Friday 31 August 2012

Tiếng Việt: bảo, nó, sao, không, đến

Hoán đổi vị trí 5 chữ "bảo", "nó", "sao", "không", "đến" và cắm dấu câu, ta có thể xếp được khoảng 46 câu có nghĩa, hiểu được và chấp nhận được như sau:

1/ Sao nó bảo không đến?
2/ Sao bảo nó không đến?
3/ Sao không đến bảo nó?
4/ Sao nó không bảo đến ?
5/ Sao? Đến bảo nó không?
6/ Sao? Bảo nó đến không?
7/ Nó đến, sao không bảo?
8/ Nó đến, không bảo sao?
9/ Nó đến bảo không sao.
10/ Nó bảo sao không đến?
11/ Nó đến, bảo sao không?
12/ Nó bảo đến không sao.
13/ Nó bảo không đến sao?
14/ Nó không bảo, sao đến?
15/ Nó không bảo đến sao?
16/ Nó không đến bảo sao?
17/ Bảo nó sao không đến?
18/ Bảo nó: Đến không sao.
19/ Bảo sao nó không đến?
20/ Bảo nó đến, sao không ?
21/ Bảo nó không đến sao?
22/ Bảo không, sao nó đến?
23/ Bảo! Sao, nó đến không?
24/ Không bảo, sao nó đến?
25/ Không đến bảo nó sao?
26/ Không sao, bảo nó đến.
27/ Không bảo nó đến sao?
28/ Không đến, bảo nó sao?
29/ Không đến, nó bảo sao?
30/ Đến bảo nó không sao.
31/ Đến không? Bảo nó sao?
32/ Đến không? Nó bảo sao?
33/ Đến, sao không bảo nó ?
34/ Đến bảo nó sao không?
35/ Đến, sao nó không bảo.
36/ Đến, nó bảo không sao.
37/ Đến, nó không bảo sao?
38/ Đến, sao bảo nó không ?
39/ Không sao, bảo nó đến.
40/ Không! Sao bảo nó đến?
41/ Đến nó, bảo không sao.
42/ Đến, nó bảo: không sao
43/ Đến, nó bảo: không. Sao?
44/ Bảo nó đến, không sao.
45/ Bảo nó đến không? Sao?
46/ Bảo! Nó đến không? Sao?


Sunday 26 August 2012

"If men could menstruate" (Gloria Steinem)


Living in India made me understand that a white minority of the world has spent centuries conning us into thinking a white skin makes people superior, even though the only thing it really does is make them more subject to ultraviolet rays and wrinkles.

Reading Freud made me just as skeptical about penis envy. The power of giving birth makes "womb envy" more logical, and an organ as external and unprotected as the penis makes men very vulnerable indeed.

But listening recently to a woman describe the unexpected arrival of her menstrual period (a red stain had spread on her dress as she argued heatedly on the public stage) still made me cringe with embarrassment. That is, until she explained that, when finally informed in whispers of the obvious event, she said to the all-male audience, "and you should be proud to have a menstruating woman on your stage. It's probably the first real thing that's happened to this group in years."

Laughter. Relief. She had turned a negative into a positive. Somehow her story merged with India and Freud to make me finally understand the power of positive thinking. Whatever a "superior" group has will be used to justify its superiority, and whatever and "inferior" group has will be used to justify its plight. Black me were given poorly paid jobs because they were said to be "stronger" than white men, while all women were relegated to poorly paid jobs because they were said to be "weaker." As the little boy said when asked if he wanted to be a lawyer like his mother, "Oh no, that's women's work." Logic has nothing to do with oppression.

So what would happen if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?

Clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, worthy, masculine event:

Men would brag about how long and how much.

Young boys would talk about it as the envied beginning of manhood. Gifts, religious ceremonies, family dinners, and stag parties would mark the day.

To prevent monthly work loss among the powerful, Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea. Doctors would research little about heart attacks, from which men would be hormonally protected, but everything about cramps.

Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of such commercial brands as Paul Newman Tampons, Muhammad Ali's Rope-a-Dope Pads, John Wayne Maxi Pads, and Joe Namath Jock Shields- "For Those Light Bachelor Days."

Statistical surveys would show that men did better in sports and won more Olympic medals during their periods.

Generals, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation ("men-struation") as proof that only men could serve God and country in combat ("You have to give blood to take blood"), occupy high political office ("Can women be properly fierce without a monthly cycle governed by the planet Mars?"), be priests, ministers, God Himself ("He gave this blood for our sins"), or rabbis ("Without a monthly purge of impurities, women are unclean").

Male liberals and radicals, however, would insist that women are equal, just different; and that any woman could join their ranks if only she were willing to recognize the primacy of menstrual rights ("Everything else is a single issue") or self-inflict a major wound every month ("You must give blood for the revolution").

Street guys would invent slang ("He's a three-pad man") and "give fives" on the corner with some exchange like, "Man you lookin' good!"

"Yeah, man, I'm on the rag!"

TV shows would treat the subject openly. (Happy Days: Richie and Potsie try to convince Fonzie that he is still "The Fonz," though he has missed two periods in a row. Hill Street Blues: The whole precinct hits the same cycle.) So would newspapers. (Summer Shark Scare Threatens Menstruating Men. Judge Cites Monthlies In Pardoning Rapist.) And so would movies. (Newman and Redford in Blood Brothers!)

Men would convince women that sex was more pleasurable at "that time of the month." Lesbians would be said to fear blood and therefore life itself, though all they needed was a good menstruating man.

Medical schools would limit women's entry ("they might faint at the sight of blood").

Of course, intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguements. Without the biological gift for measuring the cycles of the moon and planets, how could a woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, mathematics-- or the ability to measure anything at all? In philosophy and religion, how could women compensate for being disconnected from the rhythm of the universe? Or for their lack of symbolic death and resurrection every month?

