Posted in book review, Miscellany

The young heart at flame

Who would have thought of it? The evening was alight with pillars of fire, and Washington was burning. The heart of the young republic streets was filled with a cacophony of screams, footsteps, and hollers as the king’s soldiers from the old country unfurled the British flag over the capital city. It was August 24th, 1814, thirty-eight years after the U.S. become a sovereign independent country from Great Britain.

The British invasion of Washington resulted from a combination of a longing to bring back its former colony and vengeance upon the former colony’s brazen-faced act of independence. The U.S. invaded the British territory of Canada in 1812, attacking the city of York, modern-day Toronto as well as Port Dover, which saw American troops destroy a large number of food supplies. However, thanks to the Canadian militia and the Native American forces, the U.S. attempt to take over British-ruled Canada flopped and only fueled the British fury for the imperious behaviors of the young country. To destabilize American power from within, the British supported the Native Americans, who continued to resist the U.S.’s westward expansion and impressed American merchant seamen to become crew on British ships, alluring them with better pay and higher career prospects. Moreover, the British could devote their time to the American affair when the war against France ended triumphantly, exiling the French leader Napoleon to St. Alba in 1814. So, it was ripe time for the British to march into the streets of the American capital city during the presidency of James Madison.

However, the British army was not altogether barbaric in ransacking civilian houses and burning historical and cultural artifacts like the Taliban. For example, the Taliban destroyed the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001 that were incredible historical artifacts showing a spectacular combination of Indus and Hellenistic civilizations. The British didn’t harm the U.S. Patent Office, whose then-superintendent Dr. William Ornton’s plea for preserving the artifacts of humanity chimed the bell of the universal mind. They also didn’t set ablaze on civilian houses or buildings, except for the Capitol Building and the U.S. Treasury building. However, they did capture many of the valuable pictures and works of art, including the paintings of George III and Queen Charlotte from the President’s House (modern-day White House), later transported to Bermuda. How duplicitous it was to find the portraitures of the royalty from which Americans bled to gain independence owned by the American President’s House!

That might have become a great war between the two countries ended in the British retreat, thanks to the American blessing of untamed natural climate. An unexpected tornado pushed the British back to their ships and carried them back to their motherland, the Queen’s land. Come to think of it, America has been blessed with luck and timing, not to mention everlasting youth. Yet, this relatively unknown part of American history I have recently learned from a history magazine confirms that history is a series of vengeance on generations upon generations, as Herodotus observed. In that regard, the British burning of Washington reminds me of Julius Caesar’s burning of the library of Alexandria, the Greeks’ burning of Troy, and Nazi Germany’s burning of Paris. American is certainly no exception to the natural cycle of human history, invading and invaded, continuous in cycle and epicycle.

Posted in Film Review

‘Coming 2 America’ (2021) – movie review

The jubilant fanfare is blasting, the majestic elephants are trumpeting, and the sensual dancers are sprinkling rose petals on the ways to herald the emergence of the royal celebrity. It is no other person than Eddie Murphy’s Akeem Joffer himself after thirty-three halcyon years in his kingdom. He is back from the past and in America. Will the king’s festivity have the same level of brilliance it once radiated thirty-three years ago?

King Akeem has got it all, and he envies nothing: the beautiful, thoughtful wife, wonderful daughters, the loyal friend and aides, and the kingdom of his that nothing is wanting. But alas, as it is our human nature wanting something, we think needful or must-have, so is our king who is egged on to bring out-of-wedlock son now living in Queens, New York. Akeem goes to New York and meets his old acquaintances, all of whom look immortalized in the abeyance of time because they are still alive and kicking with a little bit more gray streaks and a few more inches in their midriff circumferences. And yes, Akeem meets his young, intelligent, and brave son because, after all, it’s his son with the good genes in the blood, while the maternal line is the working-class heroine of a good sort. And yes, the storyline is all over but the shouting with introductions of a few more new faces.

Coming 2 America is one of the recent Eddie Murphy’s big ambitious movies that he hopes to resurrect the glory of his days as the awesome, the one and only Eddie Murphy, one of the funniest comedians in the world. His sharp tongue offended no one because it wasn’t out of malice or tension to purge out his angst-ridden self. Even his pejorative language and slang were likable and genuine because he had a natural wit to make the words coming out of his mouth funny. Also, he had self-confidence in every scene he was, but it wasn’t hubris or warrior-like belligerence. People loved him for that and his movies, of course. But to be honest, when I watched this movie with enthusiasm mixed with nostalgia like meeting an old friend, I saw a different Murphy, who seemed to have lost that brilliant luster of the perk that signified him. Maybe that is why the movie’s story is mainly centered in his kingdom, for, in his kingdom, Murphy needed no quirky ad-ribs, no fast actions, no more youthful adventures of city life that would have required horse-whips of energy.

