Archive of ‘gogirls’ category

gogirl: madeleine albright

Madeleine Albright. Portrait by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

She is a professor at Georgetown University, holder of a PhD in Public Law and Government from Columbia University, former US ambassador to the United Nations, and the first US female Secretary of State. For years, in the Clinton administration, she charted US foreign policy, brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace, and saw the crumbling of Communism.

She is also a mother – of three daughters – and was a wife – her husband left her for another woman. As a divorcee, she overcame the pain of rejection and separation and went on to carve a successful career in her chosen field.

She tells her story in her own words in her autobiography, Madame Secretary (2003). One may disagree with her politics, but one cannot deny her intelligence, fortitude, and perseverance.

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back to school

Geek that I am (and proud of it), I trekked back to the University of the Philippines’ Diliman Campus last Tuesday to enroll in the PhD Communication program at my alma mater, the College of Mass Communication.

The tree-lined avenue leading to Palma Hall is as beautiful as ever. This was what struck me about UP-Diliman the first time I stepped on campus 24 years ago, to take the undergrad admission exam. Being a born-and-bred Manila girl, I had never seen anything like it before.

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Also familiar from two decades ago is this enrollment scene – dozens of students waiting in line to pay. In fairness, it took much faster this time. Back then, you needed an entire day to enroll. With the system now partly, if not entirely, computerized, it took me only three hours this time.

At the Ateneo Graduate School of Business? Forty-five minutes, when I was taking my MBA three years ago. De La Salle University, where my eldest, Alex, is a freshman? An hour. But then again, AGSB and DLSU are private schools with top-class facilities; UP is a state-run university on a perpetually tight budget. It makes up for the long lines and bureaucratic procedures by possessing a keen intellectual edge that it imparts to its students.

Since my master’s degree was in a different field, I have to take two remedial masteral courses in communication theory and research.

Our class in Comm 240 (theory) started yesterday. Afterwards, a helpful classmate, Flor, showed me how to take the MRT home to Makati coming from UP. The trip would be faster, she said, than if I took a cab.

While waiting for the train at Quezon Avenue Station, she pointed out the ABS-CBN Network building. High-tech lighting effects on the facade cycled through the entire rainbow, with occasional white twinkles here and there, as if it were sparkling.

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It looked radioactive.

Then the train came, in a whoosh of sound, color, and deep vibrations.

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I’m back in school. I’m so happy.

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gogirl: emilie du chatelet

The marquise Emilie du Chatelet, c. 1745. Shown here with a pair of “mathematician”s dividers” (compass).

Money, breeding, and brains. If ever a girl had almost it all (except, perhaps, for beauty), it was Emilie du Chatelet, mathematical genius and respected darling of the Enlightenment Period in Europe, who matched intellects with the best in Europe – and held her own admirably.

Born in Paris on 17 December 1706 to an aristocratic family, Gabrielle Emilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil was, by virtue of her birth, destined for a life of luxury, pomp, and privilege. Women of her class and era were educated primarily in womanly skills like needlework. While their education included the basics to ensure their literacy, most of them went to convent schools only until they were fifteen or sixteen. Many were schooled at home. After that, they were expected to marry within their class, run their households, and bear aristocratic children.

But Emilie’s parents were unorthodox for their time in their approach to their daughter’s education. Her father, baron Louis Nicholas le Tonnelier de Breteuil, was a courtier of the “Sun King” (roi du soleil), Louis XIV, and also served his successor Louis XV. Her mother, Gabrielle Anne de Froullay, came from even grander stock. But both encouraged their daughter to read, study, and ask questions without restrictions. Emilie was often found in their home library, engrossed in Ovid, Cicero, Virgil, and other Roman authors.

At eighteen, Emilie made an advantageous match that would propel her further up social heights. She married Florent-Claude, marquis du Chatelet-Lomont. A man twelve years her senior, the marquis belonged to the highest ranks of nobility – the noblesse d’epee – who traced their lineage back to the ancient Franks.

Emilie’s parents (and she herself) belonged to the lesser nobility, the noblesse de robe, “those who had risen to their elite status through their service to the crown,” according to women’s historian Judith P. Zinsser, author of Emilie du Chatelet: Daring Genius of the Enlightenment, the definite biography of this remarkable woman. Her husband’s higher status conferred upon her more privileges, though her family was wealthier.

