Monthly Archives: June 2018

Star-crossed

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from google

She kept all her love to herself alone, all alone,
But let her concealment, like a pearl in the clam,
Feed on her rosy cheek: she pined in thought,
And with a blue and even bluer melancholy,
She stood there like Dido by the River of Lethe,
Smiling gently at the last shadow of memory.

Time to Make the Donuts by William Rosenberg

Time to Make the DonutsTime to Make the Donuts by William Rosenberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Before Starbucks claimed a monopoly on franchised coffee-houses around the world, Dunkin Donuts had been arguably one of the most popular American food service franchises in the States as well as other countries. With its signatory Munchkins and famous slogan of “American runs on Dunkin” presented by Super Mario-look alike Fred the Baker (although he retired from the public in the late 90s), the famous coffeehouse brand has made its mark on the American urban culture thanks to its straight-talking, no-nonsense founder William Rosenberg who drew up his case history of being a successful entrepreneur against personal all odds in this simple but admirable memoir written during his last days of life while succumbed to a cancer.

Rosenberg’s business philosophy of what works and what does not in business to share with the public forms the basis of this book whose inception was first conceived by encouragement of Mario Puzo, the author of The Godfather in the 60s. Straightforward and enterprising he was, Rosenberg’s sharing of his own experiences with the reader for altruistic motive without a sense of entrepreneurial machismo is traceable in every chapter. What he lacked in formal educational background because he had dropped out of school at age fourteen in the height of the Great Depression in 1930, was compensated by the simple but timeless tenets of achievements: diligence, persistence, determination, risk-taking, diligence, innovation, vision, and passion. Surely, all of the aforesaid seems bromidic, but oftentimes, it is these simple elements of life that we oversee as trifle and insignificant without pondering over Leonardo Da Vinci’s truthful adage: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

In fact, there are parallels that the reader can make between Rosenberg’s elements of success and the three values for meaningful life in Logotherapy, the third Viennese school of psychotherapy established by the great Viktor E. Frankl whose experience in Auschwitz was a testament to its veracity and validity of Logotherapy, which is to help us find a meaning of life by freedom of will and will to meaning. Throughout the book, Rosenberg emphasizes that it is what we do with the challenges that determine our failure of success because learning from errors is the sine qua non of success. Whatever the circumstances may be, a person can find a way to succeed, and it is attitude that makes it possible. Having a good-hearted but violent-tempered father did not stop him from going out of his way and establishing world famous Dunkin Donuts. This forthright attitude links to attitudinal value of Logotherapy signifying our triumph over biological, social, and cultural inhibitions during difficult times with a discovery of meaning of suffering by the way in which we respond to. That is, how we respond to challenges will make a heaven out of hell, a hell out of heaven.

Also, a sense of humor is a must-have for taking us a long way to succeed in life. “Work hard, play hard,” was Rosenberg’s mantra. Yet to put it lightly is to miss the gist of the meaning; humor is a prerogative of human that can help us take on a different view of life in a light-hearted way, so that we can be soundly assured that unpleasant things we may be going through are not everlasting and that they are occurring because there is a meaning to them. This, in fact, also relates to humor as a vehicle to turn our backs against emotional distress in life that may hamper our continuation of searching for a meaning of life. Whether or not Rosenberg might have been aware of Logotherapy in his lifetime, the reader will find at every turn analogy between Rosenberg’s business philosophy and Dr. Frankl’s Logotherapy.

Philosophy aside, there is plenty of interesting information on how the brand name came up with, the origin of Munchkins, and revolutionary way of operating the stores . To illustrate, the catchy name of “Dunkin’ Donuts” came from “You dunk a donut,” Munchkins, previously called Dunkin Donuts Donut Holes sold for 19 cents per set, got the name of a character from “The Wizard of Oz” with the right to utilize the name exclusively in the food service business. After all, the famous Munchkins have become a household name throughout the States and achieved a unique status in the food firmament.

This is an interesting read that the reader will find both practically helpful in applying Rosenberg’s elements of success to his own set of principles for betterment in life and entertaining to discover the history of the franchise in pastime. The reader will also find that the narrative will reflect the author’s artlessness, cleverness, and forwardness in this engaging book that matches its topic worth the writing.

