Open Forum: 2009 New Year’s Resolutions

December 30, 2008 § 15 Comments


My goals for 2009:

1. Pay off my debts.
2. Publish 2 economic papers.
3. Gain weight.
4. Complete an abridged translation of Saga of a Broken Heart.
5. Learn to speak Spanish. 


6. Compete and win American Idol.
7. Win the Nobel Prize for economics.
8. Travel around the globe in 79.9 days.
9. Build a monument and name it after me.
10. Decode the Mona Lisa.

These are my New Year’s Resolutions. What are yours? Discuss. ūüôā



The Art Critic: Velazquez’s Las Meninas

December 28, 2008 § 5 Comments




Saga of a Broken Heart: Prologue

December 26, 2008 § 7 Comments



To Nhu’s Saga of a Broken Heart is a masterpiece of world¬†literature. The fact that the novel dates back hundreds of years ago¬†and was written entirely in verses makes it somewhat comparable¬†to Homer’s epic poems. Unfortunately, the novel has had very little¬†international exposure.

This is the reason why I intend to translate the epic work into English. But instead of¬†translating the entire work, I’ll only translate selected parts and will insert narratives to move things along; you can consider this an¬†abridged translation. I will also include alternate¬†translations (by other translators) whenever possible. Note that my translation is aimed at the general audience and not the literary/cultural audience.¬†


Hundreds of years have passed,
But one thing remains.
Fate and beauty are natural foes.
As turbulances are Life’s norms,
What misery and sorrow can one be spared?
One word of advice:
Fortune and misfortune go in pair.
Let not look back and bemoan.

(tr. Simon N.)


Alternate translation:

Hundreds of years of human existence,
Prodigy and fate intertwined in conflicts,
Mulberry fields turned into open sea,
Enough’s been seen to melt the heart.
Little wonder that beauty begets misery,
For Blue Heaven’s jealous of exquisite glamour!

To be continued…

End of a Journey, Beginning of a New

December 24, 2008 § 14 Comments


I put an end to my first blog about a year ago. The blog just didn’t meet my lofty expectations. Traffic was stagnant and there were hardly any comments on my posts. Blogging, for me, seemed like a failed experiment.¬†

But a couple of days after I posted my farewell entry, I started to receive a plethora of emails from strangers who claimed to be readers of my blog; they called themselves ‚Äėthe silent readers‚Äô. While these people were not ‘active’ readers of my blog and many had never posted a single comment, they were there the entire time visiting my blog as much as their lives permitted and enjoying what it had to offer.¬†

Many of them claimed that they were inspired by my stories. One reader told me how reading a post about leprosy and volunteerism inspired him to become a missionary, serving needy people around the world. Another described how a post about the boundless reach of poetry inspired her to pick up the pen and compose verses; this was something she had not done since her high school days. One guy even claimed that my blog propelled him to scrap his suicide plans. Through reading some of my super sad stories, he realized how fortunate he was compared to a lot of people; he was in no position to complain. And the list goes on and on.

I learned a great lesson from reading the emails. I realized that my previous approach to blogging was wrong. I measured success in terms of quantity and not quality. How often can one change someone else’s life for the better? If my blog can have a positive impact on even one person, my blogging is a success. To all bloggers out there who feel neglected–as a consequence of low blog traffic and empty comment count, this is a good reason to shoulder on.

Three weeks after I put my first blog under permanent hiatus, I started “Pen of Passion”. Today is the first anniversary of this blog. I did not let any of my old readers know about the current blog; I wanted to start fresh. As many of you know, this blog is far from perfect. It is themeless and erratic. Due to my hectic life, I sometimes have to repost old articles to fill the long gap time between posts. But as long as this blog still has at least one reader, I pledge to continue its existence‚Ķ..until the end.

To all my blogging friends: 

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
Joyeux Noel and Bonne Annee!
Boas Festa!
Maligayang Pasko!
Christmas Alegre!
Shub Naya Baras!
Sing dan fiy loc!
Giang Sinh An Lanh!
God Jul!

~Simon N.

Culture 101: Father Frost

December 22, 2008 § 2 Comments


After I posted a piece about the different versions of Santa Claus, a reader provided me with some interesting insights with regards to Father Frost–the Russian version of Santa Claus. Here is his description of Father Frost.

‚ÄúHe’s called Father Frost and is not politically correct, as he can hit children with a stick if they’re naughty, and he has these 2 beautiful helpers who go everywhere with him.” David

I thought this description is both fascinating as well as telling. I’m not sure about the two beautiful helpers. But I would love to see Father Frost makes a cameo in a rap video.


Culture 101: Naughty or Nice

December 20, 2008 § 6 Comments


Every year during Christmas time, children from the United States eagerly anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus–a chubby old man who brings with him expensive toys to be placed under the Christmas tree of each home. European children have their own version of Santa Claus called Pere Noel.

Pere Noel is a slimmer and more serious-looking old man. He does not have a brand-name flying sleigh to ride on or some little elves to help fix his belly. He does not have expensive toys to give, only some candy to spare. Unlike Santa Claus who refuses to give naughty kids anything for Christmas, Pere Noel leaves a small wooden stick at the door of each of the naughty kids‚Äô home–so their parents can give them a good spanking.¬†


Culture 101: Once Bitten, Thrice Shy

December 5, 2008 § 11 Comments

According to Eastern superstitions, the number three is considered to be associated with bad luck. People, who live in the Far East, often avoid things that come in three. In fact, it is a social anomaly for three people to be in a same picture together. There is a widely-held belief that having three people in the same picture would bring bad luck (with deadly consequences) to two people in the picture.


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