Category Archives: Novellas

Fellowship of the arts

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Music has such a charm; it makes bad good and conjures memories of the places and faces of the past with nostalgia in a magical way. It’s a kind of mind teleportation, artistic time-machine, which takes you from the rut of life to anywhere you can dream about. So much so that ever witty and lively William Shakespeare said: “There’s nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is.” Just as reading makes the reader pass over to the literary world of imagination, listening to music carries the listener over to the auditory feast of melodies and rhythms, wonderfully harmonized, all in the mastery of fine musicianship inspired by the Mousal, the music muses, which is demonstrated by the fabulous  Biltmore Trio.

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Biltmore Trio consists of Ben Lion (Piano), Claire Whitecat (Violin) and Julie Tigress (Flute). They are fine amateur musicians who get together two days a week to play music together for reason none other than being aficionados of music, especially of the Baroque music. All of them have full-time occupations by which they earn their livelihood: Ben is an associate professor of history at Avonlea Community College. He is also an established writer for various magazine and short stories. Claire is a free-lanced book illustrator primarily for children’s books. Julie is a legal secretary working at a busy litigation law firm that would not function without her presence. They are good friends from childhood and share their love of music, books and other interests that pique their intelligent minds with scintillating curiosities. Hence, Biltmore Trio is a musical manifestation of their fellowship in the Appreciation of the Arts and Altruism of Humanity based upon the idea that the beauty of art is for everyone, not a prerogative of a few select. It is important that the public has a right to art because as Oscar Wilde attested, “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can sure the senses but the soul.” How true it is!

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With such tenets of art in mind, Biltmore Trio’s free lunchtime recital of Frederic Hendel’s “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” at the eponymous hotel lounge fills the hearts of the audience with mirth and merriment and frames their minds with beauty and alacrity. The trio’s fine musicianship becomes even more brilliant with their milk of human kindness that benefits all regardless who they are and what day do.

Loveliness blooms in Logotheraphy

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A thing of beauty is a joy to them. Its loveliness increases. It never passes into nothingness. Oscar Wilde, who extolled physical beauty as a form of virtue manifested in a physical form, once flamboyantly remarked: “Crying is for plain women. Pretty women go shopping.”  Although Seraphina Rabitte and Mathilda Beare demur at such uncharitable notion of meritocracy of women’s appearance, they love visiting beauty stores in a way that little children love going to candy stores (or toy stores to be more realistic these days). For the ladies like to keep themselves prim and proper in the belief that presentable appearance (not a physical symmetry per se) indicates how one takes cares of herself by realizing her creative, attitudinal and experiential values in everyday life.

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The belief is grounded in Logotheraphy, one of the three Viennese School of Psychotherapy founded by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, a neurologist, thinker, psychiatrist, but above all, a remarkable human being who endured personal experiences of Promethean hardships and suffering in Nazi concentration camps and conquered them in triumph of will to meaning. Fashionable and knowledgeable Matilda and Seraphina are students of Logotheraphy, the theory that human nature is motivated by search for a life purpose that is unique to each individual. Unlike other schools of psychotherapy and many other subdivisions thereof, Logotheraphy encompasses a wide scope of the humanities and of course, neuroscience, making it a brilliant multidisciplinary school of thought. In fact, it is a paradigm of the consilience of the knowledge of the humanities and that of science. So, in the context of regarding Logotheraphy, the fashionable ladies’ attitudes toward appearance betokens their ways of preventing noogenic (existential) frustration by engaging themselves in activities to dispel a hint of depression or inertia from their minds, even if it means only going to shopping.

img_0601So, you see it isn’t a symptom of conspicuous consumption as a result of our hyper industrialized social environment that Matilda and Seraphina like pampering themselves with cosmetics. Besides, who can blame them for having none other than a woman’s reason? Didn’t Queen Elizabeth also proclaim herself to have a lion’s heart in a woman’s hide? Also, did the Queen not show fierce attention to fairness herself by putting the most fashionable make-up and dresses and hairstyles of her time? Well, these modern ladies are no less different them from their loyal member of sisterhood in the race of Humankind. In fact, Matilda and Seraphina have aristocratic bearings in appearance and manners due to their fine upbringing and sweetness of the mind by nature, so whenever they go, they give admirable impressions on people whom they encounter. They are the paragon of a virtuous woman as John Milton extolled in Paradise Lost: “Those graceful act, those thousand decencies that flow from all her actions and words.”

