Tag Archives: book review

small simple sweet

A merry heart goes all the day, warding off evils of everyday existential life. The Bard said, “Frame your mind to mirth and merriment, which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life.” Which also strikes the biblical chord of “Refrain from anger. Turn from wrath. Do not fret; it leads only to evil.” It all fits Sally’s way of fulfilling demands placed on her daily tasks in life and enjoying small pleasures in the simple and sweet novelty of it all.

Author’s note: with my new iPhone, nothing is impossible 🙂 I hope to make a short film, using a series of stop motions, in future.

‘Legally Haunted Houses’ by Dylan Clearfield – review

Legally Haunted HousesLegally Haunted Houses by Dylan Clearfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For a person like me who likes to read genuine supernatural stories free from dramatic accounts of witnesses, psychic, paranormal investigators, and/or parapsychologists, this is a perfect read consisting of historical cases in France, England, Canada, and the States that were rendered haunted by the court of law.

For example, the case of Stambovsky v. Ackley in the appellate division of New York Supreme Court has become a bedrock case law of caveat emptor, which is literally translated as “Let the buyer beware,” meaning that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made. The appellate court ruled that since the buyer should not/could be able to ascertain a condition in which haunting occurred upon reasonable investigation in due diligence on the buyer’s part, the plaintiff Stambovsky was awarded the rescission of the contract of sale of the house.

All of the stories contained in this collection of the cases are recorded in historical as well as legal documents, which weigh heavily against sensational TV programs and hyped-up accounts of psychics and the like in its genuineness. And it’s a light read readers can finish at one setting. Mind you, truth can be scarier than fiction.

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‘On Talking Terms’, by Turid Rugaas – review

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming SignalsOn Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Calming signals are genetically inherited canine language used for  communicating with each other to maintain healthy social hierarchy, since dogs, like their wolf ancestors, are pack animals dependent on sensory input, such as olfactory, auditory, and visual perceptions. Accordingly, dogs communicate with themselves through body motions, such as turning their heads to the other side (as a goodwill gesture in greeting between two dogs), lifting a front paw (showing peaceful intentions), yawning (as a way of reducing stress), bowing (releasing tension), etc. In this book, Ms. Turid Rugaas, an internationally acclaimed Norwegian canine behavioral counseling trainer, primarily focuses on the needs of understanding these signals from dogs as their way of communicating to and with their canids and humans alike. In the context of regarding the essence and importance of calming signals from dogs, this book offers a visual glimpse of what they are like with pictures of the dogs in each accordant motion, which I find helpful to perceive it.

However, the book does not provide the reader with more in-depth knowledge on the calming signals on the grounds of scientific terms; rather it is more of a pamphlet introducing the basic concepts of the calming signals. In fact, this book of less than 100 pages recounts the author’s personal experience with her beloved dog Vesla, who had been her faithful and effective assistant in helping other dogs’ behavioral problems solved, in her close observation of their calming signals expressed and exchanged. It is needless to say that such personal experience saturated with her firm conviction in positive training of dogs is deemed highly valuable and thus contributes significantly to the purpose of this book, which I wholeheartedly appreciate as a kindred spirit. But it is also equally tantalizing to whet my desire of discovering more about the origins of the calming signals, the comparison with those of wolves in terms of evolutionary aspects, and more examples thereof.

In summary, this book is a lovely quick read about dogs’ calming signals at a glance. In addition, the reader cannot help agreeing to the author’s view of dogs not as her subordinates to be trained with dominance but as her “children” who need love and patience because dogs as being of conflict-solving nature want to keep us in their company by trying to speak to us through calming signals. So if you just want to see what these calming signals are about in a nutshell, this is an informative and affectionate read.

‘The Saga of the Pony Express’, by Joseph J. DiCerto – review

The Saga of the Pony ExpressThe Saga of the Pony Express by Joseph J. DiCerto

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

19th Century America was rapidly expanding her territory to the west with the growth of population. So the inception of a rapid mail service across the continent to deliver important business documents, letters of importance both private and governmental, and newspaper articles was inevitable. But it was a risky business to do because crossing the continents at that time meant a perilous adventure fraught with hostile Indians, highwaymen, treacherous desert weathers and temperature, and other unforeseeable elements indicating danger.

DiCerto tells the reader of historical and cultural backgrounds on which the birth of The Pony Express as a joint venture of William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddel was founded against the odds, when the United States as a young nation in the world started to mark herself as a burgeoning western country with booming commerce and increasing population on a vast land in comparison with the European counterparts. During its operation, the service reduced the time for messages to travel between the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts to about 10 days, which is remarkable even for today’s standard of mail transit time. And it is a notable achievement of the Phony Express that the message carrying President Lincoln’s Inaugural Address was delivered from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA by a legendary pony rider Bob Haslam in record 8 hours.  In this book, the author explains about how the Pony Express came to exist despite its short lifespan (April 3rd 1860 ~ October 1861) with the advent of the transcontinental telegraphic system.

The author also relates with his consummate story-telling skills venturesome tales of the fearless young riders of the Express and their work routine, work conditions, and their interesting anecdotes, all of which are based upon veritable document records with pictures. The book is never a bore with the scintillating discourse of the historical context smacking of wits and love of the subject matter by the author who, in fact, asserts that this book is his child out of a long labor of love and passion for this awesome historical enterprise in the American history.

