An existing paradox, a moderation of cynical belief and romantic outlook

Menu Close

ephemeral details

Dig for Your Dinner – The leftovers from military base camps in Da Nang made tempting leavings for locals. Here, they scavenge in the refuse for edibles and more tangible items that can be sold in street markets. (Courtesy Gene Basset)

Who longs for an adventure? I know of a petite teenage Californian latina qualified as gifted by the LAUSD  board living in the San Fernando Valley who’s goal of  just success, no specifics whatsoever, has dispelled whatever color might enter her monochromatic life, be it parties, romance, recklessness, treks into the wild. But art has provided an escapade from this supposed straightforward fate.  Be it visual art, books, or music.  Pinterest is her personal blackhole. Her gallery overflows with captures of aesthetic that to the passerby’s eye is a superfluous detail of fate. She never has time to finish her homework, but can somehow finish an entire series of 10 books in less than a month. In a way, one can say she experiences ecstasy in an unorthodox and unrecognizable manner, for through the bland lifestyle she can more easily recognize the color and what yearns to stand out. Subjects and details so rare or so common, they can only be recognized through her eye. But should this remains  the standard for the world? Ratiocinate, for although you might not currently grasp this rhetorical question, it is nevertheless healthy for the philosophical mind, for without it, what are we? And why would you be reading this?

Gene Basset, political cartoonist for the Scripps Howard News Service, recounts his adventure in the depths of the forest of Vietnam, during a season of conflict, competition, and confusion. He doesn’t convey his story through the common technique of words and phrases, but with a Japanese ink painting aesthetic, almost impeccably capturing the moments there, through what I believe is a compromise of luck and technique. Scrolling through his artwork, which I stumbled upon through a war website, the captions I read were very detached, and it created an sense of emptiness and lack of emotion, that when I saw this image, my mind was confused, it didn’t know what to think. It felt no emotion, and it felt whatever it would feel would be an artificial creation of the feeling. As if I purposely propelled myself to feel a certain way. It’s a strange feeling that rarely comes toward, because rhetoric is in everything, but the way the words were phrased in this article, the icy, unfeeling manner of describing the image, provided no sense of pathos. One would have to feel for oneself. I still don’t feel that sorrowful sympathy that typically accompanies images of tragedy and poverty, what sin has left destitute and haggard. Yes, the image above, after several severe reflections, should incite sorrow, but it is an interesting discovery that I can’t really feel such an emotion, despite the business of the image above. I wonder if the captions were worded differently, if they contained some sort of rhetoric that painted the image in a different light, would I feel different.

I don’t intend to criticize art and say that it is meaningless and convey no emotion. For it does. Colors and poses are what constitute the emotion, but typically, these paintings and sculptures rarely portray what actually occurs. You don’t see a man who just lost melodramatically collapse on the side of a light pole, and saunter away with a meaningful gait back home. Not that all art is like this. Photography for example, may convey this realistically. Gene Basset does so as well. But Gene Basset does it in such a way, that is appears so normal, so appropriate, although the content itself is something appalling. He delivers it just the way it is. No adornments, no forethought. It was his task as a cartoonist, to document what occurs at the moment. Because of this, one can compare his drawings to real life. We pass each day, missing the minor details, the common subjects, that they become ephemeral to the eye. Even poverty. We know of it, but our life goes on. It’s a minor detail to those who aren’t in it. And that empty feeling I had when I looked at this drawing, is what I believe everyone has. It is the task of activists, and people like that petite latina, to open the eyes of others, through rhetoric, and surface genuine emotion.



The Discarded of the Cold War

Image via hcn.org

I have returned to my blog, fellow readers, after a long break from it where my AP Language teacher had kept a postponing streak going on for several weeks! Anywho, just before my teacher began such streak, I had found an interesting drawing from my distracted Internet surfing. The deal here is that I ended up on this page that provided mid-Cold War drawings, specifically the Vietnam War. I was fascinated by their ascetic simplicity, drawn on the spur of the moment, yet still managing to successfully capture much of what was going on during that specific period of time. (I’m so going to reuse that quote).

