Tag Archives: English writing

Afterthought

I didn’t anticipate her response, let alone her thanks. After all, she’s a celeb in the constellation of high stars, a goddess in the pantheon of divine knowledge, and a grand master in alchemy of literature, Or in recognition of her self-titled epithet, she’s the Comma Queen who will not/does not suffer from the grammatical benightedness of ambitious literary proclivity. But it happened, and she did; Mary Norris, author of Greek to Me about which I wrote a review, responded thereto in the following fashion:

Well, it’s nice to be complimented for my work by someone who is famous, and I certainly wouldn’t mind being rich and famous if I turned into an overnight sensation in literary firmament. Yet, I do not write to make a living nor to be popular with hundreds of likes. Writing to me is an act of sovereign remedy for the existential ills, of personal treatise on the workings of the mind and of sheer egotism of relieving the creative urge from within. Come what may, a little tweet from the celebrated writer will not turn love of the book into worship of the writer. For it is the work of her intellect manifested in her literary craftsmanship, not the person herself. Whether or not the author liked my review does not/will not/should not affect my reason for and act of writing with a million dollar memento from Kurt Vonnegut: “To practice art, no matter how well or badly, is to make your soul grow. So just do it.”

names do matter

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Some brand names have become unique nouns in days of our lives: a box of Ziplocs to carry leftovers from last night dinner for lunch, an iPhone that has become a safety blanket, a Kindle for all-around entertainment, and a box of Kleenex to wipe away make-ups or tears… Then there are the ubiquitous Starbucks stores for perk-me-up coffee or regular hangouts… The panoply of brand names is illustrated in the ordinary scenes of our daily life as a byproduct of endless human cultural and social enterprise. Hence, I think it worth noting the origin of some of the globally proverbial brand names of products that we are familiar with.

The first and foremost principle of naming a product is to make it as catchy and snappy as possible to effortlessly remember. In this regard, Nomitative determinism can be also linked to a name of a product because it can decide its longevity and popularity based upon the ingenuity of name that matches its purpose with brilliant ideas taken from literary inspirations, cultural influences, or historical artifices. Take Mazda, which is originated from Ahura Mazda, the ancient Persian God of light, wisdom, intelligence, and harmony, the highest supreme being in Zoroastrianism. It is also a symbol of eastern and western cultures. Nike is the winged goddess of victory with the resounding slogan of “Think Nike”. Starbucks comes from the chief mate in Herman Melville’s classic Moby-Dick. It is also interesting to know that the name Starbucks belongs to the famous wealthy Quaker shipowner of Nantucket in Massachusetts as featured in Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea, a nonfiction narrative of the tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. And there is Yahoo, which is a deformed savage in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.

Some brand-names are curious blending of words. Vodafone stands for Voice, Data, and Telefone. Here is a classic example of ASICS, a Japanese sport goods company, whose cool name is derived from Latin, “Mans Sana in Corpore Sano,” meaning “Healthy mind dwells in healthy body.” Which is a motto of ancient Greek’s competitive spirit manifested in Olympiad. Then there is Volvo, meaning “I roll” in Latin, while Lego actually comes from Danish word for “play well”. And who else can ignore the presence of Amazon, the largest river in the world?

That which we call car, cellphone, or coffee by any other name would remain as functional and purposeful to make our life convenient and accommodate to our whims and desires. So why not give it a clever name to remember with a burst of pep? It’s all about the art of witty soul of brevity that penetrates the psychology of the mind in the world of adverts.

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‘Socrates: A Man for Our Times’, by Paul Johnson -review

Socrates: A Man for Our TimesSocrates: A Man for Our Times by Paul Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the constellation of philosophers in the intellectual firmament, there is none other than Socrates whose influence on humanity, ranging from academic disciplines to everyday cultural memes, strikes the chords with the contemporary minds at its simplest form. It is this essence of Socrates’s simple but profound moral philosophy that has been enshrined in the pantheon of Immortal Knowledge of our collective human civilization for thousands of years. In Socrates by Paul Johnson, this immortal philosopher is hard to resist and difficult to find fault with through the author’s cicerone guide to the streets of the ancient Athens, where Socrates is in his usual convivial mood to speak in public and welcomes the reader with his genuine warm smile to join his conversation.