Menopause would be celebrated as a positive event, the symbol that men had accumulated enough years of cyclical wisdom to need no more.

Liberal males in every field would try to be kind. The fact that "these people" have no gift for measuring life, the liberals would explain, should be punishment enough.

And how would women be trained to react? One can imagine right-wing women agreeing to all these arguments with a staunch and smiling masochism. ("The ERA would force housewives to wound themselves every month": Phyllis Schlafly)

In short, we would discover, as we should already, that logic is in the eye of the logician. (For instance, here's an idea for theorists and logicians: if women are supposed to be less rational and more emotional at the beginning of our menstrual cycle when the female hormone is at its lowest level, then why isn't it logical to say that, in those few days, women behave the most like the way men behave all month long? I leave further improvisation up to you.)

The truth is that, if men could menstruate, the power justifications would go on and on.

If we let them.

Gloria Steinem 

Saturday 25 August 2012

1 vài bài viết của Nguyễn Hưng Quốc về tiếng Việt

1 đặc điểm của tiếng Việt
Tính chính trị của ngôn ngữ (1)
Tính chính trị của ngôn ngữ (2)
Tính chính trị của ngôn ngữ (3)
Tính chính trị của ngôn ngữ (4)
Tiếng Việt nào?
Tây nói tiếng ta 
Tôi học tiếng Việt
Giữa cọp và chó
... và những con khác
Con cặc
Tiếng Việt: mày, tao, mi, tớ... 
Tại sao cần học tiếng Việt? 
Chuyện dạy tiếng Việt như một ngôn-ngữ-một-rưỡi
Việc dạy tiếng Việt như 1 ngôn ngữ thứ 2 trên thế giới
Dạy tiếng Việt trong môi trường song ngữ: sự tương tác giữa gia đình và học đường (1)
Dạy tiếng Việt trong môi trường song ngữ: sự tương tác giữa gia đình và học đường (2)
Dạy tiếng Việt: dễ hay khó? (1)
Dạy ngôn ngữ thứ hai / ngôn ngữ cộng đồng lại càng khó
Dạy tiếng Việt: dễ hay khó? (3)
Dạy tiếng Việt: dễ hay khó? (4)
Dạy đọc (1): Dễ hay khó?
Dạy đọc (2): Đánh vần hay không đánh vần?
Dạy đọc (3): Lấy học sinh làm trung tâm
Dạy đọc bằng cách đọc (4)

Some questions regarding language and linguistics

Oh hi.
I'm alive. Still.

As 1 of my subjects is linguistics and today I've just borrowed a book on English morphology (besides, I've been reading some articles/ essays... about linguistics as well), there are several things I'm wondering about:
1/ What is 1st language? Is it the 1st language a person learns (from parents) or the language that person speaks the best?
Let's say, a girl with Vietnamese parents is born in Norway. The 1st language she learns is Vietnamese. As she grows up and goes to school, Norwegian becomes her dominant language, she feels truly herself when speaking Norwegian and expresses herself best in Norwegian. So is her 1st language Vietnamese or Norwegian? Is 1st language the same as mother tongue? And is it the same as native tongue? Can we say her mother tongue is Vietnamese and her 1st language Norwegian? Or does her 1st language have to be Vietnamese whether or not she can speak it well?
The case of Vladimir Nabokov, he was 1st taught both English and Russian, and even though his parents were Russian, he was able to read and write English before Russian. At age 5, he started to learn French. And in his household 3 languages were spoken, so Nabokov used all 3 languages throughout his childhood till he became an adult and spoke all 3 languages perfectly for all of his life. So can we say he had 3 1st languages, or was it only Russian?

2/ What is 2nd language? Is it the language someone learns 2nd, after mother tongue, or the language someone speaks 2nd best? What's the difference between 2nd language and foreign language? If a person speaks a foreign language almost as perfectly as his or her own language, can it be considered 2nd language, or does 2nd language have to be 1 of the languages spoken in that area, or at least, it has to be the language spoken usually throughout childhood?

3/ What is a native speaker? I know a guy who is born in Germany and grows up in Germany, with a German father and a Vietnamese mother, who speaks German to him, besides, he never speaks 1 word in Vietnamese, is he a native speaker of German? When a guy is born in the US to Italian parents, grows up in the US and speaks some Italian at home but speaks English as his dominant language, can he be considered a native speaker of English? Or are native speakers only Americans who speak English both at home and outside home, to parents and to other people? When a girl is born in the US, then at, say, 8 or 9, moves to Sweden, and since then speaks both languages well, can she be considered a native speaker of English? How about a girl who has British parents, lives in, say, France, never spends any time living in an English-speaking country but speaks both English and French in everyday life and speaks them well, is she a native speaker of English?
And a girl born in Norway to Vietnamese parents, who grows up in Norway, speaks (limited) Vietnamese at home, speaks Norwegian as her dominant language, she's a native speaker of which language? Not Vietnamese, but how about Norwegian? Or none?

4/ What is the equivalent of "morpheme" or "morph" in Vietnamese in Vietnamese morphology?

5/ Is the Vietnamese language a suitable language for morphology?
(This, however, might be a stupid question from a person who speaks Vietnamese as a mother tongue and knows it unconsciously without ever studying it the way foreigners or linguists do).

6/ Put the matter of convenience aside, is the Latin alphabet, the abc system, suitable for a language like Vietnamese? 

