Reading James Baldwin reminded me of Carlos Bulosan

This is a mini-thinkpiece of James Baldwin and Carlos Bulosan’s works. I am hoping to write full book reviews of their works soon.

I have been trying my best to convert my 2021 self to reading more classics and modern classics books, hence I joined Goodreads, I bought a lot of Penguin books, and I started writing book reviews in this blog to motivate me to read more.

When I did a simple Instagram hashtag research on #penguinmodernclassics, one of the most popular books I saw was by James Baldwin. Upon doing further research, I found out that James Baldwin apparently is a popular author on racism and class issues in the United States. Given all what’s happening in the US right now in terms of #BlackLivesMatter campaign, I think its popularity just makes total sense.

I bought this set of Penguin Modern box set and one of the books was Dark Days by James Baldwin. Also, since I vowed to read more classics and modern classics, I found out that one of his novels, The Fire Next Time, is only 96 pages (something I could read in one sitting).

James Baldwin and Carlos Bulosan: Dark Days cover
James Baldwin and Carlos Bulosan: The Fire Next Time cover

MEETING THE MAN: JAMES BALDWIN IN PARIS

As a non-American who can only see things in media (both mainstream and new media) and can only listen to my friends’ anecdotes, I had to Google a lot of things to be more aware of the extent of racism in the US and in the bigger Western world. (Mind you, I had to Google what ‘Juneteenth’ is when I first heard it in some American TV series that I can no longer remember). This led me to more of James Baldwin (he really is the guy for this) and I saw a newly-released film about him, Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris.

While I can’t write so much about James Baldwin’s viewpoints at this stage (I still need to read more to better understand what he believes in), I got reminded of a novel I read for my Great Works class (GREATWK) back in college. I was thankful to have the best set of passionate Literature Professors who helped me develop my love for the literary work (I never believed in reading novels, fictions, and other literary works because I used to believe that my limited time in this world should be dedicated to reading the newspapers and academic textbooks. Don’t worry, I already realized how toxic that was lol).

America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan

James Baldwin and Carlos Bulosan: America Is in the Heart cover

Back in my college Great Works class, we were asked to read the book America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan. This classic novel has opened my eyes about the Filipino migration movement to the United States, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. I came to realize that there is a long history as to how things are this way now in the American society, especially in terms of its multiculturalism.

For some reason, I found myself obsessing to finish America is in the Heart as soon as possible because Carlos Bulosan has just an excellent storytelling skills. I read it on the train on my way to school, I read it while eating my lunch, I read it during breaks, and I read it on weekends. Even if there are a lot of parts I could not relate to, I had a picture as to what the past international society looks like. You see, I’m all about learning as many things as I can in this world, no matter which manner.

It’s about time for me to get to know more about James Baldwin’s works and re-read Carlos Bulosan’s America is in the Heart so that I can have more solid examples in my lectures whenever talking about global issues.

BOOK REVIEW: Investigations of a Dog (Franz Kafka)

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Investigations of a Dog by Franz Kafka

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Franz Kafka has written this short story in a perspective of a dog. It was very difficult to read given the long sentences and, lack of cohesion, and a lot of unfamiliar English words. I’ve been reading reviews about readers giving up in the middle, but I chose to keep going. Let me say, it gets better. Well, kinda.

The dog has a very intuitive and independent character, given that he parted ways with his mother early in his life and started wandering around on his own. He often emphasize his solitariness and how it contributed to the way he thinks. He was not happy about it since he could have learned more in life if he stayed with his mother longer, but at the same time he was proud of it since it allowed him to become ‘street smart’ and question things about the world.

The first part about the musicians was something I was finding hard to grasp at first. The dog was confused about what the performers do and why they do it, only to find no answers from anyone. I believe it means that there are things in this world that could have been explained to some, but we just chose not to devote energy in explaining it, or we chose not to care to question them at all.

The dog was also asking where and how food was produced on earth, and how come some get more and some get less. I could relate this a lot to political realism, where self-interest and survival are the central elements, and human nature (in this case, canine nature) is the driving force to all the actions of dogs in this world.

Later in the story, he started questioning the existence of air-dogs, and what’s the point of their existence. He also questioned how his generation is better and worse than the previous ones. He was also big on being conscious of the ‘scientificness’ of his arguments and claims, as well as the practical value of his ‘experiments’. Towards the end of the story, he tried experimenting on fasting.

