Archive for the ‘Academe’ Category

Book Review: A Grammar of the English Tongue

Friday, October 18th, 2013

For the past few weeks I have been borderline anal with regard to English grammar. Mere peccadilloes seem to incur my wrath. As I reflected on my thoughts, I’ve grown to realize that my anger was uncalled for. To remind myself of my fallibility, I have decided to brush up on my English grammar. This serves a two-fold purpose: first, I can sublimate my irrational anger towards the procurement of knowledge; second, by reading about wise people and their works that reflect their wisdom, I become humbled as I am reminded that I still have much to learn about the synthesis of perfect sentences.

My plan has been mostly successful: instead of being angry at others, I have directed my energies to honing my ability to speak and write in English. I’ve also realized that I had no right to judge other people’s inability to speak or write proper English seeing that I still have much to improve on.

Anyway, the book was great: despite the age of Samuel Johnson’s hortations, the work still brims with wry wit and humor. I find that his descriptions of the letter ‘Y,’ then considered a vowel, to be quite funny: ‘Y is a vowel, which, as Quintilian observes of one of the Roman letters, we might want without inconvenience, but that we have it.’

Johnson has this to say about adjectives: ‘[t]he comparison of adjectives is very uncertain, and being much regulated by commodiousness of utterance, or agreeableness of sound is not easily reduced to rules.’

While a lot of the rules and observations regarding English grammar still apply today, the asides to me were more entertaining and offered a colorful picture of what the English language was at that time. It may not be as successful nowadays as a guide for grammar, but the book is enlightening as a zeitgeist of the English language during that time.

Psycho-Pass: just when I thought I didn’t like anime anymore

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

In great examples of media that feature an opposition of ideals, the villain (or antagonist) is just as important as the hero. The Dark Knight is one of the more recent examples of this: although Christian Bale’s portrayal of Batman was cerebral and well-acted, it was undoubtedly Heath Ledger’s Joker who stole the show. He was irrational, brutal, and yet extremely effective. I even sincerely believe that as far as villains go, his was the best (and consequently, the worst): most people would agree, as he had won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. An actor portraying a supervillain winning an Oscar was unprecedented, yet most people were in approbation of the choice. The Dark Knight was nominated as one of the best pictures of 2008, and is recognized by many to be one of the best, if not the best superhero film of all time.

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Psycho-Pass possesses the same dynamic: in a futuristic world that is half-Neuromancer and half-1984 (as Makishima connotes), crime is prevented before it has even occurred. The series undeniably borrowed elements from The Minority Report (written by Philip K. Dick, and also alluded to by Makishima) as well. The story begins relatively innocently, with an intelligent rookie joining the Public Security Bureau. As the crimes progress in severity and brutality, however, the idea that a mastermind acts as a puppet-master to all the heinous crimes recently committed surfaces. As the story unfolds, he was a familiar figure in Kougami Shinya’s past (the Batman of this series).

Makishima (or the Joker) is a bit of an anarchist, although like Joker he enjoys destruction in and of itself. The whole series is essentially a cat-and-mouse game between these two characters. Like The Minority Report, however, the Sibyl System that holds together the society that everyone currently enjoys actually comes from dubious sources. The question of ‘free will’ looms over the characters, and like Louis Salinger of 2009’s International, Kougami has to go beyond what is defined to be ‘law’ in their place to actually enforce justice.

I love the literary allusions, from Rousseau, Kierkegaard, Foucault, and even Jeremy Bentham. Is it truly all right to sacrifice one man for the good of mankind? Is he not a human being all the same? The series offers no easy answers, and the ending, while by no means surprising, is actually a revisit of the themes that pervaded Nolan’s Dark Knight: sometimes, the only ones who could dispense justice are the ones that go beyond the law.

It’s a brilliant series that has restored my faith in anime once more. It’s been a while since I truly wrote about anime, and while not as special to me as Tatami Galaxy, Psycho-Pass is a great anime to watch, to think about, and to enjoy.