‘The Sumerians: A History From Beginning to End’, by Hourly History – review

The Sumerians: A History From Beginning to End (Mesopotamia History Book 1)The Sumerians: A History From Beginning to End by Hourly History

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always been interested in this mysterious ancient people who were the first inventor of the systematic written language in the history of human civilization. No eminent academics have ascertained where they were from. Subsequently, many a civilization claimed to be their descendants, ranging from the Caucasians to the Indians and even to the Far Easterners. But one thing is certain that the civilization of this enigmatic people merits itself as the cradle of civilization on the grounds of the following characteristics: (1) social structure based upon diverse economic sectors; (2) religious system concomitant with system of government; (3) advances in technology contributing to the cultural and scientific enterprises; and (4) written language, which is the bedrock of any known human civilization. They were the Sumerians. In fact, the Sumerian legacies are the sine qua non of a broad substratum of our modern cultural and social infrastructure. Notwithstanding such contributions, the Sumerians are still veiled in mysterious mist; no one knows for sure where these people came from and then vanished, leaving us with their brilliant legacies as their gifts to human history. Which makes the Sumerians all the more interesting and enigmatic as vividly and elegantly related in this book.

The Sumerian civilization burgeoned in the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, also known as one of the River-Valley Civilizations, in modern day Iraq for almost 4,000 years. The staging of the Sumerians in history was akin to a dramatic entrance of a dark horse on stage. In around 3,300 B.C. a group of outsiders with “straight black heads” from nowhere, and they called themselves “Sumerians.” However shady and murky their backgrounds might be, the Sumerians were already smart and practical when they arrived at the land with their already fully developed written language and scientific knowledge, especially on irrigation systems. To elucidate, the priests oversaw the design and building of irrigation systems as something of civil engineers who also controlled the building of embankments to prevent flooding of agricultural land during rainy season in order to allow the rapid transport of produce from farms to cities. In fact, these two inventions are regarded as the most highly advanced and influential enterprises that betoken their cultural sophistication and engineering feats that are hardly inferior to those of ours in modern time. The irrigation resulted from a need of bringing water from the rivers to the fields, and the whole procedure was exclusively operated by the priests, who negotiated with farmers for water supply in exchange of a portion of the harvested crop.

With respect to the writing system, it is known as “the cuniform” engraved in the form of wedge-shaped markings made in wet clay using sharp reeds. And this the necessity of writing came from an accounting need of recording the amounts of agricultural produce. But the Sumerian writing was more than a language of commerce. It also blossomed into an art of literature modeled for other writings, such as famous biblical stories of the Garden of Eden, the Ark of Noah, and the Book of Job were all based upon Sumerian stories allegedly based upon true events that had occurred to them. Also, the words “saffron” and “cane” we use today are derived from the cuniform.

Since Sumerians also instituted farming of the land, instead of being a nomadic hunter-gather people, they established a village as a permanent settlement, which begot food surpluses, creating diverse social structures, including a compartmentalized class system and various types of work unrelated to farming. Sumerians also produced the first codes of law and the first written literature in the form of pieces of writing, such as the Sumerian proverbs as wittingly inserted in the beginning of every chapter of this book. For instance, on the subject of married life one Sumerian man uttered thus: “For his pleasure he got married. On his thinking it over, he got divorced.”Which also bespeaks a permission of divorce in Sumerian society. Sumerians treasured monogamous marriage in which a man gave gifts to the bride and her family upon agreement to a marriage contract. Besides, women were not confined in domestic restraints; they could work as scribes, weavers, and proprietress of businesses.

There were four strata of social class in Sumerian society as follows:

  • Nobles: Senior priests and warriors and their families who owned the most of the land. The nobles distinguished themselves by resplendent clothing made of fine fabrics and impressive jewelry with their shaved heads. They all lived in temples and palaces in the center of the cities where the irrigation systems and commercial centers were located.
  • Commoners: Traders, artisans, merchants, scribes, and craftsmen. In fact, scribes were held in high esteem because of their dual role as accountants. Commoners also owned a small portion of land.
  • Clients: Senior administrators and temple personnel working for nobles who lived in small houses in highly congested streets close to the city walls or outside cities on farms.
  • Slaves: Manual laborers who were prisoners of war or sold into slavery due to the inability to pay the debts. Also, fathers of free people could sell their children into slavery to raise the funds. (So Thomas Hardy’s Mayor of Casterbridge in which a man sold his wife and daughter in a public market had its legal foundation in the Sumerian practice.) However, slaves could merry free people and purchase manumission themselves.

The emergence of the above-referenced class system indicates that the Sumerian economic infrastructure was constituted by a variety of business sectors developed in the cities with food surpluses, highly advanced irrigation systems to transport water from the rivers to the farms, and solid military prowess endowed by professional solders and inventions of steel chariots used at war for the first time in history.

In conclusion, the Sumerian contributions to our modern civilization as a collective enterprise are deeply entrenched in many aspects of our life, whether or not we know or even care, because well, let’s face it, history is written by a winner, a victor, a survivor who lives to tell beyond the boundaries of time and space. In this regard, the Sumerians might not be ostentatious de riguer per se victors because just like their mysterious origin, their demise as a sovereign entity with their direct descendants to whom their cultural artifacts and legacies stunned the proliferation of its heritage. Nonetheless, the Sumerian civilization bestrides one of the world’s most significant ancient civilizations that left indelible marks on our cumulative cultural progress as elliptically put by the following Sumerian proverb: “What comes out from the heart of the tree is known by the heart of the tree.” You see, the Sumerians were indeed brilliant. Nothing could be further from the truth.