelings. Me? I will still eat meat, but moderately if the need arises. I’m still a veggie. 🙂

P.S I hope this movie will be novelized. 🙂

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it.)

 

 

 

Wonder Woman is Now my Super Hero

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We were in my best friend’s room. I was glued to my own laptop.So was she. We were watching the new version of Wonder Woman played by an actress new to us. We covered our ears with our own headphones , to not  be bothered by our selfish presence. I was playing it in advance , and she was behind me. I was screaming in excitement  at the actions shown off by the Xena-like warriors, but I was just feigning to annoy her. She knew the trick I was playing. She even reacted back  imitating me, more exaggeratedly, unknowingly in what part she had been. After a deep concentration, I blurted out giggling, causing her to take her headphones off: I was like an innocent girl turning red for the scene when Diana catches Steve naked. Instead of getting normal  excitement as what happens to men when there is such an awkward situation, the feeling was even more sizzling  when Diana asks Steve about that private part , for she has never seen such thing in her life.Bear with my prurience! I know it! I kept blabbering like this until my best friend  hushed me down as if we had been inside a  movie theater.

I even roared with a gust of  laughter  in that Diana paints a portrait of an uncivilized woman, cute for her ignorance of all the changes in modern society. For instance, she is not aware of the fact that it is malicious for  both man and woman to lie in the same bed , especially if it their first time to know each other. So, I kept on doing so, so loudly  that my best friend could have almost ordered me to leave her room. I held myself for a short while, eager to tell her what caused me to misbehave like that. I wanted to re-chant that conversation  between Diana and Steve, but she could have punched the living daylights out of me because I was being a spoiler already.

Close to the climax, I was finding fault with  it  inside my mind that there are some scenarios that, if I may put it mildly again, I find VERY COMMON. Well, I can’t blame the writer or the director himself, for every idea  in the world is subject to plagiarism. In Richard Dawkins’ layman term, a meme that has been transferred from one culture to another. Still, without mentioning those said “plagiarized” scenes, they are funny and entertaining. I guess, Diana’s being in the old days, on the bricks of the World War II, spartan and skilled in martial arts, was something new to me. I loved it!

Nevertheless, ruling out its  so-called commonality, what really held me so breathless and fascinated that I’m now in love with Gal Godot ( Diana) as if I were being hammered back into manliness is Gal’s perfect role as a Wonder Woman. She’s so absolutely beautiful and fresh given  that she’s got a child now. Besides, her moves on the screen during the fight scenes are so flawless and grandiose. (Well, this is my personal observation. But I found out that she used to serve in the Israel’s mandated military service.)

Well, what really caught my attention from the movie is the part when Diana materializes out of her friends’ hide-out,  striding through the muddy forest , bearing down on the salvos coming from her enemies who are lying in wait. Then, she will protect herself with her armored bracelets and anklets. ( I don’t know how to call them.) It’s awesome!!!! It’s a sexy scene. She’s so brave that a moviegoer like me will look on in awe wondering how that beautiful  woman  will triumph over her enemies’ destructive weapons. Furthermore, oh ma, the special effects! It’s state-of-the-art.It is unbelievable. I am now convinced that Wonder Woman, ideally,  would be the other real super hero the world needs . It disabused me of the doubt that she is  just a human, but a super  human whose exceptional ability is unbeatable and unparalleled.Hallelujah! I guess you can figure out how I acted up in my best friend’s movie-theater-like nook. Her mother could have bawled  me out.

Par for the course, the ending is as heart-breaking as in the other movies, especially if the leading man like Chris Pine who is so sizzling in the movie will die.There’s nothing new to this scenario because, in the first place, Wonder Woman is not far different from Super Man and Spider Man. What’s her last message again?

“I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat. I’ve touched the darkness that lives in between the light. Seen the worst of this world, and the best. Seen the terrible things men do to each other in the name of hatred, and the lengths they’ll go to for love. Now I know. Only love can save this world. So I stay. I fight, and I give… for the world I know can be. This is my mission, now. For ever.”

