Tag Archives: Writing

Musketeers to the Rescue

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The view from Santa Teresa Loop is pleasantness itself; a small village down below looks never more affable when seen from high above the bustling daily activities of everyday busybodies, a continual fugue of discordant voices, lies, schadenfreude, vitriolic criticisms, empty promises, false valuations, vain hopes, resident disappointments, and crushed dreams orchestrated by competing grand subjective narratives, all fragmented and adrift. Judy looks at the world below her feet as if she were one of the Olympian gods who used to get a kick out of looking at mortals and making fun of their lives as though to be seen in a great amphitheater. That’s how Judy is entertaining herself now, alone with her faithful canine companion Nena that is also entertaining itself now, for none other dogs than itself has a privilege to enjoy the view, as it were, because it’s the only dog in sight at the moment. The eyes have a feast of the spectacular world to themselves, and the bodies are imbibed with the fresh breath of unsullied beauty of rugged nature, which welcomes the divine duo with iridescent rays of sunshine and refreshing cool air from the West Wind. Readers, it’s a sight to behold, for they are gripped in a paroxysm of ecstasy. Thereby sit Judy and Nena on a rock like statues of Artemis and her wolf, smiling at the world below them.

Judy changes an object of her optical pleasure to a new stimulus from a different direction where the images of men suddenly materialize. She takes her antique binoculars belonging to her father, grandfather, and great grandfather, kept in her family’s cabinet of curiosities for two centuries. There are three men on horseback from the afternoon haze of the wild plains yonder approaching to the trail that leads to the loop, where the earthly Artemis and her canine companion are. Looking through the lens, the threesome look like they are doing a periodical reenactment of the Wild West Frontier; the one in Clint Eastwood-like western outfit with a cowboy hat, a long-haired hippy dressed in a ballroom attire, and a Sombrero-wearing avuncular man with a mustache. They look rather out-of-time, but nonetheless affable, attractive even because of the piquant charm emanating from this oddly quaint trio suddenly materializing before the very eyes of ever inquisitive Judy. It’s like a movie, thinks Judy, while still wrestling with her Reason to figure out this mirage out of nowhere, trying to grip a sense of reality, which she is not good at. For Judy lives in air, her mind forever flitting on the arc of imagination with a belief in magic, legends, faeries, and ghosts… She dwells in beauty of nature, drinks the sweet nectar of forgotten gods and goddess to protect herself from the weight of time that constantly threatens to stale her infinite variety and wither her beautiful spirit. Amid the tug-of-war between the Senses and Reason, Judy now sees the men in her iris coming real and decides to climb down the top of the world. Nena looks at Judy, but it isn’t as willing as her master. Don’t worry, Nena. They won’t hurt you. I am with you, and that’s all that matters. So off they go.

When Judy and Nena almost reach the entrance rail to the loop, however, Judy begins to doubt whether her decision to approach the trio is wise. What if they turn out to be bandits or serial killers in friendly hides? After all, people sometimes take false shadows for true substances. You know, sort of a killer’s instincts in my good neighbor Mr. Roger’s hide? Anyway, it’s too late now, and they also see her with her dog beside. A tall, slim girl looking like a salt pillar at the outskirts of burning Gomorrah is watching them, and the men think she’s either a mad girl deserted by her rich family ashamed of having a lunatic in the household or a dell, a young beggar girl, wandering anywhere for bed and bread, and thus oftentimes becoming a doxy of a highwayman who in turn exploits her beauty and gender for his own desire and avarice. We can’t let her stay alone here, said Ben, who prides himself of being something of a gentleman of society. Rufus thinks she is pretty and therefore wants to woo her. Raphael thinks she doesn’t look menacing, only lost, and takes a pity on her. So, they are all for one, and one for all, like the Three Musketeers in Western Style. They are going to rescue her, and then they will continue their journey to find the Aztec gold buried in California. Once more unto the breach, once more! With this motto of esprit de corps, Rufus, Ben, and Raphael dismount their well-spent Californian mustangs and walk toward the curious Judy – and even more curious Nena.

Great feast of fellowship, what a thing it is!

