Tag Archives: history

grand fanfare for the heart

Sometimes, life surprises us with its unexpected in-between amuse-bouches when all seems drab and dreary. So here was something bright and cheery for my routine existential life; my letter to the editor of  BBC History Revealed was published in this month’s issue. AWESOME!

I was reading it on my Kindle Fire on the train and was delighted to read my own writing in print. It was written following my reading on celebrities who had fought in wars featuring on the June issue of the magazine. The original letter is as below, but the last paragraph was omitted in print.:

Dear Editor:

Although it isn’t about a celeb served in WWII, I would like to stretch the time and the theater of war to further and farther because the following celeb is worth noting.

James Garner was an excellent actor as well as an exemplary citizen. His major roles in “Maverick” and “The Rockford Flies” commanded his screen presence carved in the American television firmament with his rugged good looks and no-nonsense parlance that embodied proverbial American machismo. But what the public eyes saw in the actor was a reflection of his virtues: Garner was a decorated Korean war veteran, a recipient of Two Purple Hearts for his selfless service, valor, integrity, and honor demonstrated as a US Army private assigned to a combat team which sustained heavy casualties. In fact, Garner sustained several wounds on his face and hands resulting from shrapnel and a mortar round. Nevertheless, he was a fearless warrior in its true sense and threw himself against the showers of bullets to save his wounded battle buddies and to accomplish his missions with all his might. After the war, Garner pursued his career in acting and began to star in a number of war movies, such as “The Great Escape”. James Garner was a man of respect and honor.

Thank you for your reading! By the way, I am a subscriber to your magazine living in California. I enjoy reading every issue thereof during my lunch hour and commute to and from work on the train.

I am planning to get hard copies of the magazine as a keepsake and for distributing them to my family and friends. I am also glad to know that a magazine like BBC History Revealed featured my humble, imperfect writing. It is my opinion that a British magazine knows how to educate the public with universally interesting topics in plain English and witticism with a general reader in mind in comparison with its hyper intellectual transatlantic counterparts.

I am writing this on my Blog, so that I can remember in writing that it happened and that my writing was communicative to the editor despite my textual foibles. Nevertheless, I have the temerity to write in English to speak of Reason and Taste for its being a lingua franca, a modern-day equivalent of Akkadian. With timeless adages of George Orwell, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Kurt Vonnegut as patient and encouraging ethereal guardians, I write for sheer egotism of making my soul grow and expressing myself to the world, come what may. For this reason, I want to pat myself on the shoulders 🙂

hrev

‘In Pursuit of Civility: Manners and Civilization in Early Modern England’ by Keith Thomas – review

In Pursuit of Civility: Manners and Civilization in Early Modern EnglandIn Pursuit of Civility: Manners and Civilization in Early Modern England by Keith Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


We live in an age of casual manners that would alarm the folks who still remember when letters and rotary telephones were the prime means of communication, not to speak of those in days of yore. But the leniency of manners is not a thing of our age, but it has been constant of every age as a note faintly scribbled on a tablet discovered in an ancient Roman archaeological site reveals, “Today’s kids are rude imps.” Which also brings us to the ensuing questions of what defines civility. Does civility equate submissiveness with anachronistic fogyism and therefore must be overruled with unrelenting individualism? Keith Thomas’s In pursuit of civility delves into the history of civility in England in an attempt to reach the subjectivity of civility as a universal social cohesion to live harmoniously as citizens of the world.

Civility is a tacitly agreed social duty, a state of refinement equivalent to one’s moral character that subsumes civilization in its widest sense, opposite barbarism, a primordial state of beastliness dispossessed of all things antonymous with humanity. Originally derived from the Greek word, “barbarous,” meaning a person whose speech was incomprehensible, a dichotomy between the civilized and the barbarian has retained its rhetorical utility throughout the centuries: Civility is of good manner and good citizenship, whereas barbarianism denotes vulgarity, ignorance, and violence. Thomas discourses that civility as the crucial index of a country’s social harmony and political stability has set a template for a leviathan module of defining civilization, the end product of cultural, moral, and material condition of the civilizing process. That is, where civility reigns, there is civilization and therefore humanity. For civility sprang from a necessity of communal life rather than from an abstract ideology to subjugate the unseemly at the low rungs of the social ladder. Surely, the aristocrats refined a distinctive code of manners as the merit of the elites to distinguish themselves from the melee, but in a wider picture of a society, civility was a must to make all lives easier to live as they, especially the middle class and the working class, strove to progress by being interdependent of each other for economic gains. Thomas points out that intensive labor raised people above rude and sordid barbarism and begets arts by which human life is civilized because productive, labor-driven industry is the bedrock of civility from which economic, artistic, and intellectual benefits ensue.

