17 November 2008

Mountain Meadows, Sunny Days, and Shoes Off

Let me preface this post by saying that I'm not a tea person. I've always thought of myself as more of a coffee person. (I mean, I surely love the taste of coffee much better than tea.) Years of drinking too much coffee have finally taken its toll on me, however, so now I can only drink one cup of coffee a day. (And even that is a bit of a treat. Well, I used to drink four to five tumblers--tall Starbucks tumbler size--of black coffee every day for years, so I suppose I've just about drunk up all the caffeine my body could take.) But as I still need to keep myself awake most days (the energizing effect of caffeine is obviously not as long term as its effect on one's stomach lining), I've turned to tea.

And because tea is not exactly my cup of ...gasp...tea (goes to show how writing has been a major pain for me for some time now), I'm always on the lookout for tea that I'll actually like. Almost always, when I go to the supermarket, I'll spend some time checking out the tea section. So last night, I found myself in the tea section of the supermarket again. I wasn't just checking it out for some new tea though. I was buying, because I just ran out of my favorite mandarin orange green tea, which, I could get only in Manila.

The usual brands were there, but there were also a couple of new ones. I picked up one of the new ones, but put it down when on the carton, it said that I should use a teapot and china because they'd really set off the rich infusions of this particular tea. (I sort of understand why, but I don't have a teapot and definitely no china.)

So I picked up this other one. I thought the packaging looked good, and it didn't require special pots and cups, but it was pretty expensive for me at 10.65sgd. My usual box of tea cost between 4 to 6sgd. I put it down and thought of just going back to this tea I'd tried before and sort of liked. For some reason though, I went back and picked up that 'expensive' tea again.

Going over the box again, I read something I didn't realize was there earlier. Here's what it says:

Did you know?

A single cup of [this tea] has been known to have the same effect as sitting for 45 minutes in a mountain meadow on a sunny day with your shoes off.

I suppose you could guess what happened after. On the bus home, I was smiling stupidly, anticipating 45 minutes of sunshine and mountain meadows and shoes off.

And yeah, I know it's been ages since I last posted anything here, so this is also me letting you know I'm still here--alive but barely. Writing (that other kind of writing I pretend I can do) is really kicking my butt very hard these days. And that's why copies like the ones above totally suck me in.

UPDATE: I suppose there's still some truth in advertising sometimes. That tea really was 45 minutes of sitting in a mountain meadow on a sunny day with my shoes off. I'm so happy to have found it. :)

02 July 2008

Jose Rizal's 147th Birthday--Singapore Style

I posted this somewhere else weeks ago with the intention of reposting it here right away. But you know how things sometimes happen and one gets caught up and forgets about what she's supposed to do. Here it is, anyway--a couple of weeks later:
Ok, a disclaimer before I begin: I don't normally celebrate Jose Rizal's birthday. (Nothing wrong in celebrating it, but I just didn't get around to doing it, I suppose. Hehe.) The title is too good to pass up, however, because the day, 19 June, Rizal's birthday, actually began with a lecture about Jose Rizal (delivered by foremost Rizal historian Ambeth Ocampo) and his trips to Singapore. It was followed by the unveiling of a Jose Rizal Marker by the Singapore River in honor of these trips.

The lecture was both fun and insightful and taught me a number of new things about Jose Rizal, the most interesting of which for me was how he visited the Botanic Gardens every time he set foot in Singapore. (I say 'set foot' because in his last visit here, he was a prisoner already meant for execution in Manila, so he wasn't able to get off the ship.) I found it interesting in the sense that the Botanic Gardens is still very much around, and I haven't been there. I suppose knowing Rizal went back to visit it several times has given me an incentive to finally visit and walk the very same path Rizal did--and maybe see for myself what it was about the place that had so captivated Rizal. The unveiling was uneventful, though I thought it was a bit of a thrill to see the President of Singapore, S.R. Nathan, there.

It was a really nice day for an unveiling. It was sunny and breezy. I also thought the location of the marker was perfect. I could imagine Rizal sitting in that same spot by the river, either lost in thought or writing compulsively.