The marquis was supportive of Emilie and her activities. After bearing him three children – a girl and two boys, one of whom died young – she turned her attention to her true love, mathematics.

By all accounts, Emilie was a woman ahead for her time. While women were not given higher education during that period (mid-18th century), those with means to do so could hire tutors. Emilie relied on many mentors, les gens de lettres, the finest minds of the day – the explorer and scientist Maupertuis, the prodigy mathematician Clairaut, and the poet and playwright Voltaire.

Voltaire

Voltaire at age 24, by Largilliere. Born Francois-Marie Arouet, he was a French Enlightenment writer, essayist, deist, and philosopher, and the light and love of Emilie’s life.

The latter proved to be her most enduring and inspiring relationship. Marriage among aristocrats was conducted more to propagate the lineage and family lines rather than for love; men and women were expected to take lovers. So with the knowledge and consent of her husband, Emilie entered into a long and stormy affair with Voltaire, who encouraged her studies in mathematics (including the new discipline of calculus, invented by Newton and Leibniz at roughly the same time), geometry, physics, and other philosophies.

Both she and Voltaire wrote essays on the nature of fire, submitted to the Academie des sciences; hers was considered to be better written, thought out, and organized. Along the way, she discovered the works of Isaac Newton and made it her life’s work to translate his Principia Mathematica, which many scientists of the day found difficult to understand because of the complexity and novelty of many of its concepts in physics and mathematics. To date, Emilie’s edited and annotated translation remains the only full translation of this work into French.

Such was her towering intellect that she won the respect of her peers in the Republic of Letters – a world shut to women, except to those as brave and talented as she, who broke down the doors with the brilliance of her work.

Modern assessments of her work note that “although the classical mechanics of du Châtelet are not to be compared with Einstein’s concept of mass and velocity in his famous equation for the energy equivalent of matter E = mc² (where c represents the velocity of light), modern biographers and historians persist in seeing a neat accord with the principle E ? mv² first recognised by du Chatelet from over 150 years before…a correct assessment (up to a factor of 1/2) f the kinetic energy in classical mechanics.” (Wikipedia)

When Emilie’s relationship with the unpredictable and volatile Voltaire ended, she took a younger lover, poet and writer Jean Francois Saint-Lambert. She died in 1749, aged 42, of an embolism a few days after giving birth to their daughter, who lived for only a year and a half before being interred in the same tomb as her mother.

Emilie was a true Gogirl, unafraid to live her life the way she wanted. Though largely indulged by friends and family because of her genius, her privileges and rank did not cushion her from disappointments or heartaches. She made many mistakes, yet picked herself up after each one and started over, never losing sight of her goals – to increase her knowledge and the world’s through her studies and her works.

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the alex and the ik

Meet Alex and Ik – accomplished video game players, computer geeks, manga readers, and writers.  They are beautiful, brilliant, kind, good, well-behaved, and toilet-trained.

As a matter of fact, they have every positive trait known to mankind – and animalkind, if animals concerned themselves with such things – and in short, are paragons of virtue in every way, if I do say so myself. And I do say so myself; as their mother, I have unlimited bragging rights. So there.

Ohana collage: From top left, clockwise – Alex and Ik on our front steps; Ik in her preschool graduation regalia some years ago; Alex, Ik, and nommage at Chili’s last July 6; me, peeking; Alex on a “Ducati” at TimeZone, and little does she know that it’s the closest she’ll ever get to riding a motorbike; Alex and Ik at the Union Church of Manila Sala.

Alex is nearly 17, a frosh at De La Salle-Manila, in for BS Psychology with the end goal of being a “pee-sychiatrist”, as the Animaniacs call ‘em. She can make Windows Moviemaker walk and talk and Patapon cry and beg for mercy, but dissolves into a puddle of jelly each time she recalls Johnny Depp’s drunken swagger in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Her favorite comeback: “Riiiiiiiighhht…”

Me: “How would you raise your children?”

Ik: “I was thinking I wouldn’t be a typical mom myself.”

Alex: “I was thinking – with a crane…”

Ik turned a decade old last month, and is in fourth grade at Colegio de Santa Rosa-Makati. Multi-school spelling bee champ last year, emerging artist, talented storyteller, collector of puns, palindromes, and optical illusions, she has a gift for coming up with witty one-liners that explode in your head like the jelly from inside a donut. For instance:

Me: (singing off-key to the tune of whatever song is playing in my head at the moment) “Go to sleeeep…! It’s time for sleeeep…! Switch off your laptops right nooow…! Don’t make me come over there and do it for yoooou…!”