But as I read the captions of each drawing, I noticed a name, that I had not read or heard of in the history books or classes, frequently appear. While I examined each piece and read its description, I noticed that this name represented a crucial force for the American Special Forces in Vietnam. I was curious and looked it up. I came upon an article, the one which I shall be discussing today (I’ll save the drawings for next time) that subtly celebrates what this name symbolized back then, laments for what those covered by this name endured, and  describes what it means to us now.

 The Snake Eaters and the Yards  by Rebecca Onion, author of  Innocent Experiments, begins with the quote “Assume that during our own Civil War the north had asked a friendly foreign power to mobilize, train, and arm hostile American Indian tribes and lead them into battle against the South, they [a couple columnists] wrote.” During the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union fought over the title of leading superpower status, one advocating democracy, the other communism. Wherever communism would spread, the US would be quick to stamp out the incipient philosophy.  But in Vietnam, a country brazen with poverty, there existed a communist group who called themselves the Viet Cong and began to take over the land. It began civil war, one side being a nationalistic, yet more popular sovereignty leaning government, while the other government was the communist government of Vietnam. The US did not want the Soviet Union to gain influence over such country, and so entered into the Vietnam War, a bloody battle that took in vain the lives of many.

Rebecca Onion describes how the US Special Forces were sent to fight the communists who specialized in guerrilla warfare. The American soldiers needed a knowledge of the mountainous and tropical terrain of the country, and therefore needed a sturdy people who knew the area like the back of their hands. They were the indigenous, mountain people, who lived an almost autonomic lifestyle, detached from the bustling urban life of the Vietnamese. They were often depreciated, thought of as savage for their refusal to modernize and their unusual ways. Onion mentions that one soldier asked  a Vietnamese woman what she thought of the mountain people, and the woman “in all seriousness” had said that they had tails. These mountain people were not only downcast by the people, but disregarded by the Vietnamese government. There were already tensions before the US arrived, and when they did “South Vietnam’s President Ngô Đình Diệm had begun to settle refugees from North Vietnam in the highlands. His government neglected education and health care in the Montagnard areas, assigning inexperienced and ineffective bureaucrats to handle their needs.”

Before I continue, you may have noticed Montagnard. Those clever enough have already associated this word. But those who are perhaps leading a dozy day or are just plain ignorant, the Montagnard are those mountain people. Tossed aside as insignificants in their world, sacked from their homes, derogated into images of savagery, the Montagnards already suffered much. But Onion is about to take us deep into one of the solemnest testimonies of these people, one that can represent the testimonies of many others around the world.

Perhaps the Vietnamese found little use for these tribal peoples of East Asia, but for the Green Berets, they were exactly what they were looking for. Most of the Special Forces placed the Montagnards in a positive light, describing them as easygoing and extremely loyal. And loyal most of them were. Some sided with the Viet Cong due to their promises of untouched land and tribal autonomy. Others revolted against the southern Vietnamese for the increasing number of refugees and the government’s failure to respect the home of these people. But those who were with the Green Berets, were loyal individuals, able to brighten the days of several soldiers.

Unfortunately, the conclusion of their story was like several other disappointing moments in history. They were Used, then Thrown Away. Thrown Away. What is something thrown away? Something that the owner cannot or will not use anymore, has no further interest in, and won’t bother to fix whatever may have been wrong. Tensions were intense between the government and the tribal people after the Americans left, and the Vietnamese continuously infringed upon the tribal people’s lands and rights. Special Forces sympathizers went back to try and settle down the differences, but little by little the tribal peoples disappeared from Vietnam, fleeing west to the US. And from then on, like several other immigrants, they persevere to have a new life here in the US.

The unfortunate reality. Rebecca Onion creates an image of the Yards (nickname for Montagnard) as people who only wanted to preserve the land that was, I repeat was, their home. People who fought and sacrificed their lives to give a better life for others like them. People who defied the governments of then for equality and independence. People. Not savages. People.


when you can’t drink but wanna groove

Jazz has always possessed that interesting trait in giving you an ephemeral feeling that wants to propel you forward and groove to the music. Of course, I don’t deny that almost every kind of music does that, but jazz’s quality of bringing the “swing” feeling to you, not just the joy and excitement in other kinds of music, is what gives it a uniqueness. When I was watching the Princess and the Frog, I couldn’t stop ‘feeling’ to the music, and when listening to Peggy Lee and Louie Armstrong I had this soaring feeling in my chest that could solely exit my body and exist in the reality of this distorted world through my swaying and uncoordinated movements. The genius in jazz, the passion, the savor, all originating in New Orleans. And so, who wouldn’t want to visit this birthplace of an ethereal yet powerful music? Only people who dislike jazz. Like my father. 

