Friday, November 21, 2014

The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck - a review

The Moon Is DownThe Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must admit that my reading this year has been all over the place - some philosophical works, some Balzac, some classics, some indie titles, some surrealism - so when I reached for this unknown-to-me Steinbeck, I had no idea whether I was going to like it or not.

But alas, it is Steinbeck.

Despite being rather short, this book delivers much food for thought. Looking at the GR database, many readers have labeled this book as propaganda (apparently, it was written as such). Yet, I cannot label it the same way and maintain clean conscience. This little book is so much more than propaganda. In fact, it reminds me a little of my all-time favorite war story - Pins and Needles by Boris Vian.

Why? Well, for starters, neither one is about a war. They both use war as a backdrop to a larger drama - the drama of human beings and their inability to coexist together in peace. They both center on the uselessness of war, on the idiocy of following out-of-touch leaders, of the blindness of following orders, and of the struggle to reconcile with the inutility of it all.

Where Vian centered on a single soldier as a part of the machine, Steinbeck centers not on the machine itself, but rather on the players (the wheels) that make the machine turn. He focuses equally on the conquerors and the conquered, and their interactions. The details about the location are so minimal that the location itself becomes almost impertinent. And isn't that true in a real war, after all? Wars are not about places; they are about victories and losses. And as Steinbeck points out, the conquerors often win battles, but the conquered win wars, because they are not following a leader or an agenda. They are in it for themselves.

Unlike the more contemporary books I read recently, The Moon is Down is written almost entirely as a dialogue between the various parties to the story. And here is where Steinbeck shines - in the dialogue, which advances the story without being boring, overdone, or cliched. We have friends talking, enemies talking, and through their exchanges we not only see the progress of the war itself, but also the progress of the change which is taking place inside the oppressed.

This is a wonderful story about two men - one conquered and one conqueror. One elected and one appointed. They both know the nonsense of it all, and they both agree on it, yet both have to follow their duty as required by their office.

An excellent read.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Threasured Writings of Khalil Gibran - a review

<a href="" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px"><img alt="The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran" border="0" src="" /></a><a href="">The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran</a> by <a href="">Khalil Gibran</a><br/>
My rating: <a href="">5 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
The Treasured Writings of Khalil Gibran is a comprehensive collection of pretty much everything Gibran wrote during his lifetime. As such, it is a very large book—containing 902 pages. <br><br>I've been reading this 'on the side', while reading other, lighter books. While the size of the book may be intimidating to some readers, I have found that it is best read one or two short pieces at a time. This is partly because taking it slowly will allow the reader to reflect upon the text, and partly because Gibran's writing is so amazingly approachable that it can be picked up any time without worrying about missing anything. <br><br>The book is comprised of several separate sections: Tears and laughter, Between night and morn, Secrets of the heart, Spirits rebellious, The broken wings, The voice of the master, Thoughts and meditations, A self-portrait, Mirrors of the soul, and The wisdom of Khalil Gibran. Among the texts are interspersed Gibran's poems, which I was not familiar with. <br><br>How does one define Gibran's writing? Or. rather, the question should be whether Gibran's writing allows definition at all. At times, one feels that he is reading a philosophical thesis on humanity. Other times, it reads like a religious text dictated by a prophet to his followers. And still, the poetry speaks of the soul of a poet in the traditional sense inasmuch as one perceives a deeply understanding soul must have written the lines on the pages. <br><br>Gibran's work may sound intimidating, but it is far from it. It is easily the most approachable philosophical text—one written in an eloquent and intelligible way that allows the reader to grasp the master's message and pondering. <br><br>Gibran is often labeled a prophet (not only due to his work The Prophet), and the label is strangely befitting. He is not, however, a prophet of doom. Rather, Gibran embraces nature and humanity, and he sees hope in places where I would personally never bothered looking. He is contagiously optimistic, and even when he chastises, it comes across as an encouragement. For he truly encourages people to look not only around them, but also deep inside themselves and seek peace. <br><br>Whether one follows him on his musings through the Lebanese cedars, or atop a mountain while hiding from a tempest, Gibran is the light in the end of a tunnel, a guiding hand, and a father who comforts. <br><br>"Yesterday we were, and today we are!" Gibran says in one of the many masterpieces. A simple, yet powerful message. We are, we exists, we are aware. "Yesterday we were a toy in the hands of Destiny. But today Destiny has awakened from her intoxication to play and laugh and walk with us. We do not follow her but she follows us." <br><br>"Wisdom is not in words; Wisdom is meaning within words." <br><br>Gibran's words do not hide wisdom—they spread it right before your very eyes, from the first page to the last.  <br><br>My words, however, struggle to portray what this book is and what it means. Gibran's writing is universal and dated in a beautiful way that makes it timeless. His words are a blessing, a comforting voice in the darkness of humanity. <br><br>Highly recommended.  <br>
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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Karl Strand - Henry Martin Project update

Following the Phonebooth story, Karl and I have been talking about a shift in direction. While we both still want to continue creating short captions combined with stunning visuals of street life, we would like to explore additional possibilities presented by composite images and longer short stories, such as The Phonebooth.

I'm currently editing a short story which may appear on a Canadian blog, Adventureworlds in December. This story will feature one of Karl's composite images.

In the mean time, Karl created some logos for our project:

 Let us know what you think.

Maldoror - a review

Maldoror and the Complete WorksMaldoror and the Complete Works by Comte de Lautréamont

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What to say about Maldoror that hasn't been said yet? What to say about the mysterious son of a diplomat who appeared in France, wrote this book and died, vanishing from the world, yet leaving his mark for decades and centuries yet to come?

The first time I had the pleasure of reading this exceptional work, I was taken aback. Barely seventeen, I hungrily swallowed the disturbing images leaping at me from the pages, not to fully comprehend them until years later. This work, over a century old, is believed to be the first work, the foundation stone of the surrealist movement, a movement that penetrated into every aspect of art, life, being; whether we are willing to admit it or not, this work is as important today as it was when originally published in 1868 (well, at least a part of it was). The world was not ready to receive the complete self-awareness of evil Maldoror so fully comprehends, and the world is still not ready. This work is certainly not to be read by a "closed" mind. It is said that to be creative, one must borderline insanity, yet, Lautreamont was playing with genius; a genius of a caliber capable of scaring away even the most immodest of us. But get deeper into his work, walk past the disturbed images, surpass your fears and you shall see the light. This work cannot be ignored, cannot be left to collect dust. I have owned several copies over the past twenty years, and I am still finding new meanings, new passages, and new understanding in this wonderful work. This truly is the one book that will never get old, that will always keep on giving, as long as one is ready to listen.

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