Monday, August 07, 2017
Thursday, August 03, 2017
|A great entertaining novel by a powerful writer. Character building and the story plot were nicely executed. Sometimes it felt a bit too long but in the end I have enjoyed reading this book. Through vivid detail of tumultuous ocean, typhoon, the writer provided a sense of how insignificant humanity and civilization are in the face of a infinitesimal nature. Here is a memorable quote:|
"what was Ulithi, after all? A tiny enclosure of coral in the empty, empty ocean. A ship sailing within ten miles of it wouldn’t even have seen it; and all the great Third Fleet, sinking at once, would not have raised the level of the sea by a thousandth of the breadth of a hair. The world’s arena remains, to this hour, somewhat too big for the most ambitious human contrivances."
I recommend this book.
Resistance is futile
You will be assimilated, defeated
Your uniqueness, distinctiveness
and your pursuit of happiness,
life, liberty and dreams
will be shredded into clean pieces
and will be recycled into our mould
Resistance is futile
We are the Borg
We have come in style
To bring you freedom
and wealth, abundance
We will flourish together
Discarding the undesirables
Only the best of the best
Strongest of the strongest
Will triumph over the weak
We will swipe away
the compassionate freak
We are the Borg, the mighty, the beautiful
Give us your smart, vigorous pomp
We will stifle the wretched, the tired,
the poor and the huddled masses
into happiest quack, playful romp
And send us the homeless
We will transform them into statues
of liberties, of beautiful homes
for all to see and applause
in glorious days and victorious nights
Beside the neatly trimmed garden.
the golden door and a doused torch
----Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
August 2, 2017
Note: Some of the words are taken from Statue of Liberty Poem: New Colossus and a fictional alien character "The Borg" from Star Trek series.
Here is the original one:
The New Colossus:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Here is the excerpt from Star Trek series where the Borg speaks: ""We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.""
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
I have enjoyed reading both of these well written books.
Graeme Macrae Burnet's novel has good character development, and written such a way as if one is reading a non fiction account of an actual event. I am familiar with Scottish and Irish history, not a whole lot, but some through my other readings in the past. However, this particular novel describes the tragic life of a boy who was brought up in poverty in a remote Scottish village. What surprised me is so much similarities I have found between the central antagonist, the village constable who bullies a poor family and takes advantage of their plight and the rural villages in Bangladesh, where I was familiar with similar characters that used to be known as "Morol", or village leader, and some of them were as horrendous and brutes as the horrific character that Graeme Macrae Burnet written in his novel.
The main character, Roderick, had a tough life, lost his mother during child birth, had a rigid father who didn't know how to show love toward his children. Roderick was a gifted boy, so much so that his school teacher had urged him to pursue higher studies, but Roderick was loyal to his family so he stayed by them. Roderick's observations of injustice that the village constable was causing to his family and others in the village was heart breaking. In the end, the story turns to violence and innocent lives were lost for which Roderick had to pay ultimate price though most possibly, according to her lawyer, Roderick was mentally ill, however, in that time of nineteenth century, it was not easy to prove his case.
James E. Ryan's non fiction book "Wait...What? And Life's Other Essential Questions" is based on the writer's commencement speech at Harvard University where he is the Dean of Graduate School of Education.
The writing is effective as the writer points out several fundamental aspects of life that can help one get most out of his or her life. The very first pointer is to ask good questions without hesitation. It is by asking questions we can understand a true nature of a problem before jumping to a premature conclusion.
The second point that the writer point is to be curious at heart by asking "I Wonder..."? Being curious helps a person learn more about the world, our very existence, the universe and any other similarly perplexing questions. Curiosity is one of the biggest reasons that propelled humanity to its progress at this level I believe. The writer also correctly points out that curiosity leads to empathy. He writes, "Curious people are likely to be healthier, and to experience less anxiety in particular, because they see new situations as an opportunity to learn rather than an opportunity to realise that they don't know enough." The reason I find the writer's point is described well is because he had cited some of his own personal experiences including his search for his biological mother that is heart touching.
