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Archive for March, 2006

The Music Oracle Meme

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

My version of the iTunes oracle meme via Darryl’s blog.

Instructions: Go to your music player of choice and put it on shuffle. Say the following questions aloud, and press play. Use the song title as the answer to the question. NO CHEATING.

How does the world see me?
I’ll Stand By You (Girls Aloud).  Oh, why you look so sad?  Tears are in your eyes… Nothing you confess, can make me love you less.   Loyal and caring?  Or maybe I’m seen as the mournful person who needs comforting.

Will I have a happy life?
That I Would be Good (Stefanie Sun).  That I would be fine, even if I went bankrupt… that I would be great, even if I was no longer creative… that I would be loved, even when I’m not myself; that I would be good, even when I’m overwhelmed.  Unclear, could go either way, although there’re some good messages there; It’s a wistful, optimistic song.

What do my friends really think of me?
Perfect World (Tom Jones – Emporer’s New Groove OST).  An enigma and a mystery, in Mesoamerican history, the quintessence of perfection, that is he…  he’s the hippest dude in creation…  generations have been leading to this miracle of life that we all know.  LOL.  I don’t know what to make of this one.  So I’m the delusional megalomaniac?  In the Disney movie Cuzco was voiced by David Spade, in whom I can detect a passing (if undesireable) resemblance.

Do people secretly lust after me?
Lover’s Concerto (Toys – Mr Holland’s Opus OST).  Now, I belong to you, from this day until forever; just love me tenderly and I’ll give to you every part of me.  Not bad, and just when I could use a confidence boost 🙂

How can I make myself happy?
Mr Blue Sky (Polyphonic Spree), but the song got cut off by mistake and skipped to Cool (Gwen Stefani).  And after all the obstacles, it’s good to see you now with someone else…  after all that we’ve been through, I know we’re cool.  So I guess I should just chill out and enjoy whatever life brings.

What should I do with my life?
Never, Never Gonna Give You Up (Lisa Stansfield) but I accidentally skipped to You & Me (Lifehouse).  I’m tripping on words, you got my head spinning, I don’t where to go from here… there’s you and me and all other people, with nothing to lose…  Not much help there.  I guess it’ll all turn out fine in the end.  Or perhaps I should be focusing on finding the great love of my life?

Will I ever have children?
Walk With Me (Clara’s Star).  But we don’t care, cause we don’t have to go nowhere, we’re just chilling day by day… Until I hear a baby cry, breaking up my daydream, happens all the time, but that’s all right, you know it’s just a part of life, gotta take it day by day.  Not entirely clear, but this upbeat song does mention a baby.  Hey, I can hope, right 🙂

What is some good advice for me?
I’m In the Mood For Love (Rod Stewart).  And if there’s a cloud above, if it should rain, well let it.  But for tonight forget it, I’m in the mood for love.  Be a loving person?  Que sera sera?  Sieze the day with my romantic interests?  Good advice, all.

How will I be remembered?
Havanna Moon (Godsdog).  A cool, laid-back jazz track with barely any vocals, and those are in…  Spanish?  I can’t imagine I’ll be remembered that way.  Eclectic, inspired, beautiful, I wouldn’t mind being remembered that way.  Amongst the various audio samples are news reports about a nuclear test and a man going to the electric chair…  Foreshadowing?  I hope not.

What is my signature dancing song?
Sexed Up (Robbie Williams), an acoustic version .  But I hadn’t read the question yet so I read it and moved on to  Girl from Ipanema (Lou Rawls), a live recording.  You know she looks straight ahead, she won’t look back at me…  I suppose I could dance to that, although I can’t see that as my signature dancing song right now.  Maybe when I’m 35.

What do I think my current theme song is?
Sidewalk Flight (Jon Brion – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind OST).  A brief instrumental soundtrack piece, all nervous plucked strings and anticipation.  Quite appropriate, actually.

What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
Wake Me Up When September Ends (Green Day).   Here comes the rain again, falling from the stars; Drenched in my pain again, becoming who we are.  Just passing time, feeling sensitive and sad?  Possible, I suppose.

What song will play at my funeral?
When I Fall in Love (Westlife). When I fall in love, it will be forever, or I’ll never fall in love.  In a restless world like this is, love is ended before it’s begun…  I could see this being played, hopefully by the great loves of my life.  The song is full of the sort of tenderness that gives it the potential to be very sad and moving, sweet and touching.

