Category Archives: Hidden gems

Books hardly anyone in my extended network is aware of that I believe deserve to be better known.


The Book of the DamnedThe Book of the Damned by Charles Fort

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


(It’s already been almost three months since I finished this one… just for you to get an idea of how slowly things are making the passover from my life to the ‘mension these days.)

Reading the Book of the Damned on the book-damning device.

Below you will find an assortment of highlights from The Book of the Damned pulled from the clipping file of my Kindle. Convenient, that. You can find the same super-version of the book as the one I read for free on Amazon. I’m still not sure if it’s a best-of, Charles Fort’s collected works, or what… There seems to be at least some content which doesn’t match up with the text found on his four books as found separately.

Anyway, back to the quotes:

The data of the damned. I have gone into the outer darkness of scientific and philosophical transactions and proceedings, ultra-respectable, but covered with the dust of disregard. I have descended into journalism. I have come back with the quasi-souls of lost data. They will march.

The power that has said to all these things that they are damned, is Dogmatic Science.

All sciences begin with attempts to define. Nothing ever has been defined. Because there is nothing to define. Darwin wrote The Origin of Species. He was never able to tell what he meant by a “species.” It is not possible to define. Nothing has ever been finally found out. Because there is nothing final to find out. It’s like looking for a needle that no one ever lost in a haystack that never was—

The novel is a challenge to vulgarization: write something that looks new to you: someone will point out that the thrice-accursed Greeks said it long ago.

It may be that in the whole nineteenth century no event more important than this occurred. In La Nature, 1887, and in L’Année Scientifique, 1887, this occurrence is noted. It is mentioned in one of the summer numbers of Nature, 1887. Fassig lists a paper upon it in the Annuaire de Soc. Met., 1887. Not a word of discussion. Not a subsequent mention can I find. Our own expression: What matters it how we, the French Academy, or the Salvation Army may explain? A disk of worked stone fell from the sky, at Tarbes, France, June 20, 1887.

My notion of astronomic accuracy: Who could not be a prize marksman, if only his hits be recorded?

But what would a deep-sea fish learn even if a steel plate of a wrecked vessel above him should drop and bump him on the nose? Our submergence in a sea of conventionality of almost impenetrable density. Sometimes I’m a savage who has found something on the beach of his island. Sometimes I’m a deep-sea fish with a sore nose.

Charles Fort was a trailblazer. What we call today paranormal or occult, together with all the relevant scientific investigations, in a few words what we’d expect from Mulder and Scully, to a large extent we owe to him. Here’s a guy who lived in the ’20s and researched old copies of Scientific American, Nature and other such periodicals and magazines, looking for the damned, the unexplainable, the excluded. For what good is science, if it only chooses to include to its dogma what it can explain, sweeping under the carpet all that can be used to challenge its grand theories?

Giant, village-sized wheels submerged in the middle of the ocean; periodic rains of fish, frogs in various states of decay and of a gelatinous mass of unknown origin; falling stone discs, as in the quote above; meteors; lights in the sky moving in formation (reported in the 19th century); footprints of impossible creatures; giant hailstones; cannonballs entombed in solid rock, and that’s just a sample.

Reading about these mysterious exclusions was a delight. I love everything that challenges my way of seeing the world and allows me to contemplate alternative explanations for life, the universe and everything. To be fair, some of Fort’s favourite theories were down-right bizarre, such as his insistence on imagining a realm above our own from which all the falling creatures and materials originated – what our own surface world would be, conceptually, for the “deep-sea fish with the sore nose”, as in the last extract I quoted above. The existence of such a place sounds no less ridiculous now than it did in the 1920s, but I think Fort’s point was that his arbitrary explanations were just as good as the official ones offered by the scientific dogma of the time, which our present, widely-accepted, matter-of-fact world theories of today mirror. To be sure, a part – I don’t know how significant – of the excluded, would be possible to include today, but I’m sure that many of the phenomena Fort goes through in his Book of the Damned would be just as inexplicable today as they were in the centuries past.