Originally, the lecture/unveiling was supposed to be followed by a night-out with friends, but they couldn't make it, because they couldn't get out of work (again! hmph!). Not to be deterred, Fama and I decided to go ahead with our plans. Reservations had been made, and it was, after all, Jose Rizal's birthday. :) We had a(n unexpectedly) good (even great) pizza and pasta dinner at Pasta Fresca Da Salvatore at Boat Quay. The four cheese pizza with parma harma was absolutely delicious, and so was the pasta marinara in white wine.

Not sure about the other stuff in the menu, but these two were good. It was a bit of a surprise for us, because many of the Italian places we'd tried here weren't really that good. Or at least, what they offered didn't really match our expectations.

After dinner, we walked around the area and took lots of pictures. We needed to walk off all the carbo we ingested in preparation for what was to come.

Next stop was what I'd been dreaming of for some while now: the chocolate buffet at The Courtyard of the Fullerton Hotel. Upon seeing the chocolate fountain, I knew I was in chocolate heaven.

I totally enjoyed the Fullerton chocolate cake and the chocolate-coated strawberries. There were lots of goodies, of course, but these two were the best. Well, there was also the cranberry pudding with chocolate cream sauce. And the chocolate and vanilla creme brulee. And the... Oh, ok, you get my drift.

I know it seemed like at this point we had forgotten about Jose Rizal, but not really. Because when we tasted the hot chocolate that capped off our chocolate feast, we immediately started talking about Rizal and his 'tsokolate eh' and 'tsokolate ah'. We definitely had 'tsokolate eh' that night and ended the day with Rizal in mind.

Remembering Robert and his 7 standards of textuality

I found out tonight that Robert de Beaugrande passed away a few days ago. I don't know him personally, of course, and he's not exactly one of the critics/theorists whose works I've been reading (and going crazy over, both in a good and/or bad way) for the past few years. He, however, holds a special place in my linguistic education.

I suppose I owe my knowledge of de Beaugrande first and foremost to Ubaldo Stecconi, the teacher who introduced de Beaugrande's work to me. I have to admit, I didn't quite understand what it was about at that time. I remember getting a photocopy of some text, which seemed more like an outline to me than an essay. It was talking about the seven standards of textuality. (If you clicked on the link and went as far as Chapter 1, which was the chapter given to us, then you can see what I mean. I believe the online copy is exactly the same as my photocopy; only it was reformatted for online consumption.) All I knew was I liked the notion of 'intertextuality', the seventh and the last standard, a lot, though I'm quite sure I didn't quite grasp what it really meant.

I thought part of the reason I couldn't get it was the text itself. It didn't seem reader-friendly. Another reason could be that I was perhaps too distracted by our teacher, Ubaldo Stecconi, who would go to class with shirt unbuttoned and sleeves rolled up, complaining of the heat in this strange yet charming Italian accent, and who would look at your face so intently you'd forget he was your teacher. Or I thought it had to do with my not getting Ferdinand de Saussure. Before de Beaugrande, Stecconi made us read parts of Saussure's Course in General Linguistics. I read about the train arriving at the same time every day on that same platform. To the passenger, it was the same train, but really, it was not the same train. I read about the chain of signification and binary oppositions, and the world tilted a little bit and I was lost. (Little did I know back then that things were bound to become even more complicated. Had I known, I wouldn't have complained so much.)

Much later, when I had discovered discourse analysis and critical discourse analysis, when discourse had begun to hold such fascination for me, I realized the reason I couldn't get de Beaugrande before was simple: I wasn't ready. It was the first semester of my sophomore year. During my first year, I did all GE courses. The only core course I had taken was English 100, and I took it during the summer. And English 100 was an introductory course. It was basically a smorgasbord of linguistic theories and things ranging from phonology to morphology to syntax to semantics--but never really reaching discourse. Back then, there was no discourse analysis class, and discourse didn't really mean anything much.

Of course, many of the issues that de Beaugrande raised in his text linguistics are problematic in today's context. (As I said, things just become more and more complicated as you go along.) But to me, his work remains a very good introduction to the study of discourse and will be useful to anyone who's interested in studying it. I remember the fun my students and I had, when in teaching de Beaugrande's standards of textuality, I made them analyze Jose Garcia Villa's 'The Emperor's New Clothes' and 'The Bashful One' using these standards. Imagine a blank page with only the title 'The Emperor's New Clothes' or some squiggly mark hiding on the page and proclaiming itself a poem called 'The Bashful One'. It doesn't even have to be literary. It can be a commonplace sign, just like what de Beaugrande used:


According to his obituary, de Beaugrande had a flamboyant personality. Of course, I didn't know that about him. What I know though is this: his is the first work that made me realize language can be analyzed as discourse--as one whole chunk of something--and in a way that is somewhat systematic and according to certain criteria. Yes, I'd been doing it long before, in literature classes, for one. I'd been doing it with friends and loved ones, even strangers, deciphering meanings from one conversation to the next. But within linguistics, then it would have to be him.

