Monday, November 26, 2012

Favorite Books 13

Book Review Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities Merry Shelly Frankenstein
Book: A Tale of Two Cities
Author: Charles Dickens (British, 1812-1870)






 








Original Language: English
Year: 1859
Category: Drama














Summary: Mr. Marquis Evremonde and his twin brother - who are the French aristocrats - raped a beautiful lady, killed her husband, father, and brother. They hired Dr. Alexandre Manette to try to cure the raped woman, but she died. Dr. Manette wanted to disclose the crime to higher officials, but the twins caught him and 'buried' in the darkest cell of Bastille prison for 18 years, nobody knew his whereabouts so long this period.

His daughter Lucie Manette was growing in supervision of Mr. Lorry who has come to know that Dr. Manette is now out of the prison and is in care of Mr. Defarge who was once an obedient servant of the Dr. 18 years in dark prison - Dr. Manette's mind is severely mutilated. Gradually his daughter's care brought him back to life.

Mr. Charles Darnay is the nephew of Mr. Marquis Evremonde (we do know him at the beginning of the summary). He is convicted for treason in England, but Mr. Sydney Carton - an English barrister - saved him with some tricks aided by their look-alikes. 

French revolution started and common people won over the French aristocrats. Now they caught Mr. Darnay as he is the heir of the French aristocrat Mr. Marquis. With the request of Dr. Manette he was released. But he was again arrested because of a letter written by Dr. Manette when he was in prison. The letter was written about the crime of Mr. Marquis and also conveyed Dr. Manette's curse on the whole Marquis dynasty. Now the letter became a boomerang for his own son-in-law Mr. Darnay. This time no escape and Darnay was to be beheaded in guillotine. Now Mr. Carton comes to the scene. He looks alike with Mr. Darnay. Can he save him?

Comments: This is one of the two books in history to sell 200 million copies worldwide. It is based on the French Revolution. Charles Dickens himself was bullied by the French aristocrats and in his childhood he was forced to work in a factory 10 hours a day. So his sympathy lies with the revolutionists, but only up to the point of revolution. The aftermath of revolution - beheading, killing, and burning thousands of people was not liked by him and this is portrayed in the novel. This is a wonderful novel with the ending of a supreme sacrifice for the love of a beloved one.

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Book: Frankenstein
Author: Merry Shelly (British, 1797-1851)






 








Original Language: English
Year: 1818
Category: Horror














Summary: Mr. Frankenstein, an unorthodox and brilliant scientist discovered the method of creating life. Now with all his enthusiasm he infused life into the mass of his collected bones, veins, nerves, blood. But soon after his infusion of life, he found that instead of creating a beautiful life, his creation looks like an abominable monster in a giant shape and muscles and a very despicable, an abominable face. Then Mr. Frankenstein was himself very upset about his creature, abandoned it an moved back to his studies. The creature slowly learnt all the humanly activities himself but discovered that he is a despicable creature to mankind himself. With all his kind-heartedness he begged mankind love, food, shelter, affection, but he received only hatred, attacks, and curses. Now he became outraged at his own creator and decided to make his life hell by slowly killing all his affectionate family members one by one. Mr. Frankenstein chased him up to the north pole. Now what?

Comments: Well, Frankenstein became the de facto term for anything horrific, and horrible. More precisely, it can be the name of anything that apparently seems to be benevolent, but turns out to be a monster. The book brings the modern scientific developments to a question whether they are (or can be) benevolent or monstrous to mankind. This also clearly portrays how a kind-hearted creature can become a monster. This is a common story of many criminals, and scoundrels of the world, really! Craving for love, but being devoid of it all the time makes one a criminal (there are other factors, anyway).

Link:
English PDF ebook is available at PlanetEbook (922 KB).
 

Let us buy paper books. Let's enrich our mind and home library. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Sacred Heart

Thich Quang Duc The Burning Monk Malcolm Brown
I was confused with the title to set - whether it would be 'The Man on Fire' or 'The Sacred Heart'. Later I chose the second one as I realized that there are a lot of men on fire (metaphorically as well), but very few of them have a sacred heart.

It all started with religious conflicts between Buddhists, and Roman Catholics. Thich Quang Duc was a Vietnamese monk who was fighting against the regime of president Diem. The Kennedy-backed President Mr. Diem was elected from the minority of Catholics. But showed a blind-eye to the atrocity of the Catholics upon the Buddhists. The pains and agonies piled up and suddenly burst into the horrific burning of the monk.