Now, expect a sequel! 🙂

I’m not fond of watching movies about super heroes because my life centers around what the reality happens in this complicated world. In fact, I have watched Super Man, Captain America,  and Spider Man several times, and so forth.  Nevertheless, after watching Wonder Woman, I have understood why there are some people who are so in love with their favorite super heroes  that they even collect whatever stuffs  about them. So, this is the super hero I can’t even wait to see for its sequel.  How about its book version? I wonder. 🙂

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I fell in love with Gal Gadot. : ) )

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God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens: A Book Review

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When my friends or the new people I’m acquainted with find out that I am an atheist ,they tend to raise their eyebrows or purse their lips. It is unusual for someone  like me in the Philippines to not believe in God/god. The same as what happened a long time ago, when my best friend based in Thailand confirmed that I belong now to the  members of the “Four Horsemen of New Atheism”, she was worried that I would no longer be saved in the event that the Judgment Day came. She insisted that I believe in him.Inculcated in militant character,I explained my side in flagrant defiance. As a result, we had had heated debates many times; our friendship almost turned to ice in view of our irrepressibly acrimonious opinions. In the end, we still  make sure that her religion will never shake the foundation of our friendship.

Christopher Hitchens is one of the major influences on my being an apostate. Actually, I’ve read his God is not Great once,  and I decided to read it for the second time because I wanted to understand its contents more. It was still unintelligible to me since I read its free PDF. That’s why I was not even able to write my review of it. Besides, I was not scholarly ready yet to give my thoughts of it; it needs deeper assimilation.

Hitchens  strongly emphasized that religion kills every thing. He believed that  it causes violence, irrationality, intolerance, alliance to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, investment in ignorance and hostility to free inquiry, scorn for women and coercion toward children and sectarian.

To deduce  his arguments, he  wrote  various personal stories, documented historical anecdotes and critical analysis of religious texts. The result? Voila! A book that believers must find ridiculous beyond logical explanation, a big threat to their incessantly dominant indoctrination.

After reading it, I felt like I had a rude awakening for Hitchens’ views  that religion causes violence, religion is full of superstitions, religion in particular is hazardous to health, some religions are just copy-cats,  both the old and the  new testaments are inconsistent, religion has been the root of corruption, religious dominance can come to an end,religion  has been emphasizing   the meaning of sin, religion abuses children, and people can live without religion.

In the end, what Hitchens wanted to point out, the way I see it overall, is that there has been a culture of ignorance in that people conform to the facts they find universal. Go figure!

I’ve been an avowed atheist for four years, since I read some books dealing with atheism. (Well, if you are deeply religious cringing at what I’m blabbering about here  now, you might opine that I should not read such anti-religion books, for they  corrupt my mind. Duh! )So, comparatively speaking, I would say that my life is better than before. I am now comfortable to live the way I want. I don’t need to conform to religious customs I find paradoxical. I don’t need to shape my life according to what the bible dictates  to me. Rather, I lead my life based on what I know what is right for the sake of humanity. I might call it the ” universal conscience”. And don’t even dare tell me that conscience is a godly gift. As a matter of fact, I have proven prominent atheists’ belief  that a person can be good without the misleading guidance of religion. However, contrary to the militant attitude of Hitchens, I still believe that respect for one’s religious views is the best way  to gain rapprochement among us ,only if we know our limitations without being affected by our deep-seated devotion and fanaticism. No wonder Hitchens strongly believes that religion kills everything.

For those people who have the same struggle  with their religious conviction, I suggest that you firs read God Delusion by Richard Dawkins or  Atheism: The Case Against God  by George H. Smith. I believe that these books are the springboard for breaking all the spells that have been binding you for a long time. Good luck and let me know then about your thoughts of them. Happy reading!  🙂

Rating: 5/ 5 ( It’s amazing.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Queen and her Indian Servant

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Its movie trailer sparked my interest when I was inside a movie theater waiting for the showing of a juvenile film during  the weekend. This is the kind of movie I have wanted to watch since I’m now sick and tired of ones that are more on fantasy and cruel and bloody action. I was even more surprised to find out that it is based on a biography written by Shrabani Basu: Victoria And Abdul: The True Story Of The Queens’ Closest Confidant. So, it is another book on my list  I’m going to find  in my stomping ground. I wish to beat it to its movie showing in September. I’m  fairly sure that if the movie becomes a hit, the price of the book  will be diabolical. But, I’d be better off watching the film first .There are times that I throw my arms in dismay when the film turns out to be terrible after reading  the book .

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One of the reasons why it caught my attention is that its theme is about the real-life friendship between the Queen and her  Indian servant. I do love movies, music, and books that deal with friendship.

The story is about Abdul Karim who arrives from India to take part  in Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. He will be surprised to win favor with the queen herself. When their friendship deepens, the queen begins to realize a lot of things about her life. Abdul will be a teacher while the Queen , his student. 