Now, for those unlike my father, I have found an article that suggests locations in New Orleans for us to enjoy and appreciate the cultural inspiration for this art. Locations appropriate for anyone. Because, let’s face it, I don’t think teenagers are allowed to go into restaurants where you’re peer pressured into ordering a drink while listening to live music. And this is not a direct pressure, it is a force created by the uncomfortable stares of those around you that make you feel like an outlier and subtly oblige and then coerce you into ordering. It is only a few who will actually resist such forces, which I find admirable, and I’m lucky to know one or two in my life. Back to the topic, yes, I don’t think teenagers can go into bars. That’s unsolicited.  The law backs me up. Well, until you’re 21.

Based on a website with the goal of satisfying people in their travels or wherever they want to go for some entertainment, this article serves to work for that goal. So it makes sense for it to give you the best places to enjoy jazz. I was about to go for surreal essence, but I feel like I’ll be making my blog a bit too wordy. Perhaps not. Man, these days I’ve been doing much shrugging. And lots of distracting too… Anyways, forgive my pondering by the way,  but I’ve been thinking, should we rely on these sites, or learn for ourselves? I think the answer is dependent on time. If we have all the time in the world, I would heavily assure you that personal experience in discovering the different treats hidden in the city would be a lovely reconnaissance in New Orleans, Louisiana, but if you’re on a tight schedule, then it’s best to whip up a travel guide and head toward the sweet spots immediately.

Why would I say such? Why not also pragmatically attend to the travel guide when we have the blessing of having a plethora of hours on our hands? These are rhetorical questions by the way. Don’t bother. Well, I believe in something called exploration and learning. I’m a sucker for adventures. I think life is that way in its whole. You mess up you learn, you totally bomb it, you learn. You accidentally walk into a bar with some awesome jazz? You love it, until you’re escorted away. (Unless you’ve got fake IDS! or you’re 21<) You patronage a restaurant with some dingy food and second-rate musicians? Maybe you’ll be mischievous and recommend it to the unsuspecting tourist. You have the luck to enter into the jewel inside the jewel, wow, wow wow wow. You feel sensational. With a sense of achievement to it. You didn’t need a travel guide. You used your instincts, and wow, you are rewarded. That sense of pride in oneself for being independent, self-reliant, even reckless, is what several regret not feeling enough of on their deathbeds.  They regret not living fully. And so, toss away the travel guide, and head towards adventure. Live life.

Now for those who are living but dead, take a hold of those travel guides. They’re created for you. You, who have no time for anything, but for a brief vacation and then its back in front of the computer screen looking at statistics that might lead some to prefer dismemberment by the close of their careers. Nah, work is important too. We’ve gotta be stoic sometimes.

Now, there is no intention in this blog to create a caricature out of travel guides, but I do believe that for those blessed with eternities, please, do go on an adventure.

La Familia

As a young child growing up, I used to very verdantly envy Caucasians. I longed for fair skin, sky-blue eyes, and feathery, golden hair. I shamed my tan complexion, my dark eyes, and my thick, brown hair.  I admonished my heritage, interrogating my parents as to why they gave me these common traits, and threw a melodramatic fit at the universe, silently, just in my head, asking why I was doomed to be born this way.  I wished for white parents, wished for one of those American families displayed in the media, where the mother was model fit, and the father ravishingly good looking, and they all went on camping trips every other weekend and hosted elegant Sunday martini fiestas with the neighbors. And then my childish mind would tell me, nope, I was destined to have the Latin American family. To have a father with a large nose and growing tummy, a mother who forgot she was on diet, and relatives who loved to leave a huge mess after rowdy parties. Nothing like the elegant Sunday martini and BBQ get-together.

During the interrogations, my mother would repeat, beauty is not everything.

And my father would comment, being Hispanic is better than you think.