What type of men/women do I like?
Men: Desafinado (Gal Costa).  Entirely in…  Portuguese?  So I apparently like my men foreign, laid back (very bossa nova), and slightly “out of tune” (desafinado).  I can see that.
Women: Day Tripper (Tok Tok Tok).  It took me so long to find out, and I found out.  He’s a big teaser, he took me half the way there…  So I like women who are clueless, soon to be disillusioned and suckers for punishment?  I’m fairly baffled.

What is my day going to be like?
When You’re Good to Mama (Queen Latifa – Chicago OST).  Because the system works, the system called reciprocity.  Got a little motto, always sees me through: when you’re good to mama, mama’s good to you.  A day of cynical political intruigue disguised as casual fun?  Hmmn, I wonder what that could be.  😉

Ready for bed (and the political-orientation rant).

Thursday, March 16th, 2006

It’s just about 5.30pm, and I’m finally done with my endless Thursday.  Since signing out from work at 2am last night, I wrote a response paper (which got my first check plus, despite being based on only 1/30th of the assigned reading), completed a close-reading exercise, slept for five hours, and attended four classes and two sections back-to-back from 10am to 5pm.  Plus I took a midterm in one of those classes.

Embarrassing moments of the day:
First, when I fell asleep in the front row of my history class.  This isn’t exactly the first time, of course, but usually Devon pokes at me every now and then.  He told me after class that I was left snoozing for about twenty minutes (which I think is an exaggeration) because the lecture material didn’t appear very important in his estimation.
Second, during section for my English class, when I very uncoordinatedly took a swig of my warm, milky tea and managed to spill a fair amount of it down the front of my pale blue pullover.  Fortunately, everyone’s attention was focused on someone talking at the other end of the table (or at least people discreetly pretended to be looking that way), which allowed me time to use my scarf to hide the sloppy stain.

I can’t wait to go to bed, after Dins rehearsal, that is.  *tired*

And now it’s 9pm.

Oh, and I just wanted to get this off my chest after having been accused (you know who you two are!) of being a crazy-immoral-heartless-utilitarian-Republicanesque monster because the conclusion of the 30-page literature review paper I wrote for my economics class last semester was that “African governments should not fund general-access, universal Antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment programs”.  ARV treatments are of course the only existing pharmacological treatment for HIV-positive individuals, but universal ARV treatment programs are just one out of a slew of policy responses that African governments have to face the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  At some point I’ll post the paper here, but in the meantime, a bare summary of my argument must suffice.  I think that given the many (often unknown or ignored) complications and subtleties related to universal ARV programs (including dosage-adherence, infrastructure, and personnel requirements as well as resistance, monitoring and drug-effectiveness issues), combined with the breathtaking scale, scope and urgency of healthcare and other social needs in these critically resource-constrained countries, it simply makes no sense to spend any time, effort on money on these universal, state-funded ARV treatment programs.  These resources would simply be wasted because existing evidence says these programs do not and can not work (however defined), are far beyond the financial means of even the richest African governments, in fact make things worse and suck money away from more hopeful strategies and policies.

So for pointing out the glaringly obvious facts and suggesting that what little money, infrastructure and skills available should be spent on more targeted, higher impact policies being proposed (whether dealing with HIV/AIDS, some other healthcare goal or social goals more broadly), I get pilloried from the perspective I shall refer to (for lack of a more accurate phrase) as the “bleeding heart liberal”.

I have not often encountered this perspective so obnoxiously put, something I attribute to the general atmosphere of low-grade fluffy liberality that floats around campus and amongst my friends, preempting most significant conflict.  In fact, I have most often encountered the very opposite attitude, which I shall very crudely term the “right-wing reactionary”.  This is no doubt because of the interaction between the many Conservatives/Republicans in my life and the aforementioned atmosphere of low-grade liberality.

So here’s what I came to realize yesterday.  Firstly, I know I don’t like the “right-wing reactionary” attitude because it is often thoughtless, devoid of nuance, ahistorical, without context and displaying a willful refusal to consider, value or respect any perspective categorized summarily as “other”.  When phrases like “traditional family values” are declared as if their meaning is intuitive, universal and immemorial, there is never the thought of asking: “whose traditions? how old are they? why do we have them? what is a family? whose idea of a ‘family’? when did this view gain popularity? what values do we mean? are they actually ‘values’ rather than prejudices, habits or superstition? what do they actually achieve? etc. etc.”  In this context, “traditional family values” often simply refer to “idealized 1950s white, upper-middle-class, suburban, Christian New England family stereotypes”.  (Never mind that “Christian” is another term that’s similarly treated as monolithic and ahistorical.)  This combination of blissfully ignorant hubris and a defiantly one-dimensional world-view can be incredibly grating to identify.

