Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Gura has just added "Director" to her list of titles!! Check it out.

Michelle was part of the Coming Full Circle project. I know that she has blogged several times now about that part of her life, wondering whether using her real name in the book was a good decision. People still approach her today about her narrative in the book and she has to deal with the time warp. That's one thing about printed text - it is fixed in time and space. At the same time, there is a sort of a "catch-up" going on as new readers going through the same emotions, thoughts, questions find resonance with that old text. I find this is true for Ulanmaya whose post seem to reflect those same questions about Filipino identity, and find that she and her friends often feel stuck. I hope she doesn't give up asking the questions. There are answers.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

At a dinner conversation with the Tribal Council Chair Greg Sarris and other folks from my university, someone commented that Bush should have made a statement about the shootings at Red Lake (he has since done so) the way Clinton was quick to make a comment about the Columbine shootings. To which Sarris said something like: Why should he? The Indians don't mean anything to him; he doesn't need Indian approval or votes.

Today, one of Time Magazine's online headlines is "The Devil in Red Lake." That was enough to pique my curiosity so I read the whole the essay. I do not remember if the media coverage of the Columbine shooters or the event itself ever mentioned that this was the work of the devil. I seem to recall sympathetic and unbelieving portrayals about two boys gone wrong in an otherwise "normal" white suburb. On the other hand, Jeff Weise of Red Lake, is characterized as just another casualty of rez life that is already full of depressed, alcoholic, and suicidal folks anyway. The Devil in Red Lake?

My students in Ethnic Literature read Sherman Alexie's The Toughest Indian in the World. In spite of the critical discussions in class, their response papers reveal that many of them still hold on to the view of Indians as the extreme "other" -- Indians are so "different" that the students are almost repulsed by the stories. Given that Alexie's tricksterism and storytelling can be confusing and provocative, what they are reacting to is very much a reflection of their unwillingness to shift the lens of normativity to something else that might open up their world to a whole other way of seeing.

So I was thinking of this as I read the Time essay. It almost makes me retch at how sick we, as a culture (of fear, anger, hostility), have become. Nothing surprised the Pomos I was with. They have known this all along. I should question my incredulity.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

I may have said I'm shy, but one thing I am not shy about is saying "thanks" to Eileen for the blurb and blog about my forthcoming book and to Jean for her backchanneled comments about it. Salamat!
In the meantime, I am having to look thru tons of material on the Asian Diaspora and realizing how much I don't know about Asian history. Like the story of Admiral Zheng He who led 7 major sailing expeditions between 1405-1433 all the way to East Africa and commanded the world’s largest armada – a fleet of 28,000 sailors on 300 ships that were 400 ft long and 160 ft wide (Columbus had 90 sailors and 38 ships, 85ft long). His crew consisted of language interpreters, astrologers, astronomers, pharmacologists, ship-repair specialists, doctors, and protocol officers. During this time, India and China accounted for 29% of the world GDP.

Zheng He was a Muslim and a eunuch who was a houseboy to the prince who became the Yong Le emperor and later appointed He as his military commander. After the emperor died, an internal struggle between the traditional scholar-officials and the progressive eunuchs eventually led to the dismantling of China’s navy and it became illegal to build boats with more than 2 masts, and by 1525, all oceangoing ships were destroyed (3,500). All of Zheng He’s sailing records were destroyed. And China retreated into its "Middle Kingdom" while Europe and later the US rose to power.

Were the Chinese not greedy enough for world power the way the Europeans were? Did they have a "culture of complacency?" The Chinese didn't know how to make big profits (or didn't feel the need to) from their trading ventures even while they lavished foreign officials with gifts. On the other hand consider that Magellan once sold a cargo of 26tons of cloves for 10,000 times the cost.

The Chinese at that time also just didn't think they needed anything from Europe (they saw it as backward) and so didn't feel they had to push all the way to Europe.
So the husband says: If the Chinese thought they were already living in paradise/Middle Kingdom, why would they want to conquer or dominate other lands? The thinking that China wasn't greedy enough or was too complacent reveals more about the Western psyche than it does the Chinese'. Touche!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Heard on KPFA on the way to work...

"Rolling Back the Empire" (allusion to the "rolling back the stone at Jesus' tomb) protests against nuclear weapons at Lawrence Livermore Labs are planned over the weekend. What caught my attention is that these weapons are called ROBUST EARTH PENETRATORS! As if to make sure that this "penetrating" machine is not construed as flaccid, they just had to add "robust." Just go ahead, f--k the earth, will you?

Barb's recent posts about subverting power structures coaxed me out of the closet...and not because I have answers on how to build bridges (or bomb them, depending on one's location) but because I agree that we should be concerned enough about the new mandates for a "patriotic education" which translates in the classroom as "standards, standards, standards!" And how are k-12 teachers mandated to meet standards? Teaching to the test -- is the term they use. So you have students graduating from high school who are perfect at test-taking but don't know how to think critically!! You have students who hate poetry and literature (especially the kind that is "inaccessible because it uses too many "foreign" words!) Or students who do not know how to engage abstract ideas (ideology? hegemony? whiteness? -- huh?) nor feel the need to (except when the students are already invested in these topics - like the students in my non-GE classes).I can go on and on.

But wait! There's more (dang, i sound like an infomercial).

There are shining moments, occasionally. Last Monday, a Fil Am student responded to one of Eileen's poems in Reproductions... with a hula dance to the music of Spanish Harlem played Hawaiian style. This student who is so shy and nervous was moved to dance by poetry written by a Filipina. She grew up in a white suburb and is only now learning about Fil Am history. She and another Fil Am mestiza are now asking me about Tagalog programs abroad. And yes, they also loved reading Michelle's kali poetics and Catie Cariaga's E Pluribus Karaoke!