7/ As far as I understand, Vietnamese is an isolating language, never uses inflection and doesn't have morphological marking of gender, number, tense, etc. And in Vietnamese I don't think I've seen derivation as in English or Norwegian, like "determination" from "determine", "modernise" from "modern", "glorify" from "glory", "teacher" from "teach", "drinkable" from "drink", etc.
So perhaps it means these characteristics become an obstacle in the formation of new words in Vietnamese and make the language quite unsystematic?
(This, again, can be a naive, ridiculous thought of a native speaker. Please forgive me for my ignorance.) 
Do these characteristics have an impact on our way of thinking, our logic?
(Considering Sapir-Whorf hypothesis I think "determine" is too strong a word. Language doesn't determine our thinking, but it does influence our thinking, though I must say it seems more like a 2-way process, since language is a part of culture and reflects the way people perceive the world and the way people think. To say languages aren't significantly different and therefore it's unnecessary to consider whether these differences lead to differences in thinking is also too extreme. For anyone who claims so, I would ask "But how many languages do you speak and what are they?" Someone might call this a fallacy in arguments, and it's true that linguists don't have to speak 5 or 10 languages in order to become a linguist, but if they speak too few, or if the languages they speak aren't very much different, I would say they should be careful when making such statements). 

Thursday 16 August 2012

Khoảng hủng ngư ngỗn

Mỳnh đang khủng hoảng, thực sự khủng hoảng.
Đây là tuần đầu tiên của mỳnh ở trường đại học (tuần sau mới học chính thức).
A brief meeting with the unfriendly, unsympathetic, unhelpful consultant this morning confirmed my worst fear: chương trình mỳnh học sẽ là chương trình song ngữ- Anh và Na Uy. And the upcoming compulsory course in Norwegian will be linguistics (và sau này sẽ có triết học- vâng, học triết bằng tiếng Na Uy).
(Hvorfor sa fadderne at undervisningspråket skulle være engelsk og bare engelsk?)
Ai đang học ngoại ngữ, đặc biệt đang bơi với 2 ngoại ngữ (trở lên), đều có thể hiểu cảm giác của mỳnh. Having learned English for a long time, watched English-language films and read novels in English over the past 3 years, with 2 years in the IB programme, I still haven't achieved perfection or even come close to it, I still struggle to read "Ada or Ardor" and still have no confidence that I can write down everything when 1 of the professors speaks like a CNN reporter without using the board or Power Point. Mặc dù mỳnh đạt 5/7 điểm Norwegian B SL trong chương trình IB, với trình độ tiếng Na Uy của mỳnh, làm sao mỳnh có thể học ĐH? (I går, for eksempel, snakket en kvinne om verdensborgerskap. En time og en halv. Jeg satt der og skjønte nesten ingenting.) My biggest problem with the Norwegian language is that my mind sort of picks out familiar words, "Oh I know that!", "That one, that one means...", "Ah I've learned this word...", but can't form a connection between the words and I therefore can't grasp the content as a whole. Thế nên khi không đủ từ, mỳnh có thể cố gắng diễn tả được ý mỳnh muốn bằng cách khác, nhưng đa phần các trường hợp khi mỳnh đã khốn khổ vật vã nói xong cái cần phải nói, người ta nắm được ý mỳnh và trả lời, thì lúc đấy mỳnh lại không hiểu.
Of course, I blame no one but myself. I'm the one who applied. (And it's also my fault that my Norwegian sucks). My stupidity is indeed beyond imagination and comprehension. I am a restless reckless idiot.
Bây giờ mỳnh có khoảng 3 lựa chọn.
Lựa chọn đầu tiên rất mệt, rất cực, mỳnh không thực sự cảm thấy thuyết phục, đi kèm với vài hy sinh.
Lựa chọn số 2 có thể sẽ đỡ hơn phần ngôn ngữ- không hoàn toàn đảm bảo, nhưng sẽ mệt cái khác, và hơi tốn kém.
Lựa chọn số 3 có thể rẽ thành nhiều options nhỏ, nhưng cái nào cũng đều có điểm chung là đường vòng, nhưng đảm bảo, an toàn, ít tốn sức hơn 1 chút.
So......... hva bør jeg gjøre?

(Haizz. Từ từ tính. Giờ đi ngủ). 

Sunday 12 August 2012

Photos of Paris in June 2012 and solution for the out-of-space problem

After thinking thoroughly and carefully considering various solutions with their pros and cons (for a couple of months?), I still couldn't come up with anything, until some hours ago on the verge of madness I did some impulsive things, and with that same madness and impulsiveness I created another google account: 
This will not replace my current one (which is already attached to youtube and several other websites). 
I will not use it for sending emails (I think). 
Instead, it will be used as linking with another facebook account I've just created (yes, this is 1 of the impulsive things I did), which will not replace my main fb account Yi Nguyen, but the secondary account Elyssa Ozog (with a friend list of about 10 people). And, apparently, used for photo uploading. 
The 1st album, of Paris, is here: 
(This same album has been published on my fb Yi Nguyen: The link is currently unavailable because it's deactivated, but will soon be OK). 
More information will be updated later. 
Thanks for reading. 

Saturday 11 August 2012

Primitive people and simple living


I wrote (on my own wall): 
"Hypocrites, most of those who commented here.
They praise it, they criticise civilisation and say they crave for such a lifestyle, very well, when exhausted and stressed people are likely to dream of a utopia with no worries and no complications. In addition to the things mentioned here, there would be no competition, no stealing, no class, no inequality... But if they could, if they really could, would they really want to give up what they have now and live like this? Would they be willing to give up clothes, machines, electricity, education, science, medicine, culture, literature, cinema, internet, vehicles, money..., basically everything they're having now?
In case you misunderstand my point, no I have nothing against primitive people (or "primitive" if you like).
Some people, after commenting here under this photo, will go back to their lifestyle, will continue their pursuit of money and position and fame and whatever there is to pursue, will continue to use and enjoy all the things they call the causes of complications and problems in society... And whenever having the chance, they'll condemn civilisation and blame everything on it and again say they wish they could live like the primitive people, and so on. And that's it."

Later, there were some new comments that I think should be posted here:

"No healthcare, no running water, no dentistry, no optical care, no protection against flooding, no police/security from mob rule.
There are good and bad sides to the modern lifestyle. If you really think this is the way to live, why the heck are you on Facebook?"