Solitude

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Cowgirl, Eragny, 1887 by Camille Pissarro from google

Be merry, and your friends are legion;
Cry, and you cry all alone.

Sing, and the vales and the brooks will answer;
Sigh, and it echoes on the ether.

Smile, and men will seek you;
Wail, and they turn and go.

No one will refuse your best wine,
But alone you must drink spleen.

Bloom, and it helps you live;
But no one can help you die.

There is room in the grand ballroom of pleasure,
But one by one we go thru the tiny alley of pain.

Just One Day

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“Dearie Me. I only wish I could be anywhere but here today…” Sally talks to herself as she sits down on a chair after setting up her popcorn cart for a day’s operation of her business. She has been selling popcorn, chocolate-covered bananas, frozen fruits, and French Fries for three years. Sally loves her job because she likes to interact with folks of all walks of life and hears their own stories of life and themselves. It gives her a new fresh point of view on her own life, which helps her look at her existential problems with a variety of possible solutions. Sally feels a sense of community and finds her existence  in her daily dealing with her customers, which can’t be materialized simply by reading books and internalizing the knowledge in the abstract. But Today is different. That is, only today she feels out of place, misplaced,  and  discontent with her sweet establishment.

IMG_3987The proximate cause of the vagary of  her state of mind is her inability to go to see the outdoor music concert held in Elusian Park today at 12:00 PM. It’s a classical music event in which her favorite Regal Philharmonic Orchestra will play scores of music from the Baroque to Romantic periods. According to a program Sally has read from the Calico Times, the orchestra will play her beloved “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major” By Bach, “Fledermaus Waltz” by Strauss II, “Trumpet Voluntary” by Hendel, “Radetzky March” by Strauss I, and so forth. Sally’s soul leapt up with effervescent joy and her spirit sprang from the dormant mode of cultural activity upon reading it and wanted to attend the concert in a heartbeat. So she checked the onlie ticket booth to get a ticket, which was sold at $3.00 each yesterday. But alas, all were sold out as there were many more likely-minded spirits wanting to enjoy the festivity of music – the festivity of art in the same place at the same time. A phantasm of a basking herself in the gorgeous feast of elegant music is vanquished.

IMG_3995Nevertheless, Sally is not sulky or soaked in a miserable feeling of being left out of a cultured crowd. It’s just one of those moments when you feel like doing things that you feel most comfortable and familiar with differently just for one day. Being a responsible and sensible being she is, Sally tries to take the image of the musical concert in her mind’s eye  and the music that plays in her ears off her mind by gently forcing herself to turn to a different subject. “I should have nice brunch with a cup of fresh Americano coffee at Snoopy’s now. It will make me awake again!” So she goes to the cafe that is just around the corner of the street with her cart being attended by her fellow street vendor Randy, the fruit guy. “Randy, thanks much for your help as always. I will come back in an hour with a nice take-out set from the cafe.” And when she goes into the cafe, to her pleasant surprise, Bach’s “Bourandebourgh Concerto No. 3 in G Major” welcomes her lovely entrance. This is sufficient for Sally to make amends for her failed hope of going to the concert today, and what with a cup of warm Americano coffee accompanied by her beloved brunch meal set and what with the customary cozy ambience of the cafe, Sally desires nothing more and becomes content with such simple joy of the moment she’s in.

porky

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human NatureThe Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We are living in an era of blank state of mind operated by leviathans that bind our collective social wills under a doctrine of the Standard Social Science Model established by intellectuals, such as sociologists, behaviorists, philosophers, and artists under the aegis of postmodernism. That we become who we are and what we are as a result of our relationship with society has become an ethos of our time. Yet, do we really have to believe that what we think and what we do is nothing but a product of social conditioning, excluding our own unique individual constitutions? Is our own hereditary individuality the enemy of free will and perpetrator of biological determinism that needs to be constantly kept in check by the bastion of rationalism? So Steven Pinker presents his passionate and erudite thesis on the illogicality and fallacy of the modern ethos in The Blank State in terms of social and cultural norms of our society and offers a breakthrough point of view on human nature based upon cognitive science which invokes Anton Chekhov’s aphorism “Man will become better if you show him what he’s like.”

