Posted in book review

‘Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World’, by Philip Matyszak

Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World by Philip Matyszak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Forty years on our evolutionary scale amounts to a microsecond on our twenty-four biological clock. The millennium years, even Before Christ, feel so alienly anachronistic from our modern sensibility. The sense of time builds upon a fundamental element of consciousness as molded into a collective emotional experience as contemporary citizens of the world, just as the peoples of the misty pasts we tend to overlook felt the same for the civilizations before them. They were the titans of the pre-ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures. They, like the evening sun in its full declination, vanished in the hazy horizons of the time, still dazzling with its scarlet hues of radiating halo lingering on the remnants of human civilization to this date.

Forgotten peoples of the Ancient World is an anthology of the peoples whose feeling of permanence and importance in their time of the world betrayed their fates buried in the tires of cities beneath the earth and returned to the dust in the winds. To illustrate, Akkadians were the first builders of the empire who elevated the Akkadian language to the cultural and political lingua franca of the late Bronze Age. The Hyksos were outstanding charioteers, and their military prowess benefitted their Egyptian subjects. The Bactrian culture was a delightful mixture of Greek and Indian heritages, while the Vandals gave a final, fatal blow to the already destabilized Roman Empire. These peoples affected the celebrity civilizations we are automatically associated with the ancient civilizations. As to why the forgotten peoples became peripheral in our realm of ancient history, it is a question of the immanence of the supreme being in the universe. However, what is certain is that they were the torch-bearers of the first civilizations passing the torch of society they had ignited and encouraged to the next in a relay run of collective humanity.

The book is an excellent anthology of these ancient peoples in chronological order from east to west, showing how civilizations expanded from the cradle across the plains, mountains, deserts, and seas to the Isles of Britons. Divided into the eras marking the epochal changes of history, Matyszak succinctly elucidates the peoples of the misty past with his trademark witty ways of describing historical contexts. Moreover, the exciting historical trivia resurrects the eras in a phantasmagorical display of faces and places.

To conclude, the stories about the forgotten peoples attest to the objectivity of truth applicable to any time of history that that which is here was there, has been, and will be. All things must pass, and there is nothing new under the sun. Our sense of time and culture is a likeness of truth, a matrix-like reality, because our facility is rather instinctive than reasoning, rather physical than metaphysical. Who would have known that people 100 years later now would think our time and us in this time anachronistic and antediluvian? Herodotus felt the same when he arrived in Egypt and saw the wondrous pyramids in awe that the people before his generations had built. So did the Babylonian king, who dug and discovered artifacts from centuries ago. We have seen the hungry ocean gain advantage of the kingdom of the shore, and the firm soil win of the watery main, increase with loss and loss with increase. The forgotten peoples and we are time’s subjects, and time bids are gone.



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Posted in Miscellany

from this corner of the world

A beautiful field of flowers on a background of mountains and clouds

It was a great leap from northern New Jersey to southern California when I decided to relocate two years ago. At that time, I felt like a pioneer girl from Willa Cather’s novel or a Horace Greeley in his Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco. Now the not-so-long time has passed, and I still have the job I got first in California, but I am now not sure about being rooted here like a tree without luscious fruits, which is just one of many plain, common trees whose sudden absence will not be conspicuous. Amid in this existential tides of life, willful, fateful, or both perhaps, reading today’s article from the New York Times about a declining trend of relocation after the ease of Pandemic-related restrictions statewide seems to shake my already shaking ship adrift between Scylla and Charybdis.

The article reports that now that the post-Covid 19 has dawned a new era of remote-controlled employment, many people do not need to move to another state for their new jobs unless they are packaged with satisfying relocation fees. And staying put in their home grounds while working remotely for their bosses across the Rocky mountain or on the other side of the coast fortifies a sense of close-knit family and community that they feel strongly related and belonging by staying put in their home grounds. Further, the article illustrates a particular fragment of well-to-do middle-class people with professional careers or executive positions who indeed don’t have to take trouble moving their already content families to new locations. Finally, the article excludes the peripheral class that orbits around the lesser bright solar system whose life spans depend on a dominant sun’s brilliance.

People are still moving to and from for their uncertain futures, as I have witnessed so far, despite the Pandemic scare less than the existential threats of daily life. Hasn’t the journalist seen enough of the genuine fabrics of life by getting on a morning bus carrying a crowd of the middlings and underlings heading for their workplaces? Isn’t The New York Times proud of being one of the most liberal newspapers in the world? Or is it for most liberal middle-class only?