If I’m being honest, there are parts of the story I can’t quite understand, but if you try to keep going and finish the whole book, the overall message actually makes sense. Most importantly, this book has introduced me to new English words that contributed in enriching my vocabulary.



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The Great Friday Marathon: Afterlife of the Party, He’s All That, Red Notice (Scrambled Thoughts #03)

It’s Friday! A meeting got cancelled, but I still had one in the afternoon and it went really great. I surely miss talking to people in general (aside from my family, which I was with for quite some time already), and it was quite a refreshing discussion. I can’t believe I’m not dreading on a meeting this time.

Anyhoo, as a Friday tradition, I would always watch a couple of movies to end the week and to prepare for a relaxing weekend. I’m working on NOT working on a weekend, so I hope I could be consistent on that.

I watched two movies (Afterlife of the Party, He’s All That, and waiting on Red Notice), and I think I will be watching more this weekend. Yay!

AFTERLIFE OF THE PARTY

Well, what can I say? I thought I’ve outgrown these types of movies, but I’m so glad I gave it a try. I always loved movies with beautiful, girly aesthetic. I love all the apartments and houses featured, I love Cassie’s outfits, I love Lisa’s nerdiness, and Max was so attractive! I’m also glad I discovered Spencer Sutherland because of this film!

There’s so much to reflect on here, and this is not a movie review, okay? First, if we all used to party before the pandemic, we’re going to miss it nowadays at some point, right? The dressing up part, the electronic dance music, and just being happy and carefree around people you like hanging out with. It was quite striking to realize something from the scene where Cassie and Lisa fought before Cassie died.

Why would one even choose to hang out and party with people who are terrible and who will not even care if something happens to you? I still think Cassie and Lisa should party, but Lisa has a totally valid point. Life is short to waste moments hanging out with people who will not give a damn about you later.

Another thing I pondered on was cherishing relationships while it lasts, which is in total connection with how I’m working on living in the present. Holding grudges, distancing yourself from people you love, and wasting time not being with them is something that takes precious time away from cherishing those relationships. I’m starting to sound cheesy and ideal right now (which totally do not fit my realist and cynical self), but that also made sense.

The scene I love the most was when Lisa finally had the courage to sign-up for the research assistant position interview she’s been dreaming of. I felt a sense of motivation from that scene because I’m in the process of looking for PhD opportunities. I have always been scared and intimidated of the idea of competing with the best and the brightest in my field all over the world, but I just need to overcome that fear to get started. Hey, I just ALMOST made it to Sweden and made it to the final interview of another prestigious scholarship program, so I think that’s a start!

I love the good feeling this movie has left me. It’s nothing but a typical American movie out there, but I think it’s worth watching. 5 stars!

HE’S ALL THAT

Another movie I’m glad I gave a chance!

I’ve been seeing articles about this movie lately, emphasizing how Tiktok influencer Addison Rae has reached a point of having her own movie (I don’t know her until reading those articles, btw. You know I was never on Tiktok). True enough, this is just another California high school-centered movie. Nothing against it, really! I love The OC and 90210.

I have a lot of things to say about this movie. Aside from the fact that Addison Rae is such a pretty woman, she and Tanner Buchanan really look good together! I might be cynical about fairy tale romances like this one (both in movies and in real life), but it gave me a nice feeling at the end. I don’t actually need to have or be with someone to feel that way, right?

Also, I LOVE HOW CAMERON’S ROLE IS AN INTROVERT PHOTOGRAPHER! You know me, photography will always be my first and last love. I have been struggling with my creativity lately because of the pandemic and because of the inability to go out more and shoot, but seeing Cameron’s character and relating to his love for photography brought back my love for photography. Movies like this with photographers as characters really inspire me, and I hope there will be more movies like this in the future. I also want to have my own dark room and buy a new camera!

In my next point, I have a confession: I never knew a lot about F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Roaring 20s era before reading the book Babylon Revisited. Sure, I know about The Great Gatsby, but having known that Babylon Revisited is based on F. Scott’s real life is really something to me. I could imagine how colorful it is to live in the Roaring 20s, and it’s nice to see it getting revived in movies, and in parties, just like in Alden’s birthday. I need to read more of F. Scott works, stat!

I don’t recall having kept any photos from my high school prom, but the prom scene has made me reminisce my high school days. I don’t exactly have a date that time, but I could still vividly remember how my girlfriends and I conquered the dancefloor. It was the bomb. And playing the song Kiss Me in the movie, very nostalgic! Cyn’s version is so amazing!