There are two reasons this book isn’t getting five stars from me. The first one is that it’s twice as long as I think it should have been. I felt that Fort at certain points was simply repeating himself. It’s also possible he was just saying the same thing in a different, more difficult to understand way, and this is precisely the second reason this isn’t getting five stars. Fort’s language and style was very hit or miss. To give you an idea, the quotes I’ve included in this review are some of the easiest parts to understand from the whole book. Others love it. Myself, I can’t say I hate it, but I’m not sure it’s as successful a writing technique as Fort must have hoped for it to be.

The same hit-or-miss-ness is applicable to the book as a whole. I thought it was tremendously interesting and a significant publication that should be studied further and give inspiration to present-day Charles Forts, but I don’t believe the style is for everyone. Why don’t you find out for yourself if it’s right for you, though? It’s free!

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Fluent in 3 Months: Tips and Techniques to Help You Learn Any LanguageFluent in 3 Months: Tips and Techniques to Help You Learn Any Language by Benny Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a person with the ambition to become a polyglot myself (some would even say that with my 5 languages spoken at different levels of mastery I could already call myself one), I can tell you that Benny Lewis is to a great degree what I would like to become one day. If there ever was a more encouraging person that anybody can do it, he would be it. He managed to learn so many languages – I don’t even remember how many – starting in his early ’20s with Spanish and never ever stopping since.

This book is a collection of his most useful techniques and methods and his unmatched motivational skills. While reading it I was feeling so pumped to learn all the languages I could get my hands on, and he really made it all look so easy! Motivating doesn’t even begin to describe it.

My main problem with his work is that he’s not very precise on what actually being fluent means when talking about becoming fluent in three months, something which other people on the web have commented on too. This is part of his own definition from the book itself:

He continues by saying that fluency in a language is difficult to measure (“there is no absolute, discernirble point you pass when can say, ‘Now I can speak the language fluently.'”) and suggests that for all intents and purposes a B2 level on the Common European Framework, by that standard, should be enough. That’s debatable of course and depends on the needs of every individual learner, and, as a holder of a B2 in German and Spanish myself, I still don’t consider myself fluent in either language; rather, I’d consider myself a competent speaker for everyday situations, but no more.

The book itself in general made me think about what my individual needs and goals about each language I’m learning are and gave me plenty ideas and methods on how to reach them. Its best point was the motivation it gave me and that it helped visualise what I’d really like to do with my language-speaking.

Also, Fluent in 3 Months is the first book I’ve seen as of yet that takes advantage of the possibilities granted by dynamic content – as opposed to traditional, static content found in books – made possible by the web: it has links to articles and resources kept updated by the author, which sort of act as mini-expansion packs for the book, e.g. links to useful services, such as Memrise, italki or Polyglot Club. Benny’s idea is that if you own the book, you should always have access to fresh content which in some cases might not be the same as what’s included in the book, as could be the case for example with the links to language-learning websites.

All this said, I don’t particularly like Benny’s tendency to whore himself out and his advice out behind paywalls on his site. Even if you buy his book as I did and subscribe for the extra content, there’s still a “premium membership” you’ve got to pay if you want to have full access to what he’s written over the past few years. I understand that he’s put a lot of work on all of this and that learning new languages full-time has been his main occupations for the better part of his springtime of youth, but I have to admit that it all rather leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Regardless of this, though, if you’re about to tackle a new language or would love to learn more about how effective language-learning works, Benny is one of the best people out there to turn to, or at least to his work. Again, if you can be skeptical about his method and his general aims in learning lots and lots of languages fluently in a sense, you can’t deny that the guy has a talent of being able to very straightforwardly pump you up and make you feel like even learning Mandarin or whatever else you might think a difficult language could be is a piece of cake and only a matter of dedication. And, in the end, if this book left me with anything very concrete, it’s that dedication and the willingness to forget about shyness and/or other bullshit excuse it’s the only thing that might be stopping us from becoming truly good at – or at least having just the right attitude for – speaking our favourite languages.

