So, 2019​

Coder/writer Owen Williams of Charged newsletter that I am subscribed to was often asked on how people can learn how to write well. The only answer is practice, practice, practice — so in order to help cultivate the habit, he set up Write Together where everyone can write at least 300 words a day with some other group of people.

I like that it also sort of build on the idea of collaborative writing that we academics participate in sometimes. If you want to write through the ritual of habit and community, you might want to check it out.

In the meantime, I will start writing here, at least 300 words a day.

First day of 2019 had been swell. D stopped by the city today and we chatted over things, which is something I always appreciate. Something came up over our discussion that she told me to find out more about Mandela effect, “because this sounds like something you are interested in.” I know about a lot of things — so when I heard about something new that I have never heard about — of course I am intrigued.

Apparently:

According to paranormal researcher Fiona Broome, the Mandela effect occurs whenever a vivid personal memory is found to conflict with the historical record. Broome recalls TV reports from around 1980 that Nelson Mandela had died in prison. Naturally, she was surprised to learn of his release and election as president of South Africa in 1994. When she shared this experience with friends at Dragon Con, she learned that others had had similar “false memories.”

For more concrete explanation, see also from the perspective of cognitive psychology: false memory and the unreliability of our very own memory.

In the meantime, there were a couple of things backlogged from 2018 I would like to share:

I think everyone needs to watch Roma on Netflix. It is a work of Alfonso Cuarón, who you might have recognised from Y Tu Mamá También and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban fame. The only words I could muster as someone who is bad at reviews are that it is so powerful and beautiful — I hope this review could do it justice.

I also ended the year 2018 by finishing this book called Frankenstein in Baghdad, by an Iraqi author Ahmed Saadawi. It tells the story of a junk collector who pieces body parts of corpses found together in the streets of Baghdad, until the body acquires a life of its own and starts creating havoc in the city. More so than just a remix of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to me it tells a powerful tale of piecing a human life or a whole society back together in a war-torn country, such as Iraq.

Around the same time, last year (it sounds so distant yet it was only yesterday) I began to read a lot of Edward Said. More so than his idea of orientalism and decolonisation, he introduced me to this idea of contrapuntal reading:

By looking at a novel contrapuntally, we take into account intertwined histories and perspectives. Specifically, contrapuntal analysis, developed by Edward W. Said, is used in interpreting colonial texts, considering the perspectives of both the coloniser and the colonised. Interpreting contrapuntally is interpreting different perspectives simultaneously and seeing how the text interacts with itself as well as with historical or biographical contexts. It is reading with “awareness both of the metropolitan history that is narrated and of those other histories against which (and together with which) the dominating discourse acts”.

A much more detailed analysis here.

In other words, you might want to situate any information that you consume within many contexts of its time (history, sociopolitical background, power play etc.) critically before agreeing or reacting to it. In a way, it is similar to syntopical reading? One way to help with this is to list down as many 5W1H questions you could think of:

The ultimate cheatsheet for critical thinking

I guess 300 words a day seems feasible now. I haven’t made any detailed resolutions — only one major one is that I’d like to finish writing my thesis by August so it’s very likely that I will plan by working backwards from there.

Also, I am anticipating a very, very good news in the first week of 2019. I hope things finally fall into place.

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