Its initial release is scheduled in the UK on September 15, 2017.

The movie is starred by Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal as Abdul Karim, the queen’s servant.

As of yet, no information has been available when it is going to be shown in some Asian countries including the Philippines.

I may not be a movie snob but this is something new to me. So, I’m now looking forward to its showing!  🙂

Little Women II: Jo’s Boys and the Other 1990’s Japanese Animations

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This was one of the Japanese animated television series my cousins, young sister, and I were always excited to watch at its regular  time slot in the 1990’s. My young sister and I would hurry to my cousins’ house as fast as we could  to not miss its episodes, for , at that time,we still did not have a telly tube. A black-and-white TV was still the fashionable one. Even my older brother who was not really fond of  it would come along with us. We would all huddle around on the floor  in the living room, nestling one another because the tube was suspended above us.

The anime has marked in my memory since then because it had a major influence in my interest in reading books and aspiring to become a doctor, (the dream I have considered castles in the air.) The anime usually deals with a group of students who live in Plumfield under Mrs. Josephine and Mr. Fritz  Bhaer’s tutelage. Both of the teachers are good teachers who  make a big difference to their life by giving importance on education and their future. I will never forget those students: Nan, Dan, Nat, Demi, Daisy, Tommy, Stuffy, Ned, Jack, Franz, and Emil. Of course, I will not forget to include Mr. and Ms. Bhaer’s cute, kind children: Rob and Teddy. Each of them has his or her own qualities and dreams. However, it had been a long time , so I could no longer remember the whole stories , especially about their characters. The only ones who has etched in my mind were Nan and Dan.

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Nan  is my favorite among the characters. She is a tomboy and the bravest among the students. She taught me how to appreciate the importance of reading books. She even caught my interest in becoming a  doctor because this is what she wants to be. I really liked what she does in one episode: she produces herbal medicine to treat her  friends as her patients. Laugh me as loudly as you can, but I imitated her then. I would also read books on herbal plants and study how to produce medicine out of them. (laughs) Most importantly, she showed me how to be a positive and cheerful person in any circumstances. I liken her to Judy Abbot of Daddy-Long-Legs. Both of them take the world as a playground.

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Dan. I can never forget him because  he is a bad boy in the story. But I liked him  because he became close to Nan. Besides, his role is memorable because he changed in the story; he became like a tame lamb. In fact, as far as I remember, my older cousin would giggle when she saw him on TV; she must have found him attractive.

Since then, this anime had always intruded on my peaceful waking hours. Thanks to our modern technology. I  had the good chance to watch it again. There are some full videos  available on You Tube uploaded by people who may also be nostalgic about it.

After finishing its all episodes during the long weekend-thanks to the holiday- there is some information I believed in for a long time has  become crystal-clear. It’s not Ann, but Nan. It’s  not Dim but Nat who married Daisy. Dan turns out to be a scientist, not a druggist. It’s Mr. Page who boosted Dan’s interest in nature and animals.

All episodes are worth watching as its novel is worth reading. They are not only entertaining but also rectifying. You can feel like one of Ms. Jo’s students because you will learn a whole lot when you usually make a mistake in your life, typical of us when we were still young. Likewise, you can learn how to be a good teacher because of the wisdom Jo and her husband possess.

If Nan sparkled my interest in books and medicine then, now, they are Mrs. Josephine and Mr. Fritz Bhaer for being the symbols of virtues,  the paragons of what a good teacher is like. In the anime, they are magnanimous, understanding, thoughtful, considerate. For them, they are not just teachers but also parents to their students. They believe in the philosophy of education that all children have potential to become good persons. I won’t forget Ms. Jo’s favorite saying, “ The sun and the water are the natural way to grow flowers.”  , and her belief that students  have to love what they are studying, for when you’re truly curious about something, the words you can say can become your teacher. I think they adopted Italian educator Maria Montessori’s educational approach.

I have now some favorite scenes and symbolized objects in the story.  For the scenes that had an impact on me, when Nan becomes a teacher to her classmates and Mrs. and Mrs. Bhaer, when Nat succeeds in pulling himself together after his life being a vagrant, when Dan comes back to Plumfield holding the flower same as what Ms. Jo always puts in his vase, when Dan stays at Mr. Page’s house and becomes interested in nature and animals, when Dan kisses Ms. Jo and calls her mother, when Dan has the courage to ask Mr. Bhaer’s forgiveness, when Nan realizes that she wants to become a doctor, when Dan has to leave Plumfield and says farewell, and when Ms. Jo delivers her farewell speech. Oops… I’m now a spoiler.