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An Excursion Into the ParanormalAn Excursion Into the Paranormal by George Karolyi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the paranormal. The term itself is almost taboo among scientists and people who have devoted themselves, whether knowingly or not, to the High Church of Materialism, an idea and its implications beautifully explored by Rupert Sheldrake in The Science Delusion. It’s been connected with very specific things and phenomena, such as extrasensory perception, telekinesis, auras etc, which have all been discredited and/or completely rejected by what you’d call mainstream rationality; bad science, Tricks of the Mind/hallucination or outright fraud have been strongly suggested as the cause of the above phenomena and more. Nevertheless, according to the book’s definition of the word:

Paranormal phenomena do seem to occur, it’s just that the tools our current level of understanding of the world provide us with are insufficient to explain the why. Fraud, bad science etc. as explanations would constitute those phenomena normal, not paranormal, which by the way is the dominant narrative at this point in time. Perhaps things are not as clear-cut when the “definite proof” of these phenomena being normal is placed under scrutiny.

George Karolyi, in this book, did what in my opinion every scientist – or at the very least more of them – should be doing: he didn’t accept or dismiss observations based on what he assumed was true; rather, he put observations first and attempting to build a theory on the results second.

Apparently (and I’m using this word in particular because according to Google this man doesn’t exist), when Karolyi wrote the book, he was a researcher in the University of South Australia with a background in electrical engineering. This explains the absolutely rigorous methodology he seems to have followed. I’m serious: he begins the book with a Physics 101 on electricity, waves, EM fields and quantum mechanics, all of them fields of physics which were either completely unknown, very poorly understood or deemed magical/supernatural as little as 150 years ago. It even has a section on probability and statistics for readers to get a basic grasp of what significant, as opposed to chance, results mean when conducting experiments.

The book then goes through human auras, psychokinesis, Kirlian photography, ESP and survival-related phenomena (among others), describing what experiments have been done on each inquiry – some by the author himself -, often going into extreme, virtually unfollowable by the layman, technical details on the methodology thereof. What genuinely surprised me? The author, to his credit, included negative results. For example, his experiments on aura perception did not lead to anything more than chance results, yet there they were for the reader to draw his or her own conclusions on.

The majority of the rest of the phenomena, though, did in fact produce significant, sometimes even highly significant, statistical results, even when some of them generally either don’t lend themselves well to controlled laboratory experimentation due to the apparently unconscious nature of their induction, as is the case with telepathy, or proof of their existence would not be easily quantifiable, such as in the case of survival-related phenomena e.g. apparitions or reincarnation. Imagine where we could be going if we let this research guide our curiosity, instead of the misguided skeptics the world over.

On an interesting side note, I thought it was funny how at the end of the book Karolyi started making conjectures to explain the paranormal, such as the existence of parallel universes or dimensions (see 10 Dimensions Theory) which would “carry” the non-physical, conjectures which he then used as a platform for closing the book by going on a moral tangent – how people ought to live in order to make the best of their lives. It came into stark contrast with the extraordinarily detached point of view which preceded it, given the material at hand, but I thought it was more interesting than inappropriate.

The main point of all this is that it’s very unfortunate that we have limited ourselves in such a way so as to not be able to even imagine, for the most part, what we could be doing with this frankly liberating information. Maybe in 150 years people like Rupert Sheldrake, Charles Fort (whose Book of the Damned I’m in the process of reading) and even George Karolyi and other researchers whose work I’m trying to hunt down will have found their place in future History of Science books (or their equivalents) as forerunners of the coming paradigm shift, the next renaissance. We can only hope.

This review is of a copy of the book recently donated to the English section of Sofia City Library.

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The Science Delusion: Feeling the Spirit of EnquiryThe Science Delusion: Feeling the Spirit of Enquiry by Rupert Sheldrake

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have the rational intelligence to be a scientist, but it’s not in my personality to fill in cracks in established mental models. I seek anomalies that open cracks.

~Ran Prieur

Quickly becoming one of my favourite quotes.

Jimmy Wales tells “energy workers” that Wikipedia won’t publish woo, “the work of lunatic charlatans isn’t the equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse'” [link]

Jimmy Wales’ statement is as revolting as the discussion under it. I would suggest that you read it, but only if you have the stomach for tens of “skeptics” parrotting the mainstream opinions about woo, parapsychology etc, claiming the truth and the high ground of knowledge as they usually do. Even the article itself is taking clear sides without shame.

