Posted in book review, 미분류, Miscellany, Poetry

Beam Me Up, Scotty: Admiral Kirk’s onboard

The skies were clear blue, and the wind mild and agreeable. The day was ripe for the moment the star returned to the galactic heavens in rejuvenated buoyancy of jubilee that he would be out to the extraterrestrial world again. “Beam me up, Scotty,” the man said as he boarded on New Shepherd, treating it like his beloved ship USS Enterprise. It was art imitating life in the former captain’s bright eyes; it was life imitating art in the old star’s beady eyes. For William Shatner, aka Admiral Kirk of Star Trek, it was a one-of-a-kind experience, equivalent to an out-of-body experience in which you fly from your corporeal vessel and wander in all whither, floating weightless, groundless. It was his very Real McCoy galactic trip to outer space.

On Wednesday, October 13th, Blue X, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos-owned spacecraft enterprise, took off from its launching site about 20 miles away from Rural Texas town of Van Horn with civilian passengers who paid astronomical sums for their space trip. But not Shatner, who spent nothing at the courtesy of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said to be a long-time Trekkie and something of a billionaire with a flair for space cowboy. The motive for a publicity stunt to outshine Blue X over entrepreneur rivals, Elon Musk’s Space-A and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc., is impossible to ignore, yet why not when it also produces positive effects of provoking the imaginary in the real? Shatner, at age 90, seemed no longer the dashing brilliant, just young Admiral Kirk any longer. Still, his spirit beamed up as he experienced overview effect outside the orbit, profoundly mesmerized with the deep fragility of Planet Earth, the Galaxy Blue. Shatner articulated the face of the Earth as so ethereal and impossibly gorgeous vis-à-vis the blackness of outer space that he had a eureka moment of what distinguished Light (Life-Earth) from Darkness (Death-Outer Space). Methinks that such pareidolia of the overview effect has something to do with his nonagenarian age, the last age in Seven Stages of Man, one foot closer in the grave. However, when I watched him in the news, overwhelmed by the ineffable emotions, Jeff Bezos removed his shades and embraced the old actor; all looked genuine, not an act staged for a post-trip publicity event. And even if it so, then it is a likable sort of entertainment that does viewers of all kinds good.

Criticisms on the expensive space trip only the haves can afford are worldwide and understandable amid the unequal distribution of wealth makes earthlings live and die or live and suffer. Yet the veteran movie star reminds me of an old soldier who has lived through the vagaries of life. Overall, the 90-year-old Shatner’s space trip materializes the earthling voyage of the USS Enterprise, boldly searching for new life and new civilizations into the galaxies.

Captain Kirk coming home
Floating under a parachute
Touching down on Mother Earth
in a soft haze of excellent dust,
Calling it home, Roger out.

Welcome back to Earth, Admiral Kirk.

Posted in Miscellany

education is not a status symbol

Education is not a prerogative of the fortunate who have been born into comfortably well-to-do socioeconomic families or, if deprived, sponsored by goodwill fairylike patrons for splendidly expensive private higher education. It is not a status symbol to distinguish the fortunate from the melee in ostentations display of their supposedly high intelligence, dazzling scholastic aptitude, and a means to continue such expensive education as a symbol of confidence, competence, and cleverness.

But Joshua Angrist, an Israeli-American Nobel laureate in Economics of the year 2021, doesn’t think that way, not least because those who enter expensive elite schools are already brighter than their ordinary or troubled peers. The Nobel-Prized theory of education in the context of the selective admission process has become a concrete, incorruptible credo for the elite academic institutions and enflamed the already swelled up egos of the diploma holders doing well in their lives. When I read about him from today’s newspaper, I had to re-read his saying that “the reason graduates of those schools tend to do well has more to do with selective admission than education.” I understand his intention to demystify social legend that an Ivy-league diploma will guarantee you lifelong flowery roads to financial security and commensurate social status. However, it has more to do with his defense of continuous selective criteria to muster a pool of academically, and usually economically affluent, prospective students than anything else. What he argues is, “Don’t mess with the elite schools’ admission processing, for they select only the smartest ones!” Therefore, his argument calls for changing social agendas for changing such selective admissions to improve public education.

Angrist himself is a product of privileged education that some people wear like fancy hats on their pointed heads. He went to Oberlin College for BA and Princeton University for MA, Ph D. He teaches at Harvard University, which has become the infallibly supreme Ivory Tower in the States and most East Asian countries. Based upon Angrist’s focus on causality and effects on social impacts, it will be natural for him to defend the selective admission process, and I say go for it.

But it irks me to read from the Nobel laureate that supreme education is not for everybody. Since Angrist prides himself in employing real-world empirical evidence in his theory, does he marginalize those who have ambitions and aspirations to receive such quality education but are disadvantaged of the opportunities to learn the skills apt for demonstrating their minds? What about them, and how can he help them to access such opportunities? He’s not a social worker, which I don’t think he will not be pleased to be associated with even, but as an intellectual, he has a social responsibility to answer such vital issues. And if this unequal distribution of privileged educational opportunities is not worth studying, I wonder if those Nobel Prize panels thought his opuses deserve such international recognition. After all, Economics always comes last in the Nobel Prizes, with its being on the criteria most recently in the late sixties mainly begetting Americans.

Posted in book review

‘Hittites: A History From Beginning to End’ by Hourly History – book review

Hittites: A History From Beginning to End by Hourly History
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The name Uriah always fascinated me from British Rock band Uriah Heep to the biblical Uriah, whose beautiful wife led him ultimately to death, willy-nilly, by King David infatuated with her sensuousness. When I learned that the ancestor of Uriahs was the founder of the Hittites race, being the great-grandson of Noah, the biblical patriarch, I had a Eureka moment. Consequently, I picked up this concise but comprehensive book on the Hittites to know a little more about the people whose founder had the great name.