Secondly, and in sharp contrast, the “bleeding heart liberal” is often so committed to completely assuming the perspective of the most relevant “other” that all other perspectives shrink, forgotten, into the background and are stripped of their ability to legitimately comment on and challenge the perspective deemed to be primary by the “bleeding heart liberal” discourse.  In this case, the perspective of the young African man with HIV becomes the only one that matters, and his voice is (momentarily) granted monopoly-rights in the discussion at hand, so that the voices of the old woman with TB or the young boy with childhood diarrhea cannot be heard.  And of course it is assumed that the economist, the epidemiologist and the social scientist, since they are not young African men with HIV, have nothing of worth to inform the conversation and are properly excluded.  Any attempt to try and consider all these perspectives holistically, coherently and in relation to one another is considered “utilitarian” (read: evil) and “heartless”. In fact, even if you had a young, male, African economist living with HIV, he would still not automatically be allowed to speak for the weakest, poorest and most hopeless of young HIV-positive African males.  Unless the young economist was the absolute and unqualified advocate of the most disadvantaged.  Ultimately, I find that the elaborate and absurd ventriloquism, mimesis and fetishizing of the singular “other”, coupled with a reckless refusal to consider hard choices under real constraints can be equally grating to deal with.


Top of the morning to you

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

This feels great.  After weeks of constantly feeling fatigued and jetlagged due to highly irregular sleeping habits (or lack thereof), I have finally taken the first step towards recovering.  I woke up at about 8.30am this morning after nearly eight hours of sleep, almost in spite of my good intentions and alarm clocks, aided along by the blazingly brilliant sunshine streaming in through the window and hitting me full in the face.  (If this doesn’t seem impressive, keep in mind that I slept from 7am-12.30pm just yesterday.)

Then I went to the gym for about half an hour.

And now I’m having breakfast – a slice of honeydew melon, an English muffin sandwich (yum!) and a glass of “milk” (lactaid).

I will shortly hop into the shower and emerge, ready to start schoolwork for the day, and my first class only starts at 2.15pm.

This feels great 🙂

Dins Concert (24 Feb 2006)

Saturday, March 4th, 2006

Dins Concert (24 Feb 2006), originally uploaded by J Y.

The trio for “Sam you made the pants too long”. The picture makes us look pretty coordinated, but I’m fairly sure I missed one of the steps 😉

Dins concert afterparty (24 Feb 2006)

Saturday, March 4th, 2006

Dins concert afterparty (24 Feb 2006), originally uploaded by J Y.

The afterparty wasn’t very good – the space was awkward (and in the Quad) and the provisions were inadequate and fairly lacklustre. But in the short time I was there we took a bunch of pictures so I guess that made up for it.

In this shot, from left: Max, Sam, Leor, Evan, me… and I think that’s Vasco peeking over Sam’s shoulder.


Saturday, March 4th, 2006

I’ve spent a pretty exhausting amount of energy talking and writing about this to various people already, so forgive me if this is brief.

Last Wednesday, the instructor for my junior seminar very unexpectedly announced that the University would be paying for us to travel to Madagascar over Spring Break as part of the class.  Only at Harvard is this kind of absolutely last-minute fabulosity even imaginable.  Plane tickets to Madagascar easily top US2,000, and we are tentatively scheduled to leave in 17 days.  We will be visiting various study sites, speaking with researchers and local scientists and also doing some field work ourselves.

The main problem is that I am supposed to be spending Spring Break in Bermuda with the Dins on our annual, very luxe, very enjoyable (and completely free) stay at the nicest hotel on the island, enjoying the beaches by day and singing to appreciative audiences by night.

Argh!!  What am I supposed to do??  I’m loathe to give up the once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel to Madagascar, which is something I tried very hard to do last summer but couldn’t find the funding and organisational opportunities to accomplish.  It’s also worrisome that not going to Madagascar may negatively impact my academic career and potential senior thesis work.  At the same time, the standing commitement to the Dins and to their planned travel cannot be taken lightly, and there is a definite opportunity cost in missing Bermuda, especially in terms of social capital.  And on top of that there are other, possibly even more important, conflicts created by going away for some 13 days and missing almost a week of classes.