Education is quintessentially utilitarian. it is the soul of a society that grows into a collective human civilization in which individuals become cosmopolitans of the global village. William Butler Yeats saw education as “not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” In fact, education is the beginning of enlightenment, the road to Alpine Path to reach the peaks of your dreams and goals in triumph, no matter how rigid and challenging it may be. It is, therefore, a human right belonging to all ranks and titles, and it is this very reason that I was very glad to come upon this wonderful website “Working Class Academics Conference” on Twitter.

The conference is a congress of academics with honorable intentions to form a supporting network of collegiality that encourages their increasing presence and voices in academia where normally is dominated by scholars and academics of the affluent middle-class and privileged high class. It purposes to signify, acknowledge, and salute the achievements of working-class people embarking on an odyssey of their own in search of will to meaning in life via education despite biological, social, and cultural inhibitions against the elitist currents of Higher and Education and the University often unfriendly toward their peers of another class. It is Parliament of Kindred Spirits and Faeries that guide their fellow academics of similar socio-economic backgrounds to climb to their due respect and well-deserved recognition from the mainstream academia. 

In fact, there have been many notable figures of the working class who rose above social and biological planes that would not dispirit their noble, unyielding spirits flying high over the mountains of existential difficulties. Take Charles Dickens. Although Dickens’s family was originally of the middle class, his debt-ridden lawyer father took his family to a debtor’s jail and even sent very young Dickens to a factory for livelihood, which practically makes Dickens and his family working class. However, his talent for words and literary aspirations overcame the vicissitudes of hardscrabble life and made him arrive as one of the greatest writers in English Literature. Then there is also Ben Jonson, a leading neo-classist in the Elizabethan era who was abruptly driven out of his much-beloved the College of St. Peter at Westminster by his bricklayer stepfather at his youth to be set to work at bricklaying for living. And yet, Jonson tried to preserve a sense of purpose and a tenacious grasp on social recognition by relentlessly pursuing his literary ambition to be justifiably on par with his contemporary less-talented stiff upper lipped university-educated dramatists, poets, and scholars. Speaking of which,the immortal Elizabethan playwright and poet William Shakespeare also worked as an actor as well, ruffling the feathers of his expensively educated high class contemporaries and to our contemporaries to this date.

In conclusion, the conference is a great feast of celebrating the fellowship of working-class scholars whose existence in academia is often regarded as slighted lesser equals who dare to hobnob with their academic peers of privileged class on equal terms. These fellows of solidarity do not brandish placards championing a campaign against expensively privately educated scholars or academics in a frenzy of excitement fulled by their class-related jealousy. On the contrary, the conference is a celebration of their achievements, a festivity of who they are, a festivity of where they come from. And I want to praise them for the following virtues: pleasant without affectation, welcoming without exclusion, audacious without impudence, learned without pedantry, and brilliant without sententious bromides.

‘Books and Reading in Shakespeare’s England’ – essay

“Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man,” said the Elizabethan man of letter Francis Bacon. Reading was, in fact, a social experience, a public act, in the realms of academia, ecclesia, and civil service in the early 16th century England before the Reformation era, which was still reminiscent of medieval traits in general modus viendi. Reading was an expensive activity of the literate accessible to Greek and Latin texts, and books were not so much a necessity as a luxury. So much so that going to a theater was cheaper than buying a book. This Elizabethan culture of books and reading was the topic of the delightfully informative podcast interview “Books and Reading in Shakespeare” with Stuart Kells and Jason Scott-Warren, which I came upon while I was reading a book about the culture of Elizabethan England with a mental exclamation: Geronimo!

Shakespeare used historical contents, contemporary literature, and translations of classical continental source texts to use them as his poetic imitations. The existence of Shakespeare’s library is always elusively ethereal, but the poetic dramatist was himself a walking library; carrying all of the source texts in his head and drawing on a wealth of the information, he created a polyphonic work that elegantly and wittily interwove multiple strands. With Shakespeare as an illustrative example of personalizing books to use them as source texts to create his own works, we see the Elizabethan England changing from the elitist medieval academic institution to the popular readers’ club with members from various social strata wallowing in simple pleasure of reading books to their liking. This cultural character of the era is marked by individualism; that the responsibility for your achievement is attributed to yourself was the ethos. This growing self-confidence in awareness of individualism permeated writing as well as reading by personalizing the knowledge of others to make it your own.

