Saturday, January 28, 2017

Book Review: Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

Civil Disobedience (Forgotten Books)Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is an essay that Thoreau wrote about life under a demagog as the leader of the Nation. He argues that in such a condition Civil Disobedience is a form of weapon that the citizens must use in a democracy to address their concern rather than hailing the leader. During the time this essay was written America was indulged in a war with Mexico and quarreling with Britain under the Administration of Polk. Polk was a defender of slavery and Thoreau was a fierce abolitionist. The essay strongly supports Thoreau's point and is well written.

The essay stands very aptly in the light of the current rise of right winged fascism all over the world. Especially, when Trump just entered into his administration, a week ago. To put it in context ... all the research papers on climate change that was previously available on American government site have disappeared. (Trump, believes Climate Change is a hoax created by China, in 2017!). His anti-abortion stance is about to pull back medical fundings to NGOs from all across the globe if they in any way infer to abortion as an option. White House had taken off the information on LGTB+ from its site within minutes of Trump’s swearing in. There is no doubt that America is taking steps back and her being the most powerful nation affects the development of the whole world (Not to forget Climate Change is a Global issue and USA is one of the countries with highest carbon emissions) ...This essay is on point to the current situation, a must read.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Annotated Phantom TollboothThe Annotated Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is one of the widely known children's books that I had not read until now. And now that I have read it I think I should have read it years back. It would have an added sense of innocent awe if read as a child. Anyways, better late than never. It is one of those children's book that has an equal enthusiasm for adults too (eg The little prince). The Phantom Tollbooth, is not as popular as the other children classics, though. However, It should be read more I believe it is underrated.

The book is about a boy named Milo. The story opens with Milo more or less showing some symptoms of depression, lacking interest in absolutely anything. Certainly, it was not directly stated but was obvious to see from his constant state of spiritlessness. One day he received a big package and the story proceeds ... Milo then explores a wonderful fantasy world.

The structure and plot are simple and fun to read. At the same time, the writing is very creative with lots and lots of puns. It is also a bit of philosophy apt for both children and adults. The central theme of the book remains education and it's purpose. The book includes many fun characters and places that were also very imaginative of the writer and was fun to read for the readers. I enjoyed reading it and will recommend it to everyone above the age of 8.

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Book Review: Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is my first comedy section of Shakespeare's plays. It seemed like the original romantic-comedy. I enjoyed the match of wits between Beatrice and Benedick it was creative, funny and sophisticated. I was not very much in love with the plot until it all unfolded in the end. From the prospect of 2017, it seems a little offensive when women are subjected to casual bias. That is something I often struggle with while reading books from olden times.

It was only when I reached the end of it, I found that it was indeed brilliant. As one can see the contrasting deceit and trickery that the people in the play are subjected to. The contrast of deception is ranging from pleasant and playful to cunning and dangerous. The outcomes of the schemes of deception are altogether dependent on circumstances and intentions. Thus, can be excused or punished accordingly... However, the nature of lies is nevertheless dishonest. Shakespear shows the variation of it in three major sub-plots.

The language is very stylized, whimsical and clever. The majority of play is lighthearted, unlike the tragedies, hence was amusing to read. I liked all the major characters, but Beatrice was my favorite. I will recommend it to people who like to read Jane Austen and other classic romantic comedies.

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Book Review: Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

MortalityMortality by Christopher Hitchens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always admired Cristopher Hitching. He was witty, charming and brutally honest with his opinions. I still often end up on one or other of his videos on YouTube "Hitchslapping" every argument in a very eloquent and logical manner.

This is his memoir that reflects the very end of his life while he was suffering from cancer. It is amazing to see him not falling apart while facing death. It is often put up as an argument by the "believers" that Athiest often fall into faith when facing mortality. "There are no atheists on a sinking ship" as they like to put it... Ugh! Makes me cringe. Anyways, to be honest, I feel a bit weak in the knees when I see his public appearances that were made during the end of his life. He looked so weak yet so much like himself, bold and articulate.