"From our perspective, that is not exactly true. It is just that we label certain acts as crimes. These societies contain what we call rape, murder, burglary etc as well. So, what we label as crime is completely normal to them. Crime is created by enacting laws for certain acts."

"Let's see; no stress? Doubt it. When you day to day life is survival your life span is less than thirty due to water born illnesses, I would call that stress. No bombs? Replace bombs with every other problem they face and it isn't much different (being killed by wild animals, starving, illnesses we don't face, etc). No homeless- the standard of living would be comparable or worse to homeless in the first world. No crime- ha ha.. Crime exists in these societies too. No prisons, probably, but they do deal with criminals in their own way- stoning, banishment, etc. No junk food- I'm sure they would wish for some during seasons when food is scarce and they are starving. No debt- OK, maybe that one. No pollution- right. Pollution comes in a lot of shapes and when you don't have basic sanitation like plumbing, you create your own pollution daily. No poverty- this is the biggest laugh because by most standards, their daily life would be considered extreme poverty- little food, no access to health care other than what they can create for themselves, constant risks of disease and injury, homes that do very little to protect from the elements, facing a life span of under thirty years, extremely high infant mortality rates- by all definitions it is poverty."

"Where I am coming from with my so-called negativity- my wife grew up in Brasil and saw these 'primitives' first hand and it scarred her for life. Reality is not what you see on TV. Imagine yourself as a child seeing other children with bellies bloated, not from having enough to eat, but because it is full of worms. Imagine seeing other children with septic infections from cuts and having their arm rotting away. Imagine seeing whole families starving because a river changed its course or a rain was late. This is the reality of the primitive lifestyle."

"I find it amusing that so many people in this forum have expressed such a yearning for the entire human race to collapse into total ignorance and barbarism all the while utilizing one of the wonders of the modern world. Sorry, did I say 'amusing'? I meant 'disheartening' and 'obtuse'."

Thursday 9 August 2012

Half full chủ nghĩa

Dạo này trên facebook thấy nhiều người đăng những thứ đại loại như hãy suy nghĩ tích cực, vấn đề không phải là hoàn cảnh mà là thái độ, nên hài lòng với những gì đang có, đừng phàn nàn, hãy nghĩ tới những người không may hơn mình, blah blah blah. Phát ngấy.

- Suy nghĩ và cảm giác tiêu cực, vượt qua 1 giới hạn, có thể dẫn tới nhiều hậu quả xấu, đặc biệt với sức khỏe. Nhưng khi chưa đến giới hạn đó, nó hoàn toàn tự nhiên và bình thường như những suy nghĩ và cảm giác tích cực, không có lý do gì để cố gắng loại bỏ, né tránh hoặc phủ nhận. 
- 1 đứa bạn NU của mỳnh từng bảo, đôi khi nó mệt sau 7-8 tiết ở trường, về nhà lại đủ thứ bài vở và nhiều việc khác, chỉ phàn nàn 1 câu nhưng ba mẹ lại nói ngay, nên biết ơn vì mình may mắn như thế nào, nên nghĩ tới những đứa trẻ đói khát ở Châu Phi. Thực tế, ca cẩm 1 chút khi mệt mỏi, kiệt sức cũng như buột 1 tiếng chửi thề khi đau, bức bối, khó chịu có tác dụng tốt, làm giải tỏa những cảm giác khó chịu, tiêu cực trong người. 1 người đang đủ thứ trong lòng nghe ai đó bảo nên cảm thấy biết ơn và tận hưởng những gì mình đang có, chắc chắn không cảm thấy thoải mái sung sướng gì hơn, còn nếu tự nói với bản thân không nên tiêu cực nữa, mình thế này là may mắn lắm rồi, chưa chắc đã làm bản thân bớt bực dọc mà, theo nghĩa nào đó, chỉ đang chối bỏ cảm xúc thực sự của mình, trong khi những cảm xúc như bực bội, giận dữ, thất vọng, lo lắng, buồn bã... đều bình thường và tự nhiên. 
- Nói vấn đề không phải là hoàn cảnh mà là thái độ có ý đúng nhưng không hẳn 100% đúng. Tất nhiên, hoàn cảnh là cái mình không thể quyết định, còn thái độ là cái ta có thể hoàn toàn làm chủ. Nhưng cuộc sống không chỉ đơn giản là ăn, ngủ, học, làm việc, chơi, hạnh phúc không hẳn chỉ là có mái nhà, bạn bè...- định nghĩa hạnh phúc rất phức tạp và mang tính cá nhân. Có cơ thể lành lặn, được sống với gia đình và bạn bè, được đi học và làm việc... với nhiều người là không đủ để gọi là hạnh phúc, nên khi chưa đạt được điều mình mơ ước, họ cảm thấy không hài lòng- như thế không có nghĩa là họ tiêu cực, không nhận ra sự may mắn của bản thân.  
- Khi 1 người không hài lòng với cái họ đang có, họ có thể bị những người theo chủ nghĩa biết-ơn-và-suy-nghĩ-tích-cực xem là bi quan, nhưng chính sự không hài lòng sẽ là động cơ để họ phấn đấu và thay đổi. Trong khi đó, sự hài lòng lại có thể là chấp nhận 1 cách thụ động. 
- Trong 1 số trường hợp, sự hài lòng có thể rất nguy hiểm. Chẳng hạn, trong xã hội, có người nhìn thấy nhiều vấn đề và thấy đất nước mình không bằng nhiều quốc gia khác, nhưng cũng có nhiều người "quyết định" hài lòng, chủ yếu theo 2 cách, hoặc so sánh đất nước mình với những nước dưới mình chứ không nhìn lên, hoặc so sánh với quá khứ, để nghĩ "thế này là tốt lắm rồi, tốt hơn hồi xưa nhiều". Đây là cách nghĩ thụ động, làm trì kéo sự thay đổi và phát triển của xã hội.  
- Đôi khi, "tiêu cực" chỉ là từ 1 số người dùng thay cho từ "thực tế" hoặc "nghi ngờ, cẩn thận". 
- Suy nghĩ tích cực và lạc quan khi đưa ra 1 quyết định, đôi lúc, dẫn tới sự tự tin quá mức và chủ quan, không xét đến những hậu quả tiêu cực có thể xảy ra, nên có thể đưa ra quyết định khi không suy nghĩ thực sự cẩn trọng, và có thể gây ra nhiều hậu quả tai hại. 
- Khi thực tế, không quá tự tin, và nghĩ đến những tình huống xấu nhất có thể xảy ra, người ta có thể được chuẩn bị tốt hơn (cố gắng để nó không xảy ra, và đồng thời chuẩn bị tinh thần), nên hậu quả cũng nhẹ nhàng hơn.
- 1 số phụ nữ khi nhận ra chồng mình không tử tế vẫn tiếp tục cuộc hôn nhân và tự an ủi mọi chuyện sẽ khá hơn, chồng mình sẽ thay đổi... Đó có thể xem là suy nghĩ tích cực. Và dĩ nhiên, thái độ không tốt hơn những người suy nghĩ tiêu cực, nghĩ bản tính con người sẽ không thay đổi, rồi quyết định bỏ đi. 
- Những người nhạy cảm, khi quan sát và trải nghiệm, nhìn thấy nhiều bất công, sai trái diễn ra xung quanh, hay buồn và có thể có những suy nghĩ bị gọi là tiêu cực. Nhưng không thể vì thế lại gọi họ là những người bi quan, hoặc nói những câu đại loại như, thuyền chỉ chìm khi nước tràn vào nhấn chìm thuyền, bản thân ta không nên để những thứ tiêu cực chen vào mình, blah blah, như mỳnh thấy trên facebook, bởi thái độ như vậy nghe ích kỷ và rất ngớ ngẩn. 
- Đôi khi, cố gắng suy nghĩ tích cực làm người ta không nhìn thấy mặt trái của vấn đề. 
- Nhiều người theo chủ nghĩa lạc-quan-hạnh-phúc, hay ít nhất trong số những người mỳnh quen, có thói quen né tránh tất cả những gì họ gắn mác là "depressing". Riêng chuyện đọc sách chẳng hạn, 1 người vốn đã quen suy nghĩ tiêu cực, đọc những gì mình thích, có hứng thú, hoặc cảm thấy mình nên đọc, không có thói quen xếp loại tốt/ xấu, tích cực/ tiêu cực, cũng không cần xem nó sẽ tác động làm mình vui hay buồn... 1 người suy nghĩ tích cực, chỉ muốn nhìn thấy the bright side và chủ động né tránh những thứ "depressing", trước tiên phải phân loại, nên khi đọc sẽ thiếu sót so với người kia, và xét mặt nào đó, đang né tránh thực tế. 
- v.v... 