Author’s Note: Many thanks to the attendants at the Cosmetic Company Store in Camarillo Premium Outlets who kindly permitted me to take pictures in their store. 

good bye to sunday

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Sunday is the saddest day of a week because it heralds a start of another week that brings unknowns to all mankind: employed/unemployed, men/women, affluent/impecunious, and educated/uneducated. Every minute of Sunday hastens to its end like as the waves make towards the quicksands. For Paul Collie, who works as a manager at a supermarket, is an imperturbable person hardly under the weather, Sunday means constructive solipsism in which his artistic sensibilities and intellectual proclivity are manifested in such forms of gardening, reading and writing otherwise smothered under the pretext of financial needs and familial responsibilities during weekdays. Gardening, because it gives him a sense of being a master of fine arts akin to Michelangelo; reading and writing, because he it teaches the styles of writing he can employ in his own writing. On this late afternoon, Paul is having a jovial time with his like-minded friend Hans Cow, a senior librarian at Tolkien Library and a part-time private investigator, who called on him to talk about the current affairs of the week. This week’s topical subject of the Sunday talk: “Elitist Art exclusive of the undesirable”

Hans: “Did you read an article about Snotty Museum turning down an annually pledged largess from Johnny Mojo, the chairman of the cleaning company Mojo? The reason for the rejection was said to be of moral, ethical standards because Johnny Mojo was a one-time drug addict and affiliated with some kind of money-laundering scheme. But you know what? I think it’s all about posturing, gestures of some kind of uneducated, former jailbird upstart trying to hobnob with the big wigs and the celebs that these so-called “Guardians of Fine Artsimg_0458” do not want to approve of. For Mojo – let’s be brutally honest – does not meet their standards of impeccable donors. What they want is immaculate man without original sin!”

Paul: “Yeah, I read that Mojo guy. You are right in saying that Snotty Museum’s decision img_0457was rather foolhardy and rash, groundless in their a priori reasoning that a donor should be also morally and spiritually immaculate to support artistic causes. Which is a supercilious stance on the puritanical touchstone of sponsorship. That a company doing a dubious business should not contribute its munificence to the museum is a hokum, nothing but a supercilious illustration of elitist art exclusive of the populace. The museum do not want to be involved in moral money-laundering, or “art-washing”. I want to think that Mojo’s intention to donate his wealth to the museum was bona fide because art is open to all, not a prerogative of the moneyed. Besides, art is for art’s sake and not should be used as a tool for political campaigns or social dogmas. Lucy Maud Montgomery expressed the same sentiment, and W.H. Auden also concurred that art should not be trapped by political and social systems. The museum’s decision shows that even a realm of art has been a domain of social Spencerism…

Pleasure and activity make the afternoon hours seem short as the discussions seem to have no ends. There’s nothing like a merry heart that goes all day when talking and listening to a kindred spirit who understands your mind’s world and encourages to continue cultivating your mind’s garden. The sun has moved closer to the horizon, and soon the evening will come. Then this Sunday will become a part of the memories of the past as a new Monday comes. Then it all seems legit to chime the timeless Latin phrase: “Tempus figit”. So it does. Times flies.

Will to meaning – chapter 9

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All strange and terrible events were welcome, but comforts she despised. And there was nothing left remarkable beneath the visiting sun. It was just her wish that was father to the thought; the thought that the man would be interested in her and talk to her. But it was just a foiled dream, vain hope, blind passion and cruel deception. Iris was left all alone again. Francis Bacon regarded anyone delighted in solitude as a wild beast or a divine being, and Iris wanted to think of herself as a divine being because she could not bear to accept the fact that she was left out of warmth and love of humanity, and that she was perching on the brink of social isolation as a recluse. It was safe that way to protect her already bleeding heart and bruised soul from the acknowledgement of reality. The world had never seen so perilous and cruel to Iris, who began to doubt that human nature was selfish and violent.

Sitting at her desk at home, Iris was watching the chariot of Apollo moving toward the grand horizon to return to his celestial palace. She wanted to put her soul into the world of writing, but the words became all hodge-podge in bottomless chaos. Now all the forces of darkness were unleashed from an abyss of her inner world and trying to infest her mind with all lies that began to gnaw it till she collapsed in despondency. The age-old self-consciousness felt renewed and resuscitated, egged on by the diabolic echo that everything was set to work against her and that all things would end in naught. Her intention to write was about to be erased from a tablet of her mind, as well. ‘What good will it be when my writing will always reverberate with sighs and more sighs because it is not as polished as her admiring writers?’ Then all of sudden, Voice of Reason began to speak, breaking silence of gravitas: “Iris, let nothing disturb you, let nothing disparage you because you are indeed a good writer who writes the language of the heart and the mind. Forget the supercilious rabble raving about immaculate textual aspects of writing, for they are blind to see the essence of writing that possesses the soul and the mind of the writer. Remember Tolstoy, who was himself poor at grammatical respects of writing. So was Jane Austin, who was a weak speller. Focus on opening up the treasures kept in your Wunderkammer in writing.”