RED NOTICE

Lastly, Red Notice!

No, I haven’t watched it yet, chill. Another Ryan Reynolds movie (with Gal Gadot and The Rock omg!) sounds very amazing! I’m so excited about it.

The last Ryan Reynolds movie I really loved was The Proposal and it was a long time ago. I have a love and hate feeling for Ryan Reynolds because I still can’t settle myself if he’s good for Blake Lively or not, but at the very least, he’s a long-time crush of mine. Seeing Gal Gadot again in a movie is nice! And lastly, the theme of the movie, a heist! Yay! I’m currently obsessing on Money Heist (can’t stop watching it huhu!) and I definitely cannot wait for Red Notice as well.

Just rambling as usual,

Sherr

10 New Netflix Movies Based on Books

Click here for other Netflix movies listicles 🙂

THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER

netflix movies based on books

After finding a trove of love letters from 1965, a reporter sets out to solve the mystery of a secret affair — while embarking on a romance of her own.

THE WHITE TIGER

netflix movies based on books

The ambitious driver for a rich Indian family uses his wit and cunning to escape from poverty and become an entrepreneur. Based on the bestselling novel.

SAS: RISE OF THE BLACK SWAN

netflix movies based on books

A special forces operative traveling from London to Paris with his girlfriend takes action when armed, ruthless mercenaries seize control of their train.

MOXIE

netflix movies based on books

Inspired by her mom’s rebellious past and a confident new friend, a shy 16-year-old publishes an anonymous zine calling out sexism at her school.

THE DIG

netflix movies based on books

On the eve of World War II, a British widow hires a self-taught archaeologist to dig up mysterious formations on her land, leading to a staggering find.

BREAKING BOUNDARIES: THE SCIENCE OF OUR PLANET

netflix movies based on books

David Attenborough and scientist Johan Rockström examine Earth’s biodiversity collapse and how this crisis can still be averted.

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW

netflix movies based on books

Confined to her home by agoraphobia, a psychologist becomes obsessed with her new neighbors — and solving a brutal crime she witnesses from her window.

OUR LADIES

netflix movies based on books

In 1990s Scotland, a group of Catholic school girls seizes an opportunity for daring pursuits when they travel to Edinburgh for a singing competition.

NEWS OF THE WORLD

netflix movies based on books

A Civil War veteran who travels from town to town reading the news undertakes a perilous journey across Texas to deliver an orphaned girl to a new home.

SERGIO

netflix movies based on books

This moving documentary profiles Sergio Vieira de Mello, the charismatic U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights, who was killed by terrorists in Iraq.

BOOK REVIEW: One Thousand Stars and You by Isabelle Broom

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One Thousand Stars and You by Isabelle Broom

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I was looking for a book with Sri Lanka as a setting when I came across this book. It was an easy read, and the author provided a very detailed description of the things happening around on each scene, making you feel that you’re actually there with the characters. It gave me comfort during the pandemic and gave me a virtual travel experience (because I was supposed to visit Sri Lanka before the lockdown last 2020). I could really use this book as a Sri Lanka travel guide as well because it has virtually taken me to the tourist destinations in the country.

As someone who is about to turn 30, I could relate so much to Alice’s existential crisis and questioning her relationship with her then boyfriend. I could also relate to how Alice would want to celebrate her single life before she gets married (because obviously life will never be the same after marriage), so I myself will also have my ‘one last hurrah’. I love Alice’s attitude throughout the entire novel. Even if she encountered an unexpected serendipitous event, she became rational up to the very end, and she was able to put her happiness first.

I would recommend everyone who are planning to visit Sri Lanka to get a copy of this book because it is a chick lit and a holiday/travel book in one.



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BOOK REVIEW: A Man Called Ove (Fredrik Backman)

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


At first, I thought this is just a typical ‘grumpy old man’ story, and I was wondering why that Conde Nast article on Ambassador’s book suggestions before we go to their countries included this book. Upon reading the synopsis provided in the said article (it says that it’s never too late to start over again no matter which stage in life you are), it caught my interest right away and started reading the book. I love books with themes that revolve around starting over and being successful at it.