16 June 2008

The Big Move and Other Related Adventures

Having unpacked the last box last night and put its contents in their designated space in our new flat, I can finally--and with much delight--say that things are more or less back to normal. Yes, there are two suitcases full of clothes and a huge box full of readings that still need to be sent home, but that's going to be a breeze. I just need to get a balikbayan box (from some store called Jollibee Boxes no less!), fill it with all the stuff, then have it picked up. It's nothing compared to the big move and all that it entailed.

We moved to a new flat two weeks and two days ago. But a month (or a month and a half) before that, things were already hectic. First, we needed to find a flat. This year's flat hunting was actually smoother than last year's. We knew which area we wanted to live, we had a clear idea of how much we were willing to pay, and we knew how to deal with agents better. So after visiting three flats (the first was asking too much for what it actually offered; the second was very nice but we couldn't afford it; the last, though a bit far from school and the city, was also very nice and we could afford it, but it didn't work out in the end), we found one just a few blocks away from where we previously lived. (It was so close we just needed to change the last two digits of the zip code to show the change in block number. And, oh, the other thing, the flat was on the same floor as the previous one, so we didn't even have to change the floor number.)

The problem with this flat was, it was partially furnished, which meant it didn't have anything but an AC in each room. I was pretty struck by that actually, because I thought 'partially furnished' would at the very least include a fridge and washing machine, apart from the AC units. But no, I was wrong. There was no fridge, no washing machine, no beds, no dining table, no chairs, no sofa, no nothing. Until now, I'm not entirely sure why we decided to take it when it didn't really have anything. I suppose part of the reason was that the flat felt okay, maybe even a little nice, when we went to view it. I don't know if that makes sense, but sometimes, you get a feeling about a place, and I've always believed that if it's an okay, maybe even nice, feeling a place is giving you, then it's not so bad even if there are a few things here and there you want to complain about, and if it's within your budget and in the area you want, maybe you should take it.

I suppose we also took it because we were thinking buying the appliances and furnishing we needed would still be cheaper than getting a higher-priced flat in the end. Our agent was also very pleasant, and assured us it would not be difficult finding second-hand stuff, so that was a big plus. She also said that the tenants would probably leave their fridge, because it was old and it was just given to them, and it would actually be more expensive to move it than just leave it there. Over chicken rice and cheese prata and Milo (for me!) and Tiger beer and a successful finishing-a-dissertation story, we decided to take the flat. Yes, with its 2 AC units and (probably) an old fridge and nothing more.

In the next few weeks, we started looking for the best second-hand stuff. Alright, I'm not sure about the best, but we did get some decent second-hand stuff. Credit should go to the owner of our previous flat, who sold us his washing machine for 80sgd, and then told us to just take whatever else we needed--except for the fridge and tv, which he said would go to his sister (and which we wouldn't have taken for free anyway), and some furniture pieces, which would go to his mother (and which we didn't really want anyway, because they wouldn't go well with what we had in mind for the new place). In the end, we took his stove (+LPG) and stove stand, toaster oven, rice cooker, bed and matching bed frame, and other miscellaneous household items--all for free.

Our next goal was to get furniture. We made a plan to go to the Salvation Army, as we'd been advised by various people that we could get good stuff there. We checked online and found out that some branches of the store were open until 9pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Wanting to avoid the sun and the heat of the day, we decided to go on a Friday to the store's Bukit Timah branch. Thea, my flatmate, and I checked streetdirectory.com for bus directions. We got two different sets of directions, but as there were overlaps, we thought they were the same--and the difference was just a glitch in the system, which streedirectory.com is prone to having anyway. We followed Thea's set of directions, because the bus in hers came first. It was only when we reached our destination that we realized the two sets of directions were actually for two different Salvation Army branches. The one we went to, somewhere in Little India, was the one that closed early.

