I remember watching the cat guru Jackson Galaxy’s post on YouTube about a prison where a group of inmates is assigned each cat for mental and a behavioral correctional program. The inmates seemed calm and content just as their foster feline friends reflected and talked of the amazing effects on their hearts hardened by the world never kind to them. The images of a condemned man in a cell and a homeless cat from a shelter became a beautiful impressionist painting with an air of serenity wrapped up in the soft sweet twilight colored by the warm hues of pleasantness that filled the canvass and stayed in the heart of the beholder – forever. The loneliness cut in halves transformed into togetherness, and there was nothing else but the mutual need for love and care. With the picturesque imagery engraved in my heart’s shrine, I cannot help but question the generic prerequisites for being an ideal cat owner indoctrinated by those professing to know things about pets. The doctrines of a perfect cat owner are as follows: you have to live in a space wide enough for her to exercise her natural hunting instinct, to have another cat to prevent anxiety, aggression, and loneliness, and most of all, to be a near-perfect human full of love and understanding blessed with material means to satisfy the need of a cat to the extent possible. The protocols remind me of eugenics elements by which only the best males and females can produce offspring desirable for humankind. Only the superhuman race can fall in love, beget children, and raise them to be perfect in physical and mental attributes to continue the Superhumanity. On the same token, being an ideal cat owner is to be an ideal person who deserves love from nature because of his ideally perfect being—quite the Nietzschean idea of Superhumanity.
An ideal cat owner’s doctrines align against the condemned man’s images and the homeless cat in a cell. Then I also look at my 4-month old tabby cat Toro, whom I adopted from a shelter three months ago. Is he unhappy with me in this tiny apartment room? Is it because of boredom and separation anxiety doubled with a significant change of environment from pastoral life to city life that has driven him to a sudden pulsing and biting my hands and feet? Does he hate me because I leave him at home all day long with a mother who hates him when I go to work? Does he want to leave me and be adopted to a loving, perfect new owner because of my imperfection? Am I less qualified than the inmate to have a cat altogether? The thoughts smothered under the ineffective veil of forced positivism have reached the point where they can no more bear the suffocation and begun to erupt the lavas in the fiery magnitude.
As a first-time pet owner, I like to think that it is not a coincidence but Providence that Toro has come to my life because he was the only kitten who came to me and my brother bunting his little flurry head against our hands through the cold metals of the cage in the shelter. Toro and I are much alike in many aspects: leisured time in seclusion, uncompromising individuality, insatiable curiosity, innate sensitivity, and unfailing feistiness. We also instinctively know each other’s mood because when I am dejected, Toro studies my facial movements and comes nearer to me with those adorable eyes filled with liquid warmth. Then I look at the cute little Toro before me and think that genuine love and care transcends the high walls of a grim prison and eclipses the roof of a perfect happy house. There is a home sweet home for me and Toro in my tiny apartment.
The illusion comes in sweetness
cascading the fluffy softness
into the wilted hollow valleys
pathed with withered grasses
where her soul in tears roams.
The sudden felicity of warmth
Covers her hardened heart
With a ray of hope in mirth
Fluttering in the air like a ghost
Flitting in the flowery heath.
But the time is up and gone
And the sky becomes gray
And clouds the valleys anon,
Deserting her soul in misery,
In the cycle of betrayal alone, again.
Ancient Greek Cavalry: The History and Legacy of Classical Greece’s Forgotten Soldiers by Charles River Editors
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The image of a gallant bedight knight on a steed heading for a romantic journey for El Dorado or a noble cause for joining a loyal cavalry would have been a laughing stock of the ancient Greek soldiers. They regarded cavalry soldiers as aristocratic good-for-nothing redundant auxiliary to the mighty phalanx composed of ordinary foot soldiers called hoplites. From the Bronze Mycenean age until the emergence of Macedonia as the Greek military superpower, the historical context of the ancient Greek cavalry reflected the signs of military and sociopolitical developments in the 5th century BC Greece and the world beyond. The book informs the reader of the background of the rise of the cavalry in ancient Greek society thanks to Alexander the Great and its effects on military and societal contexts proven to be timelessly brilliant.