Thomas unpicks that nowadays politeness is synonymous with effeminacy, acquiescence, servility, foppishness, kowtowing, even, as opposed to the fierce slogan of “equality to all.” Politeness is politically and socially and liberally misconstrued as a weakness of character or diffidence of self-esteem or an exotic cultural custom. People misidentify politeness, a set of good behaviors as servility because they are foolishly led to a belief that politeness is an anachronistically incoherent legacy of the racist conservative history of the past that they must thwart with full force and effect. However, Thomas benevolently keeps us in a positive light in this vacuum of civility by saying that what we have these days is “a new and more equal form of civility,” which indicates that we as a collective human enterprise is not retrogressing but progressing toward the better future if we understand that civility is as important in an egalitarian society as in a hierarchical one by learning to disagree without being disagreeable. All in all, this is a highly informative read accessible to the general reader who regards politeness as sweetness of the mind and who extends it to all humankind as a citizen of the world.

‘Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen,’ by Mary Norris – review

Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma QueenGreek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen by Mary Norris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The ancient Greeks knew what appealed to the senses. The cult of beauty was the caryatid pillars of the culture that sublimated the human body into a divine canvas of the mind. So much so that they codified the value of beauty in their belief system, ranging from mythology to philosophy, in pursuit of kalokagathia , the harmonious combination of physical beauty with spiritual goodness. The perennial upshot of this Greek admiration of kalokagathia is Mary Norris’s charming Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen, a wonderful cabinet of her infatuations with all things Greek, ranging from awesome Goddess Athena to dashing Sean Connery as Agamemnon, to the whimsical variations of Greek pronunciation, and to her exhilarating skinny-dipping in Aphrodite’s Beach. With her gift of scintillating narrative skills flavored with accessible erudition, Norris warmly invites the reader to her own delightful Greek festival of words, gods, romances, and delicacies.

It is said that when you love, you want to know. An erotic impulse charged from the imposing physical presence of Sean Connery as Agamemnon became a stimuli that galvanized a shy celibate Catholic bluestocking into her never-ending solo odyssey in pursuit of a mystical ambrosia, the food of the Greek gods, for the sensuous delight of the arcane Eleusinean Mysteries. Part memoir, part travelogue, and part reference book, Greek to me is a lovely treatise on Norris’s lasting affairs of the heart with words and adventures in the land of the capricious Olympians, olive trees, and phonetic alphabets with infinite varieties. The scholarly subjects of mythology and language of Greece are never dealt with academic superciliousness or elitist snobbishness that separates them (and the author) from a general reader. Contrariwise, Norris is an intelligently gorgeous writer who wears her erudition lightly and writes in plain language felicitously topped with her artless witticism that makes her a winsome literary troubadour. If Edith Hamilton, author of Mythology and The Greek Way, has an aura of dour-faced platonic conservative teacher of the ancient Greek mythology and the culture, Mary Norris is of a coterie of amiable Socrates, sharing her knowledge with the public – literate, illiterate.

In the exhilarating sensation of naked freedom astride the gushing foams of wild waves in Aphrodite’s Beach, the reader feels connected to the author’s paroxysm of pleasure and transformed into a votary of the goddess of love. Norris’s solipsistic adventure becomes a tour of coterie, traveling beyond the territorial borders into the mythological world of gods and goddesses in search of the Golden Fleece fit to one’s appropriate need. Although the chapters devoted to the lexicons of the Greek language can be taxing to comprehend to whom it all looks Greek, most of the book is invested with the vicarious Eureka pleasure of going there, being there, and seeing there, all made possible by Norris’s goddess Athena-like literary prowess. Besides, if the reader happens to be a quiet solo Catholic woman graduating from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ (more specifically, all-women Douglass College therein), secretly desirous of solitary skinny-dipping in Aphrodite’s Beaches basking in freedom from insecurity, this book will feel like a new friend.

go francis – viva papa!