On 10 June 1963, the bonze set fire on himself as the most horrible, and grisly protest ever possible. Witnesses said it took 10 minutes to burn, but the most amazing thing is he moved no muscles, nor uttered a single sound, nor cried out in pain. I believe he knew how to attain nirvana in his meditations. Or, I don't know what really happened. Nobody knows. Interestingly, his supreme sacrifice and protest succeeded in overthrowing Mr. Diem's regime. And the news spreaded like wind and produced deep impact in every corner of the world. The burning picture snapped by Malcolm Browne is still regarded as one of the most influential pictures in the world. More interestingly, after cremating his body what was found that, fire didn't touch the heart of the monk. It refrained from burning it.
The Burning Monk's picture - taken by Malcolm Brown
 
















Now a lot of controversy might flood in. Atheists might jump in with the statistical probability theory that, the heart might have 0.000001% probability that it would fail to burn and it used that probability and evaded burning. Or the question might be aired as, if he would be so sacred, fire shouldn't touch him at all - why only the heart? Someone else might rush in with an electric saw and say, "Let me see if it can resist this saw." Religious people might start debating that self-immolation is kind of suicide and he is suppposed to be put in hell for this action. Some other psychotic might want to try with oxy-acetylene flame to see how come the heart doesn't burn with it. But whoever is saying whatever, I believe it proved what it meant to prove. May be like the theme of the famous TV serial The X-Files, I like to say, "I want to believe".

When one is fighting for his/her country, s/he bets on his/her life in the fight. S/he knows about the sacrifice and is also aware of the probability and possibility of death in the fight. Monk Duc's sacrifice is similar only that the probability of death was 100% in the way he fought for his countrymen/group.


The heart is placed in a glass chalise and is in the Xa Loi Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. If you ever visit Vietnam, don't miss a chance to see the holy heart in your eyes. Present world has become sufficiently complex with knowledge, lack of knowledge, self-esteem, obscure thoughts, fear of God, also denial of God, anger, hatred, wrath and whatever... whatever! But apart from these, there are times when we need to set these aside when there is really something holy in front of us. Then it is the time to feel the holiness of nature, of a sacred heart...











I want to live,
I want to give
I've been a miner
for a heart of gold.
It's these expressions
I never give
That keep me searching
for a heart of gold
And I'm getting old.
Keeps me searching
for a heart of gold. (- Neil Young)


Google, or wiki, or tube with "Thich Quang Duc" to see more.


Bottomline:

1) Whatever Thich Quang Duc did is not an example to follow. It was the supreme sacrifice with a horrible effect - the sacrifice of life in the most painful gait. Life is so precious!

2) There is something called 'a sacred heart'.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Favorite Books 12

Book Review Les Miserables Victor Hugo The Plague La Peste Albert Camus Ha Za Ba Ra La Sukumar Ray
Book: Les Miserables
Author: Victor Hugo (French, 1802-1885)










 


Original Language: French
Year: 1862
Category: Drama









   



Summary: It all started with immense poverty. Mr. Jean Valjean was jailed for 5 years when he stole a bread for the 7 infant children of his sister. He tried to escape the jail in the 4th year, but was caught again and increased his imprisonment for 3 more years. He attempted a few more times and eventually finished his 19 years of imprisonment. When he was out, nobody gave him shelter. Hotels, houses - everyone turned away (to be true - nobody really gives shelter to a jailed convict - neither do I, nor do you - only saints). Fighting with cold, and hunger, at last Bishop Myriel gave him shelter for the night. But Jean Valjean, now torn apart by the cruelty of civilization, have rage aganist the whole mankind. He stole things from Bishop Myriel, but the Bishop later forgave him and also wished him to be a good man of God. This lit himself up. He left the city and made fortune in another city in disguise of a name 'Monsieur Madeleine'. But the fanatic police Inspector Javert didn't let him peace. He chased and chased, from this city to that city, from this year to decades later. On ther other hand, Jean Valjean ran and ran from him with his step-daughter Cosette, whose mother Fantine died in poverty and betrayal. Eventually Cosette grew up, and had wedlock with Marius. Now Jean Valjean wants to step aside from their life.

Comment: 'Les Miserable' is considered as one of the 'half dozen best novels' in the world. It's amazing that a man can write such a mind-blowing novel. This one might make Victor Hugo as your most favorite author. Just one comment from me - don't die without reading this novel. There are things that might make you feel content at the end of life. One such thing would be that you read this novel once in your lifetime. Very, very touchy.

Link:
English translated PDF ebook is made available by PlanetEbook.