I still like to think of myself as a frontier woman in the Still Wild West, living with an elderly mother and an eleven-month-old tabby cat with chronically weak respiratory and digestive systems in a make-shift house on a pitiful homestead often besieged by the lawless and the uncultured. And I still don’t know my decision to move from here to there was a fool’s wish, acting on a foolhardy impulse neverendingly. Nevertheless, I want that all that wise sayings about hope and courage are truth and nothing but the truth, and I am sure that many people share similar kinds of wishes in the courses of their lives that today’s article excludes.

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‘Word On The Street: Debunking The Myth Of A Pure Standard English’, by John McWhorter – book essay

Word On The Street: Debunking The Myth Of A Pure Standard EnglishWord On The Street: Debunking The Myth Of A Pure Standard English by John McWhorter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Sometimes, the courage to express my thoughts in English as a second language meets with insidious challenges between the grammarian Scylla and fault-finding Charybdis, lurking in the safety of anonymity on social media to stalk the prey with perverted joy. So, it is only natural for me to find encouragement from the books reassuring me that the mastery of language does not equate with intelligence. So, it is no wonder that I have the pleasure of reading  Word on the Street, an invigorating narrative told in scholastic zeal and impressive erudition flavored with street-smart audacity. McWhorter, who belongs to the constellation of brilliant linguists, such as Samuel Johnson and Steven Pinker, talks about language in terms of social and cultural contexts, making the academic subject a hot topic of a Charlie Rose talk show.

McWhorter takes his view against language relativism that language shapes thoughts. The possession of words does not determine the thought process to contextualize the mentalese. Therefore, slang, idioms, and parlance outside the elite group of society and the educated middle class are not denigrated as improper English. In this sense, Pidgeon English, the quaintly charming admixture of scattered English words and a speaker’s native language, is not a corrupt version of pristine English but a hybrid of languages born out of the ingenuity of the human mind and changeability of language in nature. Isn’t English a living proof of the incredible amalgamation of languages still undergoing evolution? Who would have thought that English of the underclass would shine as a lingua franca?

What strikes me most about the book, which concurs to his fellow linguist Pinker’s point of view on language not as a touchstone for one’s cognitive ability, is that solecism in spoken and written language does not reflect the user’s less desirable trait of academic ineptitude. To put it more bluntly, just because your grammar is besotted with errors doesn’t mean you don’t know what you are saying, or forthright, you are less intelligent. Take Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance polymath, who had no fewer than six grammar books on Latin and Greek to grasp the syntax of the classical dead languages he was so hopeless to learn thanks to his lack of formal education. In fact, da Vinci’s writings are ridden with misspellings and amorphous sentence fragments, just as Leo Tolstoy, Jane Austen, and Emily Bronte showed in their manuscripts. So, did their imperfect language skills overrule their force of imagination and contextualizing it in words? Does this betray that language shapes thought? 

McWhorter can transcend the demarcation of race in the communication of this extensive knowledge about the subject drawn from a wealth of learning and scholastic industry with urban wit and debonair guy attitude to his readers, academic or general. His intelligence freely crosses over time gaps, chasms between class divide across continents and oceans with a universal theme of words that we, as human creatures, have spoken thus far. And he tells it using full of scintillating metaphors, examples, and anecdotes, which helps the reader comprehend otherwise monotonously academic subject without pressure and enjoyably. Samuel Johnson said that the possession of knowledge is to share it, and the possessor of the knowledge shines when he applies the knowledge to the crowd of life. Well, Word on the Street shows it all.






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Posted in Miscellany

A perfect cat owner?: confession of a novice

I remember watching the cat guru Jackson Galaxy’s post on YouTube about a prison where a group of inmates is assigned each cat for mental and a behavioral correctional program. The inmates seemed calm and content just as their foster feline friends reflected and talked of the amazing effects on their hearts hardened by the world never kind to them. The images of a condemned man in a cell and a homeless cat from a shelter became a beautiful impressionist painting with an air of serenity wrapped up in the soft sweet twilight colored by the warm hues of pleasantness that filled the canvass and stayed in the heart of the beholder – forever. The loneliness cut in halves transformed into togetherness, and there was nothing else but the mutual need for love and care. With the picturesque imagery engraved in my heart’s shrine, I cannot help but question the generic prerequisites for being an ideal cat owner indoctrinated by those professing to know things about pets. The doctrines of a perfect cat owner are as follows: you have to live in a space wide enough for her to exercise her natural hunting instinct, to have another cat to prevent anxiety, aggression, and loneliness, and most of all, to be a near-perfect human full of love and understanding blessed with material means to satisfy the need of a cat to the extent possible. The protocols remind me of eugenics elements by which only the best males and females can produce offspring desirable for humankind. Only the superhuman race can fall in love, beget children, and raise them to be perfect in physical and mental attributes to continue the Superhumanity. On the same token, being an ideal cat owner is to be an ideal person who deserves love from nature because of his ideally perfect being—quite the Nietzschean idea of Superhumanity. 