Before reading Victor Verdugo’s essay “When My Parents Came To The US, They Gave Me The Opportunity to Have A Voice”, I speculated that this would be about the struggle of immigration. About how so many Latin Americans risked so much to give their family an opportunity for a satisfactory life, as well as represent Latin Americans in the government in order for there to be more favorable immigration regulations. But as I began to read, I noticed this was about the appreciation of Hispanic culture, or more specifically, the Spanish language. This young man, whose parents were Mexican immigrants, recounted his frustration of having to translate everything for his parents, ever since his learning of English at the age of four. His frustration led to his creating a facade outside of home where he chose “to pronounce common Spanish words the American way.” But after his high school graduation,  he says this: “I began to appreciate my Latin culture and the beauty of the Spanish language. I soon made friends from all over Latin America, like Colombia and the Dominican Republic, and began to speak Spanish beyond just with my family.”

I remember that as a child,  I would most haughtily retaliate those who couldn’t speak Spanish well. After reading Verdugo’s article, I realized that I always had some sort of unconscious pride in my culture, even when I used to unreasonably shame it for its giving me less than ideal physical traits. My parents would always remind me that being bilingual was beneficial in a melting pot like California, where I was more likely to be employed. But besides economic advantage, I think I found it an honor and distinction to be able to speak my people’s language and represent them here in the US.

And my appreciation of the Spanish language is what led to the sluggish and incoming appreciation of my Hispanic culture. By the time I was in ninth grade, even with insecurities, I had become well aware of the diversity and eminence of Latin American culture. How our people came from several aspects of the world, how we fought for independence from the imperial and capitalistic societies,  and how we currently are persistent to give our families a better life here in the US, is what has made me proud to be Mexican and Peruvian.  Even though I was fortunate enough to have a father who came educated as a doctor and gave his family comfortable living, I have relatives who diligently work to give their sons and daughters that opportunity for success.

I remember once when close friends came over to our house, there was a Chinese piano tuner in  the living room. At the dinner table, we were all in camaraderie and laughing at all the jokes made. In the family room, the kids would be playing with my sister’s toys. After his work was finished, the piano tuner came to me and asked,

“Are they all your family?”

“Not all of them” I responded.

The piano tuner then said with admiration, “I just love how you guys are all there so happy and peaceful.”

Perhaps peaceful was a hyperbole, where everywhere was cackling through the roofs, but I understood. After his leaving, I sat down and realized that what my culture revolves around is family. All that we’ve done ever since the Spanish conquistadors took over the indigenous people’s land, was to strive for a proper ambient for our family. And now, with filial love and friendship in front of my eyes, I could see this embodiment.

Even though I may not have Caucasian features or be part of the Hollywood American family, I know that my flamboyant and colorful culture is something distinct, and my ability to speak the Spanish language allows me to be part of the great Hispanic tradition.





revival, not attrition

Image by Tim Calver via Nature

Image by Tim Calver via Nature

I’ve always been a nature lover, and thus been horrified by all the negative effects humanity and climate change has brought upon this lovely gift to us. Ironic, huh? A beautiful gift, which we slowly destroy. Of course, not everyone is going to destroy this wondrous thing called nature; there are those who are dedicating a good portion of their life- or sometimes their whole life- to saving the primitive world we once lived in before urbanizing. And that saving includes coral rehab! I remember first learning about it in some ocean documentary I was watching, and it fascinated me to see how people used innovation to think of creative ways to help our environment.

Hold up. What’s coral rehab? For those who do know, you may skip this paragraph; I’m just gonna give a cute little gist for those ignorant fools who seem to not give a damn about the wonderful god given because he has mercy on us gift of nature. Just kidding, you aren’t ignorant fools. Well, coral rehab is just my slang way of speaking of coral nurseries, which as you can see up above, are these small structures designed to grow coral, where they shall be transplanted to the reef areas, thus nursing those areas back to health. This way, one can ‘rehabilitate’ the dead reef areas, where corals have died due to invasive algae, pollution, and coral bleaching (which is partly because of global warming).  And so, people all over the world are working in different organizations and trying to raise enough money to be able to execute this in different areas. For an extensive knowledge of this, I found this manual, which if I had time, I’d read it. But, right now, I don’t have a life.