The stratagem of moral education in the form of philosophy is to tame the appetites (the senses or the id) and to guide spirits (emotions or the ego) in man to reach the highest level of humanness, which is the reason (the judgment or the superego). The process of this moral education is civilization, a standard by which barbarism is judged and separated from the educated mind, and Socrates thought it essential to implement it in all aspects of Athenian life because it was the surest avenue to happiness, meaning of human life. In fact, Socrates was the first philosopher to democratize the concept of philosophy from lofty abstraction of an academic plane to practical realism of a living guide. Johnson describes Socrates as something of a Prometheus, who translated the heavenly into the terrestrial in the sense that Socrates wanted to unlock the goodness of life for the benefit of mankind. For Socrates was the one who brought philosophy down from the wondering skies, domesticated it the huts and villas of people, and familiarized it with the ordinary life in examination of good and evil.

Socrates seems even more likable thanks to Johnson’s historical accounts of Socrates’s personal traits and physiognomy: the corroboration comes from his young, handsome, controversial, but nonetheless valiant aristocratic friend Alciblades that (1) Socrates was a selfless comrade in battle, fearless in fighting, and artless in helping his battle buddies: (2) commendable hardiness enabled him to wear thin clothing despite the cold and the snow; (3) he disliked letting his emotions show on his face; (4) he regarded poverty as a shortcut to self-control; and that (5) he kept fit in the stadium and gymnasium and even danced because he believed that a healthy body was the greatest of blessings. It is also well known that Socrates was an ugly man with a flat, broad nose and beer belly, especially by the standards of Greece in the 5th century that highly valued regularity of features we would call Byronic today. And yet, Socrates, ever imperturbable and optimistic, was not depressed by his ugliness because to Socrates beauty was not inherent in itself but was by the virtue of its use. It was more of utilitarian nature for practical purpose. Socrates’s way of accepting himself as he is relates to logotheraphy, neuroplasticity, and habit of positive thinking, now bestriding the domain of self-help literature.

I have always been a fan of Paul Johnson’s writing style in harmony with his wealth of erudition and fountain of humor, a fascinating combination that makes his reads so likable and interesting. And here again, he did it again: with his customary witty narrative packed full of lots of unknown anecdotes and personal tidbits on subjects he writes about, Johnson tells the reader about Socrates as precisely and candidly as possible based upon historical evidence to resurrect him in the textual theater of literature. His interpretations draw on his exceptional knowledge of the philosopher and the history of his time, but he wears his learning lightly and always writes with a general reader in mind. Hence, the figure of Socrates in his book is no longer seen as the ancient adumbral thinker but a jovial, avuncular teacher who really cares about the lives of his students of all walks of life in this highly entertaining book. This book presents a pleasant banquet of the mind and spirit hosted by the consummate storytelling narrative of Johnson in the honor of Socrates, the people’s philosopher.

The moon in colors

71wjr9Kv-JL._SY355_What would it be like to have the luminescent Moon all to yourself in your room? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have it in your hands glowing, strobing, and flashing in rainbow colors? But I know the feeling of how it’s like to be part of the Universe in physical sense because I have it: the Moon, the Queen of the nightly sky, the symbol of goddess Artemis, my favorite goddess of the Greek mythology in the form of  a  new  Moon Lamp 3D Printing  16 Colors Moon Light.

This Moon Lamp is a lovely novelty both in design and in functionality. It is a pretty lamp that bears a striking resemblance to the real Moon with what seems to be lunar swirls and craters on the surface that feel pleasantly soft in touch. It is about as big as a cantaloupe and light into the bargain, so I can move it around in any place. The lamp comes with a cable cord, a small wood stand, and a remote control With which I can change the colors and the intensity of the light as well as set a timer for the moonlight show at night. It’s also relaxing and pacifying to look at the glowing light of the Moon when I read and write at my desk. The mysterious luminance fills the room with serenity and beauty that translates my earthly dwelling into a small universe of my own, part of the mythological world of gods and goddesses, with bestowal of sacred ability of prophecy like a Sybil or Pythia.

