Tag Archives: reviews

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img_0162All lawyers are educated, expensive mercenaries of fortune with a high chance of variable expediency in allegiance to whoever employs their burst of legal pep, or “intelligent drudgery,” so to speak. Lawyers know no fear but lots of hubris that can move heaven and earth because of their Napoleonic credo of “There’s no word for impossibility in my dictionary.” To Sally, it’s a real case of Sartre’s existentialism which dictates that “Experience precedes essence.” And yet, the images of gentlemanly lawyers in the characters of Atticus in To kill a mockingbird played by Gregory Peck and Kavanagh QC portrayed by John Thaw are hard to be disembarrassed from Sally’s abstract ideas of fine lawyers.

img_0164Sally’s position of legal assistant wears many hats: secretary, paralegal, accountant, receptionist, calendar person, and whipping girl paid to do a one-man show at a high price. You may yoke the concept of the position into that of a pricey maid, sort of an upgraded modern version of educated head maid you may see in TV period dramas, such as Upstairs and Downstairs, Berkeley Squares, and The Duchess of Duke Street. Accordingly, like a dutiful head maid in a manor house, docile Sally exerts all her efforts to fulfill incredibly hectic demands imposed upon her daily tasks with graceful patience and her very pretty smile.

img_0163“It’s all a mind game, a sort of mental Tetris in which I have to find out a way to accomplish my tasks without being jammed with constantly generating tile blocks to be upgraded to the next level. And I want to win in this game.” Surely, as consciousness is the foundation of the universe, marshaling self-discipline and courage to perform her tasks to the fullest extent possible is the sine qua non of her happy metier. After all, the nature of lawyering turns its practitioner into a professional inquisitor of wickedness of mankind as observed by Arthur Schopenhauer.

 

‘The Wehrmacht: Last Witnesses’, by Bob Carruthers – review

The Wehrmacht: Last WitnessesThe Wehrmacht: Last Witnesses by Bob Carruthers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The pomp and pageantry of polished military parade was a handsome sight to behold: the glory of valor, the canopy of military prowess marching in illustrious formation to Beethoven’s mettlesome “Yorckscher March” all seemed ebulliently auspicious for the Fuhrer, for the Fatherland, and for the People of Germania. And then was heard no more. Woe betided the soldiers lured by such sensual grandeur of militarism meticulously embroidered on piquant propaganda into the March of Carnage at the expense of their youthful dreams and hopes shattered by shells and shrapnel of weapons of killing. Or those whose existential dilemma left them but a choice of going to war found themselves hostages to Goddess Fortuna.

The detritus of destroyed arms, scorched earth, and blood-stained uniforms might have been washed up by the tides of time, but the memories, willed or unwilled, still remain in the minds of the former Wehrmacht (German military forces of the Third Reich) veterans and tell the stories of their firsthand experiences of war in their own words like tesserae religiously put together in a mosaic of humanity. It’s all here in this book, bereft of acerbic decry of the “Nazi” soldiers, packed full of imperturbable accounts of the fading warriors.

In the historical tradition of Thucydides, whose credo was to examine the validity of any popular beliefs for historical objectivity based on factual information, this book follows the ancient credo of providing factual reports of the reality of war in the context of the soldiers’ individual experiences of life and death based on unambiguous, substantive eye-witness account. The reader will get to see the phantasmagorical display of images of war as filmed by each of the veterans presented in a way that it creates a feeling of watching a neorealist film of straightforward nature made by a hand-held camcorder. In all considerations, this book is worth the reading to appreciate the tribulations and personal experiences of the soldiers of the much despised and feared military forces during World War II because after all, they were also humans who fought for their own lives against the showers of shells and shrapnel. To conclude, no other poet than W.H. Auden could have chimed the bells of emotions and feelings of the soldiers this resonantly in his poem Spain:

To-day the deliberate increase in the chances of death, the conscious acceptance of guilt in the necessary murder; to-day the expending of powers on the flat ephemeral pamphlet and the boring meeting.

To-day the makeshift consolations: the shared cigarette, the cards in the candlelit barn, and the scraping concert, the masculine jokes; to-day the Fumbled and unsatisfactory embrace before hurting.

The stars are dead. The animals will not look. We are left alone with our day, and the time is short, and history to the defeated may say Alas but cannot help or pardon.

 

three philosophies

images-1Before calling it a day to say hello to a new tomorrow on a hard day’s night, to happen on this comic strip of my all-time favorite Peanuts seems almost too pat. Provident, even. It chimes the bells of my heart and soul that are dented with the shrapnel of existential vertigo in the most impressively elliptical way: that none other than simple tenets of life are needful to live a less stressful life.

As Sally elegantly puts: Life does not end at one fell swoop even if I stumble into an imbroglio of misadventures; any such mistakes or misdeeds betray that to err is human; and that I should not fall into the bottomless pit of worries and anxiousness, for tomorrows are always new with their own unknowns.

What Sally blithely professes strikes the chords of Logotheraphy, a 3rd Viennese school of psychotherapy founded by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl based on existential analysis focusing on ego qua meaningfulness, a purpose of living a meaningful life. With these simple but potent tenets of life in mind, I can say good-bye to this spent day with the alacrity of departure for nightly dreamscapes to rest myself.