The third question that the write points out is "Couldn't we at least...?" - can really be effective as I can attest to this after using it to make my 3 year old son brush his teeth before going to bed. In a situation when things may seem difficult to solve, taking small steps perhaps can be helpful in many settings. Here is a quotation from the book, ""Couldn't we at least....?" is a good way to get unstuck. It is a way to get past disagreement to form some consensus...It's also a way to get started even when you're not entirely sure where you will finish, as in: "Couldn't we at least begin?.....The key to maintaining healthy and productive relationships is consensus...whether in politics, business, marriage, or friendship. Asking "Couldn't we at least agree?" especially in the midst of an argument, is a good way to pause, step back, and look for some areas of agreement."
Coming to negotiation, a middle ground, is difficult these days, as the writer refers to "group polarization" - "When like-minded individuals get together, online or in real life, they tend to reinforce each other's views. They not only increase the strength of each other's convictions, but they often lead each other, intentionally or not, to take even more extreme positions.....Asking "Couldn't we at least agree?" is a way to push back against polarization and extremism, because it is an invitation to find some areas of consensus. If you can find some common ground with others, especially those with different views, you are likely to see the world as a more nuanced place. At the very least, you are less likely to demonize those with whom you disagree."
The fourth question that the writer talks about is "How Can I Help?" - trying to help others is humane. Every human being is going through his or her journey of life, his or her stress from work, family, career, money issues, health, fear, anxiety, etc. Sometime we prejudge a person without knowing the full story. Being proactive and asking the question "How Can I Help?" "You will come to appreciate that.....It is the question that forms the base of all good relationships. It is a question that signals that you care. It signals a willingness to help. But it also signals respect, humility, and likelihood that, in the end, it is you who will be helped just as much." Good point.
The fifth question is "What Truly Matters?" that helps to differentiate between the really important and trivial. Here is a quote: "My only suggestion is that you regularly ask this question - of others, for sure. But more importantly, you should ask this question of yourself, and you should answer it honestly and fearlessly. If you do, this question won't just help you get to the bottom of an issue or a problem. It will also help you get to the heart of your life."
The writer has a last question as a bonus: "And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?" - human life is full of pain but also of sheer joy and happiness. By being bold, lending helping hands to others, not prejudging anyone, trying to getting into consensus, having empathy and sympathy for others, staying curious at heart forever, knowing the difference between the most important and the trivial matters and being humble can quite possibly lead one to say a resounding yes to the question: "And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?"
The following sentence by the writer sums it up well: "A sure way to feel beloved yourself is to help others feel the same."
Saturday, January 28, 2017
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
First they came for the natives, and I did not speak out --Because I was not native
Then they came for the Blacks, and I did not speak out --Because I was not Black
Then they came for the Mexicans, and I did not speak out --Because I was not Mexican
Then they came for the disabled, and I did not speak out --Because I was not disabled
Then they came for the gay, lesbian and transgender, and I did not speak out --Because I was not gay, lesbian or transgender
Then they came for the protesting women, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not woman
Then they came for the poor white, and I did not speak out --Because I was not poor white
Then they came for the Muslim, and I did not speak out --Because I was not Muslim
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
"Danger only threatens when a political system sends those not-decent people, i.e., the negative element of a nation, to the top. And no nation is immune from doing this, and in this respect every nation is in principle capable of a Holocaust!"
"only two types of politicians: the first are those who believe that the end justifies the means, and that could be any means . . . While the other type of politician knows very well that there are means that could desecrate the holiest end. And it is this type of politician whom I trust"
"What then is man? Thus we ask the question again. He is a being that always decides what it is. A being that has within it at one and the same time the possibility of sinking to the level of an animal or of soaring to a life of near-holiness. Man is that being which invented the gas chambers; but he is at the same time that being which walked with head held high into these very same gas chambers".
May the world and its trusted leaders and citizenry see the light of compassion before another terrible blunder is made.
Saturday, January 07, 2017
Some in this world are indeed brave and full of compassion. The author of this remarkable non fiction book, Bryan Stevenson, is surely one of them.