However, the movie is not a failure because it brings fans of everywhere a nostalgia for their days of youth (mainly in the 80s) and gives them PG-13 appropriate entertainment, free of gratuitous sex and violence that movies nowadays automatically opt for. The thematic elements of family value, love, and will to meaning in life metastasize in the narrative, which we so much want in this crazy era of history. Nevertheless, I still miss Eddie Murphy when he was bolder, wilder, and funnier. For those who agree with me, I suggest another recent movie, Dolemite Is My Name, a biopic movie about the eponymous movie star because in the movie Murphy is funny with soul. It is good to see him that way.

Posted in book review

‘Ancient Greek Cavalry’ and Alexander the Great’s Companion – review

Ancient Greek Cavalry: The History and Legacy of Classical Greece’s Forgotten SoldiersAncient Greek Cavalry: The History and Legacy of Classical Greece’s Forgotten Soldiers by Charles River Editors

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The image of a gallant bedight knight on a steed heading for a romantic journey for El Dorado or a noble cause for joining a loyal cavalry would have been a laughing stock of the ancient Greek soldiers. They regarded cavalry soldiers as aristocratic good-for-nothing redundant auxiliary to the mighty phalanx composed of ordinary foot soldiers called hoplites. From the Bronze Mycenean age until the emergence of Macedonia as the Greek military superpower, the historical context of the ancient Greek cavalry reflected the signs of military and sociopolitical developments in the 5th century BC Greece and the world beyond. The book informs the reader of the background of the rise of the cavalry in ancient Greek society thanks to Alexander the Great and its effects on military and societal contexts proven to be timelessly brilliant.

First of all, the geographical factor of the Greek islands, in general, made it difficult for the effective use of horse-driven chariots in battles due to its mountainous terrain as illustrated by the Oracle of Delphi in the valley, the Mount Olympus, and other divine earthly places. The rocky roads were not conducive to heavily charged chariots, preventing them from maneuvering the moves swiftly in warfare. In fact, the introduction of a horse race in the Olympic Games where the wealthy horse breeders reconciled the equestrian equipment’s military value to a sports game’s monetary value.

Secondly, horses were expensive to breed and maintain, as they still are in our time, and only a few wealthy (the oligarchs) were able to own horses. So much so that Aristotle acknowledged that horse-breeding was not easy to do unless you were rich. Accordingly, the democratic ideal of the mingling of titles and the exertion of the synchronized force from the collaboration of duties for the common good excluded the value of cavalry whose soldiers were also outside the Homerian value of Arete, the highest soldierly code of honor consisting of military finesse and personal integrity. To the democratic minds, the pampered nobility on horseback in battlefields had a better chance to escape on a horse than its hoplites on foot who had to confront the rains of lances and strokes of swords showered in blood.

However, Philip II of Macedonia and his son Alexander the Great saved the grace of the falling Greek cavalry by the brilliant military innovation that reflected society’s progress in the economy and political contexts. Along with its loyal ally Thessaly, Macedonia was an oligarchy unlike its contemporary city-states run by the democratic populace that usually lacked the foresight of tactical military strategy due to a general contempt for the art of war held by experienced noble soldiers. Macedonian nobles, especially the young and ambitious noblemen, made up most of the excellent Macedonian army that fully utilized the offensive and defensive cavalry force into the phalanx. The offensive on the phalanx’s right flank, the Companion, consisted of 2000 trusted and honored members of the king’s inner circle, the oldest noble families of Macedonia. The defensive on the left side, “The Thessalian,” proved to effectively outflank the enemy force with as least casualty as possible on the Macedonian side. Such cracking military operational order surpassed the Persian scythed chariots’ hideousness, cutting men in halves, mangling the still breathing fragments on the wheels and the scythes.

The unprecedentedly thriving economy due to the discovery of gold and silver mines and minting of coins meant a stable government and expensive military maintenance. The state’s wealth made it possible for financing a standing cavalry in peacetime and on a campaign. The minting of coins under the unified currency system paid salaries to professional soldiers, unlike the unorganized military structures where soldiers were ill-equipped and poorly trained in the other Greek city-states’ armies.

Upon reading this book, I felt that the title should have been “The Wooden Trojan Cavalry of Macedonia” or “Alexander the Great and His Cavalry” for the staging of Macedonian Alexander the Great in the arena of the world’s superpower upended the archaic military organization, let alone ineffective strategies. The role and value of mounted soldiers corresponded with the notion that the economic progress propelled by the natural wit of a leader who integrated all society members, high and low, won the war most productively. Alexander’s democracy in military strategy elevated the status of contemptuous willy-nilly horseback soldiers to gallant bedight warriors. It shows the reader that true democracy means the magnanimous participation of all classes for the commonwealth of a country.



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