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Book: The Plague (Original French title 'La Peste')
Author: Albert Camus (Pronounce as 'Albore Kamu' or 'Albair Kamu', French Algerian, Pied Noir, 1913-1960) [P.S.: 'Pied Noir' in French means 'Black foot']











 


Original Language: French
Year: 1945
Category: Drama










 


 
Summary: The city Oran suddenly fell into a victim of plague epidemic. Dr. Bernard Rieux is the one fighting to save patients. The city is sealed - nobody can go outside. Cottard is a mysterious character who is happy with the disaster as he can make money through smuggling and other kinds of black-marketing. Jean Tarrou is a traveller who came to the city and got trapped. But he started volunteering the nursing team. Journalist Rambert is also trapped in the city, is craving to see his fiance outside. But when he comes to know that Dr. Rieux's wife is also staying outside for healthcare (and he is serving here to fight the plague), he joined the volunteers. Years after years passed by, hundreds of thousands of people died in plague. Burial became a problem - many people in one ditch followed the burial of single, then followed incinerating. Finally one day it subsided, but only for moments. It sure will come back.

Comment: This is one of the best allegoric novels, and a very powerful one. It also exercises 'existentialism' (people as individuals give meaning to them, rather than whatever meanings or sterotypes are imposed on them), though Mr. Camus denied his choice of existentialism. The chief allegory is the German invasion in France. Camus took part in the French Resistence against Nazis in WWII. He used his own experience in writing the book.

The book is based on historical cholera epidemic in Oran city that took place in 1849. The plague epidemic is allegorical to Nazi holocaust. The sentences of the book seem to have multiple meaning. There are humorous allegories like owl-faced husband, rat-faced wife (as if a rat is the prey of an owl). The benevolence of volunteers of the war is portrayed through the captaincy of Dr. Rieux, and Jean Tarrou. There is a comment on the difference between human beings and dogs. People are trying to escape, liaising with higher officials to escape (as in WWII). Corpses buring, smoke cloud in the sky (as if burning of the dead jews in incinerator), plagued people running to get hold of healthy people with a hope to get rid of the disease (as if war victims looking for help). People praying for the pity of plague (as if the pity of Hitler).

It also controverts the contemporary belief that the plague is the curse of God for sin. The giant flail swirling over housetops - like the wrath of God. The strange behavior of cottard is interesting, and his remark about plague (- if people are to live together, then sometimes the plague epidemic is necessary) is also interesting. He is the symbol of people who befriended the Nazis, and betrayed countrymen.

There are people who forget their sick relatives. Also there are people who want to volunteer in the camps to feel their dead relatives. The camps are the symbol of concentration camps where victims are thrown by the Gestapos. The book considers the after-plague effect on common people, and legislative authority (just as what happens after a war).

Mr. Cottard became mad when the epidemic is over. People returning from outside are symbols to the end of war where people used to return to their homeland and looked for their relatives. The last lines are quite profound - the plague bacillus doesn't disappear for good, it lies dormant everywhere - in books, in shelves, in bedrooms - just like a war, that is only a dormant epidemic for the moment.

Link:

English translated ebook is made available by
evankozierachi.com (560 KB).

Bangla translation is available by Seba Prokashoni.


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Book: Ha Za Ba Ra La (May be translated as 'The Disorder')

Author: Sukumar Ray (Indian, 1887 - 1923)









 


Original Language: Bangla
Category: Comedy
Year: Unknown











 


Summary: Strange and nonsense things started happening. The kerchief became a cat and fled away. The crow started calculating 7 times 2 with timer constraint where 7 times 2 is not 14 always - but just in the nick of time. 'Budho' - the old man started counting his age backwards and is now aged 13. The character 'Udho' started to beat 'Budho' by jumping on his body to mimic 'Udho-r pindi budho-r ghar e' (it's an idiom in Bangla to mean someone else is punished instead of the one committing the offence). Strange other things are happening everywhere. Is it a dream or a reality?!?

Comment: How to make non-sensible thoughts into an artistic comedy - the story is a wonderful example. Without Sukumar Ray, it is difficult to perceive comedy in such a supremity. No English translation is available.

 
Link:

Bangla ebook is made available at from iopb.res.in.


Let us buy paper books. Let's enrich our mind and home library.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

21st Magic

Card Magic
When I started my career as a petty programmer, I was still workless. It's kinda funny - I started working, but I was a workless slacker. Then I continued to be a slacker. I started enjoying being a slacker. I had no bindings, no responsibility - just a slacker of my own kind. I earned just enough to keep myself up. Then suddenly another slacker's idea came into my mind - the card slacker (he existed long before I came into existence, I believe). Then I thought of making my slack a bit juicy. I transformed the slacker's idea of the 21st card magic into a computer code. But when I finished the design, it was not a really bad thing. Then I sighed pleasantly - "Ah, being a slacker ain't so bad"...

This is the 21st card magic. If you know the magic, you will still enjoy the tiny piece of program. If you don't know the magic, then you will feel it great.