First of all, the geographical factor of the Greek islands, in general, made it difficult for the effective use of horse-driven chariots in battles due to its mountainous terrain as illustrated by the Oracle of Delphi in the valley, the Mount Olympus, and other divine earthly places. The rocky roads were not conducive to heavily charged chariots, preventing them from maneuvering the moves swiftly in warfare. In fact, the introduction of a horse race in the Olympic Games where the wealthy horse breeders reconciled the equestrian equipment’s military value to a sports game’s monetary value.
Secondly, horses were expensive to breed and maintain, as they still are in our time, and only a few wealthy (the oligarchs) were able to own horses. So much so that Aristotle acknowledged that horse-breeding was not easy to do unless you were rich. Accordingly, the democratic ideal of the mingling of titles and the exertion of the synchronized force from the collaboration of duties for the common good excluded the value of cavalry whose soldiers were also outside the Homerian value of Arete, the highest soldierly code of honor consisting of military finesse and personal integrity. To the democratic minds, the pampered nobility on horseback in battlefields had a better chance to escape on a horse than its hoplites on foot who had to confront the rains of lances and strokes of swords showered in blood.
However, Philip II of Macedonia and his son Alexander the Great saved the grace of the falling Greek cavalry by the brilliant military innovation that reflected society’s progress in the economy and political contexts. Along with its loyal ally Thessaly, Macedonia was an oligarchy unlike its contemporary city-states run by the democratic populace that usually lacked the foresight of tactical military strategy due to a general contempt for the art of war held by experienced noble soldiers. Macedonian nobles, especially the young and ambitious noblemen, made up most of the excellent Macedonian army that fully utilized the offensive and defensive cavalry force into the phalanx. The offensive on the phalanx’s right flank, the Companion, consisted of 2000 trusted and honored members of the king’s inner circle, the oldest noble families of Macedonia. The defensive on the left side, “The Thessalian,” proved to effectively outflank the enemy force with as least casualty as possible on the Macedonian side. Such cracking military operational order surpassed the Persian scythed chariots’ hideousness, cutting men in halves, mangling the still breathing fragments on the wheels and the scythes.
The unprecedentedly thriving economy due to the discovery of gold and silver mines and minting of coins meant a stable government and expensive military maintenance. The state’s wealth made it possible for financing a standing cavalry in peacetime and on a campaign. The minting of coins under the unified currency system paid salaries to professional soldiers, unlike the unorganized military structures where soldiers were ill-equipped and poorly trained in the other Greek city-states’ armies.
Upon reading this book, I felt that the title should have been “The Wooden Trojan Cavalry of Macedonia” or “Alexander the Great and His Cavalry” for the staging of Macedonian Alexander the Great in the arena of the world’s superpower upended the archaic military organization, let alone ineffective strategies. The role and value of mounted soldiers corresponded with the notion that the economic progress propelled by the natural wit of a leader who integrated all society members, high and low, won the war most productively. Alexander’s democracy in military strategy elevated the status of contemptuous willy-nilly horseback soldiers to gallant bedight warriors. It shows the reader that true democracy means the magnanimous participation of all classes for the commonwealth of a country.
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The French existentialist Jean-Paul Satre was a cynic when it came to the milk of human kindness. He smirked by saying that generosity was more or less a feelgood giveaway of the doer in the self-contentment of magnanimity. The intention is ego-driven, not altruistic. Satre may be a brilliant intellectual in the post-modernistic world, but he was essentially missing something, obviously not knowing it for the following reasons.
I still remember a lecture given by a religious sister whose spirituality bloomed in her charity and intelligence about the practice of charity in our daily lives, rather than doing it as a penance after a guilt-ridden confession. For you never know, the one benefitted from your kindness might be an angel in disguise (the mysterious shopper!) or even Christ himself (the Lord of Lords!) So, how will I interpret an act of generosity when a total stranger paid for my sandwich at Subway?
It was a rather gloomy afternoon today because of the disappointment with the general members of humanity that I felt most acutely painful to my glass heart. The things deemed trivial or insignificant matter to me, stay in there until I burn them with candlelight under moonlit tranquility of the mind. Samuel Johnson is right in saying that you cannot will away the unpleasant feelings in full force at once. That is why we object to despotic edicts of stoic austerity to quell the perturbed state of mind. The Sun was high, but the spirit was low, and I could not pretend to be cheerful and optimistic as if there was no word for Unpleasantness in my dictionary.