I'm sure, those of you who are more or less familiar with these areas are wondering how we could have mistaken the two directions for the same if one led to Little India and the other to Bukit Timah, but, as you also probably know, Bukit Timah is a very, very, very long road. It went from end to end of, well, I'm not sure, but what I'm trying to say is that it goes on and on. I suppose we were on the right road, but we went the wrong way: we went left when we should have gone right. Also, you have to understand, even after three years in Singapore, my only hope, every time there are friends or relatives visiting, is that I don't get them lost, so it's not actually much of a surprise we ended up in the wrong side of town. But we were not worried, as it was still early, and we could definitely get to the Bukit Timah store before 9pm.

We did get to where we were supposed to be before 9pm, but the store was nowhere in sight. We called one of our friends who knew the place, and he said we were right where we should be. But, yeah, he did wonder why we were there so late. After explaining to him what the store website said, we went to the church lot where the store was supposed to be located and looked around. But, nothing, we couldn't find it. It was dark all around, and all we could see were the church, which was closed, and stores and restaurants, which, to our relief, were still open. At this point, Thea and I were so hungry--because it turned out this part of Bukit Timah was so far out it was probably closer to Malaysia--we didn't even have the energy to ask around. We were just so happy there was a Subway there. So there we went and ate and decided we'd just go to Ikea the next day. So as not to totally waste our time and efforts though, we went to the Cold Storage there and bought some stuff. We also saw a bakery and strudel store, so we bought apple and banana chocolate strudel and eclairs and vanilla rolls and cream puffs. In the end, it turned out we didn't waste our time after all.

The next day, we went to Ikea. We got a dining table, chairs, and a sofa for the common area. Thea got a mattress (the bed from the former owner is mine!) and I got my chair (which deserves its own blog post!). It took us about an hour to choose the items we wanted and arrange them for delivery. The staff there asked us if we wanted help in putting the furniture together, but we said no. We were confident we could put everything together. We were also thinking that the sofa, which would probably be the hardest to assemble, would come 'as is' and we wouldn't have to assemble it. We just couldn't imagine how it would have come in parts. There was also another reason: we were trying to avoid more expense.

Everything was looking good, and all we needed to do was pack our things and move. A week before the move, our agent informed us that the tenants wanted to sell us their fridge and washing machine together. Since we already secured a washing machine and knew that the fridge that was being sold to us was really old (in fact, we couldn't believe they'd actually sell it, though we think it's probably why they included the washing machine), we declined the offer. This meant we needed to find a fridge--and fast! I went through the online classifieds first, and found two good deals. I was too late on the first one, as it just got sold, and too early on the second, as it wouldn't be available until later. Thea and I decided to look at the newspapers we had accumulated while looking for a flat. Fortunately for us, we found a store that sold reconditioned stuff.

The store was in Ang Mo Kio, another area we weren't really familiar with. This time, though, we didn't get lost, found the place without much difficulty, and got a fridge in about 15 minutes. There was a bit of a suspenseful moment when the sales person told us we needed to add a few more dollars to make the fridge last longer, and then he paused, as if he wanted us to get used to the idea. Thea and I were a bit worried, because we didn't know how much 'a few more dollars' would translate into. And the pause was unnerving. Then he said, "You need to add 9sgd more." I guess you could imagine how relieved we were by that--but we were also curious as to why the sales person thought it was a big deal. On our way back, we decided he probably just had a flair for the dramatic. Or maybe he thought we were very poor. Whatever. The important thing was we got ourselves a fridge.

During our last week at our old place, we also made arrangements for phone and internet transfer. We hired a mover. We packed and packed and packed. When the day finally came to move, we were already so tired it was a wonder we were still able to carry some of our stuff ahead of the movers and cleaned parts of the new flat. That day and in the following days, we waited for deliveries, cleaned out cabinets and drawers and bookcases, soaped and washed and disinfected toilets, sinks, tiles, and floors, unpacked and sorted and organized our clothes, books, readings, etc, assembled furniture (actually, it was mostly Fama who did this, and yes, even the sofa needed to be assembled) and arranged them, and threw out trash again and again and again. My tiredness was such that I couldn't sleep. If I did sleep, it would be uncomfortable, restless like I didn't sleep at all. It was only after the first week in the new flat that I began sleeping properly again.