Nói tóm lại, nếu phải trả lời half full hay half empty, mỳnh sẽ không trả lời- mỳnh thấy cả 2. 
Suy nghĩ tích cực và biết ơn vì những gì mình đang có có mặt tốt, nhưng, cũng như mọi thứ khác, có mặt xấu. Nên cứ phải nghe nhai nhải những điều đó, như mỳnh đã viết ở đoạn trên cùng, mỳnh thực sự phát ngấy. 

Sunday 5 August 2012

My Extended Essay: "People always clap for the wrong things"

This is my extended essay (English A1, Higher Level) in the IB programme. I got an A (As a matter of fact, this is the only thing in the IB that I am truly proud of). 

“People always clap for the wrong things”
A closer look at the themes in J. D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” behind the setting of teenage rebellion

Hai Di Dac Nguyen (3966 words)


This essay attempts to challenge the common interpretation of “The Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger as a book of teenage angst, by showing another way of looking at it and perceiving it.
Holden Caulfield seems like a troubled teenage boy who does not want to grow up and detests the corrupt world of phony adults. He seems like a confused adolescent who does not fit in the society, does not belong anywhere and does not know where to go. He seems like a pitiful loser who cannot get along with people and always gets rejected. He seems like a cynical and irritable young person who makes negative comments on everyone and everything, and yet, lacks courage to say it. But that is merely the surface. This essay touches on some other works by J. D. Salinger, emphasizing on the parallels between Holden Caulfield and Seymour Glass, another well-known character he created. Knowing about Seymour Glass and seeing the striking similarities between the two helps seeing “The Catcher in the Rye” in a new light. This essay, in short, analyzes Holden’s thoughts and actions, and thus, by the character analysis, argues for another meaning, another message of this novel, or at least, gives another interpretation. There are people who say “The Catcher in the Rye” became well-known because it was born in the time of no adolescent culture, which is something today’s teenagers cannot fully comprehend and they therefore cannot really find themselves in him, understand his emotions, thoughts and actions. But it seems that J. D. Salinger never meant it to be a portrayal of a typical teenager standing in confusion and fear between the children’s world and the adults’ world, but merely used this setting to tackle a more profound issue.