Do these people know anything about the subject? Does Jimmy Wales know anything about the subject, he who with one broad swath pigeonholes so many people as lunatic charlatanes? I don’t know whether this technique in particular has had successes, explicable or inexplicable, in doing what it says it does, I haven’t looked into it to be honest, but I’ve seen the same discussion surrounding “pseudoscience” too many times to count.

Why this hate? Why this elitism? Why this aversion to exploration of the fringes? When did science become all about defending what’s already known? I thought the opposite was the main idea. Is materialist science, peer-reviewd journals, wikipedia, Richard Dawkins and the rest, parts of a bulletproof world theory anyway?

No, they’re not. Far from it. And if you want to know why, you should absolutely read The Science Delusion (title insisted upon by publisher) by Rupert Sheldrake. His main idea is that science and the scientific method are generally good at giving answers about our world, but, just like organised religion 500 years ago did, it has become too inflexible, too bulky, too dogmatic, too rid of assumptions, too sure of itself and too dismissive to be of any real use today. Meanwhile, it’s hindering research that could further our understanding of the world in unimaginable ways.

What’s interesting is that Sheldrake in this book provides us with -what’s normally considered as- hard evidence for a world that cannot be explained materialistically. That includes results of real peer-reviewed experiments that point to the reality of things like brainless memories, statistically significant telepathy and many more chin-stroke-worthy phenomena that truly test mainstream science’s beliefs of what should or shouldn’t be possible.

After reading the book, I checked Rupert Sheldrake’s Wikipedia entry just to see reactions to his work from the scientific communituy. Not surprisingly, the discussion was not much more sophisticated than what I witnessed in the link at the top of this review: accusations of pseudoscience, charlatanism etc pervaded the articles, indications that the skeptics hadn’t really comprehended the criticism aimed at their methodology and worldview, didn’t follow up on the bibliography, plainly assuming that there must have been something wrong with it (confirmation bias), or that they simply didn’t even read the book. Richard Dawkins has said, after all, that he doesn’t want to discuss evidence when it comes to inexplicable phenomena, raising questions about whether he’s really interested in the truth or not – in my personal experience, most skeptics do not have furthering their understanding of our world at the top of their priorities.

In any case, I find the accusations against Sheldrake, and this book in particular, hollow: The Science Delusion has close to 40 pages of notes and bibliography of actual experiments to back it up and Sheldrake’s style and prose themselves are lucid as well as restrained. Even in the parts in which he discusses the inability of science to interpret the phenomena, where he proposes his own theory of morphing resonance as a possible explanation -the parts I enjoyed the least because I cannot exactly grasp the concept of morphic resonance-, he does so without conviction, but rather with the spirit of the curious researcher. A true scientist in my book. The skeptics’ reaction to his work seems to disregard all of this completely; they treat him like they would any old fraud.

But I understand: scientists are also people. What would it have been normal for them to do in the face of rejection of their entire lives’ work plus a few hundred years of tradition? Accept their failure? Accept their dogmatism? Just as scientists are people, science is also a human activity, and as most of human activities do, it also suffers from the same problems human beings generally have, only in a larger, more chaotic scale.

Finally, one more reason I appreciated this book so much was that it was… tender. At the other side of the raging skeptics and this blind rejection there is investigation, there is respect, there is a belief in a state of things that resonated deeply with me. Maybe it’s because Sheldrake’s main field of research has been biology that he shows such love for plants, animals and life in general. For whatever reason, it warmed my heart and made me think that if I ever was a real scientist, Sheldrake would be my rold model: a fighter for truth against the faux fighters for truth, the romantic gardener who everybody calls a hippie but he alone sees what everybody else is too blind to see.

Third five-star review in a row after Μίλα μου για γλώσσα and
Small Gods
(lol). Am I becoming softer or just more grateful?

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Μίλα μου για γλώσσα: Μικρή εισαγωγή στη γλωσσολογίαΜίλα μου για γλώσσα: Μικρή εισαγωγή στη γλωσσολογία by Φοίβος Παναγιωτίδης

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Σημαντικό βιβλίο, ακόμα κι αν το μόνο που καταφέρνει είναι αυτό που ο Φοίβος Παναγιωτίδης υπόσχεται στην αρχή: να παρουσιάσει μια απλουστευμένη, «εκλαϊκευμένη» (δεν μου αρέσει καθόλου αυτή η λέξη ως απόδοση του pop) εισαγωγή στην γλωσσολογία, χωρισμένη σε κεφαλαιάκια-μπουκίτσες.

