Sunday, September 23, 2012

Everything Happens For a Reason

A few days ago I tried getting a cab as I was really late for an appointment. After waiting for almost an hour I gave up and took a train instead. I could have called a cab, but being a stubborn person, well… On the way to my appointment I was cursing my luck, feeling miserable and down. It was not exactly how I wanted to start my day.

During lunchtime, while fumbling for my wallet, I realized I have left it at home. It suddenly occurred to me that if I have managed to get a cab in the morning, I would not have been able to pay for the fare. Gosh, it would be really embarrassing!

Currently my department is in a mess, morale is low, workloads are increasing, etc. To add insult to injury, the management is treating us like children, threatening to punish us with disciplinary actions for making minor mistakes, etc. I won’t be surprised if we might have to seek permission to take a piss in the future.

I really hope things will turn out well in the end and all these misery happened for a good reason. But I have a bad feeling that it won’t be long before someone feels that enough is enough and tenders his/her resignation, followed by another, and another ...

(Written on Monday, December 29, 2008)

Why God never received a PhD

1. He had only one major publication.

2. It was in Hebrew.

3. It had no references.

4. It wasn't published in a refereed journal.

5. Some even doubt he wrote it by himself.

6. It may be true that he created the world, but what has he done since then?

7. His cooperative efforts have been quite limited.

8. The scientific community has had a hard time replicating his results.

9. He never applied to the ethics board for permission to use human subjects.

10. When one experiment went awry he tried to cover it by drowning his subjects.

11. When subjects didn't behave as predicted, he deleted them from the sample.

12. He rarely came to class, just told students to read the book.

13. Some say he had his son teach the class.

14. He expelled his first two students for learning.

15. Although there were only 10 requirements, most of his students failed his tests.

16. His office hours were infrequent and usually held on a mountain top.

17. No record of working well with colleagues.

Wranglers And Stranglers

Years ago there was a group of brilliant young men at the University of Wisconsin, who seemed to have amazing creative literary talent. They were would-be poets, novelists, and essayists. They were extraordinary in their ability to put the English language to its best use. These promising young men met regularly to read and critique each other’s work. And critique it they did!

These men were merciless with one another. They dissected the most minute literary expression into a hundred pieces. They were heartless, tough, even in their criticism. The sessions became such arenas of literary criticism that the members of their exclusive club called themselves the “Stranglers.”

Not to be outdone, the women of literary talent in the university were determined to start a club of their own, one comparable to the Stranglers. They called themselves the “Wranglers.” They, too, read their works to one another. But there was one great difference. The criticism was much softer, more positive, more encouraging. Sometimes, there was almost no criticism at all. Every effort, even the most feeble one, was encouraged.

Twenty years later an alumnus of the university was doing an exhaustive study of his classmates’ careers when he noticed a vast difference in the literary accomplishments of the Stranglers as opposed to the Wranglers. Of all the bright young men in the Stranglers, not one had made a significant literary accomplishment of any kind. From the Wranglers had come six or more successful writers, some of national renown such as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who wrote The Yearling.

Talent between the two? Probably the same. Level of education? Not much difference. But the Stranglers strangled, while the Wranglers were determined to give each other a lift. The Stranglers promoted an atmosphere of contention and self-doubt. The Wranglers highlighted the best, not the worst.

Think Your Situation Is Bad? Think Again.

Some of you might have known that I’ve been feeling very down for the past several months. Recently a friend sends me an email with some jokes attached to cheer me up. Actually some of them are quite funny though I hope they are not based on his personal experience.

Good Verses Bad

Bad: You find a porn movie in your son’s room.
Worse: You’re in it.

Bad: Your children are sexually active.
Worse: With each other.

Bad: Your husband’s a cross-dresser.
Worse: He looks better than you.

Bad: Your wife wants a divorce.
Worse: She’s a lawyer.

Bad: Your wife’s leaving you.
Worse: For another woman.

Bad: You can’t find your vibrator.
Worse: Your son “borrowed” it.

Bad: Your wife is sick.
Worse: Of you.

Bad: Your unit only measures out to be 2 inches long.
Worse: Erect!!!

Bad: Your husband has become a playboy.
Worse: Centerfold.

Good: Hot outdoor sex.
Bad: You’re arrested.
Worse: By your husband.

Good: The teacher likes your son.
Bad: Sexually.

Good: You came home for a quickie.
Bad: Your wife walks in unexpectedly.

Good: You go to see a strip show.
Bad: Your daughter’s the headline.

Good: Your daughter practices safe sex.
Bad: She’s eleven.

Good: Your neighbour exercise in nude.
Bad: She weighs 350 pounds.

Good: Your wife likes outdoor sex.
Bad: You live downtown.

Good: Your wife meets you at the door nude.
Bad: She’s coming home.

Good: Your wife’s kinky.
Bad: With the neighbours.
Worse: All of them.

Good: Your wife just experience her first orgasm.
Bad: With the postman.