The increasing availability of books in English language resulting from the Reformation encouraged people to teach themselves to read, including women. A variety of subjects, ranging from recipes for meals to Scriptures, in English gave access to those who were often excluded from a feast of knowledge enjoyed by a privileged few, and now more people could share the joy of being knowledgeable and creative thanks to the democratization of reading in general as a result of the mass production of books in the vernacular language that captured the shift to a more literary culture in comparison to the continental counterparts.

In short, reading practice in Elizabethan England reflects social changes in the religious climate that permeated people’s literary interests: the Bible became the ultimate self-help book as well as philosophy and literature that made readers inquisitive and intelligent by trying to ascertain the meanings of the Gospel, which was the office of the clerics before the reformation. Now the time changed, and people read the Bible directly, using their own faculty of comprehension and imaginativeness. Consequently, the democratization of subjects and accessibility of books gave the power of knowledge to people to enter the truth of the world and the beyond. Blimey. For reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

The Legend – Aces High

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They come from the beyond over the hazy horizon endless in length and boundless in time. They are back from the halcyon days of gunslingers roaming the boundless plain in the unclaimed territory, swashbuckling the dusty streets of a nascent frontier town in California. It was when the Pony Express was busy delivering urgent documents on horseback from the West to the East. It was before the Irish and the Chinese made the transcontinental railways. It was before the sons of the North and the South ceased fire and embraced once again for better America. From the glory of the Wild West comes this unlikely trio: Rufus, Ben, and Raphael. They are partners of a joint venture in finding the gold that a Union soldier buried somewhere in the mountain in California. No, the gold wasn’t hard-won by years of toiling in the mine but stolen from a benevolent Mexican baron who kindly attended the wounded deserter. The ungrateful soldier killed his saintly host and appropriated trunks of the ancient Aztec gold kept in the cabinet. So, it was this gold, this tainted gold that the posse is trying to find, El Dorado of their dreams.

Rufus is a handsome drifter who used to delight in cigars, but now is a cold turkey thanks to his learning of the virtue-extolling slogan of Mans Sana In corporore Sano, meaning ‘a sound mind dwells in a healthy body.’ Although he doesn’t particularly subscribe to the ancient Greek motto, he wants to reinvent himself as a clean-cut, dashing young man fused with youthful bravado and adventurous romanticism alluring to fair ladies and even plain-looking woman with money. He never knows who his parents are, but he does not want to know about it either. For Rufus, a foundling found on the doorstep of a missionary church run by Spanish Conventual Franciscans, a family inherent by means of blood relation seems so tribalistic and primitive. He’s always alone, and in this aloneness, he finds freedom and solace. So when he first heard of the legend of the buried gold from Friar Pedro at the monastery, that was awesome, I will find it myself and set up this dilapidated monastery and my new business thought little Rufus. That was 25 years ago, or so it seemed. Rufus since then has embarked on a journey for El Dorado by being a professional drifter, an occasional cowherd and sometimes a bounty hunter for local lords and town judges. It was during one of his stints as a cowherd that he came across two other men asking for a direction to Santa Rosa and wanted to be part of this joint venture of the ecstasy of gold. And off they went together on horseback. 

Ben is a former banquet pianist whose passionate and tempestuous streak laced with virtuoso piano playing gives him a status which fuses the caprice power of Greek gods with the sensual charge of modern-day celebrity. Versed in the musical pieces of Beethoven, Bach, and Chopin, Ben used to make ladies swoon over the melliferous melodies he wove from the intricate courtships of the keyboards and faint at the apotheosis of the ecstatic sensation of the music, throwing their handkerchiefs at the pianist. Ben entertained such deliriously sensuous reaction from the belles of society and often likened himself to be a musical Byron. But after the curtain call, that was it, and nothing more except for the maddening silence and dreadful darkness hovering over the stage. Ben wanted more, desired much more, and demanded ever more the insatiable hunger for fame and adoration that ensued scandalous dangerous liaisons with the ladies of high society and rewarding golden opportunities to elevate his status of wandering entertainer to that of an accomplished courtier of the music of his time. Forget the agents who only engage him in the venues dissimilar to his sophisticated classical tastes with forfeiting more than half of the money from his performance. Forget the patronizing sponsors whose only merits are wealth and haughtiness. He wants to be of his own employer who can play the music he likes in front of a select beautiful few. He wants freedom, and he wants it badly. Hence, his hands are now up for grabs for the golden opportunity of reaching El Dorado with no qualms, for the buried treasure is already tainted, and it won’t make him any more immoral than the soldier killing his kindly host.

