Intermezzo 1

by Marc Romyjos

There was something neither funny nor clever with the way he said it, but I took it to mean I should man up and piss my emotions uprightly astride a bowl. There was an option to shave my head — which wasn’t really an option; I was much too vain,— or hobble home drunk, which wouldn’t amount to any resolution, just a dreadful whitewash of death wishes, injured pride and maybe a few unconscious moments of homage to the ‘Ol Failed One that invariably leads to hiccupping hopelessness.

But what I did in the ensuing occasions, and I was smarter for it and credited by my own silly triumphant grin, was to tell my perpetually annoying colleague to bug off one day at work, and to finally refuse the offhanded propositions that prey on the sordid vulnerabilities of my situation, and to get messed up over trifles with everyone. Being generally angsty for a week was eventful, and succeeded in segregating the characters of my immediate environment into good egg vs bad egg baskets, to the end that i’ve inadvertently established a scheme of human relations that I found easy. It was a matter of deleting a friend or ignoring a friend request, as the commonplace dismissal of tact in facebook goes, and in its stead, an internal uprising over the lack of feeling with which people engage with each other these days.

Then someone would wake me up in time for lunch, and i would crawl astir in curious recollection of the morning I bolted by shutting off the alarm. Someone would feed me an omelette sandwich, or a similar normalized novelty that could pique my interest little by little until I get to the point of hearty laughs. Those things — and then you find that you could be cruel and negative in your description of the ‘Ol Failed One, like a bitter rock star who wasted most of his intellectual moments eking out an idea that occurred to him while he was inebriated. And give or take a few crow’s feet, it’s how you move on and become decent again.

 

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Doesn’t she know that there are things called toys?

by Cygne Sauvage

“Doesn’t she know that there are things called toys?” is the vehement reaction of the little girl who received a set of books from me. These were well chosen reading materials, made sure of their appropriateness to her age and interest. Yet, at the age of six, reading a book has not caught up with her enthusiasm for the pre-installed computer games in her electronic gadget, latest doll crazes from the enterprising movie producers and collecting Peppa Pig in various poses and expressions.

This personal crusade to inculcate reading commenced upon observation of children within my family circle and those of my colleagues’ nibbling on their food with eyes set on the monitor of either their mobile phones or ipods. Doesn’t  Apple realize the inanity of its corporate brand which represents the fruit of knowledge? Well, we cannot put the blame on big business for having turned a big chunk of the world’s children population into zombies.

A child’s home environment casts the formative values. Partly responsible for my penchant for reading is an uncle who used to stay with us while attending college until the time he reviewed for his state exam.  A big bulk of his luggage are books and very seldom do I chance upon him not preoccupied with one of the volumes.  My mother, likewise, on rare occasions not burdened with housework spends her brief siesta with either a magazine or a book rather than with neighbors for an exchange of juicy gossips or with other housewives who delve into trivial pursuits.  My grandmother, whose trade involves collection of old magazines, entitled me to browse into them which are housed in a small warehouse-like hut.  Perusing these foreign publications of glossy, colorful pages never fails to leave me in awe and entice me further into the habit.  Thus, though the public financed school I attend that time cannot render quality books that would arouse enthusiasm in the students, my household provides me the atmosphere as well as the materials. I am so appreciative when my uncle hands  me down all his entire Perry Mason series, my initial encounter with detective stories. This is prior to my being able to afford discriminating with food for my thought.

Hence, those who are in this similar crusade as mine can only do so much as promote books through gift-giving on various occasions. I choose to target children, exposing them early to the genre for their impressionable minds.  But, it seems I have been beaten by Samsung and Steve Jobs.

 

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Irant

by Marc Romyjos

It’s horrid, and there’s substantial gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair involved. It’s the first circle of hell  after you’ve gone through an entire purgatorio of coursework and much haggling among social life, full-time employment and other self-improvement projects (such as exercise). As a social science graduate student I am starting to feel myself a more compelling study for issues on oppression and poverty. However, I have a sister who swallowed the myriad opportunity costs of attending law school for four years, and the bar review for six months, only to subject herself to bar exam torture for a month. I’m sure she still has scars and stress-fat deposits, as my medical school friends are still treating eyebags. I’m officially an insufferable whiner.