There has been much ado about it. Some say it’s unthinkable. A few say it’s schismatic. Many say it’s heretical. They are talking about Pope Francis’s intention of rewriting a sentence of Lord’s Prayer with their eyebrows raised in contemptuous incredulity. The fact is that most of these dissidents are like the insular Pharisees and have never liked the pope for his munificent largess of humanity without boundary. The so-called “conservative” Catholics do not want the pope to make Lord’s Prayer as close as to what it is supposed to mean, even calling his purpose an audacious challenge to the infallibility of the Holy Spirit by which the prayer was inscribed in the Holy Writ. But is the pope, who himself is an eminent Jesuit scholar, willfully shaking the bedrock of the teaching and faith of the faithful indeed? Or is the pope really an Antichrist incarnate?

The subject sentence at issue is: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The Pope has recently told Italian TV that it nuances that it is God himself that puts us in temptation, whereas it is us who fall into the trap of evil by our free will. Yet, the dissidents argue the pope’s bona fide, ad homine intention on the following grounds: (1) the change of Lord’s Prayer will sever and bifurcate Christian unity; (2) it will obfuscate the original meaning of the Greek version; and (3) it is simply outrageous to change the most sacred, ancient form of universal prayer as taught by Christ himself.

It is understandable that the root of such misunderstood sentence arises out of the old translation from the Greek to Latin Vulgate and then to vernacular language. However, in terms of the original language of the bible, it is hard to pinpoint one because (1) Jesus and this twelve disciples spoke Aramaic; (2) the new testament was mostly written by Hellenistic Jews (Jews speaking Greeks) and Greeks converted into Christianity; and (3) the bible was further translated by scholars into vernacular language, so that it could be rendered naturally comprehensible to the faithful in their own language. In this regard of clarity, the pope wants to make it lucid to chime the bells of the souls.

If the dissidents regard the pope’s noble purpose of making necessary changes to Lord’s Prayer as a subverting act toward the sacred authority of Lord’s Prayer, then they should look back on the history of Church from the First Council of Nicaea to the Council of Trent and to the Second Vatican Council to remind themselves of the intentions of the Church to render herself accessible to the masses throughout the turmoil of epochal waves of changes according to its corresponding zeitgeist. So why not this time? Call me schismatist or heretic. For all what’s worth in all good faith, I side with Pope Francis.

Have my say @ bbc history revealed

I wrote this letter to ediotor of “BBC History Revealed” during my lunchtime today upon reading an article about the Wild West. A prospect of its publication is beyond the pale, outside the boundary of even the slightest hint of flattering hope and vain wish. Yet, I was egged on by to express my opinion on it as a new frontier-woman in California with the literary advice from Henry David Thoreau and Horace Greeley that the West is where we can start anew because of the Pacific Ocean, a terrestrial version of Lethe, the river of forgetfulness.

Dear Editor:

The article about the Wild West in this month’s issue was particularly interesting, since I am a recent immigrant from the East to the West: the restive nature, the swashbuckling gunslingers, the outrageous outlaws and the ruthless vigilantes were all embroidered on the popular Hollywood-generated image of the West that became something of a  factoid to people living outside the West.

Even though the U.S. Census Bureau declared in 1890 that no more western frontiers were left to conquer, I believe that the culture and ambiance of the West remains here in California. As someone who lived many years in New Jersey and the New York City before moving to Camarillo, the most distinctive characteristic of California is its unsullied beauty of nature in replacement of the skyscraper jungle as I see every day on the commuter’s railways.

Surely, there’s no more John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper, or Paul Newman with Robert Redford walking in the streets. Yet, the spirit of eternal youthfulness is still nuanced by a combination of its beautiful rusticity of nature and a diversity of people interacting with the special aura surrounding the land.  For this reason, the West has not lost its charm with its continuous saga of immigrants in search of better future and the timeless beauty of nature.