Back to the question at hand: Is there something wrong with an educational curriculum that doesn't include Filipino and Filipino American history and literature when the student population is 40% Filipino? You bet. (I'm thinking of a particular school district in the Bay Area). Because state-wide standardized tests doesn't include questions about FIl Am history, it doesn't have to be part of core content?

It becomes chicken or the egg thing: We need Filipino teachers in the classroom (who will find a way to circumvent the curriculum in K-12, postsecondary) but you can't encourage students to become teachers if they don't have role models, if their history is absent from the curriculum, etc. Plus, it doesn't mean either that just because a Fil Am might get a teaching credential, doesn't mean that teacher will teach from a critical/social constructivist position (which, to my knowledge, is the only position that is subversive and transformative).

So while poets and writers are publishing, teaching, and doing community activism, we need to keep addressing the larger conundrum of our (marginal) locations within educational institutions. We need more of us in the classroom.
(Somehow this always bring me back to my mantra: decolonizethis! and then heal our postcolonial trauma).

Which brings me to shyly talk about my next book project which is tentatively titled, A Book of Ones Own. It is a collage/book of meditations, attempts at poetry, found texts, academic essays, and beautiful artwork by Filipina artists. This is my reply to the question: What do you do after you decolonize? The answer came to me in fragments over a period of 3 years. When I was finally able to gather these fragments together and tried to submit book proposals to pubishers, I was told: "you have too many elements in here, we don't know how to categorize it."

This is the story of my life -- uncategorizeable! So then I thought, I might as well just make a book of my own.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The other day a colleague asked: Leny, are you shy? She must have noticed my reticence to answer the question and so she said, "I don't know where that came from." I then said that I am not shy but I may be reserved in some contexts.

What does it mean to be shy though? Does it mean not having the confidence to talk about my next book project which is probably going to be published by June and how it has kept me preoccupied the last few weeks trying to edit the manuscript and work with the book designer? Does it mean feeling timid that I couldn't bring myself to ask my friends to read it for comments for fear that they might say it's not polished enough? Does it mean not blogging about my preparations to go to Old DominionUniversity in two weeks to speak at the Film Festival where some Fil Am films are featured? Does it mean not talking about my aching lower back because I don't want people to think I'm old?

If so, then I must be shy. Really shy.

Monday, March 21, 2005

It was a high-powered literary week and I had to enjoy it vicariously through these blogs: Barb, Ver, Jean, Rhett, Michelle.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Thank you, Bino, for the lessons in literary history! There's also good discussion on arts and activism over at Barb's. And over at Michelle's, kali poetics!

I am joining Jean and Rona in taking a blog break except for the occasional shorties like the one above.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Still on activism...they've been around for a few years but now they are coming to a theater near you. Follow the links to the film's trailers.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

ACTIVIST!... yes, that word. Are you or aren't you?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A student came by this afternoon to tell me she will be absent later this month because her Dad is being called back to Baghdad much against his will. The family wants to get together before he ships out. We talked about this "back door draft" and I mentioned that some soldiers are actually suing the military in protest. I don't think her Dad will.

Her tears welled up as she walked away. I held mine back. Gnashed my teeth. Took a deep breath. I'm dying. I wished I had held her...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

One of my friends told me recently a phenomena he observed in Richmond, BC : 50% of K-12 students, newly arrived from Hongkong and other parts of Asia, are either driven in or fetched by their parents in BMWs, Mercedes, Jaguars, and other luxury cars -- these symbols appropriated by new immigrants to prove that they are assimilable (of course, Asian Americans have been trying to prove this for centuries!) and can also afford the trappings of affluence. Well...recently there has been some sort of a reversal of trends. The other 50% being emulated (the white local affluent families) have recently been seen driving hybrids and smaller cars in the name of their new-found ecological consciousness. The Asians are aghast: they have changed the rules! just as when we are proving that we, too, have arrived, they change the rules! not fair!

So then our conversation turned to the question: as wealthy people realize that affluence doesn't necessarily bring happiness and they begin to downsize and simplify their lifestyles, what does it mean for the rest of the folks on the planet who aim to acquire the same trappings of affluence in order to be happy? Is there a point where the affluent can say to the wannabe-affluent: Just take my word for it, don't consume mindlessly like I did, it won't make you happy? Because, of course, the new ecological consciousness of the affluent won't quickly reverse any of the environmental damage that has already been done in the name of their lifestyles.

I was seated between him and another environmentalist/earth scientist. They were talking about the ethics of development of natural resources. How can we merge human values, social policy and corporate practices? How do we teach young people in our classrooms to look at these three areas in an interconnected way rather than in isolation, as is currently practiced in classrooms, in corporate boardrooms, and in social institutions?

Mutombo asked: our national rhetoric of about peace, freedom, and prosperity -- why doesn't it ring hollow to most Americans?

Why indeed??

If you want to hear Jean read one of her poems or see one of her drawings (more, please!) or see a photograph of her Mom and another of her Dad --here! Thanks, Jean! Also, I enjoyed the various links to "moving poetry"...regrettably, not enough time to allow myself to be hypnotized.

It didn't escape my notice that one of Barb's poems has been nominated for a PUSHCART! Go, Girl!

And did anyone notice that Evelina Galang just won a literary award? -- sorry, can't remember but it's in the recent Poets and Writers mag. I'll fetch the info later.

Speaking of new books: Building Diaspora: Filipino Cultural Formation on the Internet by Emily Ignacio and The Star-Entangled Banner: 100 Hundred Years of America in the Philippines by Sharon Delmendo.

Have not heard of Henry Darger till now. Now I'm really curious.

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