This book has brought me to tears in the last few chapters. Chapter by chapter, I’m starting to get attached to the characters and I’m starting to have a clearer picture of what the daily life in Sweden looks like. I observed some details that are quite common in other countries, such as the ‘white shirt’ guys, bureaucracy, and the sense of community. Ove’s attitude is completely understandable because of all the things he went through in life, and I’m deeply touched with how Parvaneh and other neighbors did not give up on Ove despite his grumpy behavior. I was touched with Ove’s relationship with Parvaneh’s kids and the birthday scene at the end really made me cry a lot.

I would love to read this again whenever I want to escape or relax. It gave me lots of comfort during the pandemic, and I highly recommend it to others. Now I want to read ALL of Fredrik Backman’s novels, and I loved to visit Sweden even more!



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How Does One Actually ‘Create Dangerously’?

In this very moving speech that Albert Camus delivered at Uppsala University in Sweden, he emphasized that an “art for art’s sake” means nothing, and an artist has the responsibility to create art that will give voice to the voiceless, hence “create dangerously”.

While I understand the point of a meaningful art, how does one actually create it? What makes an art meaningful? While the word “dangerous” attached to my favorite word “create” sounds so cool and badass, how can I do so? Or, better ask, have I been doing it?

Does this current version of my creative studio inside my tiny condo already looks “dangerous” to you? Lol.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CQqksQTnywZ/

Having been chain-shopping for books lately in an effort to force myself to read more (because boy, I’ve been observing lately that in my lectures and writing that my vocabulary has been becoming more and more limited and therefore I have to read and write more), I bought a set of Penguin Mini Modern books, and book 17 is Albert Camus’s Create Dangerously. I mean, the title itself captured my vibe already, so I picked this as the first one to read.

Create Dangerously
MY FRIDAY NIGHT TRADITION: Coffee, a book, and a good music.

“To create today is to create dangerously.”

Albert Camus, Create Dangerously

Here are some of the quotations from the book that I find the most interesting:

  • “If they speak up, they are criticized and attacked. If they become modest and keep silent, they are vociferously blamed for their silence.”
  • “Art is threatened by the powers of the state.”
  • (A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson) “So long as a man is faithful to himself, everything in his favor, government, society, the very sun, moon, and stars.” (Camus added) “Such amazing optimism seems dead today. In most cases, the artist is ashamed of himself and his privileges, if he has any. He must first of all answer the question he has to put to himself: is art a deceptive luxury?”

I mean, this! We’ve been living in a society where freedom has become part of every human being’s basic necessities, and yet there is also a huge repercussion with regards to taking advantage of our freedom. Also, since art as a form of expression is still bound by the sovereign powers of the State, to what extent can we express through the arts? These things actually hinder artists from fully unlocking the potential of their art. And another point of argument will be the purpose of the art itself. Is it a mere decoration, or does it serve a better, more meaningful purpose of communicating a powerful message?

Camus concluded the said speech by saying,

“Let us rejoice!”

Albert Camus, Create Dangerously
  • Let us rejoice as artists, torn from our sleep and our deafness, forced to keep our eyes on destitution, prisons, and bloodshed.
  • Danger makes men classical, and all greatness, after all, is rooted in risk.
  • The freedom of art is not worth much when its only purpose is to assure the artist’s comfort.
  • Let us not look for the door, and the way out, anywhere but in the wall against which we are living. Instead, let us seek the respite where it is — in the very thick of the battle.

Being an artist meant being part of the battle to fight for something, to give voice to the voiceless, and to allow the world to see and feel what is meant to be seen and felt.

Have I been living a “Dangerously Creative” life?

Yes, for sure. Every single day. My Instagram feed has been a living proof of this. There were days when I overthink every content I will post. I worry in terms of it being stolen by someone, I worry in terms of how acceptable it is, and I worry about whether I’m delivering the wrong message.

But that’s what “creating dangerously” is all about. It’s not art for art’s sake. All the street photos from all over Asia I’m posting shows the real action (or inaction) in the streets, no matter how unimpressive they may seem. All the short films and videos I create are all about expressing emotions that I possibly share with some people. All the profanities I include in my posts are needed to emphasize angst and other related emotions. This blog in itself (which appears whenever people would look at my academic profile/CV) is in itself a dangerous creation.

Camus has said a lot about how art can be used to revolutionize something, and I could go on and on. More interestingly, Camus has mentioned to what extent art can be related to socialistic realism and political realism, a topic I want to discuss more in another blog, since it’s related to my academic field of study (yay!).

I’ll expand this blog to talk more later, I promise! 🙂