As to the  symbolized objects,  First, the flower Ms. Jo puts in Dan’s vase. I don’t have the foggiest idea of that flower’s name. Does anybody here happen to know its name? 🙂 Second, the books Mr. Page lent to Dan to study. Finally, the ring Nan gave to Dan. I even made its pale imitation and gave it to my older cousin.

I’m not a big fan of Louisa May Alcott, but I have read her Little Women or , one of the springboards for my desire to read all the classic  books I haven’t read yet. So, after watching this anime again, I have now this seething flush of excitement to read Little Men or  Life at Plumfield with Jo’s Boys. In fact, I’m now more excited after learning that it has even a sequel:  Jo’s Boys, and How They Turned Out. It must be all about the students above after leaving Plumfield. I wonder what happened to Nan and Dan.

I’m also planning to read The Little Princes and Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Black Brothers by Liza Tetzner, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster and The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss: I have watched their Japanese animated television series.  Gee, you may find me odd, for I’m talking like an effeminate child again. ( blushing)

Are there other 1990’s Japanese animations I have missed on my list? Let me know then. 🙂

 

 

 

 

How Ode to My Father Gained my Respect for Koreans

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I’ve been teaching  English to Koreans  for 8 years. So, getting along with them has given me the opportunity to understand their rich culture, custom, and history. I’ve been trying to learn how to speak,  read , and write  basic Hangul. I’ve even loved  their food ,and…allow me to cite the ones I always crave such as ssamkyupsal ( 삼겹살), ttakbeoki (떡볶이), panjeon (파전), jjajangmyeon ( 자장면) , ramen (그리고 라멘), and to name a few. Hmmm… My mouth is now watering. ..And I am even now trying to be a pale imitation of their fashion. Jeez whiz, I still haven’t  let myself be eaten by their system completely.

There is one thing that makes  Koreans  differ from us Filipinos: Their deep history that has molded their consciousness. That’s why it has been hard  for me to understand them in terms of their socio-cultural and economical policies. Koreans place too much value on familial hierarchy. Young people address the elderly with respect, patently obvious in their language- the custom  which is somehow no longer a big deal in the Philippines. Also, almost all Koreans are under pressure to conform to the standards of their educational system. Students go to academy ( 학원: Hag won)  to equip themselves with more skills. They even take part in more extra-curricular activities as another credentials once they look for lucrative jobs because hunting a job  is suicidal. Their  (close) friends can be even their frenemy in all aspects of  life should the need arise that they have to  consider their own interest. So, time is not more than gold, something I was not even used to when I started working for them. The long and the short of it, Koreans have been taught how to hit the ground running by this kind of  dog-eat-dog culture.

Right after watching the movie,  Ode to My Father, I sent a message to my beloved Korean students that I cried over it, and because of this movie, I respect their country, especially their history more. I explained further that this is a blinding revelation to me; I learned from this movie  how Koreans transformed themselves into new blood after the long period of extreme poverty during the Korean war.  It shows how the  war shaped Koreans’ philosophies in life  beyond their powers of endurance and resiliency. For instance, due to extreme poverty, they had to work hard to make their ends meet. They had to sacrifice by living away from their families while working abroad. They had to consider their families’ future no matter how life-threatening the available jobs were. They were  all determined to pull out the load weighing them down –the fighting spirit that has been observably inherent in their characters even up to this day. Perhaps, after this horrible chapter of  their history, it’s now their cultural “meme” that they should never let something like this pass again.

People must learn many moral lessons from the movie. The one that etched on my mind is that we can come up with alternative solutions to our problems. In the movie, Hwang Jung-min, the main character, found ways of how he could help alleviate his family’s miserable  life condition. I believe that  he can as well be the representation of all Koreans who did the same way. 🙂

The movie even made me break into tears as though the hem of my cloth was not enough to dampen my eyes. So, make sure that when you watch it, a hankie is not enough , but a diaper will do. It shows how the first Korean families were separated from one another after the 38th parallel, demarcating North and South Korea.  I could not stop blinking  my tears away some lachrymose scenes such as  when Hwang Jung-min  looked for his younger sister who had been missing for many years, and eventually found her on TV and when he  stayed in his room and  had an apparition talk with his father. They were heart-breaking. T_T

Would that  the movie were novelized, it would be more compelling and deeper, and I would surely wet its pages because of the emotional scenes conveyed in  beautiful sentences.

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)