Tag Archives: reviews

leonardo’s horse that came alive


“Il Gran Cavallo” in San Siro, Milan, Italy

It was meant to be the largest horse in the world when the future Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza commissioned Leonardo Da Vinci in 1482 to conjure it up from the phantasmal world of the artist with his magic chisels. This fantastical statuesque beast, “Il Gran Cavallo” (aka “Cavallo”) was soon to be cast in bronze, standing 24 feet high as the greatest equestrian statue in the world, following the clay model of the equal height made by Da Vinci. Then war broke out in 1499, ravaging Milan and engulfing the clay horse, leaving Da Vinci alone with the original sketches of Cavallo to go back to the drawing room. Such was Da Vinci’s plan to restore the aborted birth of the magnificent bronze horse before it became indefinitely suspended by his death.

The story of the unfinished Leonardo’s Horse piqued my usual counter-popularity curiosity when I came upon an article in a magazine on the train. Since this year sees the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo Da Vinci, many an article has featured the masterpieces of Da Vinci and the background stories thereof, but to me none other than this story about Da Vinci’s last masterpiece is intriguing and worth the writing. In fact, this “Horse that Never Was” had spanned a phantasmagoria of imaginations throughout the centuries until a certain American art patron named Charles C. Dent intended to make it his lifelong goal to bring the abstract equestrian statue to reality in 1977 when he first learned about Leonardo’s incomplete project about which the National Geography magazine covered. Upon his death in 1994, American sculptor Nina Akamu continued to carry out where her Renaissance predecessor had left off based upon the surviving sketches as a substratum of artistic guidance and completed a bronze sculpture of the horse in 1999, which was dedicated in San Siro in Milan, Italy. The great statue of Cavallo is a sight to behold with poised magnificence: it commands a sense of legitimate attention in a moment of suggestively continuous galloping that looks wholly authentic and real, rendering a majestic impression of dynamic continuity to marching music as pomp and pompous as Radetzky March.

Da Vinci’s creation of the great horse proves to be his last masterpiece that truly links the past with the present and the future by the medium of art. It weaves the subjectivity of time into a grand tapestry of history and betokens cultural achievements as an intelligent collective enterprise. Akamu wonderfully re-created the great horse by internalizing the artistic sense of the Renaissance period by devoting her years of studying Italian Renaissance works of art in Italy as she pursued the highest levels of craftsmanship and professionalism in the field. Also, her love of animals, especially horses, contributed to the anatomical study of and aesthetic perspective on Leonardo’s Horse. Akamu’s recreation of Cavallo manifests beauty that penetrates minds of the beholders and lingers there in solipsistic ecstasy so deep and intimate that it feels almost physical. For our faculty, as it interacts with a plight of fantasy, is rather instinctive than reasoning; rather sensual because it delights in pleasure than because it thrives in disciplines. That is why “Il Gran Cavallo” is a gorgeous piece of art.

clothes have important offices


Fashion fades, but style reigns.


Anne Klein Women’s Dot Print Long Sleeve Blouse

“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous,” said Coco Chanel, Godmother of the Mods. Ditto. Hence my choice of this pretty blouse:the sleeves are coquettishly but not provocatively diaphanous with cute stand collars and pretty polka dots adorably decorated on the front and back sides of this tunic-like blouse that gives the illusion of an authentic silk blouse redolent of a muslin black dress I fell in love with from Chanel 2007 Spring Fashion Show because it looked so ethereal, so graceful, and so beautiful even in its simple design bereft of any sparkling ornaments. What’s more, this blouse is very appropriate for work, rendering both professionally sleek and fashionably chic impressions. The loveliest thing about this pretty blouse is the way it hangs on your body when you walk or even stand, especially in breeze: it sways like a willow or a cosmos on a slender reed. This sensible and fashionable blouse will look just beautiful on all women with wings of fairies and aura of mysteriousness in any setting.

Author’s Note: I love this new blouse of mine, so I had to write about it. Vain? Immodest even? Hardly ever so because even someone like Virginia Woolf , who is revered as a forerunner of feminism, admitted thus: ” Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” This betokens Woolf’s indelible trait of femininity in her regard of fashion as wings of social mobility and status in society. So why not making fashion as an expression of myself in the most fabulously fashionable way?



donut queen – review


Place: Donut Queen

Address: 2650 Ventura Blvd, Ste 105, Camarillo, CA 93010

The first thing I have noticed since I came to Southern California is the absence of many common food franchises that have become something of a suburban landscape on the East Coast. Maybe I haven’t looked around much yet, but even such paucity of voluntary or involuntary excursion will not yield to a sudden discovery of Franchised Food Emporium. A scarcity of food franchises notwithstanding, these Southern Californians seem to be blessed with a wealth of local food proprietorial to regional characteristics, such as demographics as well as fauna and flora.