So when I was in a nearby Subway store during lunchtime, I felt wretched and wished that the time would go fast so that I could go home with the alacrity of departure. But no, the reality bit when a store clerk asked me if I wanted my bread to be toasted. No, I said politely and proceeded to the counter for payment, when the register guy told me that the man before me paid forward my sandwich. Really so? But I didn’t know him. There were two men, seemingly office workers from nearby, coming for some quick bites like me. And I still don’t know which man paid for mine, but what does it matter when both of them are total strangers anyway? Then I checked my reflections on the outside building’s crystal-clear glass windows and saw a woman decently presentable looking in thin figure clothed in a DKNY tweed jacket and Michael Kors jeans, which disqualified me for being a hobo woman. So why did he pay forward for my Tuna sandwich?
Whether he was a confessional penitent doing penance or an angelic agent is still a mystery, but then something is better to remain as it is, I think. The unexpected surprise from the stranger put my emotions on the continuum of low arousal on one hand and high pleasantness, on the other hand, creating satisfaction that my life could be likable and ultimately livable. It’s a small pleasure that keeps my sailing endurable and doable in a wide ocean alone against monsters, thunder and lightning, and doldrums. No wonder the sandwich tasted sweet.
Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Criticism of any kind is never a pleasantry. It stings the heart and swells in there until the natural amnesia of time heals the wound. Also, criticism is never an easy task, either. Abraham Lincoln defined a professional critic as one who has “a right to criticize, who has the heart to help.” Therefore, being a critic is a daunting profession that can fall out of favor with the public and the criticized. Yet doing it good and right is even more challenging and requires a wealth of erudition and insight to observe all things and all beings in the world without supercilious prejudice. I can think of any such critic no other than the late Roger Ebert, whose brilliantly witty anthology of unfavorable movies Your Movie Sucks discerns constructive criticism from malicious cynicism that most of his peers love to delve.
It’s a collection of movies that Ebert finds distasteful to the taste and reason. Ebert opines that filmmakers and the performers tend to patronize with their selective elements, usually senseless violence, gratuitous nudity, and infantile comedy under the pretext of the screen reflection of the realities. But to miss Ebert as an ultra-conservative white curmudgeon movie critic does a great injustice to his bona fide intention and judicious reasoning of why he thinks the movies suck, most notably, ‘Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo,’ ‘Chaos,’ and ‘the Pearl Harbor.” The plots, characters, and narratives of these movies ignore the taste and reason universal in all human creatures regarding the principles of sense and judgment common to all humankind. They are either devoid of artistic sensibilities or willfully negligent of the humanity that refuses to cease even in the desolate wilderness of calamities, artificial or natural. Ebert seems to seek in movies a common thread that every one of us, regardless of class, race, and gender, can be bound together to understand what it means to live, ultimately.
Ebert’s credo is the arts of films, paintings, music, and books as a consolation to the hearts that need to relive the yokes of daily lives. Therefore, the artists are to look into people’s realities from all walks of life and illustrate each life’s values, however insignificant it might be, by elevating the ordinariness into arts of life to neutralize the vicissitudes of life that we all experience. In this regard, Ebert agrees with French painter Jean-Francoise Millet’s timeless adage: “It is treating the commonplace with the feeling of the profound is what gives to art its power.”
I always like Ebert’s films’ reviews because they are easy to read and intelligently passionate and witty despite his knowledge of various subjects. There is no hint of malice in the guise of intellectual sarcasm. His views on the world are agreeable to mine, regarded as outdated forseysm in today’s amazingly political world. Maybe we might belong to a previous era where our perspectives of the world would meet with more consensus and fewer disapprovals. In fact, I liken the person of Ebert to that of Samuel Johnson, the great English writer, thinker, and author of A Dictionary of the English Language for their similarities in appearance, weltanschauungs, and styles of writing that thrill the heart and pique the mind with a touch of humanity that is so rare to be found among the contemporary writers. So, if you are a like-minded appreciator of arts in general and curious about what movies someone like Ebert finds distasteful, take heart and read this book. The words leap from pages with wit and wisdom as the time entertains you like you never know. This book may also serve you as a textual trailer of a movie that you might have fallen into the mistake of paying it to watch.
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