Good: Your girlfriend’s got soft, long, blonde hair.
Bad: Under her arms.

Good: Your daughter’s boss raves about her work.
Bad: He’s a pimp.

Chief Seattle's Letter

"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.

One thing we know - there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We are all brothers after all."

About Poetry Writing

I can teach you the craft of poetry writing but self-realization cannot be taught. You may master the necessary tools to write a good poem but without the proper mindset, you will never improve. You must first have the will to undertake the process. Are you willing to leave your ego outside the door? Some are born with knowledge; but most know by studying. We acquired knowlwdge only after a painful feeling of being ignorant.

Remember, no one can claim to know so much that he/she can afford to stop learning. Poetry writing is a ceaseless process; there is always more to learn. Poets who think they are already perfect and need no further improvement are already imperfect just because they think this way.

Most aspiring poets lack humility. We are often tempted to deceive others and ourselves about our own abilities. The result is that our real abilities are badly affected. We become over-confident and complacent. Avoid self-deception. Be true to yourself.

For a start do not spend all day worrying about writing. You will gain nothing from it. It would have been better for you to spend the time reading good poems and learning their crafts. When you read poems of worth, you should think of equaling them. When you see unworthy poems, you should remind yourself not to commit similar mistakes.

When you think you are ready, feel free to write what you know and also write what you know not. Most of the time poets started off with very vague ideas. It is like visiting a new place for the first time. Each new poem offers a new experience. But you can also write about things that you know. You can write about falling in love, death, suicidal thoughts, etc. The trick is to write in such a way that your poems stand far above the crowd.

However, you must also find joy in writing. To be fond of poetry is better than merely to know it, and to find joy in it is better than to be fond of it.

To establish yourself as a poet, you must also seek to establish others. To improve yourself, you need friends. They act like a refining tool, shaping and polishing your poems. Friends are important.

Writing is a lonely process. But you have a choice.

Free Verse & Blank Verse

Two weeks ago I “pm” Donna, one of the several moderators in PFFA regarding the differences between free verse and blank verse. I think her reply makes good sense, so I am posting it here to share with you guys. :)

My question:

“Hello Donna,

It is me again. I need to clarify something and I am not sure whom to turn to. You are the first person that comes to my mind. Hope you don’t mind.

I really need to get this straight, is the following correct?


Without meter, without rhyme = free verse
With meter, with rhyme = Most traditional forms, such as sonnets, etc
With meter, without rhyme = blank verse
Without meter, with rhyme = Bad poems


Her reply:

“To answer your questions, here are some definitions to consider:

Without meter, without rhyme = free verse

Free Verse – Poetry without any set meter; lines may break either when the unit of syntax is complete or midway through the syntactic unit (phrase, clause or sentence). [From Mary Kinzie's A Poet's Guide to Poetry]

Free Verse – A fluid form which conforms to no set rules of traditional versification. The free in free verse refers to the freedom from fixed patterns of meter and rhyme, but writers of free verse employ familiar poetic devices such as assonancealliterationimagerycaesurefigures of speech etc., and their rhythmic effects are dependent on the syllabic cadences emerging from the context. The term is often used in its French language form, vers libre. [From Bob's Byway of Poetic Terms]

With meter, with rhyme = Most traditional forms, such as sonnets, etc
Most traditional forms have a set metrical and rhyme pattern. The pattern is determined by the form, with some variations allowed.

With meter, without rhyme = blank verse
Blank Verse – Unrhymed iambic pentameter lines (five iambs per line), with occasional--and necessary--enjambment. The "blank" denoted absence of rhyme. [From Mary Kinzie's A Poet's Guide to Poetry]

Blank Verse – Poetry written without rhymes, but which retains a set metrical pattern, usually iambic pentameter (five iambic feet per line) in English verse. Since it is a very flexible form, the writer not being hampered in the expression of thought or syntactic structure by the need to rhyme, it is used extensively in narrative and dramatic poetry. In lyric poetry, blank verse is adaptable to lengthy descriptive and meditative poems.

Sidelight – Blank verse and free verse are often misunderstood or confused. A good way to remember the difference is to think of the word blank as meaning that the ends of the lines where rhymes would normally appear are "blank," i.e., devoid of rhyme; the free in free verse refers to the freedom from fixed patterns of traditional versification.[From Bob's Byway of Poetic Terms]

Now, want to confuse things by adding Free Blank Verse into the mix?

Free Blank Verse – Verse that still exhibits the length and alternation of weak with strong syllables prominent in Blank Verse, but with significant loosening of the iambic pentameter model. [From Mary Kinzie's A Poet's Guide to Poetry]

Without meter, with rhyme = Bad poems
Rhyme usually goes hand in hand with meter; however, there are successful poems written using slant rhymes, internal rhymes, etc. But, yes, as a rule, most beginners tend to concentrate on the rhyme scheme without meter and sacrifice the poem to a poorly constructed rhyme scheme."

Interesting right?