Before the splendor of ancient Greek contributions to our human cultural progress as a collective enterprise, there was the forgotten but enduring legacy of the Hittites, the mysterious Indo-European trailblazers of civilizations at the crossroads of the East and the West in the vast plain of modern-day Turkey. The Hittites were an integral people to solve the mystery of mythological and biblical events anchored in the real world, thus dissolving fact and legend into one another like a genie from an empire that vanished into the dunes of time and comes alive in the calling. The calling of these mysteriously vanished people came first from British Reverends Archibald Henry Sayce and William Wright in the early 19th century. They discovered the artifacts and sites of the Hittites. Their discovery led to more remarkable discoveries. During the middle Bronze age and Iron age, the Hittites were the first to utilize iron from the region of present Armenia to craft tools and weapons. Also, the Hittites were deft at commerce, developing the city of Carchemish as an ancient mercantile hubbub in which they imported products from Phoenicia and exported them to Assyria (the North) and Babylon (the South) in Mesopotamia. In this fabulous ancient city, Israelites of the Old Testament acted as intermediaries in trade between Egyptians for exporting horses and chariots and the Hittites for importing them.

Like all those famous entertainers who sparkled then lost the lusters, the Hittites as a collective empire fell from splendor gradually by outside forces: some pointed the fingers at the Sea People, while the others blamed a certain barbarous Kaska people. But, perhaps, such clandestine ending of the Hittites is what makes them formidably alluring and mysteriously fascinating, blurring the boundary of fact and legend. Suppose you are keen on the history of ancient civilizations other than Greece and Egypt. In that case, this elegant primer for the history of the Hittites will equip you with fundamental knowledge enough to whet your craving for more and more profound knowledge about the Hittites.



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Posted in Miscellany

2021 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to Abdulrazak Gurnah

The great writers are capable of metamorphosis and travel across a gulf of time and a hiatus of cultures and continents because their narratives speak to the sentiments and reason common to all humankind. Enter Abdulrazak Gurnah, this year’s Nobel Prize laureate in Literature, in this celestial constellation of great writers. The following is what I think about Gurnah based on reading his interview with today’s Reuter.

Gurnah, born in Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) in 1948, went to England in the 1960s as a refugee fleeing from the political turmoil and social unrest of his native country. Then began his migrant’s song composed of multiple strands of his experience, thoughts, and feelings that became polyphonic acapella in variant notes and rhythms. Unlike many other laureates of prestigious literary awards or esteemed recognition, Gurnah is a champion of underdogs who were not expensively educated in private institutions and, above all, who were not born into the surroundings of English as mother tongue. Working at the places where his privileged literary peers would not think of, Gurnah wrote in English as Second Language as his Lingua Franca literary tool. The result is his enchantment of readers to a fantastic maze of his inner world. His narratives become Ariadne’s thread that guides his readers to the world that seems so unfamiliar yet oddly universal.

Gurnah seems to be the kind of writer I sincerely respect and dare to emulate who have lived among ordinary people like a sun in evening declination with the soft but radiant scarlet hues covering the earth, reflecting its magnificent face in shining waters. I am delighted to confirm that you don’t have to be born into a culture that speaks English if you want to become a good English writer. It is not about the Perfect mastery of language but about articulating thoughts to become a great writer. Although the media emphasizes Gurnah’s being the second black African author to have won the award since Nigerian Wole Soyinka in 1986, I don’t think it’s about his race that draws attention to his books. His being a writer supersedes his race because writers are different kinds of the race with a unique eye to look at the world and show it to readers, standing together in the collegiality of human spirits.

Posted in book review

Sister Wendy’s lovely ‘Speaking to the Heart: 100 Favorite Poems’ – book review

Speaking to the Heart: 100 Favorite Poems by Wendy Beckett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sister Wendy was an erudite and delightful cloistered art historian in a veil who knew that Poetry is a song of the heart from a mind spring of sense and sensitivity, not to be burdened with a weight of reason. The result is a lovely apple-picking of her favorite poems in her pretty poetic orchard to share the beauty with the universal reader whose heart intoxicated and the spirit exalted in ethereal ecstasy. Her selection of poems manifests the finer tissues of her heart and the higher octaves of her spirit. Reading the entire book creates empathy for the sensitive minds of the poets so physically poignant that the reader senses the pain and the longing of the poets vis-à-vis.

Sister Wendy, also known for her long-time BBC documentaries on the history of art, speaks her heart through the poems of her choice colored in the spectrums of human emotions, ranging from longing to wonder, hope to sorrow, and anger to love. Even the subject of Faith becomes alluring due to Sister Wendy’s magical transformation of the matter into fairy-like ideation with sensually diaphanous wings as pagan as could be. Her interpretations speak on the poet’s behalf as an individual soul at the utter solitude, not as a literary artificer whose achievement merits the name in the canon of literature. In doing so, Sister Wendy brings out the poet’s true sentiment under a forage of words and shines her mystic perspectives on the poet’s reading in a splendid but straightforward way.

The reader will find famous, not-so-famous, and obscure poems from Elizabethan England to 20th century America in this lovely book. Sister Wendy is both discriminating, and non-discriminating in the human emotions poured into the world of poetry. She is discriminating in the sense that she has a “Third Eye” that sees the poet’s soul and understands the sentiment nuanced in the poem, including wrath and despair, poisons to the mind. Non-discriminating in a way, she values poems spirited in the heroic but straightforward endurance of existential malaise in everyday life written in the plebian language. From Shakespeare’s ‘Fidele’ to John Harris’s ‘Feral’ and many more, the reader will feel ennobled to walk the gardens of the poetic Elysium with Sister Wendy introducing you to each of the poets’ greeting and smiling.



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