Books and the man

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

First, about two days ago, I read (or more accurately) skimmed through Thesaurus of Book Digests, looking for new novels to read: I’m not very much fond of plays, and while I can appreciate well-written poetry, I’m partial toward the art of prose. Out of the 800 pages I was able to single out seven works:

1. Hyperion – Friedrich Holderlin
2. Man’s Fate – Andre Malraux
3. Meek Heritage – F. E. Sillanpaa
4. Pepita Jimenez – Juan Valera
5. The Vortex – Jose Eustacio Rivera
6. Nonsense Novels – Stephen Leacock
7. The Wandering Jew – Eugene Sue

After realizing that The Wandering Jew was more than a thousand pages long, I scratched it out from my to-read list, and realized that aside from Man’s Fate (after careful searching on eBay and other online book marketplaces), the other novels were out-of-print. Most unforgivably expensive is Rivera’s La Voragine (The Vortex), which would cost me $80 if I ever planned to obtain it. The rest are within my spending capabilities, although they would still cost me more than run-of-the-mill popular novels. I hope to buy one novel for the each of the succeeding months: perhaps The Vortex may be the last among them.

The list made me realize only one thing: I guess I am a bit more than merely peculiar with my book choices. I did skim through a Thesaurus of Book Digests so that alone is already telling. I plan to read Marcel Proust next, because I don’t think I can properly assess either my dislike or like for him if I never even read through a single work of his.

Second, I am surprised that I like Jane Eyre as much as I do. But then, its Wikipedia entry says that ‘Charlotte Brontë has been called the “first historian of the private consciousness” and the literary ancestor of writers like Joyce and Proust.’ Before Joyce went mad with Finnegans Wake, his writing was excellent, intelligent, and introspective – I found certain similarities between his Portrait of an Artist and Jane Eyre’s explication of herself.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised now. 🙂

No longer an anime fan

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

I’m no longer an anime fan.

I have no excuses.

I’m an anime fan has-been. I don’t have Internet right now, so all I do is read books and go to work. Being a medical doctor is harsh. There’s really little time for anything else than duty, and that sucks.

I still love anime, though. I saw the first episode of Psycho-Pass and was quite impressed with it. I honestly miss my analyses on Tatami Galaxy, however – or my excursions on Code Geass years ago. I want to have an Internet connection, but I have to make do with reading instead. All I can do now is go online at certain times, and that really doesn’t bode well for anime watching. Currently, I am taking back my life, trying to decimate the backlogs of novels to read.

Anime should be next. I’m quite hopeful, but I need an Internet connection to do that. It’s frustrating.

The Dead Poets Society redux

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

I know I shouldn’t be feeling so down. For better or for worse, I am graduating tomorrow from Medicine. Three years of challenging study, a year of hell, and I am at the precipice of graduation. All I am feeling, however, is relief. It’s not really even happiness: I’ve never had something akin to love for Medicine, or even passion, and yet I’m literally only a day away from being officially a doctor of it.

I guess I’ve never expected to be awarded anything. Obviously, I know that I haven’t been the best clinical clerk in any department. Two weeks ago, however, I was told by the intern-in-charge for Internal Medicine that I belonged to the top ten after she tallied our cumulative scores. I mean, she wouldn’t have called to congratulate me or enumerate the names of those that belonged. Since we went through a lot together, I trusted her congratulations and expected to be recognized during the Graduation Ball.

It all fell apart yesterday, however. I think nothing was going to come out of it when the sixth-best intern was called and I still wasn’t called up. That’s what I hate, you know – false confidence. I mean, when you say something wrong, I think you should own up unless it’s understandable that doing so would destroy one’s life. I’ve always tried to say sorry when I recognize that I’m in the wrong, but always kept silent whenever I know I’m right, or actually stuck to my guns. I guess it was bad for me to be confident on something still in the future, but I thought the egg was as good as hatched.

I guess I just wished to be told beforehand that I wouldn’t probably receive any award and that she had made a mistake because I made my parents and relatives rely on me. I know it’s a small, insignificant token but at least I wanted to show something for all their support. I most definitely know that I did what I could to survive internship even though I don’t even have any love for medicine. I’ve had to eat my words, and I probably will do so again and again, and it irritates me.

Should I not have trusted, then?