95465d3821ae91541b407bc7276ae7f0That said, a place like Donut Queen is a gem for anyone who likes that bona fide classic tastes of homemade donuts with a cool view of the Wide Wild West. The interior of the store is not exactly up to the standards of the Michelin Star Admirers, but it’s cozy and clean enough to make a customer feel welcome. But the most of all, their selection of donuts is quite pleasing to the eye and delicious to the taste buds to make anyone sworn off donuts for dieting break the vow and become a lover of it. Surely, nothing in excess as written on the terrace of Delphi  should become a motto to stop anyone from inordinate indulgence, but the donuts at Donut Queen is one Witchcraft. Plus, the proprietorial ice coffee is a hidden gem of Donut Queen that tempts you to come back for it again and again.

It is said that nominal determinism really matters, and I guess it matters when it comes to a place like this Donut Queen

Author’s Note: I have neither sponsorship nor affiliation with Donut Queen. My writing of this essay is unknown to the proprietress of the store. It comes from my appreciation of what I like about the place. 


‘Once and Forever: The Tales of Kenji Miyazawa’ translated by John Bester – review

Once and Forever: The Tales of Kenji MiyazawaOnce and Forever: The Tales of Kenji Miyazawa by Kenji Miyazawa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The worlds of fairy tales, folk tales, and fables spring from a poetic association between imagination and nature as inscribed on a mind tablet of the visionary, the dreamer, the innocent, and the humanitarian in the embodiment of the Writer who composes a continual fugue of dreamscapes, visions, imagery, and nature in a phantasmagorical display of such fancy worlds. In this peculiar context of regarding the fairy tales or folk legends anchored in everyday world, Kenji Miyazawa’s tales are full of imagery that bestows a touch of magic on every thing however trifle and insignificant it may seem to the eyes of the melee. The result is a riveting twilight world of legends and folk tales where nature becomes primary world, Reality on its own in a very mystifyingly pretty way.

Notwithstanding the subject of the book, it merits a classic literature aisle in nationwide booksellers because it contains all the characteristics of profound yet catholic themes of nature of humanity that are illustrated in the works of Hans Christian Anderson, The Grimm Brothers, and Aesop. In fact, this book is strikingly scarcely a false or childish note but strangely not depressing. If Miyazawa does not provide the reader with a sense of jostling braggadocio or a promise of ever optimistic view on reality of the world that are accustomed to and taken for granted as literary license in the Western minds, he presents a prospect of innocence, so ethereal and quaint that it almost feels physical when reading. This tangible feeling of the visions is delivered by Miyazawa’s wonderful storytelling skills enveloped in poetic expressions devoted to evoking the images of a rural Japan prior to the Meiji Restoration in the mid 19th century that no longer exists.

Kenji Miyazawa (1897-1933) was a Japanese writer who was first and foremost poet at heart concerned with particular beauties and universal truths transcending time and culture. This book, translated by the late renowned English professor John Bester, is a collection of short folk tales of the bygone eras that Miyazawa seems to fantastically incorporate with his contemporary world of reality in which whims, inconsistencies, and follies of humans are everyday occurrence. The tale of “The Earth God and the Fox” shows how love and friendship are destroyed by betrayal and misunderstanding in a blight of jealousy and fury, which then eventually leads to destruction. In the case of “Wildcat and the Acorns,” Miyazawa pokes fun at parvenus and upstarts who suddenly found themselves in the wealth of western-influenced cultural artifacts in denigration of the traditional Japanese customs and values regarded as outdated and culturally backward. However, even such acerbic, poignant criticism of the Nouveau Japan is enticingly swiveled in poetic prose with musicality and choice of the language – simple but visionary- he employs.

The tales seem to speak to our world of confused syllogism bloated with inordinate wantonness and inflated egotism, decorated with selfies in Facebook and Instagram, and vehement subjectivities, all fragmented and adrift, full of sound and fury. The tales bring the reader to another time out of this evolutionary scale and 24-hour clock, and they can take the reader to a different place of innocence that seems to be out of touch in this existential world of reality. In this regard, this book is a quaintly pretty – or twee even – marionette play, fusing Miyazawa’s poetic words with his cast of interesting characters ranging from a beautiful birch tree to wise foxes, to graceful fawns, to talking acorns, and to deities living in streams and mountains and everywhere, all in the beautiful rural landscapes as picturesque stage backgrounds. It is a fascinating read that matches its fanciful title.