Whether it was just an imagination or a last thread of will to write was open to a myriad of questions. But Readers, that was what sprang from her mind when Iris wanted to surrender herself to the end of hope, to the abandonment of everything she had tried thus far, and to the killing of her near-forsaken self. And yet, it alleviated acrid heartaches that tormented her like a huge carbuncle and saved her from falling into a bottomless pit full of fire consuming her everything to ashes without mercy. Iris wanted to preserve a sense of purpose and a tenacious grasp on her hopes, thinking that present fears were less than horrible imagining. Then she ceased to die.

two by two – Chapter 8

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He wanted to talk to her but didn’t know how to begin. He did not want to look overtly anxious, and yet he was obviously anxious. Part of it was his urge to find out if she was the right one that matched his gossamer imago, and more of it was his untamed machismo that even his arete, the harmonious combination of moral integrity and physical discipline, could not surmount. In the age of Amazonian resurgence of matriarchy on the crest of #MeToo campaign, the subject matter of indomitable feat of virility could be highly volatile, incriminating even. But Hector was being none other than a man himself and going against the nature would turn him into a closet monster or a spectacular hypocrite.  Besides, Hector was an artist who was unafraid of following his heart according to the True North of Nature. He belonged to the race of the untethered, the bold and the beautiful, and he knew it. All of it, all that he had was working toward his wish to speak to her, the mysterious woman sitting three seats away from him.

 When it reached the zenith of the urge, Hector couldn’t hold it any longer, and it finally erupted from his lips: “Excuse me, miss. I forgot to bring a pen with me. Do you have a spare one by any chance?” It was the best excuse he could think of because the woman was writing in her notebook. She seemed startled at first by a strange man’s request for a pen, but soon her fear of a stranger relented at his polite manner handsomely juxtaposed with his sonorous voice and beautiful eyes that radiated both warmth of the soul and allure of the flesh. Iris was always sagacious of people’s characters, which was her gift and curse of the Fates, and she saw genuineness in this strange but beautiful man’s eyes in an aura of charisma, a mythological power ascribed to the Olympians and select hybrids of mortals and immortals. In a phantasmagorical display of the Greek heroes and gods, Iris was filled with mysterious confidence that gave her a status which fuses the capricious power of a fairy with the sensuous charge of femininity. She finally fished in a pen from her pencil case and gave it to him. “Thank you, Miss. These days people do not seem to carry around a pencil case.” Hector thought that he talked too much and instantly regretted it. But it was a reflex of his heart that knew better. It was working slowly, the kindling of the amber that was beginning to grow. No, my dear reader, it wasn’t that usual playboy’s antics, that sleek glib of a smooth operator because Hector wasn’t the sort. Nothing namby-pamby about Hector’s sensitive nature, nor the supra-abundance of the embryonic courtship that might not even develop with fanfare. But nothing could be further from the truth – the truth that both Hector and Iris were votaries of aesthetic pleasure, the cult of Psyche and Eros, the seekers of Eleusinian Mysteries in their own rights.

Iris wanted Hector to go on, to take her on, to lead her on. Despite her instant bestowal of confidence, she was still wrapped up in her own clock of anonymity and invisibility like a fairy who was visible to the mortal eyes when she wanted to. A fairy whose sentiments were different from the mortals and who could be both impish and angelic according to her whims and caprice. For a fairy by nature was amoral and could fashion in whatever forms she would prefer. Thenceforth, Iris was lamenting that a fairy at the time of her birth did not bring her a gift of beauty that could captivate a man of her heart. Surely, she was told beautiful, sultry even, but her resemblance to Cassandra was the sine qua non of her solitude, although she would like to insist that it was her voluntary choice. The grace and the harmony of her features would make a beholder think that they were aesthetically proportioned, yet she wasn’t exactly a Helen of Troy for whom Paris, the prince of Troy, left his nymph companion in distress and for whom thousands of ships launched to win her love. Alas, poor Iris! I knew her, my dear reader. I commiserated with her spiritually. I should have cast glamour spells on her so that she could be instantly gorgeous at that time. But would it be a kind of beauty she really wanted?… I wondered. I questioned: then, would Iris- a lesser beauty, a confused fairy, and a distressed Cassandra- make this mysterious man interested in her soul until they became two by two and about went they? In this fey meditation, her spirit was pivoting ecstatically from the mind’s castle and swiveling in wonderment. Iris was secretly invoking the power of all the fairies in the limine spheres, the slice of seacoast between low and high tides, a deepening foliage between field and forest, and the slope-land between plains and mountains.