“People always clap for the wrong things”- A closer look at the themes in J. D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” behind the setting of teenage rebellion
As a book that is very often included in the lists of 100 best books of all time, “The Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger is commonly said to have the main theme of teen angst. It is seen as a portrayal of a teenage rebel in a society of no adolescent culture, where there is nothing between childhood and adulthood. But is it really a novel of adolescent angst, or, despite the common interpretation, something more than that?
On Google, if you type “The Catcher in the Rye, teen angst”, there are about 21,500 results in 0.27 seconds; “The Catcher in the Rye, teenage rebellion”- 154,000 results in 0.32 seconds; “The Catcher in the Rye, teenagers”- 923,000 results in 0.4 seconds. On Wikipedia, it is introduced to have “themes of teenage confusion, angst, alienation, language and rebellion”. [1]
In the article “J. D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, Aging Gracelessly” on Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley wrote “The Catcher in the Rye was already well on the way to the status it has long enjoyed as an essential document of American adolescence” [2], and “The Catcher in the Rye created adolescence as we know it, a condition that barely existed until J. D. Salinger created it.” [3] A person who signed as Saammm on wrote “The root of his depression can mainly be found in his desire to never grow up”[4], and “Holden possibly sees this as a way he can help the younger generation to never grow up and be “phonies” like the adults he encounters and his peers” [5].  On National Public Radio (, on 28/1/2010, Neal Conan said “That novel tucked into backpacks and lovingly thumbed since its release in 1951 gave voice to adolescent despair, and despite its age, never feels dated” [6], and something similar had already been said on 20/1/2008, “Holden Caulfield […] had given voice to generations of teenagers caught between childhood and the adult world”.[7]
At the end of chapter 22 of the book, in the conversation with his little sister Phoebe, Holden said “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around- nobody big, I mean- except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff- I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.” [8]This is commonly interpreted that Holden wants to save the pure, honest, innocent children from entering the corrupt world of adults while he is the one that must be saved, the one that needs help and eventually, somehow gets help from Phoebe.
However, there is a dilemma here. Jonathan Yardley wrote “Viewed from the vantage point of half a century, the novel raises more questions than it answers. Why is a book about a spoiled rich kid kicked out of a fancy prep school so widely read by ordinary Americans, the overwhelming majority of whom have limited means and attend, or attended, public schools?” [9]
Jennifer Schuessler, in “Get a Life, Holden” on The New York Times, in contrast, wrote “The Catcher in the Rye […] is still a staple of high school curriculum, beloved by many teachers who read and reread it in their own youth. The trouble is today’s teenagers. Teachers say young readers just don’t like Holden as much as they used to.” [10]After talking to my classmates, I realize the same thing, the majority do not really like the book and its protagonist Holden Caulfield, and if they do, they like it after the teacher analyzed it in class.
Why? Is the book already dated so that teenagers nowadays no longer find themselves in Holden, or has it never been a book about teenage angst after all?