This is an impactful book that gives detail on the sordid state of criminal justice system in the US, world's one of the most advanced nations in terms of economy and societal progress. If US is in such a painful state where equal justice and protection for all citizens needs an urgent transformative overhaul, then what can be said about other nations where democracy and human rights are in unstable ground?
In my humble opinion, this should be a must read book as I believe the real life pain and anguish of the innocent people who are denied the fair justice for so many years can help people who are unaware of this miserable justice system can help raise the awareness for the necessary correction in the system.
Some of the invaluable lessons I have learned are:
"mercy is just when it is rooted in hopefulness and freely given. Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion."
"The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned."
"An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others."
"people struggling for independence wanted money and recognition from other countries; they wanted more criticism of the Soviet empire from the West and more diplomatic pressure. But Havel had said that these were things they wanted; the only thing they needed was hope. Not that pie in the sky stuff, not a preference for optimism over pessimism, but rather “an orientation of the spirit.” The kind of hope that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power. That kind of hope makes one strong."
"being broken is what makes us human. We all have our reasons. Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion. We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity."
"we have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent. A system that denies the poor the legal help they need, that makes wealth and status more important than culpability, must be changed. Walter’s case taught me that fear and anger are a threat to justice; they can infect a community, a state, or a nation and make us blind, irrational, and dangerous."
Thank you Bryan Stevenson for your honest and steadfast work.
This magnificent book reminded me another great book I was fortunate to read last year. It is Victor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. There are remarkable similarities in the noble concept of just mercy that Bryan Stevenson elaborated through various heartbreaking case studies with Victor E. Frankl's painstaking reminder what goodness of humanity can achieve. Here are a few excerpts from that book that I find go hands in hands with Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy:
"What then is man? Thus we ask the question again. He is a being that always decides what it is. A being that has within it at one and the same time the possibility of sinking to the level of an animal or of soaring to a life of near-holiness. Man is that being which invented the gas chambers; but he is at the same time that being which walked with head held high into these very same gas chambers, the Lord’s Prayer or the Jewish prayer for the dead on his lips."
"And in their last words there was not a single word of hatred—only words of longing came from their lips—and words of forgiveness; for what they hated, and what we hate, is never people. One must be able to forgive people. What they hated was simply the system—the system that made some guilty and drove others to their death."
Tuesday, January 03, 2017
An excellent read. So vivid and lively with wild Alaska imageries! For a few days while reading this poetically written novel I felt like transported to 1885, seeing the breathtaking journeys of Allen Forrester, Tillman, Pruit, Samuelson, Boyd and unforgettable Nataaggi along with Boyo through the harsh wintry Alaskan landscape, Indian villages and spirit full mountain pass leaping out from masterfully constructed words and scenes. Sophie's passion of photography, her patience and determination capturing the "light" around birds are uplifting.
Throughout the adventure of the main story the core human condition, the existential vulnerabilities, the strong's severe abuse of the weak, and the yearning for redemption in guilt conscious mind are depicted well.
This is also a love story as the separation between Allen and Sophie during the long expedition and Tillman's longing for Nataaggi are written with melancholic sorrow.
I have also enjoyed Walt and Josh's letter exchanges, clarifying the main story in historical context. I am looking forward to read this outstanding writer's many more books in future.
The following are two memorable excerpts from this book I's noted in my kindle, there are many like poetic observations throughout the book:
"There is a mythical element to our childhood, it seems, that stays with us always. When we are young, we consume the world in great gulps, and it consumes us, and everything is mysterious and alive and fills us with desire and wonder, fear, and guilt. With the passing of the years, however, those memories become distant and malleable, and we shape them into the stories of who we are. We are brave, or we are cowardly. We are loving, or we are cruel."
"The forest has always had such an effect on my spirits, the moment slows until I can see the intricacies, bright and pure, like removing the back of a pocket watch to see the shining metal gears turning, turning."
Monday, November 21, 2016
"A Rohingya man named Salaman told AFP he had helped to bury a man and a woman who were shot by soldiers on Saturday.
“Soldiers came in to Doetan village in the evening of the 19th about 5pm,” he reportedly said. “Most of the men from the village ran away because they are afraid of being arrested and tortured. Then they started shooting and two were killed.”