Spreading the Word knows no limits

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According to Greek historian Herodotus, there was the Egyptian pharaoh Psamtik I ruling in the 7th century B.C., who was keen on finding humanity’s primal language. Ergo, the inquisitive Pharaoh gave 2 infants to a shepherd to raise and told him not to speak to them because he believed that the first words the children spoke would reveal the Mother Tongue of all of the Human Race. Quite creative, even feasible, but highly abstract; the hypothesis resulted in one of the children’s utterance of the word “bread” in what sounded Phrygian, the language older than Egyptian. Nevertheless, the Pharaoh’s the Up series-like experimentation on human linguistic origin tells us something of a human desire to find anthropological aspects of languages in their origins even before the proverbial Tower of Babel was set about to begin forming.

Here in the States, one does not get bored with a mono language: English (American English, to be precise), Spanish with continental and regional variances, Hindustani, Pakistani, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, French (mostly of former French colonies in Africa), Tagalog, and etc. So the story of Psamtik I’s ambitious experimentation to parse the root of all languages chimes with the cosmopolitan landscape of everyday life. Apropos of a diverse group of languages, Benjamin Franklin, however, seemed not to be in favor of multilingualism in the States in fear of the country’s being disseminated into a variety of different language communities. To Franklin, the importance of English as a unified official language of the States meant a national sovereignty and cultural identity that would bind people living in the States into one cohesive cultural group. In this respect, the English language as an official national language of the U.S. is the sine qua non for a lingual and social unity of a country as much heterogeneous as the States. That said, it is beneficial to know of the lingual root of the English language as well as of the other related language.

One of the most popular Indo-European languages in terms of active speakers, English belongs to the Germanic along with German and Norwegian under the Indo-European lingual branch, which also includes the following groups of language:

  • Indo-Iranian: Persian, Urdu, Bengali, and Romani
  • Greek: belongs to its own family
  • The Italic: Latin and the Romance
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Sir William Jones (1746-1794)

The reader may be surprised by the fact that Persian, Urdu, and Bengali spoken in the Near East Asia and Asia are also a lingual family with English, but according to British jurist and amazing polyglot William Jones in Calcutta, India, Sanskrit, an ancient Indic language, had common ancestry with Greek and Latin because many of the words were similar to those in Greek and Latin. For instance, take the word “Fathera”. The Indo-Eurpean term is pater. Sanskrit is Pitar; in German, Vater; in Latin, Pater; in French, Pere, and in Spanish, Padre. In fact, Jones’s elation of the ancient Indic language in his industrious study of its deep cultural influence as well as lingual traits on the Germanic paved a way to modern comparative linguistics. In terms of the cultural theme of Indo-European cultures, the idea of trinity in aspects of life that are sacred, social, and economic can be traced in the old caste system of India comprised of Brahmans (the Priest), Kshartyas (The noble and the King), and Vaishyas (the Commoner). Likewise, in Greek myth the 3 Fates who are the beginning, the middle, and the end of each mortal’s life and the Holy Trinity of Christianity adumbrate a cultural connection between the continents that look remotely different at a first sight and yet interestingly alike with deeper insight.

To encapsulate, the relationship between language and culture is the sine qua non of human civilization, the inseparable archeological, anthropological, historical, and linguistic artifacts to study the origin of humanity and its misty pasts. The development of languages also relates to an expansion of its influence by means of trade, war, and migration that are still in progress in our time. It is a product of collective enterprise in the form of textual artifact. Otherwise, who would have thought that English, an obscure west Germanic language, would become a modern day lingua franca spoken across the five continents and six oceans? For what it’s worth, T.S. Eliot elegantly summed it all thus: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”

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The Significance of Unread Books

47def1527c46a0b1c2136d2348a04421To come upon Word of The Day, Tsundoku, as I was checking messages on Facebook during my lunchtime at a regular Starbucks shop gave me a fillip to thinking of my unread books I have piled up, untouched, since my new job became my primary reality. A Japanese word for a pile of unread books, Tsundoku has become something of new word that describes a tertiary group of books  attempted but disinterested, or tried but forgotten. Which is what my tsundoku are comprised of. My books pending my reading speak to me: “Have you deserted us?” Nary a One Bit, My Dear Textual Friends.

In fact, looking at a stack of unread or partially read books imparts me a sense of subtle satisfaction and small wonder: these books of mine indicate that there’s still unknown knowledge of the world I need to know and that my literary vanity is worth the indulgence. They are part of my personal library built upon flotsam and jetsam of sundry interests, which are similar to the Mathom-House in the Shire, inhibited by Hobbits. The Mathom House is basically a museum of paraphernalia, a sort of odds-and-ends things but not to be discarded for what they are worth. The House is ever-expanding as a Hobbit fills it with this and that to his heat’s content. Likewise, my library is ever-expanding as it is filled up with new ideas and fresh inspirations drawn from the world of writers with unique voices but who always manage to express the universality.

Tsundoku, the Mathom-House… they are terra incognita in the mind of any adventurer of knowledge. The importance of unread books reminds us that reading is a never-ending activity but an ongoing process of becoming who we want to be because we become what we read. Reading is not a competition but a creation of a reality of the reader by passing over to the minds of the author and the characters. All books , finished and unfinished, are possible to help you get there too because they are unknown unknowns. Therefore, a sight of Tsundoku is not a sign of a failed literary or academic ambition but a display of a wondrous mind whose intellectual/academic/artistic odyssey is still on.