There are always different ways of interpreting a symbol, a metaphor or the meaning of a novel. The real problem Holden copes with, in my opinion, is not the conflict between the children’s world and the adults’ world, but rather, the trauma caused by Allie’s death, which leads to isolation, alienation, depression, loneliness and inability to relate to others and express his thoughts, and causes doubt about justice. As he sits quietly, observing and listening to people around him, he realizes that they all are hypocrites, but they are alive while a nice and smart person like Allie has to die. Everything becomes pointless. In “Norwegian Wood”, a novel by Haruki Murakami, after Kizuki’s death at the age of seventeen, his girlfriend Naoko does not want to grow older. She wants to be seventeen, wants to come back to the past when they were being together.[11] Similarly, Holden gets stuck in his memories not because he loves his childhood and detests adulthood, but more because he wants to get back to the time when Allie was alive and things made sense.
The tendency to want things to stand still and want to get back to the past occurs when people face a big loss and have to go through a hard time. Therefore he is frightened of changes in general. “The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. […] Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. Not that you’d be so much older or anything. It wouldn’t be that, exactly. You’d just be different, that’s all.” [12]
This interpretation provides another way of seeing Holden Caulfield and his wish of becoming a catcher. He is afraid of changes. And he sees people around him changing, in a negative way. He perhaps does not have the courage to meet Jane because he is afraid of being disappointed, and he prefers to keep her as an ideal girl in his memories with whom he used to play checkers. The idea of catcher might mean keeping the kids where they are, preventing them from moving towards the bad side of the world. The metaphorical question “Where do the ducks go?” [13] he raises and ponders shows his confusion: where to go when everything around is changing. He is lost. He is stuck.
Generally Holden is seen as a cynical boy. He makes negative comments on almost everyone and everything but never lets others know what he thinks because of his cowardice. He thinks Ackley has lousy teeth and lots of pimples, has terrible and nasty personality and gets on his nerves sometimes… and Stradlater is a slob that always makes himself look handsome but in fact never cleans his razor, and loves himself and takes advantage of others including Holden. But still, Holden remains sort of friends with them. He does nothing but cry when Maurice takes his money. And probably in other people’s eyes, he is nothing but a big loser. He goes to the club and dances with some morons (at least he thinks they are morons, real morons). He wants to have sex with a prostitute and fails. He has the opportunities to have sex with some girls, but always stops when they tell him to, whereas other guys do not, therefore he remains a virgin. He asks people for a drink even though they just meet for the first time, and gets rejected. He wants to call some people but finally does not. He gets kicked out of four schools. Not only is he unpopular, but he is also a loner with a few friends, and they are not even close to him. He does not know or prepare anything for the future. In short, he is lost.
The same thing might be said about Seymour Glass, another character created by J. D. Salinger, that appears or at least is mentioned in “Nine Stories”, “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction”, “Franny and Zooey” and “Hapworth 16, 1924”. Even though “The Catcher in the Rye” is written in colloquial language with simple sentences, slangs and swearwords, and the other books have more formal language with long, complex sentences and a large vocabulary, the similarities between these two characters are quite remarkable. Both are loners, alienated, unable to fit in and get along with other people. Seymour’s wife, in “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters”, wishes that “Seymour would relate to more people” [14]. Both are runaways, whereas Holden leaves the dorm and goes away at night, Seymour does not turn up at his wedding. Both get stuck in their own world. Both are depressed, exhausted, confused, and disgusted by the world. Despite the age gap between them, both Holden Caulfield and Seymour Glass are hopeless and vulnerable individuals because of their brilliance, thoughtfulness, hypersensitivity, their being observational and their ability to see more than others. It is also interesting to point out that there is a hint in the name of Seymour Glass. Seymour sounds like “see more”. And glass is, as everyone can see, hard but fragile. Other people look at them and can see that they are different, and troubled. But they do not understand, and do not try to understand.
In “Seeing through the Glass: Psychoanalysis and J. D. Salinger”, Noelle Madore wrote “Through his first literary appearance, Seymour, like Salinger, possesses a supreme appreciation and admiration for those untainted by society. The innocent are the opposite of anyone Seymour has ever encountered outside of his family, especially in regards to Muriel, who is the epitome of this societal corruption. Muriels world surrounds an emphasis on physical beauty and material possessions, all of which are elements Seymour has shied away from.” [15]In his eyes, it is a society where people favor materialism, think shallowly, pursue pointless things and have no attempt to have some understanding between one another. Our author J. D. Salinger, similarly, wrote for his own self, for his pleasure and chose a reclusive life as he disliked fame and the hypocrisy of the world he lived in.
We can see the same thing in Holden Caulfield, when we look back at “The Catcher in the Rye” after reading other works by J. D. Salinger. He thinks and sees a lot. He sees phonies around him. Mr. Spencer, his teacher, always looks serious and dignified in class, but when there are just two of them together in his house, he picks his nose. Or Mr. Ossenburger is described as “He told us we should always pray to God- talk to Him and all- wherever we were. […] He said he talked to Jesus all the time. Even when he was driving his car. That killed me. I can just see the big phony bastard shifting into first gear and asking Jesus to send him a few more stiffs.” [16]Stradlater, the guy who always looks handsome and cool, is “a secret slob” [17]. Holden writes “You should’ve seen the razor he shaved himself with. It was always rusty as hell and full of lather and hairs and crap. He never cleaned it or anything.” [18]To some extent, Mr. Spencer and Stradlater are the same. They make themselves look good because they want others to have a good impression of them, but when they do not need to, they simply turn back to who they really are.
We can see that Holden pays lots of attention to small details, “If you want to know the truth, I can’t even stand ministers. The ones they’ve had at every school I’ve gone to, they all have these Holy Joe voices when they start giving their sermons. God, I hate that. I don’t see why the hell they can’t talk in their natural voices. They sound so phony when they talk.” [19]Most people normally do not care about trivial details, but Holden does, not because he is petty and irritable, but those very little and trivial details show what kind of people someone really is behind the mask. And because he is able to see how people really are, not how they want he sees they are, he regards everyone as phonies.
“I roomed with this boy, Dick Slagle, that had these very inexpensive suitcases. He used to keep them under the bed, instead of on the rack, so that nobody’s see them standing next to mine. […] What I did, I finally put my suitcases under my bed, instead of on the rack, so that old Slagle wouldn’t get a goddam inferiority complex about it. But here’s what he did. The day after I put mine under my bed, he took them out and put them back on the rack. The reason he did it, it took me a while to find out, was because he wanted people to think my bags were his.” [20]
Dick Slagle also pretends to be someone he is not, and wants people not to have a bad impression of him.
Holden also writes “The trouble with girls is, if they like a boy, no matter how big a bastard he is, they’ll say he has an inferiority complex, and if they don’t like him, no matter how nice a guy he is, or how big an inferiority complex he has, they’ll say he’s conceited.” [21]
Or, there is a part Holden goes to the cinema. “The part that got me was, there was a lady sitting next to me that cried all through the goddam picture. The phonier it got, the more she cried. You’d have thought she did it because she was kindhearted as hell, but I was sitting next to her, and she wasn’t. She had this little kid with her that was bored as hell and had to go to the bathroom, but she wouldn’t take him. She kept telling him to sit still and behave himself. She was about as kindhearted as a goddam wolf. You take somebody that cries their goddam eyes over phony stuff in the movies, and nine times out of ten they’re mean bastards as heart. I’m not kidding.” [22]
Some of my classmates say when they read the book, they just wanted to slap Holden and tell him to shut up. In their opinion, he is so irritable. And he does not have to get annoyed with so many things, especially such small things. But he gets annoyed because he sees that people all the time think too much about what others think about them, and want to look good, want to be seen as something other than themselves. He sees them passively follow the majority. He likes kids not because he does not want to grow up and prefers his childhood, but kids are honest, and are nonconformists. At such young age, they live as who they naturally are, and have not yet thought about what they are supposed to be in other people’s eyes. Holden is the same. It might sound contradicting because Holden considers himself a terrific liar, and he lies a lot it becomes a habit, an unconscious habit over which he has no control. But he sees the loss of real values in the society. He sees what people are becoming. He does not conform to the social standards. He does not live the way he is supposed to live. He does not follow the majority. Like Seymour Glass. Like J. D. Salinger. That is most obvious, and sounds most like Salinger in the paragraph “You should’ve heard the crowd, though, when he was finished. You would’ve puked. They went mad. They were exactly the same morons that laugh like hyenas in the movies at stuff that isn’t funny. I swear to God, if I were a piano player or an actor or something and all those dopes thought I was terrific, I’d hate it. I wouldn’t even want them to clap for me. People always clap for the wrong things.” [23] He is an honest guy in a dishonest world, a nonconformist in a conformist world. 
From my point of view, the theme of “The Catcher in the Rye” is not purely teen angst. There is something higher, bigger than that. J. D. Salinger attacks conformity. He does not attack the adults’ world, but the spirit of our age.
In “The Theme of Alienation in the Novels of J. D. Salinger”, professor R.Thiruvalluvan wrote:
“The hero in every Salinger story becomes a reflection of a moral code arising out of a cult of innocence, love, alienation and finally redemption. These heroes form a particularly adolescent troop of spiritual  non-conformists, tough minded and fragile, humorous and heart breaking. These moral heroes are forced to compromise their integrity with a pragmatic society. What disaffiliate the heroes are their peculiar off-center vision which sensitize and distort their sense of truth in a false world.” [24]
The book is told by Holden Caulfield about the four days when he runs away. He asks strangers for a drink. He calls Faith Cavendish, a girl “that wasn’t exactly a whore or anything but that didn’t mind doing it once in a while” [25], asking her to go out for a cocktail. He goes to a club and dances with some boring women around thirty years old. He asks for a prostitute. All of these are his attempts to relate to other people and to conform to the social standards.
But it does not work. He does not feel closer to other people. Neither does he feel any better. Because his problem is, as already written, not that he does not want to grow up and thus makes some simple judgments about other people and calls everyone phonies, but the values he regards as essential no longer exist or have any significance in this world. For instance, he writes “The thing is, most of the time when you’re coming pretty close to doing it with a girl- a girl that isn’t a prostitute or anything, I mean- she keeps telling you to stop. The trouble with me is, I stop. Most guys don’t. I can’t help it. You never know whether they really want you to stop, or whether they’re just scared as hell, or whether they’re just telling you to stop so that if you do go through with it, the blame’ll be on you, not them.  Anyway, I keep stopping.” [26]
That is why when Stradlater returns to the room after a date with Jane, Holden keeps asking about it. “If you didn’t go to New York, where’d ya go with her?”, “Cut it out. Where’d you go with her if you didn’t go to New York?”, “What’d you do? Give her the time in Ed Banky’s goddam car?” [27]And he gets infuriated and hits Stradlater. 
Also, in his mind, Jane is a childhood friend who reads poetry and good books, is funny and sort of muckle-mouthed, used to practice ballet about two hours every day and play checkers with him. His memory of Jane is pure, very pure.
“Most girls if you hold hands with them, their goddam hand dies on you, or else they think they have to keep moving their hand all the time, as if they were afraid they’d bore you or something. Jane was different. We’d get into a goddam movie or something, and right away we’d start holding hands, and we wouldn’t quit till the movie was over. And without changing the position or making a big deal out of it. You never even worried, with Jane, whether your hand was sweaty or not. All you knew was, you were happy. You really were.” [28]
The conflict of values is the cause of Holden’s alienation and depression. For him, sex is good when two persons love each other and both want it. And he remembers a person with nice things about them, like Jane likes ballet and worries that it makes her legs lousy, or his sister Phoebe has nice, pretty, little ears, writes books and gets affectionate sometimes, or his brother Allie writes poems in green ink all over his baseball mitt and never gets mad at anybody. Stradlater does not care. He dates a girl, has sex and forgets everything. He does not understand her, and does not feel like knowing her. The fact is, Stradlater does not belong to the minority, but most people around Holden, as he observes, also have pointless, meaningless pursuits. People want to look good rather than be good. People care more about sex than love. People favor materialism (for instance, his brother D. B is in Hollywood, “being a prostitute” [29]). People flow with the stream. People clap for the wrong things, and fail to notice little nice ones (for instance, he thinks it is nice when someone starts to talk about something else and gets excited, but other people keep yelling “Digression!”). People ruin things. And “You can’t even find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write ‘Fuck you’ right under your nose”.[30]
In “The Saint as a young man- A reappraisal of The Catcher in the Rye”, Jonathan Baumbach wrote:
“Both Antolini and Spencer are too corrupt to notice that Holden is unable to cope with the world not because he hates, but because he loves and the world hates. […] Ejected from the shallow womb of the prep school, Holden goes out alone in the world of New York City in search of some kind of sustenance. His comic misadventures in the city, which lead to his ultimate disillusion and despair, make up the central action of the novel.” [31]
Theo Hobson wrote in the article “Salinger, Sex and Scruples” on “The Guardian”:
“So please: no more clichés about this being the sacred text of teenage rebellion, adolescent angst. This view robs the novel of its daring particularity. The reality is that is uses the setting of teenage rebellion in order to tackle a profound issue, the tension between sexual conformism and morality.” [32]
Holden is not an anti-conformist, who does the opposite of what others do, shouts clichés about freedom or love and leaves a group (of “ordinary people”) for another group (of “rebels”). He stands alone, as he has his own system of thoughts, system of values, and thinks independently. He is a witness of the corrupt world he lives in. He “not only suffers as a victim from the effects of the evil in this world, but for it as its conscience…” (Jonathan Baumbach)[33].