Πώς μαθαίνουμε να μιλάμε; Από τι είναι φτιαγμένη η γλώσσα; Ποια είναι η παλιότερη γλώσσα του κόσμου; Ποια η διαφορά γλώσσας και διαλέκτου; Τι σημαίνει μιλάω σωστά (ελληνικά); Γιατί μαθαίνουμε αρχαία; Θα μιλάμε όλοι αγγλικά σε 50 χρόνια; Πάσχουν οι νέοι μας από αφασία; Κινδυνεύουν τα παιδιά που μεγαλώνουν σε δίγλωσσο περιβάλλον; Είναι η πολυγλωσσία τεκμήριο ευφυΐας; Γιατί μας δυσκολεύουν οι ξένες γλώσσες; Πού βρίσκεται η Λατβία; Σε τι χρησιμεύει η γλωσσολογία;

Ίσως να μην καταφέρνει να δώσει εκτενείς απαντήσεις σε όλα αυτά τα ερωτήματα, όμως αυτός δεν είναι και ο στόχος του και θα έχανε πολλα αν προσπαθούσε να είναι πιο «επιστημονικό» ή διεξοδικό: πιστεύω πολύ σε έργα όπως αυτό τα οποία προσπαθούν να παρουσιάσουν μια πιο σφαιρική άποψη του θέματος τους και δεν χάνονται στις λεπτομέρειες, όπως τα αγαπημένα μου βιβλία του είδους What on Earth Happened και A Short History of Nearly Everything. Σίγουρα δεν ξέρω άλλα βιβλία παρόμοιου εύρους για το συγκεκριμένο θέμα, και ακόμα πιο σίγουρα όχι στα ελληνικά. Μου άνοιξε φυσικά την όρεξη για περισσότερη γλωσσολογία αλλά και για να εστιάσω περισσότερο στις γλώσσες μου…

Γενικά, ήταν απολαυστικό και θα το πρότεινα σε οποιονδήποτε, όχι μόνο σε φίλους των γλωσσών και της γλωσσολογίας. Μάλλον όσοι δεν έχουν ιδέα από γλωσσολογία πρέπει να το διαβάσουν περισσότερο!

Ευχαριστώ Δάφνη που μου το δάνισες. 🙂

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The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever MadeThe Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now would be a perfect time for anyone who hasn’t watched The Room (2003) by Tommy Wiseau to watch it. Guys, this movie has been called “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”. There’s a game made based on the story, the following for this cult classic has been going strong for years -it’s still not very famous in Greece but I’m working to change that- and, obviously, a book about it just came out.

A book written by Mark (Greg Sestero) of “Oh, hi Mark!” fame and co-written by Tom Bissell, a person for whom my respect increases by the day. A book I could hardly put down and kept reading it standing up in the metro and in the bus and which I finished in just 3 days. I usually take long with books – sometimes because I force myself to read them rather than enjoying them. This one was different.

The Room is a special case of “WTF, how does this thing exist?!” and a lot of its charm lies on precisely that inexplicability. Who is Tommy Wiseau? Where did he find the film’s $6m budget? Why did he become the unique, strange character he is? Greg Sestero divulges a lot on how he met Tommy Wiseau, what made their relationship special, disastrous and in a way admirable, all the way up to the making of The Room, but those fundamental questions on the very essence The Room are never answered directly. He gave away enough to make me even more interested in Tommy Wiseau as a personality and what he and his ways might have to teach me (I didn’t believe there was anything I could learn from him before I read this book) but not too much, which would ruin everything. At the same time, The Disaster Artist has a certain kind of flow and style that it, as is correctly advertised on the cover, reads more like a novel – and you have to remind yourself that not only is it real life you’re reading about, but also it’s about The Room. The freakin’ ROOM!

Another reason I connected very well with the book was that Greg Sestero’s way of thinking, his reaction to some things, his relationship with Tommy and his whole demeanour reminded me of myself. I could almost imagine myself in a parallel universe in all the situations retold in the book, and that helped a great deal with my immersion in this tragicomic story.