Complaining about it, I was told by Lis, one of my closest friends, that I should just think of the whole thing as a cleansing process--the cleansing of whatever negatives vibes had been left behind by the former tenants. That made me think, and I realized she was right. After the clean-up, the place felt much lighter, more airy, more open. And to some extent, it wasn't just the cleansing of whatever negative vibes the former tenants left, it was also a cleansing of my own negative vibes as I threw away stuff accumulated over the years, stuff I didn't need, stuff that was taking the space of other things I really needed. I suppose one good thing a move would force you to do is to make a decision about stuff you'd keep and stuff you'd lose. In that moment of decision, you realize that which is really important to you and that which you can let go. I'd like to think that, for that reason, it's not only the place that feels lighter, I also feel lighter (though I think the lightness probably has to do with all the moving about that I've been doing since the move--still a good thing, right?), and it's just what I need to carry out my plans for the second half of the year.

15 June 2008

Overcoming Fear at Jurong Bird Park

I have an insane fear of birds--the kind that gets me breaking into a cold sweat whenever I see or feel the presence of one. It doesn't matter what kind or size. As long as it has a beak and feathers, it's scary to me and I make sure I'm as far away from it as possible. This is basically how I've managed to deal with the little ones flying around the Deck--for non-NUS people, this is the Faculty of Arts and Social Science canteen, where little birds abound--looking for food. I just try to stay as far away from them as possible. If they start flying to where I am, then I make a really loud sound and/or swift motion, so they know I got there first.

I believe this fear was brought on by a dream I had when I was a kid. I was six or seven and taking my usual afternoon nap. I remember my feet were propped up on the window ledge just beside my bed. Then I dreamed the same thing: I was taking my afternoon nap, my feet propped up on the window ledge. Then, all of a sudden, a little bird came and started pecking at the soles of my feet. Then another bird came; this time, it was a little bigger, and started pecking too. Then a whole flock came, with even bigger birds, and they were all pecking and biting and making this terrible sound. I could feel flesh getting torn off and blood oozing out, and I was hurting so much. I started crying and shouting and screaming. Then I woke up. There were no birds, but I was crying. I never slept with my feet propped up that window ledge ever again. That window also remained close for a long time.

Until now, the memory of that dream gives me chills, makes my heart stop beating for some while. Deciding to go to the Bird Park therefore took years (well, at least, all three years that I've been here in SG), and lots of assurance that the birds wouldn't get near me because they were caged, and if, against all odds, they managed to escape from their cage and get near me, there would be professional handlers there to take care of it. When I finally decided to go last Friday, I felt like I did conquer part of my fear. I'm saying 'part' because I don't think I'll ever get rid of it entirely--the dream is too powerful--and because I don't think going to bird parks will ever be something I'd actually look forward to as a future activity. (I realized though that if there's an owl park or something that houses only owls, I'd probably go just so I could stare at the owls for hours.) Nevertheless, I'd like to congratulate myself on this one. Now, here's some photographic evidence of my so-called triumph. :)

Entrance to the Bird Park

And I was actually there. It wasn't just a picture taken from a bus or cab. I was there!

My favoritest bird: the great grey owl. It's so fluffy it actually looks like a pomeranian when it closes it eyes and all the feathers come together and bunch up. It happens to be very dangerous as well.

Since I couldn't take a picture with my owl-pom, I had to settle for this.

The meaning of pensive

Me and pink flamingos in the background.

Disclaimer: Okay, I have to confess I did go to the Bird Park once before--for something I wish to forget entirely. I did it, because someone whom I thought was a friend said she really needed my help. She turned out to be someone I just couldn't be friends with, and it turned out she just used me for that thing she asked me to do. That time however, I went only to this specific area of the Park after park hours and didn't even see any birds at all--as the person promised. At least, she kept her word on that. So, really, the first time I'd ever been to the Bird Park was last Friday.

05 June 2008

Beginning of the Second Half of the Year

I know, I know, I haven’t been writing. I’ve been wanting to, but there never seems to be time for it. Or when I have the time, I find myself doing something else. I’ve made some kind of promise to myself, however, that I’ll try to come up with something--even if it’s just a paragraph or two--at least once a week beginning this month.

