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Part 2 of James Fenton's reportage on Duterte.

"The crucial, ominous subject on which Duterte has expressed his discontent is the constitution of 1987 and its provisions for the declaration of martial law. The government of Cory Aquino, Ninoy’s widow, came to power through the revolution of 1986, and found the Marcos constitution so compromised that it would have to be replaced. So for her first year Cory was a revolutionary, but the constitution that she introduced was designed to prevent a repetition of one-man rule. In particular, the new constitution reinstated single six-year terms for the office of president and stipulated that, in case of rebellion or invasion, when the public safety required it, the president might, for a period of sixty days, suspend habeas corpus or place the country, or any part of it, under martial law.

"But there was this restraint. The president was and is obliged to submit a report to Congress within forty-eight hours of declaring martial law, in person or in writing. Congress can revoke martial law or the suspension of habeas corpus. Furthermore, the Supreme Court must review a petition filed by any citizen of the Philippines questioning the factual basis for either the suspension of habeas corpus or the introduction of martial law. And the Court is obliged to make a decision within thirty days of the filing of the petition."

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Raise the book you're reading if you miss Barack Obama.
Jiminy Christmas, the (then) President of the United States just touted The Three Body Problem, by Liu Cixin and conversed tangentially about the Hugo Award. Yes, he has long been – tangentially – a sci fi reader. Great stuff! But. Um hey, sir? Did you notice my name, in small letters, on the cover of TTBP? ;-)

Well, well. There’s more: “I don’t worry about the survival of the novel. We’re a storytelling species. I think that what one of the jobs of political leaders going forward is, is to tell a better story about what binds us together as a people. And America is unique in having to stitch together all these disparate elements – we’re not one race, we’re not one tribe, folks didn’t all arrive here at the same time. What holds us together is an idea, and it’s a story about who we are and what’s important to us. And I want to make sure that we continue that.”

What a terrific interview about books and reading with a truly amazing and under-appreciated man. 

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"I ran my fingers along his deep-carved eyes, his large head, his lichen-covered torso. Who would have thought stone could be so soft, so sensual. To love a man made of stone is no different from loving a poet long dead. It’s mostly the presence that you love. The heart is not always drawn to what is made of flesh. Isn’t the body a vehicle for the soul? Who’s to say that the duende of my hombre sin miedo was not tied to a spirit behind that wall?" -- Sholeh Wolpe

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Three witches/contributors to Agam, the groundbreaking book on climate change, having grappa-flavored dessert with Renato Red Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, the book's publisher. Plans are afoot to tie up with groups and institutions for a more focused effort to share stories about climate change, without jargon, with the human perspective in mind.

I posted about Agam when it came out; you may search for them within this collection. For more information on the book and ICSC, here's a link to the website:

+Susan Lara +Marj Evasco 

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Sharon Olds' prose poem about desire in America is apt for the Trump era.

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John Berger has died at the age of 90. He was best known for Ways of Seeing, which taught an international audience how to appreciate visual art. The book and BBC series made him the most influential art critic of his time. But he was also a poet and a novelist who won the Booker prize.

"John Berger gone. That is hard. He was an energy source in a depleted world." -- Jeanette Winterson

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Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down, died on Christmas eve at the age of 96. If you haven't read this beautiful novel, here's a link to a pdf: It's been ages since I've enjoyed the book, so I'm going to be rereading it too. It's also available as an ebook.

h/t +Cara Evangelista 

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My finds at Dumaguete Booksale on my recent trip were a Granta with a short story by Orhan Pamuk, among others, and an alphabet book of postcards depicting cats, with verses by Angela Carter. Here's what she wrote for the letter D:

I love my cat with a D
Because he is Diabolic
And Debonair
He lives in Diss
He Daringly eats Dragees
Devilled Drumsticks
And Doughnuts
(Although he leaves the holes)

Doesn't it get Delightful when famous authors Dip their pens in feline fun?

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Writer and literature teacher Butch Dalisay was invited by the National Research Council of the Philippines to give a talk on "The Crucial Role of Language and Literature in the New GE Program". Here's an excerpt which includes my favorite Hafez poem:

This is the first and the most important lesson of all literature:

Words have meaning. And because they have meaning, words have power, and words have consequences.

Words can hurt. Words can kill. But words can also heal. Words can save.

Words make law. Words make war. Words make money. Words make peace. Words make nations.

Words are the songs we sing to our loved and lost ones. Words are the prayers we lift up to the skies. Words are the deepest secrets we confess.

Words are what we tell our children the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. Words are all that some of us — especially those whom we call writers — will leave behind.

Seven hundred years ago, a Persian poet named Hafez wrote a short but wonderful poem:



All this time

The Sun never says

To the Earth

“You owe me.”


What happens

With a love like that.

It lights up

The whole


This, my friends, is what we teachers — whether of literature or science — do with our students, with every class and every lesson we teach. We light up the sky of their minds with love — the love of ideas, of engagement with the world. And that is why we need language and literature — not just in our GE programs, but in our lives.

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A delightful rumination on poetry and the forgetting of language. 
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