An ideal cat owner’s doctrines align against the condemned man’s images and the homeless cat in a cell. Then I also look at my 4-month old tabby cat Toro, whom I adopted from a shelter three months ago. Is he unhappy with me in this tiny apartment room? Is it because of boredom and separation anxiety doubled with a significant change of environment from pastoral life to city life that has driven him to a sudden pulsing and biting my hands and feet? Does he hate me because I leave him at home all day long with a mother who hates him when I go to work? Does he want to leave me and be adopted to a loving, perfect new owner because of my imperfection? Am I less qualified than the inmate to have a cat altogether? The thoughts smothered under the ineffective veil of forced positivism have reached the point where they can no more bear the suffocation and begun to erupt the lavas in the fiery magnitude.


As a first-time pet owner, I like to think that it is not a coincidence but Providence that Toro has come to my life because he was the only kitten who came to me and my brother bunting his little flurry head against our hands through the cold metals of the cage in the shelter. Toro and I are much alike in many aspects: leisured time in seclusion, uncompromising individuality, insatiable curiosity, innate sensitivity, and unfailing feistiness. We also instinctively know each other’s mood because when I am dejected, Toro studies my facial movements and comes nearer to me with those adorable eyes filled with liquid warmth. Then I look at the cute little Toro before me and think that genuine love and care transcends the high walls of a grim prison and eclipses the roof of a perfect happy house. There is a home sweet home for me and Toro in my tiny apartment.

Posted in book review, Miscellany

Great feast of fellowship, what a thing it is!

Education is quintessentially utilitarian. it is the soul of a society that grows into a collective human civilization in which individuals become cosmopolitans of the global village. William Butler Yeats saw education as “not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” In fact, education is the beginning of enlightenment, the road to Alpine Path to reach the peaks of your dreams and goals in triumph, no matter how rigid and challenging it may be. It is, therefore, a human right belonging to all ranks and titles, and it is this very reason that I was very glad to come upon this wonderful website “Working Class Academics Conference” on Twitter.

The conference is a congress of academics with honorable intentions to form a supporting network of collegiality that encourages their increasing presence and voices in academia where normally is dominated by scholars and academics of the affluent middle-class and privileged high class. It purposes to signify, acknowledge, and salute the achievements of working-class people embarking on an odyssey of their own in search of will to meaning in life via education despite biological, social, and cultural inhibitions against the elitist currents of Higher and Education and the University often unfriendly toward their peers of another class. It is Parliament of Kindred Spirits and Faeries that guide their fellow academics of similar socio-economic backgrounds to climb to their due respect and well-deserved recognition from the mainstream academia. 

In fact, there have been many notable figures of the working class who rose above social and biological planes that would not dispirit their noble, unyielding spirits flying high over the mountains of existential difficulties. Take Charles Dickens. Although Dickens’s family was originally of the middle class, his debt-ridden lawyer father took his family to a debtor’s jail and even sent very young Dickens to a factory for livelihood, which practically makes Dickens and his family working class. However, his talent for words and literary aspirations overcame the vicissitudes of hardscrabble life and made him arrive as one of the greatest writers in English Literature. Then there is also Ben Jonson, a leading neo-classist in the Elizabethan era who was abruptly driven out of his much-beloved the College of St. Peter at Westminster by his bricklayer stepfather at his youth to be set to work at bricklaying for living. And yet, Jonson tried to preserve a sense of purpose and a tenacious grasp on social recognition by relentlessly pursuing his literary ambition to be justifiably on par with his contemporary less-talented stiff upper lipped university-educated dramatists, poets, and scholars. Speaking of which,the immortal Elizabethan playwright and poet William Shakespeare also worked as an actor as well, ruffling the feathers of his expensively educated high class contemporaries and to our contemporaries to this date.

In conclusion, the conference is a great feast of celebrating the fellowship of working-class scholars whose existence in academia is often regarded as slighted lesser equals who dare to hobnob with their academic peers of privileged class on equal terms. These fellows of solidarity do not brandish placards championing a campaign against expensively privately educated scholars or academics in a frenzy of excitement fulled by their class-related jealousy. On the contrary, the conference is a celebration of their achievements, a festivity of who they are, a festivity of where they come from. And I want to praise them for the following virtues: pleasant without affectation, welcoming without exclusion, audacious without impudence, learned without pedantry, and brilliant without sententious bromides.