Or this second half of the year, as I’d like to think of it. I suppose I like the idea of ‘the second half of the year’ because to me it signals a more pronounced sense of beginning and end. You know, end of the first half, beginning of the second half. I don’t know if that makes sense, but to me, it means I have this clean slate of a second half, a fresh start. It means I can leave the distractions and addictions (Oh Facebook what have you done to me?!) of the first half and start anew.

I don't think I'd necessarily get to wean myself off at least two Facebook apps, and I also don't think I'd want to, but this time around, I believe I've developed strategies that would allow me to limit my 'play' time. (Well, that's the idea, so good luck to me.) I'm hopeful this would allow me to set some solid objectives, which I'd actually get to realize by year's end.

What are these objectives exactly? The first one, as I mentioned earlier, is to keep this blogging thing alive at least one post a week. The second is to keep to my writing deadlines for the completion of my dissertation. Just for the fun of it, I'll give you an idea of the kind of deadlines I'm up against: a chapter or two for every month, beginning this one. (It should have begun months ago actually, but remember, this is the beginning of the second half of the year, and I'm starting fresh. So let's just say, it all begins now. And for more fun, I also have a paper for possible publication due at the end of the month. I've definitely lots to fill my clean slate. Happiness!) The third thing is to respond to emails as they come--no more waiting for the right time to respond; I'll respond right away. The fourth and last one, perhaps the most important, is to stick to a writing routine. In the end, I think it is this routine that will save me.

I've always been a bit of a 'photo-finish' kind of person, and all these years, it's worked for me. I'm beginning to realize though that, when confronted with long-term writing like dissertation writing, 'photo-finish' just won't cut it. I have to have a routine. I have to have the discipline to keep to this routine. And if I do decide to seriously venture into academic life (read: publishing) later on, which, I suppose, is the inevitable course for someone wanting to get a PhD anyway, having a writing routine will probably make things less difficult for me.

I definitely have goals other than the ones above. I mean, goals that are not work-related, for after all, it can't be all work, right? I still intend to go to the beach, at least twice, and if I can help it, thrice. I'll go to Boracay. I'll go to Panglao. I'll go to Panglao again. I'll go to Tagaytay and eat lots of greens and tapa and bulalo. I'll visit all the restaurants I've been missing and visit new ones. I'll drink like there's no tomorrow. I'll really try to squeeze in a trip to the mountains. And I'll do all these with the people I love the most. In short, I intend to go home, and I really hope to do this very soon.

Before going home though, I'll go to the Bird Park and conquer my fear. I'll go to Sentosa, the Zoo, the Botanic Gardens, the Science Center, the National Library. I'll visit museums, walk around favorite spots in the city, maybe go on the Flyer. I'll watch a local movie or two. I'll go out more. I'll try to see and take in as much of this place that is not home, will never be home, but sometimes feels like home.

Now I know why I didn't have any resolutions when this year started. I'm to make them now.

30 April 2008

On (being) 'tangled up in blue'

So I posted a clip of KT Tunstall's cover of Bob Dylan's Tangled Up in Blue, watched/listened to it a few times and continued to be amazed, and then went to bed. Now, I'm up again. I can't sleep. So many things in my head right now, first of which is why I love Tangled Up in Blue to begin with when it's hardly a song with which I can identify, and second, why I'm fascinated by Bob Dylan, when I actually don't know very much about him and his music. I suppose this will be my attempt in finding some answers.

I believe my first real encounter with Bob Dylan was through the movie Dangerous Minds when Michelle Pfeiffer's (teacher) character came up with the Dylan (Thomas)/(Bob) Dylan contest to get her students to read poetry. As there was no internet at that time, I didn't have the means to look up the song or the artist easily--so I didn't--although I was already struck by the various interpretations of Mr. Tambourine Man, the Bob Dylan song used in the movie. I suppose, at that time, I was also more concerned about what Michelle Pfeiffer was doing in terms of how I could use it in my own classes, since I was then very young and was just in my first year of teaching, and not so much about the actual material that she used. In addition, I didn't have a context for Bob Dylan at that time. I had no knowledge of his iconic status in American music and culture, so, to a great extent, the significance of choosing Dylan in the context of the movie was lost on me.