Ik: (stares) “Mama could be her own Disney movie.”

Or take this exchange – please! – from when she was five years old:

Me: (watching a concert DVD) “That’s Frank Sinatra.”

Ik: “He’s old.”

Me: “He’s dead.”

Ik: “Dead? As in, ‘used to be alive’?” (ponders) “That’s what I mean by ‘old’.”

Every night is comedy night over at our house. With the wisecracks these kids come up with, they could beat the trousers off any improv artist when they come of age. Heck, they’re funnier than a lot of those wannabes that go on reality TV.

I am thankful for the privilege of their company each day. As I watch them grow up, I realize that among all their gifts, that of laughter will sustain their spirits and help them cope with the myriad vicissitudes of life.

Okay, now we’re getting too serious. Jelly donut, anyone?

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gogirl: shania twain

This song dates from 1997, but it never gets old for me. I mean, how many men have we met who try to pass with flash and cash? Assert their dominance? Take over your life? Come on, guys, – that don’t impress me much! Like Shania Twain says – “Whatever.”

The video is somewhat surreal (Shania, overdressed in a leopard skin cloak, hitchhikes in the middle of the Mojave Desert), but she works it to the max. Refusing rides from men on various modes of transportation, she keeps on walking in high heels, head held high, hips swaying, exuding girl power!

I love this song mostly for the lyrics, but also for the hard-driving percussion that starts it off and carries it into the sunset. I’m a sucker for a loud, thumping back-beat. This is rock-meets-pop, musically far removed from Shania’s country roots, but its feminist theme suits her right down to the tip of her leopard stilettos.

A true “Go Girl”, here’s Shania in one of her biggest hits ever…

[youtube mt7W6a_gQSM]

That Don’t Impress Me Much

I’ve known a few guys who thought they were pretty smart
But you’ve got being right down to an art
You think you’re a genius-you drive me up the wall
You’re a regular original, a know-it-all
Oh-oo-oh, you think you’re special
Oh-oo-oh, you think you’re something else

Okay, so you’re a rocket scientist
That don’t impress me much
So you got the brain but have you got the touch
Now don’t get me wrong, yeah I think you’re alright
But that won’t keep me warm in the middle of the night
That don’t impress me much

I never knew a guy who carried a mirror in his pocket
And a comb up his sleeve-just in case
And all that extra hold gel in your hair oughtta lock it
‘Cause Heaven forbid it should fall outta place

Oh-oo-oh, you think you’re special
Oh-oo-oh, you think you’re something else

Okay, so you’re Brad Pitt
That don’t impress me much
So you got the looks but have you got the touch
Now don’t get me wrong, yeah I think you’re alright
But that won’t keep me warm in the middle of the night
That don’t impress me much

You’re one of those guys who likes to shine his machine
You make me take off my shoes before you let me get in
I can’t believe you kiss your car good night
C’mon baby tell me-you must be jokin’, right!

Oh-oo-oh, you think you’re something special
Oh-oo-oh, you think you’re something else

Okay, so you’ve got a car
That don’t impress me much
So you got the moves but have you got the touch
Now don’t get me wrong, yeah I think you’re alright
But that won’t keep me warm in the middle of the night

That don’t impress me much
You think you’re cool but have you got the touch
Now don’t get me wrong, yeah I think you’re alright
But that won’t keep me warm on the long, cold, lonely night
That don’t impress me much

Okay, so what do you think you’re Elvis or something…
Oo-Oh-Oh / That don’t impress me much!

Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-No / Alright! Alright!

(spoken) You’re Tarzan! Captain Kirk maybe. John Wayne. Whatever!

Lyrics from http://www.azlyrics.com

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bettany hughes: helen of troy

A masterwork by a brilliant Oxford-educated historian, Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore deals with Helen of Troy as a historical and literary figure. Very well-researched, it is scholarly without being boring; erudite without being pompous; interesting without being pretentious.

The book is flooded with facts, and the deluge will leave you breathless under the waves of words, but once you sink into the Late Bronze Age world that Bettany reveals to us, you will float away to a place and time alien to our own, but still a part of it.