She was our intern-in-charge. She wouldn’t have twirled me around her finger given the hell that we overcame together. I guess there are just some things I would never know about. I’m still going to graduate tomorrow, anyway. I just hope I won’t disappoint my aunt who came simply because I was going to graduate.

I wish we were rich, because I want to be a writer. I want to study more about the people I admire in literature, and create that one novel that would solidify my reputation for the rest of my life. But since we’re poor and I try to be a proper child to my parents, I guess being sidetracked by medicine would be all right. I’ve studied for four years to be knowledgeable enough – I don’t think I should stop now. I want to be a decent doctor that I could help my family, but this will never be my passion.

I just want to write. As long as I don’t live like a beggar, I think I can manage. It would be a good thing if I could find a beautiful lady with feline eyes and a sharp mind to love me, but if that’s not feasible I think I would be all right anyway.

The pen is the misericorde

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

I should have learned a lesson today: a pen that I essentially found from a garbage sale was given to me for free, and yet I was able to use it until its last drop. It was a cheap advertising Bic pen that someone must have thrown along the stuff that he or she no longer wanted that it ended up in a box full of toys. Because I was looking for vintage video games, I rummaged thoroughly through the smorgasbord of toys and managed to pick that pen up. The cashier gave the pen to me for free because I bought a dated handheld that miraculously still worked.

Rest in peace

Rest in peace

I started using the pen on the last week of December last year, and continued to use it through the beginning of my Surgery rotation. Funnily enough, it blazed through all of the paperwork I had to write with nary a loss in step: despite me dropping it a few times, it never stopped writing with its clear black ink. When I actually looked at the ink that remained in it a few days ago, I was actually surprised that it was near empty. Nevertheless, I kept using it because I wanted to see how long it would actually keep on writing.

While I was writing a discharge summary of a patient today, it abruptly gave out. When I once again looked at the pen’s ink cartridge, there was absolutely nothing left. I had emptied it to its final drop of ink.

I didn’t pay anything for the pen, too. I really shouldn’t complain about the pens I’ve bought online, however, as nearly all of them have worked until their last drop as well, although they cost a lot more.

‘A cheap pen writes as well as an expensive one,’ a good friend of mine said. What happened today just proved her statement true. I don’t think I spend for ballpoint pens just for the sake of their writing, however. Neither do I think I purchase them because I wish to be stylish. It’s just that I like having artifacts of the past because these represent history.

I do recognize I should move on to other things but vintage pens are relatively inexpensive especially when one compares it to other historical exempla, so I keep on purchasing them. Today, however, I realized that I should slow down with those. There’s another Scripto pen that I may or may not win in an auction but as its combined shipping and handling won’t cost me much I just hazarded to place a bid on it anyway.

Ultimately, passions usually don’t sit well with pragmatism, unless it’s one’s passion to be pragmatic. Passions usually connote an overflow of strong emotion, which in and of itself runs contrast to the corollary of pragmatism, as I believe it is closely related with the principle of self-control. So I’ll probably still purchase pens, but I’ll probably think twice next time. (I just bought and paid for a light violet highlighter, which would honestly help me with my readings. At least it’s not another ballpoint pen, although I may have to pay for something like that five days from now.)

The stone of surgery

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

I should be happy. I mean, I found the pen and the name tag that I misplaced yesterday after scrounging all over the place. But I think how my duty ended at the hospital left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth: we unwittingly roused our senior resident to anger because we were poking fun at the inevitability of staying late at the hospital. We had a patient who was scheduled for an open cholecystectomy today, and because I was the one in charge of the patient, entered his operation with a rather muscular friend of mine. I had expected the operation to be relatively lengthy, as nearly all operations with intraoperative cholangiograms were, so I tried to be in a jovial mood despite the fatigue. I was relatively successful: I talked about my past unrequited loves, and I warmed to the joking made by my co-intern regarding our stay in the operating room. It was akin to accepting one’s ineluctable end because one sees it so clearly in the distance: one of our senior residents said that it was the biggest bile duct stone she had ever seen in her three years as a resident, and it was indeed sizable. That alone prognosticated a long and grueling operation due to the sheer number of stones the patient harbored, probably even raised in her gastrointestinal tract. After I understood that there was no scrubbing out from an operation once it had begun, I just accepted the fact that I was probably going to go home only to sleep, and wake up to another duty tomorrow. In accepting my fate, I just made fun of it. Near the end, however, when despite really intensive clearing by our senior residents there were still some stones left, I shared in laughter with my co-intern (who was probably even more tired than I was, as he came from duty the night before), we were shouted on by our senior resident who wasn’t even prone to anger. He is one of the reasons why our surgery rotation was so tolerable, as he is patient, fun-loving, and diligent in his duties. I think it was the stress of his training officer that got to him. We then removed ourselves from sterility, and packed our things.