I encountered Dylan again when I went to Virginia Tech. One of the two courses I had to teach was 'Critical Thinking and Writing.' In thinking and writing critically, students were to look at pop culture as text and use it in examining (mostly 'American') ways of thinking, perceptions of the world, and larger social practices. So we looked at pop songs, movies, icons, television shows, places/spaces such as Disneyland, and events such as the Olympics, and used these to talk about wider social issues and concerns. Now, it's clear to me that at that time this was the 'in' thing to do in academia, but at that time, it just felt new and exciting and fun. One of these new, exciting, fun things was discovering Bob Dylan. I remember receiving about seven to eight essays on Bob Dylan and/or any one of his songs, when the class was asked to do a critical analysis of pop music. I remember reading academic essays--those really deep-sounding ones--on Bob Dylan and his impact on American music and culture--how he inspired generations of musicians, how he stood for decency and freedom and a simpler time, how he was a revolutionary and genius songwriter whose lyrics were actually poetry.

When I told my students I wasn't aware of all these things about Bob Dylan, they lent me their CDs with notes of which ones were their favorite songs, which ones I should listen to first to begin my musical education, etc, etc. I was overwhelmed. But I listened to song after song after song. I didn't like all the ones I listened to, but there were some that I really liked.

One of these, I was happy to note, was Mr. Tambourine Man.

The other one was Like A Rolling Stone.

And also, It Ain't Me, Babe, which I was told wasn't really his. Still, I love this one, because, to me, it's the ultimate anti-love song:

When my students found out which ones I liked, they smiled sort of sheepishly and told me I liked the ones that were very 'pop'. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but I suppose, I was excused from such a judgment, because, well, to them, I was a foreigner anyway and didn't really understand the whole deal. (Knowing which songs I ended up liking probably also dissuaded them to get me to listen to bluegrass, which, I'd have to say, I was thankful for, especially after actually having experienced it all night in one of those Friday night events in a local bar). Besides, I'd always known I was a 'pop' kind of person--no shame in that--so it didn't really matter what they thought. I also realized one thing: Dylan wrote some really great songs, and it was perhaps this that really got me into him--and also that his voice seemed to exude a certain vulnerability, a rawness, which drew me in.

These lines, for instance, from Like A Rolling Stone, are just precious:

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They're drinkin', thinkin' that they got it made
Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things
But you'd better lift your diamond ring, you'd better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

Then this chorus:

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

And when these lines and his voice meet, I grow silent and become lost in the moment.

This leads me to Tangled Up in Blue. Note that I didn't really know if this song was on one of the CDs my students lent me, because the first version of the song I heard was a cover by the Indigo Girls, and I had no idea it was actually a Bob Dylan original. (I tried looking for a clip of the Indigo Girls covering this song, but I couldn't find one. Anyway, the cover was in their CD 1200 Curfews.) All I remember when I heard the song was how I couldn't get over how brilliant the phrase 'tangled up in blue' was to describe, well, the blues. The whole song was great, of course, especially the way the different narratives didn't seem to follow any coherent order, but it was the phrase that touched me. (I don't know what it is about me and certain phrases. I remember really liking Regine Velasquez's Dadalhin because of the phrase 'munting nagwawala' in 'At ng tinig mo'y/Parang musika/Nagpapaligaya sa/Munting nagwawala'. Until now, I'm not exactly sure what that phrase means, if it means anything at all, but I find it really charming, and that song will always be one of my favorites because of it. I do hope that a really stripped-down version of Dadalhin comes along soon though.) One could say 'I have the blues' or 'I am sad' but Dylan said '(I am) tangled up in blue'--and there's the difference. That phrase touched me to the point that I actually did an internet search of the song. (Google wasn't born yet at that time.) I found out it was actually Bob Dylan's. Here's one of his versions of the song--a version because, based on what I've read, this is the song he's kept revising through the years such that the contemporary version has actually become radically different from the original one.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying here that I'm an expert on Bob Dylan, not at all. I also don't think my appreciation for him can equal that of my previous students or other individuals who have followed his music through the years. I'm just trying to explain--probably, more to myself actually--my fascination for the artist and this particular song of his. As it is, I don't even know why I'm doing this now, when I haven't done so after all these years. In fact, I haven't thought of Bob Dylan and his music for some time, until tonight. And, actually, I can't even remember now why I went to youtube and started looking for him in the first place.

[must be what deadlines do to me: i start doing something else that's totally useless, like this post. hehe. oh well, good morning, world. another day, another set of possibilities.]