Helen may have been a cultic goddess worshipped in trees and other forms of nature; she may have been a version of Aphrodite; she may have been an aristocrat during the days when matriarchy ruled, when the feminine was venerated and revered over the masculine; or she may have been a mixture of all these.

What matters is that she was an empowered female figure, whose personality was magnetic, whose beauty was iconic, whose story became legendary, and today stands for the strength of the feminine, which is in all of us women, if we but claim our right to it.

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gael greene: insatiable

When I choose books, I go through these steps: first, the cover grabs my attention with its artwork – vibrant, colorful, interesting? drab, dark, morbid? I then check out the title and the author – heard, or never heard?

Next I turn to the back for the blurb. If the synopsis there (written, I am sure, by savvy marketing people who know that the blurb is the quickest and best way to grab the consumer and not let go) tweaks my curiosity even to the slightest degree, I then flip through the pages. The language must jump out, awaken my senses, make me reel in the headiness of the words, the prolixity of thought and verbiage coming together like a potent drug. If the book has this effect on me, then I get it.

Insatiable is one such book, penned by the famous food writer of New York magazine. Gael Greene is witty, intelligent, an unabashed hedonist who enjoys the pleasures of the table with the same sensuality that she explores the pleasures of the bedroom. It is honest and alive with detail; Gael holds nothing back in describing her lovers, her meals, her friends, the delights of the senses that encompass her world and make up her life story.

Be sure to read this book on a full stomach, as the exquisite description of French and Italian cuisine will make you hungry and want to go on your own gastronomic adventures in our food-obsessed Manila.

Excerpts:

“We are going to have a nice salade composeé,” said Julia (Child) in that rolling profundo that promised if she could cook it, you could, too… I must admit I was disappointed. Disappointed? Shocked. What did I expect? Nothing complicated. A lovely cold pork roast. A deviled chicken. I was not demanding a suckling pig turning on a spit or a laborious ballontine requiring birds be boned and gelatin gelled… To be with Julia… it should have been enough. What an ingrate I am to have expected lukewarm loup de mer with a sauce gribiche. Forever the Insatiable Critic. (p. 241)

I remember thinking, Okay, show me. And to my astonishment, she (chef Alice Waters) did. There was something radically daring in the simplicity of every perfect vegetable, the pristine leaves of baby greens that had not yet hit kitchens in New York, the clarity of an oddly shaped tomato. Until that moment, heirloom meant a hideous vase you dare not send to the thrift shop because it had been your grandmother’s. If there were zealots reviving forgotten spieces of tomato or twenty strains of heirloom potatoes on the East Coast, I was not yet aware of it. (p. 172)

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amanda mackenzie stuart: consuelo and alva vanderbilt

Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt is Amanda Mackenzie Stuart’s biography of mother and daughter Alva and Consuelo Vanderbilt, of the American railway fortune – where the moral of the story is, riches can’t always make you happy. Only love can.

Stuart takes us into America of the late 1890s, when opulence and decadence were the hallmarks of the lifestyles of the rich, while frightful squalor and poverty afflicted the less fortunate. Fortified by great wealth, ensconced in her grand mansion called Marble House, Alva did not have much to do in her cosseted life save to look after her milionaire husband William Kissam Vanderbilt and their children (Consuelo, William Jr., and Harold Stirling), and to seek dominance in upscale New York and Newport society, dominated at that time by Mrs Astor.

In her quest to become “Queen of Newport” during that fussy, protocol-laden era, the determined and bossy Alva married off Consuelo at 19 to the 9th Duke of Marlborough. Not only was the teenager tall, beautiful, and endowed with swan-like grace and high intelligence, she was also obscenely rich, with a dowry in the millions of dollars.

The Duke, called “Sunny” (from one of his hereditary titles, “Earl of Sunderland”, and not because his nature was particularly bright), only wanted Consuelo’s money to save his family’s aged ruin of an ancestral palace, Blenheim Castle.

Though Consuelo was in love with another man (socialite Winthrop Rutherfurd), Alva railroaded the marriage through. Predictably, the marriage was not happy and did not last, ending later in divorce. Consuelo married again, to Lt. Col. Jacques Balsan, the love of her life, with whom she spent her twilight years.

Aside from being a window into the past, it is a brilliant story that reinforces an idea I’ve formed through the years – that many times, first marriages don’t work out and it’s the second one that brings wedded bliss.

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