I don’t suffer intellectual labors, but the inverse of it. After going part-time, corporate and freelance, I sure as hell won’t be screaming for depth. And having gotten used to air-conditioning, I daresay I’ve grown disproportionate disgust for the fetid swamps of fieldwork (Actually I exaggerate), and I’ve been eerily perfecting the skills of the white shoe worker. Why? Because I’ve been told future employers love order, and who am I to make a fuss, really? I’ll pretty much end up a sales agent for the neo-liberal afterlife everywhere I go, even without pretending to take palliatives with the consumerist gruel I’m fed everyday. I’m basically made. And I hate poverty.

So a desire to be relevant, in pursuit of a masters’ degree in anthropology, is actually superfluous for several reasons. One, on empirical basis, people, except perhaps academics and authentic intellectuals, resent discursive language, apparently because the framing of practical concerns should be sacred and cannot be messed up, or tumbled down, by vocabularies that exceed their own. Anti-intellectual intellectuals like Nick Hornby, Helen Fielding and Francis Wheen shed some tears of hilarity for the language they understand but will never use, because their splendid literary pieces make people laugh — and making people laugh is an impressive industry — so success in writing really all boils down to speaking lionish for lions, and basically just keeping to the taxonomy between who the author is and and for which species the intellectual fodder goes to.

Also, humans find sick titillation for the deprived, depraved and deviant, so tackling ordinary lives might just be a little too unproblematic to be propounded as a cause for research deserving sweet grants. I think this problem might not be so irreversible for people who can slap covers on inane writing and package it into a book. But for the rest of us who are grilled, skewered and, waaaaaah, omitted for the teensiest crash in logic, the bestselling book dream is bust.

As for the thesis…well, how can it exceed its functional role in my life, really? I can’t even represent myself well in it. If I bump out the poker faces and straight laces and philosophy I’d literally be left with nothing to write about but facial tattoos, entertaining books and visual arts. And YES! I liked The Elegance of a Hedgehog but hated it for my bittersweet bristling for ideas I can not grasp, and can only rebuke, if only to make myself feel more…relevant.

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Being with Scrooge, the Grinch and the Nutcracker is a better way to enjoy Christmas

by Cygne Sauvage

There is always the child in us that pops out every now and then. For some reasons not difficult to explain the young element in everyone’s heart unfailingly peeks out of its repressed status during the last two weeks of December. Well, Christmas is a religious celebration but it has pervaded humanity and transcended cultural nuances. The season evokes a particular aura that could penetrate and soften the meanest of the Ebenezer Scrooges out there.  In the spirit of this feast that is supposed to be about love and humility countries pardon criminals, war zones declare truce. Though cliché’ it may be, we wish it would be Christmas every day.

Certainly that is merely  a wish in a bubble.  Looking at the other end of the spectrum, civilization has trampled  what is regarded as the jolliest season of the year. Big business must have invented every possible way to attract shoppers, causing horrendous traffic, stress and anxiety as well as elevated systolic and diastolic readings.

The country where I have first known Christmas holds the record of the longest celebration, perhaps from the time Mary was told of the immaculate conception to the visit of the three magis. Once the calendar hits the ninth month of the year, carols fill the atmosphere, malls display everything that would not let you miss out on what is to come.  Technology further adds up to the sophistication of the commercialist attitude,  the materialist frames of mind, and of burying deeper in our subconscious what is Christmas all about.  Travelling becomes a difficult feat, gift-giving turns into a mechanical to-do list.

I have learned my lessons, thus, every Christmas time, starting four years ago, I chose to be in dreamland. I think this is much better than having a spat with the inefficient mall cashier or arguing with an airline crew over lost baggage, be caught by social media and go viral. Plus, doing so, digging into my old books about Christmas, perusing them anew lets out the child in me in a more relaxed mood.Image result

Children’s books dealing with Christmas abound and they are always a pleasure to reread. Definitely, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens tops the list, the story that gave us the word “scrooge” in lieu of a miser.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse by E. T. A. Hoffmann in which a young girl’s  favorite toy, the Nutcracker, comes to life, battles the  Mouse King and takes her to a magical kingdom full of dolls has been adapted into a ballet with music provided by the famous Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and is perhaps the most popular in the world under this dance genre.Image result

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel  follows the Grinch, a grouchy, solitary creature who does not like Christmas so he steals every Christmas-related goods from the houses in a village on Christmas Eve. Despite this, the villagers still go on with their celebration which compels the Grinch to  return what he took  and became the  guest of honor at the Whos’ Christmas dinner.Image result

A Child’s Christmas in Wales by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas is a retelling Image resultof Christmases past  from the view of a young child,  portraying a nostalgic and simpler time. It is one of Thomas’s most popular works.