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The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher CreativityThe Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Artist’s Way is one of those books that change you – one of those that are made to change you, and you buy them because you yourself want to change. It’s a course in self-discovery, acceptance and creative birth.

These are the basics: for every morning of every week for the 12-week duration of the course -one chapter for each week-, the blocked artists choosing to follow the Way have to:

1)Do three pages of free writing every morning, a daily ceremony known as the Morning Pages. This acts as a mind-clearing meditation routine, a brainstorming machine and a way of spotting trends: weeks after writing the pages the artist on the Way may analyse his or her morning pages and notice trends in his or her daily writings: unfulfilled artistic urges, changes that need to be made for the person to reach harmony and happiness, sudden ideas and other great things.

2) Take themselves out to at least one Artist’s date per week, in which they have to indulge in whatever it is they love doing but would not normally allow themselves to be lost in (remember, this book is meant for blocked artists -read: most of us-).

3) Complete tasks in personal archaeology and self-discovery, wherein they have to dig up favourite creative childhood pass-times they gave up because of humiliation, “growing up” or other creativity-killing reasons.

I completed my 12(+1 lazy one) weeks a few days ago. I can safely say that it had great effects on me. Doing morning pages has now become more of a good habit of mine, and even if I didn’t do all of the tasks, it’s one of the books you have to go through at some point again for inspiration. It says so in the end, too.

If you’re a blocked artist, believe you can’t do art because you think you’re too old to start or “can’t draw” (or are “tonedeaf” or “terrible at writing” or “have no ideas” ad nauseam), think whatever you do needs to be perfect from the beginning or don’t bother because what you would create wouldn’t appeal to the masses, you should really try following The Artist’s Way.

The only thing I would add to the course itself would be a special NoSurf task or, even better, a complete revisit to the book that takes what the world looks like in 2013 into account; I strongly feel the internet is becoming, at the same time, the most important invention and the single strongest creativity and motivation killer mankind has ever known. I mean, in the 1993 edition that I have, there’s already a no-reading week included in the course for eliminating distractions and for focusing time and energy on the creative juices within, but the internet is proving to be a distraction magnitudes greater than reading the paper or a book could ever be. We come in contact with the works of the world’s most talented and creative on a basis of addiction, almost.

What I really mean is that I’ve grown tired of and alarmed at the great artists I personally know who keep getting demotivated by seeing someone else’s graphic, photo or drawing on Tumblr or listening to that fantastic song or watching that clever video on Youtube, instead of getting inspired, as they claim they should be. It’s more “look how much others have progressed instead of me” and much less “this is possible and I could do it too.”

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The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English LanguageThe Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language by Mark Forsyth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I could quote almost any page of this book to demonstrate its awesomeness and healthy doses of “aha!” it can induce on the reader but that wouldn’t do The Etymologicon justice; Mark Forsyth does such an awesome job of linking one word to the next with such -delighfully British- humorous descriptions and eloquence that simply picking and choosing doesn’t feel right.

This book is an ode to the history and connectedness of languages, one delicious word -or group of words- after the other. You can get a taste of Forsyth’s etymology- and origin-of-language-related work in his blog Inky Fool, which worked as his groundwork for The Etymologicon. If you find any of it interesting at all, chances are you’ll fall in love with this book just like Daphne and I both did.

On an unrelated note, I think it’d be interesting to share with you that the previous owner of my copy felt the need to correct grammar and syntax mistakes, such as having “But” and “And” at the beginning of sentences, with her (I’m assuming it’s a bitchy, uptight, female 60 -year-old-virgin English teacher) black marker; at other places she noted “Daft!” or underlined mistakes obviously intended for humour. To give you a little example at some point the book reads: “What the proofreader gets is a proof copy, which he pores over trying to fnid misspellings and unnecessary apostrophe’s.” She went ahead and deleted that last apostrophe. She really did. “…they who are so exact for the letter shall be dealty with by the Lexicon, and the Etymologicon too if they please…” The book begins with this quote by the apparently very prolific John Milton; the lady would have done well to have taken this piece of advice to heart.