Raphael sees life as one big game in which you either make it big or bear it as it is just like his father, his grandfather and his great grandfather were good at it. The family-honored stoic attitudes toward life never appealed to Raphael, who believes all-or-nothing strategy should be his credo, and he is proud of being forward-thinking and enterprising with his signature go-aheaditiveness. My dear reader, you might liken him to something of a Don Quixote because of his Spanish cultural link infused with the image of a reckless but likable wanderer with a mustache, but don’t let the shadow take our substance. For Raphael was a cunning fox wrapt in a player’s hide. His round, avuncular appearance belies fierce shrewdness and undaunted selfishness. Call him names, and he will strike you with blows with smiles. How more sinister and menacing can it be? This feistiness, resourcefulness, and go-aheaditiveness packaged in wicked humor and que sera sera approach to life give him kicks to survive life. So one day when Ben came by his small, dilapidated stable to change his spent mustang, Raphael was hooked on the story of the buried gold in Californian El Dorado. And the rest is history. 

That is the beginning of their phantasmal chase against the ecstasy of gold in the mountain, which has been continued for over three centuries. For many moons and suns, Rufus, Ben, and Raphael have been marching with the hope that even beat the shadow of death, 

Lion’s heart wrapt in Sari – on Jayaben Desai

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The Unlikely Fighter: Jayaben Desai

It was one sweltering summer day of 1976 when 43-year old Jayaben Desai finally culminated over the demeaning mistreatment and delivered her tirade against her manager of the Grunswick Film Processing Laboratories in London and stormed out of his glass office that sealed her outcry of frustration and indignation that had been smothered under the daily duties of existential needs for livelihood for years. So when her manager told her to work overtime at the very last minute as usual, again and again, Desai couldn’t take it any longer. For Desai’s personal life and her right to freedom after work meant nothing to the management whose discriminating attitudes toward their southwestern Asian immigrant workers were beyond pale. No More Docile Asian Woman who, unlike her English counterparts, would acquiesce to her despotic manager’s orders. This time Desai transformed herself into a lioness unafraid of the goading. This time was hers, and hers and her fellow immigrant workers. 

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A Lion’s Heart wrapt in sari

Upon reading the article “We are the lions, Mr. Manager” in my subscribed BBC history magazine, which was about the famous Grunswick Strike in 1977 led by then-unknown former Grunswick employee, Jayaben Desai, I could not help but take pen to paper for the following reasons: (1) it was about the first remarkable calling for a solidarity for the rights of workers on the periphery of social recognition;(2) it was the first and foremost Asian women’s strike against the industrial injustice backed up by the establishments, including that which they claimed to be for the people and by the people; and (3) it manifested the deep-seated general British public’s sentiment towards their Asian immigrant neighbors who were regarded as socially and culturally inferior to theirs based on race and culture. 

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Despite Desai and her collaborators, mobilized support from politicians and trade unions was conspicuous by its absence.

What really made me incendiary about the one woman’s protest against the exploitation of the race and gender for dignity and justice was the absence of massive support from her fellow English workers. She was reminiscent of a lone frontier woman in a duel against her heartless landowner with hoots and holler from his ilk. Although supports from people with goodwill and conscience were impossible to ignore, a majority of established social organizations did not lend helping hands to Ms. Desai and her fellow hardscrabble workers sending a distressed SOS call to their English peers. Where were their so-called English contemporary counterparts who were also economically disadvantaged and socially oppressed? Was the outcry of their fellow immigrant workers only a barbarous shouting trying to threaten their jobs? 

Although Ms. Desai’s heroic legacy has left an indelible footprint in the world’s social history encompassing racialized minority workers on social radar, labor disputes concerning the exploitation of race and gender are still rampant. What’s more, it still happens in our digitalized social media-governed age all over the world, including here in the States. How to stop or ameliorate the social ill shouldn’t be treated as a stylish, popular subject to gain constituents for political party ideology. Until then, the exploited will remain invisible in the dark and dank corners of the society willfully ignored and utterly abandoned.