Category Archives: Miscellany

Anything that’s on my mind.

The unlikely duo

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The Unlikely Act: Jack the Baboon and James the Signalman, courtesy of google.com

As a regular customer of a commuter rail, I sometimes wish there was a signalman at my home station instead of an impersonal ticket vending machine without a proper waiting area on a barren platform that makes the nondescript station all the more desolate, drab, and dreary. California wintry mornings are treacherously cold and heartless; they make you yearn for a conspicuous presence of a guiding light of humanity. So it gave me a fillip when I happened on an article about an extraordinary duo from my subscription magazine on the train. 

Let’s take Time Train to Uitenhage in Cape Town, South Africa circa 1890. Meet Jack the Baboon and his senior partner James, the Signalman working side by side watching a train coming toward their station from a distance. James brought Jack to his station after losing both of his legs in a train accident to train the primate to push him around in a trolly, as well as to operate the train signals. Jack was indeed James’s working avatar and a best buddy at work. For good nine years, Jack’s work performance excelled some of his human colleagues, which earned him official employment for which he was paid twenty cents a day and a half a bottle of beer a week. A laborer is indeed worthy of his reward. 

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Jack and James at work, courtesy of google.com

Fast forward the mind’s cinema projector, and I am back at the same home station in the wee hours of cold, rainy California morning. There’s neither Jack nor James, except for a motley of hooded figures of would-be passengers on the platform. All seems crude and cruel except a light with a whistle approaching the station growing bigger and bolder, and I welcome it with the feeling of thankfulness mixed with adventurousness into an unknown new day

vertigo – chapter eleven

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“Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh

It is the star above her that governs her conditions. Iris knows that the fault is not entirely in herself but mostly in the lucky star that does not seem to know where to find its beneficiary. The star was born when Libra and Capricorn were met in the house of Aquarius on the nineteenth hour of blustery snowy wintry night. The star hangs on the vault of nightly celestial ballroom among the other stars twinkling merrily and boldly but alone in a corner of the limitless dome, twinkling ruefully and dutifully as if it were trying to signify its insignificant presence on the nocturnal cosmic stage. For this lone star has not found its beneficiary, the ascribed terrestrial hair of its power, and without it, the star cannot become a lucky star. Which is a tragedy for both Iris and her star.

In fact, Iris’s existential frustration or noogenic neuroris agrees to what Shakespeare was suspected of harboring in all his life. Surely, the Bard was a very successful playwright and poet who marched in a parade of famed hits in his time, but he was wrestling with a doubt whether it was Fate or Freedom of Will that governed human lives as conveyed in his works, such as “Julius Caesar”, “Othello”, and “Hamlet”. The characters of these plays fight for their causes as masters of their fates, but the consequences are not entirely fortuitous in bliss. That’s why the Greek soldier and historian Thucydides regarded vain hope imbued with a paroxysm of flattering confidence and blind devotion to law of attraction as a dangerous hubris to one’s philosophy of life.

Hope plays its role as a morale booster when one sees it as a card of chance in awareness of odds in one’s favor. In this manner, one does not have to think about it but can fight with every hope of winning. This also relates to a principle of Logotheraphy: the less one cares, the more one can without stress for success. But alas, my dear reader, to pour lead into the wound, all the aforesaid needs luck as the Bard chips in thus: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” A tide of the deep wide ocean of Life that arises from the heart of the ocean to surge in bounty of fortune to a weary wayfarer on the land is what Iris has been waiting for till now.

All this thought, all this doubt about her so-called life – the existential frustration- are vexing her mind and crippling her faculties of the mind like vermin, so much that she feels utterly disoriented and deserted in the crossroads of life. Faith she has begun to lose with reasons justifiable only to herself, meaning of life she still hasn’t found, Iris finds herself lost in the Labyrinth where the Minotaur is roaming around to find his prey. And she does not have the hero Theseus nor Ariadne for help. Iris must find the way out anyhow for her dear life. But one thing is certain, my dear reader; that although fortune’s malice or absence might conspire to overthrow her state, her feisty and recalcitrant mind will eventually exceed the compass of her will of fortune with a triumphant laugh.

Dear editor

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On reading Mr. _______________ ‘s article on the instapoets, I was appalled at his dyspeptic raillery on the poems of the known poets and incandescent snark on the literary merit of the works by playing a role of agent provocateur following the instapoets just to mock their works with malice.

Just because one does not like another’s work doesn’t ipso facto endow the person with right to desecrate the work and to insult the author by putting him/her in the pillory and, thus dispiriting the mind and the heart that are indeed “noble” and respectful. As a hobbyist writer of my blog in English, I am now indeed in more sorrow than in anger that there might be agents provocateur or double agents in hides of followers intent upon deriding my amateurish but sincere writings.

The instapoets, bloggers, and anyone dabbling in the craft of writing are the cult of Knut Vonnegut’s maxim: “To practice any art, how well or badly, is to make your sol grow. So do it.” I hope the author and his likes will understand it with magnanimity of the learned literati who will not use their learning to reason against these noble spirits.