The Story of Holly and Ivy
is a heart-warming tale of an orphan, a little girl named Ivy who leaves to search for her grandmother’s house and along the way she encounters Holly, a doll in a department store.  Little Ivy does not really have a grandmother as it is just a wish on her part. This wish is the basic theme of the story, which begins, “This is a story about wishing.”

Image resultOther books lined up for reading during the Christmas retreat from endless parties, hobnobbing with phonies and charlatans, pretentious exchange gifts and tone deaf carolers: The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst and Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel.

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Colossal Deception: A Case Study of Corruption, Cronyism and Regulatory Capture in the Philippines

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December 13, 2016 · 3:05 am

Legitimising the illegitimate rants

by Marc Romyjos

You’re partly toeing the poverty line because immediate spending is painfully deferred (and you have shame, so you don’t run to mum and dad), but you’re still middle class because you can afford to have savings, which you’re not supposed to touch because…you’re middle class, and the future is middle ground of lucky stars and black holes. The liminality of being middle class is a dizzying situation of shuttling these poles.

Personally, such sentiment is not necessarily borne on a tendency towards conspicuous consumption (see Thorstein Veblen, pls.), and the perpetual dissatisfaction it brings about. It’s a forward-looking conditioning that’s convenient to invoke when you’re (sorry for being such a nag) middle class with confusing prospects and questionable assets, whichever mood you’re coming from. To illustrate, the liminality approximates the feeling of disenfranchisement at being broke until the next paycheck (which further confuses your already confused state). Yeah, life’s not fair but you’re the whiner. (and why do you whine? etc. etc.)

Now, in the spirit of being schooled in the social sciences, one has to take to heart the social and psychological costs of being grease droplet for the GDP. This task should not have to call forth scholarly traditions anymore; one feels the economic squeeze right down to the soul if one ever had so much as a concern for not dying young and haplessly unaccomplished, or if one indulges in existentialist crises with materialist framings, always with the luxury of the project of self-fashioning. And yet one can not curse one’s lucky stars.

So, due to the (seemingly unjustified) disaffected constructs of that state of being, the contradictions of being middle class need to be addressed for posterity’s sake, just as scores of clueless college graduates are being carted off to the workplace without the good measure of raising their heads to the how and the why of stressful employment. I don’t have to guess that economic independence had been built up among them as the next logical step to education. There’s always the option to be financially parasitic, but that won’t transmit well in the next alumni homecoming, for one, and the crying need for consumption and full control.

This leads me to conclude thus, in careless metaphors: middle class education is the wraith-like thingie (downsizing intended, for lack of word and feeling) that stalks your worker bee conscience. It is simultaneously the seat of pride and obligation, of ethics and excessive self-interest. It is your passport to grander horizons, but it roots you to a single paradigm, and worse comes to worst, to overzealous one-track aspirations. I am led to believe that (quality) education is the comeuppance of being middle class, but education as we know and have it in this demographic region could be both so interesting and illusory.

Consider the attendant exposures and socializations in the full availment of this costly fundamental right. As lucky stars would have it, responsible parentage and a growing preference for retail transactions in the market for education, at the very least, give the middle class student real chances to study in what they call “exclusive schools”.

By definition these are usually privately owned and run institutions that automatically target the financially capable market. But aside from being magnets for the affluent, these institutions, propelled by profit and expansion, adjust their payment schemes to accommodate the large midsection of the economic landscape. Regular employees of government and private companies, through the good graces of educational plans, can now afford to send their children to exclusive schools, even without making a killing with the sale of office supplies. As tuition payments also come in tranches, spending space for mid-income families expands, and the household budget need not be so strangulated all the time. But my hypothesis is that these installments do not really sweeten the costs of sending children to school, especially if one thinks of the number of payments made in the stretch of thirteen years or more, excluding allowance and other miscellaneous expenses. The lapse of time further adds to anxiety over the investment; and I suppose middle-income spenders are more prone to lose sleep over the returns.