Pinker straightforwardly avers in the beginning of the book that the current intellectual ethos is tainted with intellectual complacency, a vice of so many intellectuals who do not bother to exert their academic efforts to find the truth of human nature. Instead most of them conveniently refer to a mob psychology and social relations to avoid being labeled as anachronistic or even supercilious intellectuals in agreement to postmodernistic political and cultural trends that have been in vogue since the mid 20th century swept by the motto of the blank slate. Hence Pinker introduces the reader to the fathers of the liberalism whose doctrines reverberate gloriously in the every theater of our modern societies. In fact, the philosopher John Locke coined and deployed the term “tabula rasa,” which mean “the blank slate.” Locke undermined a hereditary royalty and aristocracy and supported abolishment of successive monarchy. He motivated his political philosophy and paved a foundation of Liberal Democracy with the motto of the blank slate. Also, Rousseau’s avocation of the “noble savage,” the belief that humans in the primitive state are free from social ills is still regarded as an antidote to our overtly modernized society with moral decay.

To top it all off, Descartes’ dogma of the ghost in the machine promulgates dualism of human nature by which our body can be nonexistent by the use of our thinking faculty which belongs to the mind; it can also promote our imagination of having the body as a mere hallucination. This may sound true and wonderful to think that our mind can do wonder, when in fact, it nihilistically denies the sciences if human nature itself. The aforesaid doctrines are the tenets of the intellectual ethos of our time in which the modern consciousness is collectively corrupted by the repercussions of the Enlightenment philosophers. That is, these airy, fallible ideas are deeply entrenched in our consciousness. It is the ultimate liberator of human will – the mind of man by the power of social communication jettisoning him from biological determinism.

With respect to dominant psychology of out time, Pinker brings out that Behaviorism is an offspring of associationism that bans a talent or an ability, ideas, beliefs, desires, and feelings. That behavior is not a physical manifestation of hereditary factors is indeed hostile to the studying of human nature. The core of behaviorism is the blank slate that is inscribed with sensations and ideas conditioned by social interactions. Thus the most natural and popular topics in psychology, such as love, hate, work, play, food, religion, and art are invisible from the texts because regardless of our individualities, we are only a group of blank slates operated by social devices.

In case of the arts, Pinker asserts that contrary to intellectuals’ grown indispositions that the possibility of sustaining high culture in our time is considerably dwindling problematic, the arts and humanities are not in a pickle. In fact, advances in technology have made art more accessible to the masses than ever before with the advent of personal computers and other information-related apparatuses. It has always been that in every era for thousands of years critics have bemoaned the decline of culture because competition of praise inclines to a reverence of antiquity, for we contend with the living, but with the dead. Such human nature is duly reminded by the Gospel: “Old things are passed away; and lo! All things are become new.”

Furthermore, Pinker disagrees to the indiscriminate acknowledgement of postmodernistic view of art and culture in the name of social reality that does not appeal to the senses – human pleasure. In his opinion, a work of art and appreciation thereof are universal human traits across the boundaries of culture, race, and geography. It is an epitome of conspicuous consumption, a pleasure technology, such as erotica, food, and drug. According to Pinker, western societies are good at providing things that people want in art forms appealing to basic human tastes and engaging a universal human aesthetic experience due to the eclectic and appropriating nature of western culture. This notion of the versatile adoptability of western societies may stir a fit of rancor in today’s overtly politically conscious societies, but Pinker’s forthrightness results from consilience of the understanding the knowledge of sciences with that of humanities on the grounds of cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience that attempt to explain human nature and the mind in scientific terms not rooted in airy philosophical observations.

This book is a testament to the erudition, intelligence, and conscience of an intellectual who sees a fallacy of theories heavily influenced by political motivations and personal ambitions that are so prevalently found in various strata of our society and theaters of academics and arts. In this heavy tome, Pinker expounds his knowledge of the subject matter and tries to make the reader understand the illogicality of the theory of the blank slate to the fullest extent. Anyone who does not believe in this theory or other popular theories that encourage nihilistic approaches to human existence will find a kindred spirit in this book. Upon reading this book, the reader will feel a sense of relief that (1) this world is not an arbitrary construct – a phantasm created by social contexts only – and that (2) our own period is not of decline because human nature has not been changed and will remain unchanged until humankind exists.