Posted in book review, 미분류, Miscellany, Poetry

Beam Me Up, Scotty: Admiral Kirk’s onboard

The skies were clear blue, and the wind mild and agreeable. The day was ripe for the moment the star returned to the galactic heavens in rejuvenated buoyancy of jubilee that he would be out to the extraterrestrial world again. “Beam me up, Scotty,” the man said as he boarded on New Shepherd, treating it like his beloved ship USS Enterprise. It was art imitating life in the former captain’s bright eyes; it was life imitating art in the old star’s beady eyes. For William Shatner, aka Admiral Kirk of Star Trek, it was a one-of-a-kind experience, equivalent to an out-of-body experience in which you fly from your corporeal vessel and wander in all whither, floating weightless, groundless. It was his very Real McCoy galactic trip to outer space.

On Wednesday, October 13th, Blue X, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos-owned spacecraft enterprise, took off from its launching site about 20 miles away from Rural Texas town of Van Horn with civilian passengers who paid astronomical sums for their space trip. But not Shatner, who spent nothing at the courtesy of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said to be a long-time Trekkie and something of a billionaire with a flair for space cowboy. The motive for a publicity stunt to outshine Blue X over entrepreneur rivals, Elon Musk’s Space-A and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc., is impossible to ignore, yet why not when it also produces positive effects of provoking the imaginary in the real? Shatner, at age 90, seemed no longer the dashing brilliant, just young Admiral Kirk any longer. Still, his spirit beamed up as he experienced overview effect outside the orbit, profoundly mesmerized with the deep fragility of Planet Earth, the Galaxy Blue. Shatner articulated the face of the Earth as so ethereal and impossibly gorgeous vis-à-vis the blackness of outer space that he had a eureka moment of what distinguished Light (Life-Earth) from Darkness (Death-Outer Space). Methinks that such pareidolia of the overview effect has something to do with his nonagenarian age, the last age in Seven Stages of Man, one foot closer in the grave. However, when I watched him in the news, overwhelmed by the ineffable emotions, Jeff Bezos removed his shades and embraced the old actor; all looked genuine, not an act staged for a post-trip publicity event. And even if it so, then it is a likable sort of entertainment that does viewers of all kinds good.

Criticisms on the expensive space trip only the haves can afford are worldwide and understandable amid the unequal distribution of wealth makes earthlings live and die or live and suffer. Yet the veteran movie star reminds me of an old soldier who has lived through the vagaries of life. Overall, the 90-year-old Shatner’s space trip materializes the earthling voyage of the USS Enterprise, boldly searching for new life and new civilizations into the galaxies.

Captain Kirk coming home
Floating under a parachute
Touching down on Mother Earth
in a soft haze of excellent dust,
Calling it home, Roger out.

Welcome back to Earth, Admiral Kirk.

Posted in Miscellany

education is not a status symbol

Education is not a prerogative of the fortunate who have been born into comfortably well-to-do socioeconomic families or, if deprived, sponsored by goodwill fairylike patrons for splendidly expensive private higher education. It is not a status symbol to distinguish the fortunate from the melee in ostentations display of their supposedly high intelligence, dazzling scholastic aptitude, and a means to continue such expensive education as a symbol of confidence, competence, and cleverness.

But Joshua Angrist, an Israeli-American Nobel laureate in Economics of the year 2021, doesn’t think that way, not least because those who enter expensive elite schools are already brighter than their ordinary or troubled peers. The Nobel-Prized theory of education in the context of the selective admission process has become a concrete, incorruptible credo for the elite academic institutions and enflamed the already swelled up egos of the diploma holders doing well in their lives. When I read about him from today’s newspaper, I had to re-read his saying that “the reason graduates of those schools tend to do well has more to do with selective admission than education.” I understand his intention to demystify social legend that an Ivy-league diploma will guarantee you lifelong flowery roads to financial security and commensurate social status. However, it has more to do with his defense of continuous selective criteria to muster a pool of academically, and usually economically affluent, prospective students than anything else. What he argues is, “Don’t mess with the elite schools’ admission processing, for they select only the smartest ones!” Therefore, his argument calls for changing social agendas for changing such selective admissions to improve public education.