The most shocking, (not so much, though) thing was how some religious people were celebrating the news of his suffering, while others praying for his release from "purgatory" and ascendance to "heaven". At a point in the book, he even mentioned if he may somehow survive Cancer the very people will put up the "our prays worked" argument... In conclusion, the reaction of the people of faith was very cunning and ugly. (For they, in their minds, hold a self-righteous position.)

The majority of the book was him describing his condition personally and medically. It was especially touching, as I lost my Grandpa because of Cancer and it rekindled the sense of pain he went through in a very well worded and descriptive manner.

It was my second book by Hitchings and I gained an access to the thoughts of the wonderful man that he was. I am glad I can still go back to his words both in his books and in his debates as he is not amongst us anymore.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My First Expedition

I was a little girl in early 1990s, as most of the females are at some point in their life ... I was terrified of the dark. I couldn't walk past the veranda of my grandparent's house without being accompanied by an adult during night time. Clutching the big adult hand with my little hands, sometimes my nails dabbed with nail enamel if I was lucky enough to convince my Mum to let me try it. Darkness was dreadful to me in that era, so were Cats, darkness signified to me that some monster is lurking in it to get me. Well, err my prime concern was not just the villainous monsters but also the great God above.

I remember those religious/ mythological shows on telly that implied that God was watching every action from above the clouds and commenting about stuff to his female companion. They, God and his lady, were mostly teasing each other in their cloud living room with a gaudy furnishing and a serpent couch. On a second thought, I liked the furnishing and the dresses and the tiaras ... I remember not being able to understand the premise of the show or what was going on in the show. All I knew was that at some points God often formed stairs of clouds (well-decorated stairs with carpet!) and walked down the stairs stunned the mortal he was watching over and made him so happy and fortunate. Sometimes the cloud stair was replaced by smoke! And puff! Came the God guy or Goddess lady. Or seldom the lightning in the sky ... and God yelling at the corrupt mortal, from the clouds in a hologram form. So I was convinced that it was the casual way of  God's conversing with us mortals. Being a young mortal myself it terrified me.

I didn't want God to startle me with his ways I was just not ready for that kind of excitement. I often prayed to God "Please don't show up! Please don't show up!" ... I never told the grown-ups about my concern related to God showing up, but I asked them, how will they feel if God came to them. The Grown-ups often seemed indifferent and/or unconcern by the matter. Thus I never showed my weakness by telling them that it was scary to me. I was a big and strong girl! duh!

One person who wanted me to be unafraid of the dark was my Grandpa. Now, as an adult, I like darker and quieter time of the day the most. I often think about the time when he would help me practice facing my fears. On the windy and soothing nights of the 1990s, after we had dinner my grandpa use to take me to the veranda and tell me, patiently, how it was all the same as daytime. He would explain to me, our veranda was still the same the other end led to the little garden with flowers, where I played in evening. I image of that garden is still so fresh in my mind, the beautiful Hibiscus, Rangoon Creeper, Golden trumpet and some occasional roses and tiny white flowers with strong fragrance. There was a black and white Gate next to the garden. I swung on that gate every evening... My Grandpa eventually convinced me of the fact that it was all the same just with no light to help us see. After a few days of this routine of explaining, he asked me do I want to test it? After a little reluctance, I agreed and I was set on the biggest adventure of my life till that day. I was to go and touch the trunk of the Hibiscus tree, all by myself, in the dark of night. I did it and while I was running in the veranda towards the tree and back, all the while my grandpa's voice from the other side of the veranda was comforting me. "I am right here, it is all the same as it is in the evening..." I ran back to him after touching the tree and being assured that it was same in the dark only I couldn't see it. I swear I felt a little bit grown-up that day.

As for the telly shows on mythology were concerned, I was soon barred from watching them as I cried my heart out after watching an episode in witch, a woman drowned her newborn baby in a river. What Evil! I had a little baby sister and babies meant my little sister, whom I loved so much. Yup, I was one of those siblings who love their younger siblings and never feel a hint of jealousy towards the new member. I kid you not that is a rare thing and it is kind of a window to the future relationship of the siblings in question.

I didn't mind being barred from that Sunday Morning Doordarshan's mythological show, that was the best thing that happened to me! I was busy stealing milk powder and Bon-vita from the kitchen while adults were occupied with their "Main samay hun!" telly show!

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