Tag Archives: culture

Fantastic Beast and where to find it

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This is how a Kumiho appeared before the eyes of an enchanted man

I came across the article “Fantastic (Medieval) Beasts” from my subscribed magazine the other day on the train with delight and want to introduce readers another phantasmal beast from Korea called “Kumiho,” meaning a “nine-tailed fox” living in the heart of mountains.

The Kumiho conveys syncretism of totemism and shamanism in which the characteristics of humanity (Intelligence, Beauty, Ambition, Greed, Love) are fantastically intertwined with spiritual beings of natural creatures. Originally born of the spirit of a dead fox, the snow-white, gray-eyed Kumiho with the voice of a baby lives up to a thousand years with a blue magic marble possessing the knowledge of all things in the world.

The Kumiho is also an excellent shapeshifter, often in the figure of a beautiful young maiden to lure a man for marriage, so that it can fully become a human on the 100th day of the marriage. However, if any mortal sees it devouring the livers of livestock or corpses at night before the 100th day, the Kumiho can neither become a human nor will ascend to the celestial kingdom of eternal bliss, but will live another thousand years on earth until it achieves the intention. In fact, there have been accounts that several hikers have sighted the Kumiho deep in the mountains of South Korea…

 

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 a 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 neurosis 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 the 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. The 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.

Fiddlesticks! – on Smartphones

RE: 8/20/2018 edition of The Los Angeles Times on “Your smartphone is a teddy bear”

We are swimming in a dazzling sea of modern technological conveniences, and we are drowning in it, whether we are against it or not. We have come a long way since the inventions of a talking telegraph (a telephone), an electronic toaster, a walkman, and all other apparatuses that have become inseparable from us, to arrive here in the 21st century where we seldom begin and finish our days without gazing into (or being glued into) monitors with our hands on keyboards. Surely, it’s a marvelous human cultural progress, a fantastic collective enterprise of the human minds for betterment. Hip, hip, Hooray for the magnum opuses.

Apart from the marvels of our ingenious inventions that have made our lives a bit more bearable to fulfill our daily tasks, how about our non-technological aspects of life then? Do we really think that smartphones provision us with the bells and whistles of our equilibrium? At least two researchers at UC Irvine declare the resounding “Yes.” According to their recent study of psychological impacts of smartphones on our behavioral tendencies, the high-tech gizmo guarantees a feeling of security by saving us from social faux-pas in awkward situations. In fact, they “conclude” that smartphones function as efficacious stress relievers.

John Hunter and Susan Pressman are the names of such revelation, and they want to debunk the infamy of a smartphone as a mindless gizmo used for killing away our otherwise productive moments. They conducted an experiment that involved 3 experimental groups of those who had (1) the phones but were not permitted to use them; (2) the phones and were permitted to use them; and (3) no phones among a control group of UC students. The results were all over but the shouting: that those with the phones displayed less degree of anxiousness and anxiety than those who had none when they were purposefully estranged from the control group. Conversely, those without the phones exhibited the highest level of the stress hormone alpha anylase in the saliva. Besides, those with the phone but were not allowed to use them showed the least level of the stress hormone. Consequently, the researchers raved about these results, rhapsodizing about the positive effects of a smartphone on our psyche.

Neither a luddite nor an anachronist adhering to a primeval way of living, I am all for the munificent technological largess of our time with open arms because I also, inevitably, use it myself in my daily life. But the researchers’ triumphant conclusion of their experiment seems rather precarious and cursory in relation to the following speculations: (1) What were the age groups of their experimental groups? Did the researchers target a specific age group? (2) What were the education and social levels of the experimental groups?; (3) were there any variables in the experimental groups and the control group?; and (4) were the researchers by any chance funded by technologically-based companies?  These are the questions that my heart suspects more than my eye can see.

The image of a devil’s advocate is what I am donning on this topic, but this article pushed me into the position on account of rather superficial results of the experiment devoid of the information on the aforesaid speculations. Also, looking at people wallowing themselves in small smartphones everywhere, especially on the subway and the bus, other than books or kindles, renders an apocalyptic image of the world nearing the doomsday or a scene of horror creatures that turn into zombies every night. “Magnas civitas, Magnas solitude,” Francis Bacon once lamented a great feeling of isolation in a great city. That says it, I should think so. Our sense of belonging and security is not bound by a possession of smartphones, nor does it replace your sweet teddy bears.

It’s a Strange Place, England by Jack Strange

It's A Strange Place, EnglandIt’s A Strange Place, England by Jack Strange

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jack Strange’s England is never a bore; it is a mystifying country with its tempestuous history and colorful characters populated by the ever undead of the bygone eras still roaming their past abodes or workplaces among the quick. It is a quaint country where history meets myth and legend. This book will guide the reader to Strange England where fanciful folklores and historical facts are anchored in the traditions and customs.

The author admits that England is perhaps arguably one of the most haunted countries in the world, thanks to its religiously and politically tempestuous pasts spanning the wheel of time from the Roman colonial period to the present. To illustrate, in Derbyshire a spectral Roman sentinel is often seen leading a parade of a circus comprising gladiators, chariots, and slaves, then all of them disappear into the mist. Another lovelorn Roman soldier is witnessed alongside Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, wandering in despair of his betrayed love for a fair English maiden. The phantom English residents also encompass the Benedictine monks led by St, Cuthbert in Lindisfarne, which was a target for frequent raiding by Norsemen who also threatened the cradle of English Christianity. It is said that the best time to see the saint or the monks is when the tides are high and a full moon lights the shore as a natural lantern.

England is also a home of many interesting sports that are historically – and sometimes by happenstance – originated. The World Gurning Championship in Egremont in Cumbria was originated in 1267 when the Lord of the manor gave out crabapples to the locals. One can imagine without difficulty the consequence of tasting the apple, and thus can master the art of making as ugly face as possible. Hence this hilarious tournament comes to exist to this day. It’s open to everyone – yes, even to the fairest of all – , and it’s all about fun and participation. Also, there is Black Pudding Throwing Championship in Ridge, Lancashire. Originated in 1455, this tournament shows English humor mixed with historical irony, which makes it all the more convincing. It was during the period of “War of the Roses” elegantly referred by Sir Walter Scott (who was a Scot) to the feud between the House of York whose symbol was a white rose and the House of Lancashire a red rose. At the Battle of Stubbins in Lancashire in 1455, both forces decided to throw puddings at one another instead of lances. Believe it or not, the descendents still commemorate the incident by holding a championship every year with mirthful popularity.

Subsequent to Strange Tales of the Sea, the author Jack Strange has done a marvelous job gleaning the extensive historical documents and cultural artifacts from his tireless research to provide his reader with interesting facts about his England. Strange is a gifted artificer who digs artifacts buried in the depths of forgotten times and lost folklores. Strange is also a mysteriously reclusive figure himself because there’s no personal information about him. Maybe that’s why his writings are so hauntingly attractive and oddly addictive. Strange is an excellent storyteller who weaves a tapestry  of legends and folklores imbued with his impressive knowledge of the history of England and his English humor permeated in his writings. This book is Strange’s winking invitation to his beloved England that spins a general image of the country with enchanting oddity and wide-eyed wonder that the readers will not tire of.

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