Angrist himself is a product of privileged education that some people wear like fancy hats on their pointed heads. He went to Oberlin College for BA and Princeton University for MA, Ph D. He teaches at Harvard University, which has become the infallibly supreme Ivory Tower in the States and most East Asian countries. Based upon Angrist’s focus on causality and effects on social impacts, it will be natural for him to defend the selective admission process, and I say go for it.

But it irks me to read from the Nobel laureate that supreme education is not for everybody. Since Angrist prides himself in employing real-world empirical evidence in his theory, does he marginalize those who have ambitions and aspirations to receive such quality education but are disadvantaged of the opportunities to learn the skills apt for demonstrating their minds? What about them, and how can he help them to access such opportunities? He’s not a social worker, which I don’t think he will not be pleased to be associated with even, but as an intellectual, he has a social responsibility to answer such vital issues. And if this unequal distribution of privileged educational opportunities is not worth studying, I wonder if those Nobel Prize panels thought his opuses deserve such international recognition. After all, Economics always comes last in the Nobel Prizes, with its being on the criteria most recently in the late sixties mainly begetting Americans.

Posted in Miscellany

2021 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to Abdulrazak Gurnah

The great writers are capable of metamorphosis and travel across a gulf of time and a hiatus of cultures and continents because their narratives speak to the sentiments and reason common to all humankind. Enter Abdulrazak Gurnah, this year’s Nobel Prize laureate in Literature, in this celestial constellation of great writers. The following is what I think about Gurnah based on reading his interview with today’s Reuter.

Gurnah, born in Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) in 1948, went to England in the 1960s as a refugee fleeing from the political turmoil and social unrest of his native country. Then began his migrant’s song composed of multiple strands of his experience, thoughts, and feelings that became polyphonic acapella in variant notes and rhythms. Unlike many other laureates of prestigious literary awards or esteemed recognition, Gurnah is a champion of underdogs who were not expensively educated in private institutions and, above all, who were not born into the surroundings of English as mother tongue. Working at the places where his privileged literary peers would not think of, Gurnah wrote in English as Second Language as his Lingua Franca literary tool. The result is his enchantment of readers to a fantastic maze of his inner world. His narratives become Ariadne’s thread that guides his readers to the world that seems so unfamiliar yet oddly universal.

Gurnah seems to be the kind of writer I sincerely respect and dare to emulate who have lived among ordinary people like a sun in evening declination with the soft but radiant scarlet hues covering the earth, reflecting its magnificent face in shining waters. I am delighted to confirm that you don’t have to be born into a culture that speaks English if you want to become a good English writer. It is not about the Perfect mastery of language but about articulating thoughts to become a great writer. Although the media emphasizes Gurnah’s being the second black African author to have won the award since Nigerian Wole Soyinka in 1986, I don’t think it’s about his race that draws attention to his books. His being a writer supersedes his race because writers are different kinds of the race with a unique eye to look at the world and show it to readers, standing together in the collegiality of human spirits.

Posted in Miscellany

blah, blah, blah and lord of the flies

Greta Thunberg is an 18-year-old environmental activist who has risen to a child crusader against the corruption of the world, not for incorrigibly persistent unequal distribution of wealth within society and among nations, but for the blahs of the world leaders who irk her nerves for not listening to her pleas to save the earth. In all fairness and recognition of her endeavor to raise red herrings on environmental issues, I applaud her to the very echo. But why is it that I see in the face of Greta talking “Blah, Blah” the faces of the boys chanting “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies? Or is it that I am a seriously near-sighted adult whom Greta forthwith denounces as politically and culturally blinded conventionalist speaking the Blah only?