Author’s Note: This is my letter to the editor of a certain magazine that I subscribe. I couldn’t believe that such a historically famed magazine with reputation featured such an article publicly deriding the merits of poets on social media just because the style of writing and the subject matters do not meet the subjective standards of the journalist, who even became a follower of the poets to make fun of them behind the curtains… To think that he’s pleased with himself as a guardian of the English literature with a cruel intention! That’s why I had to send a letter to the editor even if it will not be featured in the magazine. Mind you that practicing art is not a prerogative of the privileged. 

On Ovid: The Exiled Poet in Woe

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People tend to think that the books of antiquarian authors are far-fetched from the reality of our digital era, whereas our calendar years on the evolutionary scale amount to microseconds on the twenty-four-hour biological clock. Apart from a great divide of time, great writers of all time show us the wounds and mirth at the heart of humankind and stand observant of the anfractuous human lives as though to be seen through opera glasses. In this respect, Ovid, author of Metamorphoses, can be regarded as an ancient trailblazer of popular literature whose subject matters, such as cause and effects of love and devotion, are still appealing to readers.

Ovid first gained popularity with The Ars Amatoris (The Art of Love), a kind of self-help book for men on how to woo women and keep their love with practical tips under the guise of a formal didactic reference to avoid censorship. Heroines, a series of dramatic monologues centering on mythological women, including Penelope, Dido, and Ariadne, lamenting on their mistreatment at the hands of their men, earned him the sobriquet of best-seller writer of his time. However, what Ovid secretly and really craved was a learned readership vis-à-vis the reputations of his peers Horace and Virgil whose works were regarded in high intellectual esteem by the elites. Hence, Metamorphoses, a series of 250 stories of gods and immortals intertwined in a vortex of love, lust, grief, and terror, was his magnum opus, a kind of literary vindication of mass demotic literature. It seemed that Ovid as a man of flowering Roman letters arrived at his pinnacle of literary career until fortune’s malice overthrew his state.

Ovid suddenly fell out of favor of the emperor and exiled to Toms, a city on the Black Sea. Whys and hows of Ovid’s exile are still clandestine to this date as Ovid also never recorded any details about what caused the emperor to banish him to the backwater of the empire. As with many a conspiracy story, there are hypotheses of the cause of this unfortunate event: (1) Ovid had a love affair with Livia, Augustus’s wife, while married with children; (2) Ovid knew of an incestuous affair between the emperor and his daughter Julia; or (3) the error might have been of political nature because Ovid might have gossiped about certain political factions. But then any of the above can be a figment of imagination.

Notwithstanding the above, I like to think that Ovid is a great benefactor of mankind with his dazzling reworking of Latin and Greek myths and entertainingly vibrant guidance of practical love. In fact, he was far more gentlemanly in treating women regardless of their age and looks than any of our contemporary man writers. To Ovid asking a woman’s age was highly improper and telling a woman of good things about her are a must to keep her love ongoing. In light of the above, none of the aforesaid presumptions rings true to me, and it is my presumption that maybe Ovid’s jealous contemporary despising the well-deserved success of Metamorphoses conspired against him and pushed him to banishment in the outpost of Rome, the city Ovid loved so much.

Academy of Ancient Music: “Baroque Journey” with Lucie Horsch – review

img_0202-1The recorder is a wonderful woodwind musical instrument: light in weight, affordable in price, delightful in timbre, and easy to learn, it has been adopted as a part of music curriculum at many elementary schools, just as ancient Greek schools necessitated students to learn an aulos or a lyre. However, this seemingly insouciant musical instrument was the centerpiece of Baroque music because of its florid and vivacious sound that strikes the chords with busy, sophisticated, delicate melodies of Baroque, the term which originally means irregular shapes of pearls in Portuguese. So much so that Vivaldi, Handel, and Bach had composed music just for the recorder long before the cello, the violin, or even the harpsichord came into the scene and outclassed the lovely recorder.

Ergo, the wanting of its significant contribution to the history of music and of its tainted beauty of the timbre has recently been brought to light, especially in Europe. The heroine of this jubilant revival of the Baroque recorder music is Lucie Horsch, a young Dutch recorder player whose musical finesse characterized by her vivaciousness of technicality and instinctive understanding of baroque music makes her exquisite musicianship look effortless and seamless. That classical music is not for the old conservative snobs but for anyone who has an ear for beautiful music is a tenet of the Arts on the grounds that the standard of taste and reason is universal in all humans as regards the principle of sentiment and judgment is common in humankind.  As illustrated in this music video, Horsch and her musician friends represent the democratizing of classical music in general, making it accessible to enjoy for all, not a prerogative of a few fortunate in a stuffy concert hall.

If you are a novice in Baroque music, then Lucie Horsch’s Baroque Journey is a choice introduction to the world of Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi. She will be your Beatrice who will guide you to Paradise of the music, as she did for Dante in the Divine Comedy. In my opinion, the best number is The Arrival of the Queen of Shiba by Handel, for it best shows Horsch’s dexterity of playing the recorder flawlessly, delivering the best of her musicality with a burst of pep like a vivacious sprite.

Author’s Note: You can download Lucie Horsch’s Baroque Journey from your iTune on your iPhone to enjoy the delightfully whimsical world of a Baroque Recorder. The music will cast out from you a momentary vertigo of worries and anxieties and elevate your mood to an instant jolly caprice 🙂