That the class and financial questions set up the disconnect between cultivated aspirations and possibilities with regard to future lifestyle choices and more relevantly, self-images is the basic premise. For what does exclusive schooling give a middle class student but the romanticized view of a future easily conquerable, at the least, by skill, talent and industry? “Exclusive schools” are self-groomed to be elitist without an outright declaration of their class-ist orientations. By connotation they’re quite solemn about demographic filters such as sex and religion, but all these ideological exclusions could very well be transmuted to performance. The student is constantly made to believe, by unabashed declaration of the school’s well-dispersed marketeers, that he/she is studying in one of the best institutions of the land. Moreover, her socializations within hardly help in the grounding to austerity — she is likely to stare economic disparities in the face with well-heeled schoolmates.

Alas, pride built up on educational background impacts most tragically after all requisites for future formal employment have been turned in. Self-misplacement is the deferred cost of betting on “elite” education. There is harshness in the “real world” cliche that only its banality can subdue. The middle class graduate from “one of the best” is more likely to meet this shattering reality more spot on than her affluent schoolmates, and she is also less likely to be accepting of obstructions to self-improvement than her underprivileged counterparts. She has the unsure confidence of being furnished with some bankable knowledge, but is tethered to her going rates in the job market. Such is a result of the messy dovetails of the obligations to deliver decent returns on a costly education by ensuring lifelong security, and what i presume to be an aversion to boredom, regiment and self-commodification in the desire for leisure and the absence of chances to feel so deprived — without reasonable cause.

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Despite the story’s happy resolution I put the book down with a heavy heart

by Cygne Sauvage

 

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I read Donna Tartt’s The Gold Finch several months before it won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. It was well-written, very absorbing.  Within three consecutive days,  I have to rush to the powder room every lunch break from work to continue where I left off when I was consuming the book at the back of the cab on my way to the office. Going home I have to make use of my emergency pen light to resume reading inside the dim lit service vehicle, a hobby I have learned to master in the metropolis I inhabit, notorious for its monstrous traffic. Reading this modern Dickensian tale did overcome my impatience and anxiety about being held for long hours in the main thoroughfare that looks like a gigantic parking lot every day. Upon reaching home,  Theo Decker, the main protagonist in the novel,  remains my dinner companion, up to the comfort of my bed and pillowcases which most of the time would send me off to dreamland in five minutes. With Tartt’s work of fiction sleep never came until I reached the concluding chapter.

Had time been on my favor I would have gladly reread this opus. The storyline can only be the product of an imaginative genius, one who has the full command, depth and empathy of every emotion associated with the myriad facets of human existence. For these exactly are what the 14-year old boy named Theo went through from the time he lost his mother in a tragic bombing. Even the choice of a museum where the appalling event occurred must have been well-thought off by the author to stress the ironic juxtaposition of beauty and tragedy.  Tartt’s style of narration is so consuming. She relates the minutest detail of body language, the innermost covert personal feelings  such that the reader feels inclusion in the company of the characters.  Her prolific pen fabricates  an interplay of funny and grievous circumstances, drawing  empathy for Theo and Boris’ quandary, their self-destructive lifestyles imposed upon them by the pitiful circumstances in their lives.

The novel reeks of social relevance bringing to the fore the unintentional harm the child care program in the United States casts on the defenseless members of the society, the too mechanical and rigid stance of administrators that exactly drove Theo to escape and accidentally find solace in the company of an equally neglected youngster Boris. Theo attempted to drown his misery from missing his mother, while at the same time salvaging whatever memory is left of her in his heart, particularly the painting he saved during the bombing.

The Gold Finch’s storyline was never lost in the subplots as the author ingenuously interweaves  their connectedness. As the narrative progresses,  the change in Theo’s character becomes palpable, his demeanor, his struggle for survival , the inner conflict of whether he has to keep a national treasure or surrender it, and lastly, the not-so-unrequited love he has harbored over the years for Pippa, as well as his undying hope of its being reciprocated.

 

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