In the end, after closing the book readers might all have the same question: Is he healed? I guess it depends on how the reader personally perceives it. At first I thought he would feel better and accept the fact that he would become a grown-up like everybody else. But now, after reading other works by J. D. Salinger and interpreting the book in a different way, I am afraid that he might feel a bit better when he looks back and writes about it, but it is very unlikely that he might get rid of all the feeling of bitterness, disappointment and depression since it has nothing to do with growing up but he is disgusted with the phoniness around him in general.
In conclusion, Jennifer Schuessler’s thought about this book being irrelevant nowadays and today’s teenagers not liking it is now explained. “The Catcher in the Rye” is J. D. Salinger’s attack on conformity, hypocrisy, shallowness and the spirit of our age. Not everyone would love it, but after more than half a century people still read it, and people will keep reading it. And the book will, undoubtedly, resonate with anyone who has refused to go over that cliff.

Murakami, Haruki. Norwegian Wood. Translated by Alfred Birnbaum. Vintage, 2000.
Salinger. J. D. Franny and Zooey. Penguin, 2010.
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Penguin, 1994.
Salinger, J. D. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction. Penguin, 1964.
Salinger, J. D. Nine Stories. Boston- Little, Brown and Company, 1953.

[8] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1994), p.156
[11] Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood (Vintage, 2000), trans. Alfred Birnbaums
[12] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p. 109
[13] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.74
[14] J. D. Salinger, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction (Penguin, 1964), p.13
[16] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.14
[17] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.23
[18] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.23
[19] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.90
[20] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.97, 98
[21] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.123
[22] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.126
[23] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.76
[25] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.57
[26] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.83
[27] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.37
[28] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.71, 72
[29] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.1
[30] J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p.183