It was interesting to read and watch Greta’s speech at Italy’s Youth4 Change, growing more prominent and bolder with a singular air of superiority. It bestowed upon her a right to mock the world leaders, including President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson, in their conference for environmental issues. Her English was flawlessly articulate, with accents that denote her fierceness of character and feistiness of personality. Indeed, such a high level of confidence is highly remarkable and undeniably recommendable. Still, there is a distinction between arrogance and confidence regarding the speaker’s manner of speech and demeanor. The subject brings me back to the wild Boys of the Lord of the Rings, in which the gentle-mannered protagonist Ralph is soon abdicated by the rebellious Jack, who provokes ids in the followers of Ralph to subvert the order and to rule the tribe. Greta’s rhapsody about youth as not being “blinded by realpolitik and the assumption of compromise” sounds like a youth manifesto from Peter Pan. He never gets old to build a society of the young only. But does Greta know youth is wasted on the young?

Also, I wonder what Greta thinks about those at her age and younger underprivileged, mistreated, and malnourished worldwide if she is so concerned about the earth’s well-being, for we are the earthlings. Does her activist profession disavow acknowledging and addressing the humanitarian crisis because it is trivial compared to the lofty environmental ideal? Come to think of it; I have seen fewer youths making substantial movements toward eradicating hunger or preventing child abuse, including but not limited to sexual nature systematically worldwide. It comes to mind that people who use children for their political and social ideologies don’t regard such concerns as being worthy of being mobilized with the child drummer in the front. What is the difference between a child soldier recruited elsewhere in the world and a child activist under a supervision of a master adult activist?

What I feel about Greta and her famous Blah address is probably no different from what Shakespeare must have supposed in Elizabethan England: “Woe to that land that’s governed by a child, tis much when scepters are in children’s hands, there comes the ruin, there begins confusion.” Maybe that is what William Golding envisions in his fictional island where children’s mutiny proved to be as catastrophic as those on the Bounty or even more. So that is my undiluted sentiment toward Greta, smiling, chanting “Blah, blah.”

Posted in 미분류, Miscellany

Letter from the West

Eight hundreds of suns and moons have passed since I was uprooted to Southern California from Northern New Jersey, and I have to say every day is still a new day on the frontier home in the Wild West. Cowboys, gunslingers, and drifters looking for chances and time for winning the Wheel of Fortune in life may have gone with the dust of wind. Still, I feel like a hardscrabble but resiliently brave and adventurous frontier woman I have seen in western TV dramas and movies with the central theme of Little House on the Prairie surrounding as a leitmotif for the story of My Life So Far in the Wild West.

The great French writer and humanist George Sand once said that every place has place memories that influence the spirits of the site and people without them knowing it. Given this, the place memories of Southern California fill the domes of the spirits and palaces of the souls living in it with the characters endemic to the nature and shaped by the events artificers made based upon my empirical observations. People I have come across here are a curious mixture of friendliness and brusqueness added with a dose of saloon bravado and air of southern plantation riches under a high Californian sun.

The charade of Californian Rhapsody continues thus: people reading in public, such as public transportation or coffeeshop, is as rare as finding Nemo in a vast ocean. In such an environment, I feel awkwardly vain to read in such places as if I were a showy blue-stocking, contrary to New York City, where readers are part of the landscape under the Manhattan skyline. It brings me back to my reading of Horace Greely’s experience of an overland journey from New York City to California. Greely, the famous 19th-century journalist, the editor of the now-extinct the New York Tribune and the rival presidential candidate of Ulysses Grant, also noticed the lack of intellectual cultivation in many Californians and thus called the attention of young single, educated woman from the East Coast to go west in a proliferation of civilization from the cultured East Coast.

Part of me still longs for the convenience of city life in New York City, where people of all walks of life ride on the same bus and subway and eat at the same place. Nevertheless, what holds me to this immigrant land is its gorgeously untamed wild nature that whispers to my ear, “Tarry with me,” like a beautiful paramour. The wildflowers in the fields over the ridges are sweetness to the weary soul seeking a place for visual pleasure after being exposed to a miasma of an unpleasant office environment, even though I am still unaccustomed to the sight of palm trees with long unruly hair. Still, I like to think of myself as a 21st-century frontier woman living with an elderly ailing mother and a young tomcat in my care, trying to keep my foot on the ground and my eyes on the stars, to claim my happiness on a new land against all odds in this Wild West, Still and Ever.