[I respect the card slacker who invented the magic. This is my way of writing funny. Never mind.]


I suppose it works on Windows OS only. I didn't have a chance to work and test for Mac, or iOS, or other Operating Systems.

Dropbox Download Link (1.3 MB): 21st Magic
 
21st Magic - screenshot of the card fun


First choose a card (select visually, don't click on the card, let me choose the Ace of Diamond). Then click on the green text ("Please choose a card from the cards eblow. Then click on me").

The magic starts and you have to select the row where the card is (In my case, I have to click on "Row Three" as the Ace of Diamond is there, see the screenshot above).

Now the cards shuffle, and you have to select the row where the card moved (In my case, it is the "Row Two" where the Ace of Diamond moved, see below).



At this point the cards shuffle again, and you have to select for the third and the last time the row where the card moved (In my case, I have to click on "Row Two" where the Ace of Diamond moved, see below).


Now the magician will do something - Abraca Debra Scooby Doo, and it will catch your selected card (see below).




That's the fun... :)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Favorite Books 11

Book Review King Solomon's Mines Henry Rider Haggard Allan Quatermain Sir Henry Curtis Captain Good Tibetan Dream Yoga Lama Surya Das Bhalobasa, Prem Noi Sunil Gangopadhyay
Book: King Solomon's Mines
Author: Henry Rider Haggard (British, 1856-1925)




Original Language: English
Year: 1885
Category: Adventure/Thriller



Summary: Allan Quatermain, Sir Henry Curtis, and Captain Good set on a journey to the fictional Suliman Berg mountain range in Africa with a map directing to King Solomon's hidden treasures. On way they had terrible pieces of adventures through desert - fighting death, thirst, hunger, and cold. They had a terrible fight with Kukuana tribal cruel king Twala with a view to coronate the real real king Ignosi. They used tricks like the rifle as the powerful stick, taking in and out Captain Good's false teeth set, and the lunar eclipse to establish the belief that they came from the land of stars. Finally with the despicable witch Gagool, they reached the Solomon's mines. But Gagool trapped them inside the mine. Now life is ticking by only to reach death. Can they escape?

Comment: The ultimate classic on adventure. Thrilling in every line. I think I dreamed in my childhood searching for Solomon's mines. Mr. Henry spent a significant amount of time in Africa. So in his writing African rituals, tribes, hunting, and languages are prominent.

The book established Ivory hunting as an elite hunt - to which I feel abhorrent. May be in his time the perspective was like that and it was legal. There are some racist remarks - but may be these were used to oppose racism.

The taking in and out of the false teeth of Captain Good is actually a plagiarism where Mr. Henry copied the idea from Joseph Thomson's book 'Through Masai Land', which was his own travel experience. Mr. Joseph actually did it really and could establish himself as a magician to them.

The Bangla ebook has a stamp of 'Umeshchandra Public Library, Khulna'. Just reminded me of my childhood - the library where I had a chance to explore world literature. Good old days :)
 
Link:
Free online reading (English):King Solomon's Mines

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Book: Tibetan Dream Yoga
Author: Lama Surya Das (born as Jeffrey Miller, 1950-)














Original Language: English
Year: 2000
Category: Philosophy




Summary: Dreams are a strange element of sleep. But if meditated, this can be a useful element of life as well. With Yoga on dream one can find it as a pleasurable sensation as well as a guide to powerful insight of life. But with spirituality in concern, this is far more difficult to achieve. When the mind is dead (as in sleep), it is difficult to awaken it subconsciously - but the dream yoga has an answer...

Comment: This is an introduction to this very interesting thing. But it would require significant amount of time and patience to practice and master. We seldom have time in life.

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Book: Bhalobasa, Prem Noi (may be translated as 'Love, Not Amour')
Author: Sunil Gangopadhyay (Indian, 1934-2012)




Original Language: Bangla
Year: Unknown
Category: Drama




Summary: Kamal is a benevolent young man in America whose only view to life is benevolence to everybody in whatever way he can with however hardship he has to go through himself. When he married Julekha, he felt the ultimate bloom of love in his heart that radiated every corner of his world. He was a man of a pure heart - with no suspicion, no hatred. That's where he started being defeated, and bruised by the treachery of his beloved persons who had apparent amiable appearance.

Comment: This is a book of love, hate, treachery, selfishness, selflessness, benevolence, cruelty, and betrayal. It is unimaginable that, things might happen this way at times. The last theme is an excellent one where Mr. Kamal learnt to diffuse love to estranged people of the world when he had a sudden encounter with a prostitute (a similar appreciation as in 'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoevsky).

Let us buy paper books. Let's enrich our mind and home library.