I am glad that my choice of this Moon Lamp chimes the bell of my love of mysteriousness and want for calm pleasantness at night when I am home. I glory in the novelty of it all, and it also seems to entertain my mother who likes the most when the lamp turns into a lavender color. As poet W.H. Auden compared woman’s love to the soft and gentle light of the Moon he called “this lunar beauty,” I compare my new lamp to this electronic lunar beauty. 

 

‘The Power Of Habit’, by Charles Duhigg – review

The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And BusinessThe Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business by Charles Duhigg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

William Shakespeare’s convivial axiom of “A merry heart goes all the day” contains a profound secret of the power of the mind. It tallies with the tenets of quantum physics that consciousness is the foundation of the universe. Accordingly, the significance of willpower has always been the subject of philosophy, literature, and science because that is a prerogative of our humanness, our sovereign power and right of exercising the great faculty of mind to the extent possible, just as John Milton in Paradise Lost advised us: “Mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” Further back in the antiquity, Aristotle corroborated that habits reigned supreme in connection with our construction of reality: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” In the tradition of Milton’s existential observation of the mind and Aristotle’s epistemological truth about the power of the mind, Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit propounds an auspicious argument that explains how habits are formed and how to discontinue bad habits based upon the scientific findings of the brain and factual evidence in lay terms.

In order to give the reader the importance of habit formations and its relation to the neurological functions of the brain and the physiological effects on the bodily functions, Duhigg first avers that subconscious mechanisms that impact the numerous choice that seem as if they were the products of sound logics are actually influenced by habits of thinking. This habit formation results from the evolutionary progress of the brain’s mechanism for saving efforts, so that we can stop thinking constantly and redundantly about basic behaviors to devote mental energy to inventing irrigation systems, letters, waterwheels, printing machines, and other technological artifacts.

Then how are these habit formations programmed in our brain? Duhigg provides the reader with the simple but potent secret of 3-step loop as follows: (1) Cue: a mental trigger that commands the brain to go into automatic response and which habit to use; (2) the routine: physical and mental response to outward stimuli; and (3) a reward: feedback from the brain to parse if this particular loop is worth the remembering for the future. It is also quite reassuring to learn that even the smallest shift in the routine stage can upend the pattern and that every habit is malleable and fixable, however complex it may seem. Once the entire loop is established through a steady period of time, the brain stops fully participating in decision-making, letting an action put in auto-pilot mode. Hence, a habit is born. This also means that we can take control of the loop if we learn to create new neurological routines to overpower our less desirable or undesirable habits as long as cues are present.

To illustrate, the case of Travis Leach is the most compelling and realistically substantive in proving the power of habit formations fueled by willpower. Leach dropped out of a high school aged 16, wasn’t mentally strong enough to withstand criticisms and indignities, resulting in his frequent changing of odds-and-ends jobs. Then goddess fortuna must have winked at Leach when he got a job as a barrister at a newly established Starbucks store that made him turn over a new leaf in life. At the age of 26, Leach became the manager of 2 Stabucks stores overseeing 40 employees. He never got upset by irate customers or felt utterly powerless in a drip of criticism due to the company’s education of empowering willpower to their new employees based upon the science of habit formations. To dismiss it as a tactful advertisement for Starbucks’s business umpire is to discredit Leach’s hard-won triumph of will over his sociological disadvantages and psychological scars as a result of his unhappy childhood.

Duhigg’s vastly informative and highly entertaining guide to the habit of success does not bestride a vox populi bestseller list of common self-help books. With his thorough research of evidentiary neurological impacts on habit formations and use of everyday examples thereof, Duhigg marshals his knowledge of the subject and willingness to help people in plain language that is accessible to the initiated and the uninitiated. He then delivers a burst of scintillating pep to the reader with steadfast belief that the right kind of habit formations supported by willpower will transform the raw material of the mind into its Excellency through a process as mysterious as a “caterpillar transforming mulberry leaves into silk,” as his like-minded intellectual Ralph Waldo Emerson agreed two centuries ago. This is not a self-help book per se, but a modern day version of Aristotelian principles of ethics examining the nature of and relations between virtue, the mean, pleasure, and happiness that can make your life different.