It was a catastrophe of sorts because he was never someone who would blow his top even at the most tense of circumstances. The patient, however, was flirting with deadly cholangitis and also had those massive stones that he wasn’t in the mood for black comedy. We went home after having witnessed an awesome tragedy. Still, it afforded me rest and he was nice enough to allow us to be shifted as my arms were really wobbly from all the effort: I’m someone slim, after all, and it was utter suffering to even hold a certain position against resistance. It was excruciating after three hours.

As I end my rotation in General Surgery I can’t help but think that I understand the reason why surgeons charge the way they do after operations. I’ve been only doing part of what they do for a month and I’m always enervated when I get home, but to operate on all sorts of people for five years and experience all kinds of difficulties and not charge at the end of it to make up for all of one’s suffering in becoming a surgeon is also unfair. I can only hope that they can save that lady, but I can vouch for their efforts in trying to save her.

I probably will never become a surgeon.

Chuunibyou and my chuunibyous

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

It’s weird, because another package arrived for me in the post office about a week ago, and I think I’m elated because I still couldn’t sleep despite not having had more than two hours of sleep yesterday night. I had, after all, gone for roughly 36 hours of straight work with a bit of dozing in between. It was indeed quite tiring, but after I got the package from the post office I think I was excited, although I couldn’t really show it. That’s what a lack of sleep does to you, I think.

I got another ballpen. What else is new with me, anyway? Due to our regimented schedules, however, it seems that that would be the last package I’d obtain from the post office, at least for the next two months. I can’t really get out of the hospital unless it’s past five in the afternoon for non-duty non-Sundays, and whenever I could get out at ten in the morning the post office would be closed because it’s a Sunday. I have to do what I just did over again if I do try and purchase something from eBay, and I really don’t believe windfalls come in pairs. I was already lucky enough to escape unscathed today.

Besides, I have a lot of ballpens already. I need to stop. Once again, I’m back to what I’ve been writing about this particular topic over the past year. I know I have got to stop, but sometimes I’m just driven to stupidity by that obsessive-compulsive brain of mine. I hope coffee remedies this.

More importantly, however, I just watched the first episode of Chuunibyou per the suggestions made in a previous post. It was interesting. I would gladly watch another episode tomorrow, even despite the fact that I have less than a month to prepare for our final exams. I’m hoping this comprehensive reviewer would do the job for me, since a recent article noted that bulk-reading, highlighting, and re-reading aren’t very effective ways to store information in the brain. Practice tests offer better retention, although I don’t think you can retain anything without of course opening the book at first. At least I’m re-introducing myself to anime, right?

I realized that I must have been a pretty restricted fellow. I was just an asshole at the age of the main characters of Chuunibyou, but I never believed I was something other than human. Sometimes my best friend would act as if we were Mack Bolan, but that was it. Even then I thought it was already pretty weird for being a high schooler. The heroine in this series, on the other hand, is unique. Believing in Evil Eyes and whatnot was simply something I never really grew accustomed to in my life. I just played video games. I guess even buying vintage stuff isn’t really weird. Not like that. Not like her.

How an obsessive-compulsive personality may actually be productive

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

When I was younger, I was flirting with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I held money on the tips of two of my fingers, and I would count to ten to make sure that the door was locked when I went to bed or went out. That was about twenty years ago, and I’m glad that I’ve gotten over it because of my parents’ guidance. My mother was especially prescient as regards my development toward the disorder that she steered me towards normalcy by reminding me that it was all right to be dirty at times, such as when handling money and that it was all right to only check the locks once, because once it had been locked there was no way that anyone could do anything about it except perhaps noisily. I grew up to be a relatively normal teenager and adult, which was already a miracle. Had I less informed parents I would probably just walk on straight lines and be an excessive stickler for cleanliness. But because they steered me onto the right path, I simply became someone unique, but within the boundaries of what most people consider to be normal.