Rights activist Chris Lewa, whose Arakan Project NGO operates in Maungdaw, confirmed the account and said two babies were also swept away as villagers tried to escape across a river.
Since then 100 people have reportedly been killed, hundreds detained by the military and at least 30,000 have fled. Numerous women claim to have been raped by troops.
Sunday, November 06, 2016
In 21st century, like its predecessor 20th century, America is still looked upon as the beacon of hope in most parts of our wold. When subjugated people in severely autocratic ruled nation march in protest filled processions, many look upon American style of freedom of speech, representational democracy and its allure of modernity and a nation based on tolerance and decency.
Yes, nothing is perfect in this world, not is America. It has its flaws. Unfortunate racial tensions, gun violence, the lengthening gap between have and have not, these are all part of this flawed democratic system. Among all these terribleness, America is still a dream nation for most of the populace of our world. The glitzy movies from Hollywood, the heart bursting super unhealthy but 'delicious' burger, enthralling music album of American great singers and musicians, novels and non fictions of first class caliber writers, and super human American athletes from almost all kinds of sports, from basketball to football to baseball to swimming, among many other best of the best kinds personalities, entities or simple myths, the relatively near past and contemporary world populace look at America as the greatest nation of our world, and wants their own nation to emulate American success story.
"Make America Great Again" - when I hear this mouthful slogan from the Republican candidate Donald Trump - the first thing that comes to my mind as an avid reader of American history is that America is already a great nation, and perhaps the greatest of all nations in world's history of homo sapiens.
Yes, where criticism is due I was never hesitant to utter my criticisms, including the horrible invasion of Iraq in 2003 and many other fiasco during Bush/Cheney Presidency. I was vocal whenever I could against any forms of human rights abuse, killings and injuring of innocent civilians including women and children by that merciless war and its aftermath. Unless it is absolutely needed to protect innocent civilians from a desperate situation, war should always be the last resort as time and time again it has been proven in human history that diplomatic solution is the best option in overwhelmingly majority cases.
Like many I felt puzzled seeing the improbable rise of Donald Trump. I used to love his TV reality show The Apprentice, waited eagerly to see how he handled the final board room confrontations and uttered the fateful words: "You are fired". However, the Donald Trump that emerged during this Presidential Election campaign was shocking. I had also read a book that Donald Trump wrote with Guy Kawasaki about a decade ago, and if my memory is serving me correctly, it is about making the reader rich by becoming a good investor. Throughout the entire election campaign I felt that the Donald Trump I had known about from his popular show The Apprentice and the well written book I had read before, is not the same. His depiction of Mexicans as the rapists and drug traffickers, denigrating the comparatively tiny minority American Muslim community by insisting and unmistakably insinuating that all Muslims are somehow complicit to all the horrible crimes and violence committed by thugs and terrorists are beyond comprehension for me. Then came the disgusting "locker room banter" where Mr. Trump was boasting his "celebrity" status where he could do anything to women is jaw dropping. Only thing I could think was how can a great nation like America let this type of candidate representing one of the major parties?
Undoubtedly, Hilary Clinton is the most experienced and versatile candidate in comparison to Donald Trump. Her impeccable resume filled with super duper educational background, law career where she fought for the marginalized of the society, her heart felt efforts to bring universal health care to America while she was the First Lady, being the Senator of New York and the agonizing campaign against President Obama and later becoming the Secretary of State. She is articulate, passionate in her cause and a champion fighter like the greatest boxer Muhammad Ali was in his prime and can still win the hard fought bout. I am not sure if there is any other American politician who has gone through so much scrutiny and criticism,, mostly unfair in my humble opinion, than Hilary.
American voters are now in the driving seat. They will choose one candidate to be the next American President. Not even 48 hours left when the voting begins in this most indecent and intolerable election campaign I have observed. So much political division with electrifying polarization. So much bigotry filled words, negative portrayals of the opposing candidate and manipulating prospective voters' emotions by making them afraid of the most vulnerable segments of its society. The sooner this election season ends, the better it is. At least one can hope that much.