Now that you have a brief background, let me begin my discourse. Well, first of all, I believe most articles on environmental issues and ways to achieve the goal of solving those issues are meant to inspire people to help out either donating or volunteering. And that itself is a way to solve those issues. In order to solve global problems, one needs global support. And thus, organizations have formed all over the world to achieve global support. And I daresay I do believe that together they are reaching that goal, in order to make vital progress. And so, the article that I linked in the commence of this amazing blog  is an obvious example of this. If you check it out, it is an organization, and it does want to receive donations and help. Of course, there are other articles found on website that don’t directly call for donations. But the articles deliver messages to appeal to their audience’s sympathy and longing for a rejuvenated environment.

I’m always moved by articles for environmental protection and rehabilitation, and I am especially appealed to those emotions of longing. Here’s a silly metaphor to represent this: it‘s as if there are a bunch of articles and videos about the doleful scent and luscious saccharine taste of cake; then they remind all people, including cake lovers, that because of the diminishing number of bakers and disappearing recipe books, cake will run out soon if nothing is done about it. .  Happy me

But there are projects meant to create cake libraries and special schools for bakers that will give them high pay afterwards

Okay, so that was a grungy way to represent, but I hope you got the concept. We’re missing out on those lost cake recipes! We’ve made extinct several species, and devastated gorgeous nature sites, all due to our negligible actions!But, there shouldn’t be despair,-go away despair-but big thinking. There are nature lovers, just like there are cake lovers. But we don’t need those who sit down and admire what is and what might soon not be, and then just sigh and say, “oh that’s too bad,” but those who also will stand up from their sofa and take action. Every single time I watch a nature documentary, or in this case read an article on coral nursery, I’m appealed to emotions, but it’s time to take the next step. It’s wonderful to live somewhere where death, pollution, and gloom does not loom, but life, health, and satisfaction.

Image by Unknown via ISQMagazine

Image by Unknown via ISQMagazine

I find the idea of coral nurseries a wonderful example of how humans can use their minds not to destroy, but revive.


quote of the day

“The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.”

– Milton, Paradise Lost

thought of the day

just as monkeys climb trees, what is a student without a teacher?


thought of the day

i can’t think of one rn

Hello world!

All babies cry after being born.

According to Sigmund Freud, we are all born with natural impulses and instincts. We are mentally primitive, where we have no idea and no regard of the characteristics of society, but only care to satisfy ourselves.  And because we are helpless creatures, our instinct is to cry.  It’s all we can really do… at the moment. Freud calls this the id.

When reading Id Ego Superego I always believed that humans are naturally selfish beings, so I completely agreed with the article. And it made sense that  babies are pure “id” because all they do is cry. And why do they cry? Because they want something. They want to be fed, cuddled, cleaned, given attention. They don’t want to be in an undesirable state.  Of course, this can be considered a behavior meant to keep the baby alive, and not be neglected. But as we grow, Freud says the ‘id’ is still within us as our unconscious, where it will make us do anything to please our selfishness. Anything. Of course, we’d be placed in some sort of ward if it was only the id that guided us. Because we would do more than just cry. That’s why Freud also believes our mind is made of the ego.

Our desires for things increase as we age. Our most primitive desires are when we are babies. Our desire for more things increase as we are exposed to the world. And we still are selfish. Freud says that the ego guides the id in a realistic manner that won’t get us into jail. Thus, we still act to please ourselves, but now it’s in a realistic manner. The only think that perhaps deviates human nature’s selfish qualities, is what Freud call the superego. This is our strive to moral. To fulfill society’s expectations of righteousness and justice.

But why do we want to strive for it? What is the purpose of this? What does virtue do in the first place? It allows everyone to have a good life, and that includes the one striving for moral. So in part, we are motivated for our own benefit. Of course, there are people who discard everything to be devoted to philanthropy. But these people do this because it makes them feel good, because they want to be good people. And I don’t believe that there is any malice in that. But these people are quite rare, and when they come about, usually are quite famous. Such as Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.

Now, I think selfishness is something that we need to survive. Or else we wouldn’t be born with it, it wouldn’t be in our biology. Babies when born only care for themselves, not others.  They cry to not die. Going back to the beginning of our existence, we were nomads, always on the move, and possibly that is why babies would cry to get their mother’s attention. Today, most of us lead sedentary lifestyles, and mothers most likely won’t forget about their children. But that behavioral adaptation is still in us.  And so we are selfish, and technically greet the world with it as we cry.