This isn’t even remotely connected to what I’m talking about, but it’s a cute puppy!

I mean, despite being a certified fan of anime and Korean dramas, I can relate to other people well and don’t have an addiction with order outside of my head. I don’t impose my will on other people’s cleanliness especially because my own is quite lacking: I’m a relatively normal guy.

There are times, however, where shades of my obsessive-compulsive behavior actually help me do stuff. One of the things I hate doing is to drop something I’ve started, even if it’s horrible. That’s the reason why I finished Gin-iro no Olynssis, and that’s also the reason why I could read obsolescent textbooks just because I already started reading them. Of course I would often want to stop but I find an indescribable resolve to finish whatever I have started. I think those are mini-compulsions of mine: remnants of that childhood personality seem to surface whenever I feel like I need to complete something.

That already applied in my medical education for one. I never had a heart for medicine but decided to continue pursuing it since I didn’t fail anyway. I don’t know whether I love it now – I love what I’ve learned from it, but I really can’t see myself not having regular sleeping hours or even regular working hours. I also can’t see myself reading more textbooks of it for the rest of my life.

That atavism, however, keeps me going. Just now I finished skimming through an anatomy reviewer just because of that drive to finish what I’ve started. Even though I’ve essentially learned nothing, I still skimmed through the book until its very last page. I’m not even a masochist, but I still felt I had to finish it, for what it was worth. This post is even similar to that: I don’t even think I could write any worse because my eyelids are drooping and I’m in for another 36-hour duty tomorrow but I write anyway because I wish to provide at least some sort of conclusion to this post.

Why I don’t watch anime any longer

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Well, since I’ve paid for the hosting once again, I might as well update with whatever comes into my mind. Back then, it was to support Animeblogger, but since I just think it’s an absolute waste not to update when I paid an arm and a leg for it once more I’ll just write whatever comes into my mind and hopefully link it to anime. This isn’t a free hosting anymore, after all. I’ll do what I wish to do.

I don’t think I’ll ever lose my love for anime. But I just haven’t been able to enjoy watching any of it lately, primarily because I have the looming final examinations on my mind and because I watch Korean dramas even though I can’t explain why, for the life of me. I just love watching cute real-life girls end up with decent men and endure through difficulties. Plus, come on, Kim Tae Hee is extremely attractive.

I think that it’s because of the respect I wish to accord the anime series I watch. I’m no slouch for looking for challenging, intellectual series, which is why my favorite series of all time is an anime most people don’t even know of and something that probably wouldn’t come out in any of the anime channels here in the Philippines. Most people here don’t know of Tatami Galaxy. Another thing is that I have never expected medical internship to be as spiritually draining as it has been physically, so I rely on less challenging forms of entertainment – or just challenge myself all the more. I can read pocketbooks because I can stop and steal a few pages before another patient comes in, but it simply feels impossible to do that with anime. I like to watch anime to enjoy myself, which I really don’t do well whenever there are patients around. So I just don’t, and just read classics. The last one I read was Brave New World, which was okay. It definitely struck a chord in me, seeing that our ability to think is killed by our wish to be pleasured. But a good idea doesn’t an entertaining and holistic read make.

There’s also the requirements. You’d think that a 36-hour duty would be enough, but one would have to deal with paperwork, let alone critical emergencies such as people dying that the stresses really just pile up one on top of the other. Anime, at least, the anime I watch, definitely isn’t the answer.

So there. Those are the reasons why I don’t watch anime any longer. I want to simply pine for true love these days, seeing that I’m so bereft of it (haha) that I enjoy watching good people end up together. Think of this as a hiatus from anime. Eventually, though, I’ll have to face the fact that I love anime and must make amends. I know that being a medical intern is no plausible excuse, because if I really loved it I’ll find time for it. I will, eventually – just not right now. (But I’ll keep on writing. It may not be about anime, but I simply have to retain something of myself.)