Whoever wins on Tuesday, I don't know how he or she would bring the nation together after portraying each other the devil with horns. But I have trust in American checks and balance based democracy.
Friday, September 09, 2016
Where is the time for reading for the sole purpose of pleasure and broadening one's mind and outlook? Where is the energy and motivation and inspiration opening a melancholic novel written in poetic style illuminating humanity's goodness and its terrible shortcoming? No time and efforts for seeing the world from other person's perspective.
The declining of readership of world's exquisite novels and stories is probably not a surprise in the midst of distractions. The consequences of this painful trend do not bode well for humanity's collective empathy index as this steady downward trend of reading abandonment of world's one of the greatest treasures, books with high quality and transformative and rejuvenating power, may very well nudge humanity to a not so friendly a place, not so kind and gentle ambience where vulnerable segments of any society or a nation are put into heartless treatment.
Seeing the world and this ridiculously short existence from one or many perspectives perhaps helped the humanity's progress from its infancy to its somewhat maturity of the modern world. One by one all the past bigotry, naked hatred, grabbing other man's resources and livelihood were placed under the tightening international and national laws, ensuring the flourishing of democracy, and the uplifting of countless many from the depth of abject poverty and outright cruelty to a livable world. Surely, unstable spots exist where war and violence are still taking heavy tolls on innocent human souls. Certainly, many more are still suffering chained in the sinuous shackles of poverty and its myriad of manifestations. Taking into account of all the miseries and terribleness, humanity is still in a better shape than it was not too long ago in the bygone centuries and millennia.
Unless this tragic downward trend of literary reading can be reversed earnestly, the precious humanitarian achievements that the human world had achieved, may slip away, slip away into the chaos of soulless and robotic impulse where the talk of compassion is mightily overwhelmed by crafty and selfish ploys.
Monday, August 29, 2016
It was an interesting read. The writer invoked some of the current political turmoils in a not so distant future's light. I wish the end could be a bit less predictable. Still, I have enjoyed reading this book and would like to explore more of Robert J Sawyer's writings.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Link to Sarah Kaplan's The Washington Post article: Does Reading Fiction Make You a Better Person?
Saturday, July 02, 2016
Sunday, June 12, 2016
It's heart breaking! Hoping one day the world will get back its collective compassion and sanity while the mindless terrorism, brutal wars, political violence, deepening bigotry and hatred will be cast aside for the sake of neglected humanity. Martin Luther King Jr. said it the best as it does not matter who the victims are, wherever they are, from the hacked bloggers, minorities and ordinary men and women in Bangladesh, gunned down civilians in Tel Aviv, relentless mayhem and subjugation of populace in Palestine, the heart wrenching massacres in Paris and Brussels, every day blood letting in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and increasingly in Turkey, repeated horrors in Pakistan, or the drowning of hundred of helpless migrants in the mediterranean, or the senseless murders of innocents in a gay night club of Orlando, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
What does get accomplished inflicting pains, sufferings, injuries and deaths to the people but more pains, sufferings and inciting bigotry? What political end does it seek to establish but a desolate world where everyone cowers in fear of their very own shadow?
My deepest condolences to the families of the victims.
Saturday, June 04, 2016
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Saturday, May 07, 2016
Friday, April 22, 2016
Friday, April 08, 2016
"An estimated 20 million people in Bangladesh are still being poisoned by arsenic-tainted water — a number that has remained unchanged from 10 years ago despite years of action to dig new wells at safer depths, according to a new report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch.
The New York-based rights group blames nepotism and neglect by Bangladeshi officials, saying they're deliberately having new wells dug in areas convenient for friends, family members and political supporters and allies, rather than in places where arsenic contamination is highest or large numbers of poor villagers are being exposed."In a democracy based nation like Bangladesh this should be totally unacceptable. The current secular government has taken many good initiatives that helped many poor and the impoverished people but there should be no tolerance toward nepotism where selected villages get preference over the neglected ones because of political consideration and not based on scientific facts and need.
1. Bangladesh Failing Spare Millions from Arsenic Poisoning.