‘The Butcher’s Daughter’, by Victoria Glendinning – review

The Butcher's DaughterThe Butcher’s Daughter by Victoria Glendinning

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In any period time, in any place of the world, there has always been a great human drama in three acts: Poverty, Struggle, and Reinvention. It has been a substratum of thespian play of human life in pursuit of will to meaning, freedom of will. It is a history of human society at the highest, it is a history of an individual at the best. It becomes history of the humankind woven into a great tapestry of time that transcends the subjectivity of time and discovery of universal truth – truth that is contemporaneous both with their times and with ours. Victoria Glendinning’s The Butcher’s Daughter speaks to the reader of our time this universality of human conditions through the narrative of eponymous Agnes Peppin in endless search of self-reliance, independence, and autonomy yo triumph over the vicissitudes of life with invincible resilience and unyielding quest for freedom of will.

Set in the mid 16th century Tudor England under the reign of Henry VIII, it is a historical fiction with a veneer of a contemporary fashionable memoir of Agnes Peppin of intellectual ambition and social aspiration in the face of her lowly social status as a daughter of a country butcher. In fact, this is a tale of a young woman’s incessant struggle to preserve a sense of purpose and a tenacious grasp on intellectual superiority, not of a manifesto pontificating about inequalities and injustice bestowed upon womanhood, which is elegantly conveyed in Agnes’s frequent reference to the story of Mary and Martha in the New Testament. Agnes thinks that Jesus was unjust and unkindly to Martha, her alter ego, who had to take up all domestic menial drudgery, letting her cook meals and wash dishes, while her sister Mary sit beside him and listen to him as long as she pleases. Agnes sees her pathetic self ignored despite her intelligence and intellectual ambition through the figure of Martha and berates Jesus for taking side with the noble, dainty Mary who – under the aegis of Jesus – gets away with menial labor often associated with women of lowly birth. Agnes then further identifies herself with venerable Zeta, a holy woman of the medieval Italy serving as the same family as a maidservant, calling her “good Martha.” Agnes’s defense of the domestic paragons belies her buried sense of bitterness expressed in a general resentment of aristocratic shirkers smothered under daily duties, the existential demands of life ascribed to the members of her social class.

As a matter of fact, Agnes evokes a proverbial image of 19th century American pioneer woman – a woman of coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and acquisitiveness with that restless, nervous energy making her beautiful embodiment of resilience and self-reliance. Elsewhere in the book, Agnes unravels her woebegone wishes to chase her Pyrrhic dreams: “Silk and velvet are lovely. So are emeralds and pearls. A butcher’s daughter may aspire to those things even though it is unlikely, the way things are, that they will come her way. But too much dross comes with all that gold.” And yet, she still steadfastly holds onto her aspiration to achieve vertical social mobility to be a Mary, for she believes that it is her true vocation of life to become a self-reliant single woman with a room of her own and money, just as Virginia Wolfe asserts for a woman’s social as well as economic independence. After all, Agnes is not just another vain half-educated, semi-literate Martha trying to emulate privileged Mary but a strong-headed, courageous, and intelligent woman who finds a solace in learned solitude outside the social and religious confinements as her sense of true identity becomes conspicuous in search of her place in the world.

A richly illuminating read, it is also an informative historical account of the ways of life in Tudor England, such as customs, clothes, trades, and the general ethos of the time, without infelicity to provoke a sense of anachronism or incongruity. It is a surprisingly easy read in terms of the choice of everyday words and pellucid expressions without a display of pedantic knowledge on history and magisterial claim on academic superiority, given the author’s pedigree as Oxford-educated scholar and award-winning novelist. That is the gem of this highly fascinating read: Glendinning’s interpretations draw on her exceptional knowledge of these historical sources, but she wears her leaning lightly and writes with a general reader in mind, which is a true purpose of the Arts. Furthermore, Glendinning’s superb story-telling narrative skills makes her characters all the more realistic and alive, rendering the whole story contemporary with our time and relative to our concern. Glendinning takes the freedom of imagination in the context of regarding historical events and people to create her own fiction that reads like nonfiction. To encapsulate, this is an enjoyable and enlightening read that holds the reader’s attention without invasion of diversion or boredom.