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Ποίηση και ζωγραφική στην ιαπωνική τέχνη: Ο Μπασό και το Ανεμοδαρμένο ΤαξίδιΠοίηση και ζωγραφική στην ιαπωνική τέχνη: Ο Μπασό και το Ανεμοδαρμένο Ταξίδι by Κλαίρη Β. Παπαπαύλου
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

λευκή σκέψη
σελίδες κολλημένες
θέα απ’το βουνό

Το πιο καταπληκτικό γι’αυτό το βιβλίο είναι μόνο και μόνο το ότι υπάρχει. Η συγγραφέας του, η Κλαίρη Β. Παπαπαύλου, δίδασκε ιαπωνική κουλτούρα και τέχνη στο Πανεπιστήμιο Κρήτης ήδη από τα μέσα της δεκαετίας του ’80, δύο δεκαετίες πριν γίνει της μόδας, και αυτό το βιβλίο δημοσιεύτηκε το 1988. Οι άκοφτες σελίδες και το πολυτονικό σίγουρα συνεισέφεραν στην αίσθηση μοναδικότητας, ιερότητας, και όπως θα έλεγαν οι Ταοϊστές σε άπταιστο Αγγλικήν, suchness του. Απλά υπήρχε, και το μονοπάτι μου ήρθε σε επαφή μαζί του. Αν δεν το έβρισκα από αυτόν που το πούλαγε στον Κεραμεικό δίπλα στο μετρό, εκεί που απλώνουν τα παλιά και μεταχειρισμένα βιβλία, αποκλείεται να έπεφτε στα χέρια μου ποτέ.

Και, εδώ που τα λέμε, δεν θα ήταν σπουδαία απώλεία. Οι εξηγήσεις της κας. Παπαπαύλου για τα χαϊκού και την ιστορία του Μπασό, τον οποίο εκτιμώ κι εγώ ιδαίτερα (ή τουλάχιστον το έργο του) ήταν σίγουρα ενδιαφέρουσες και κατάφεραν και με ταξίδεψαν στην Ιαπωνία της εποχής μετά το Shogun 2: Total War. Το πρόβλημα όμως ήταν το κομμάτι που έμπαινε εις βάθος στην παραδοσιακή ιαπωνική τέχνη, και ιδιαίτερα οι εικόνες που το συνόδευαν. Αν εκδιδόταν σήμερα με καλό χαρτί και με λεπτομερείς σαρώσεις και φωτογραφίες από τα έργα και τις τεχνοτροπίες που περιγράφει, θα ήταν σίγουρα πιο πετυχημένο. Και είναι κρίμα, γιατί μου άνοιξε πολύ την όρεξη με τον συνδυασμό καλλιγραφίας, ποίησης και αυτής της υπέροχης ιαπωνικής μελάνης, όλοκληρο το ολιστικό πακέτο που συνδυάζει το μέσο, το μήνυμα, όλες τις πτυχές της αναπαράστασης του μηνύματος, ακόμα και το ίδιο το χαρτί και το σχήμα του ή την διάταξη του…

Πάντως, αν έκανα ένα ταξίδι στην Ιαπωνία του σήμερα ή του τότε, σίγουρα θα μου άρεσε να ακολουθήσω την πορεία του Ανεμοδαρμένου Ταξιδιού. Και, γιατί όχι, να φτιάξω στην πορεία τη δική μου ποίηση και ζωγραφική 2-σε-1 .

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AwarenessAwareness by Anthony de Mello

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Thinking you can change yourself by changing your situation or your surroundings is like thinking you can change your handwriting by using a different pen.” (paraphrased)

I want to be more aware in my life. That’s why I had been looking for books on the matter a few months ago when I found this one. I ordered it from World of Books and for the first time they disappointed me: the book never arrived at my doorstep. Thirsty for thought-provoking material and wisdom shared aplenty, I looked for the book online and lo and behold, there it was in audiobook form.

To be exact, I didn’t find it exactly in audiobook form. In fact, the recordings I found were from some seminar in which Anthony de Mello presumably delivered the contents of this book to a crowd of wisdom-thirsty individuals such as myself over a period of a few days. I don’t know whether or not me listening to the recording of that seminar could count as actually reading the book, but for now it’ll have to do. See? I’m cheating and probably no-one will read this far to actually notice!

All that cleared up and taken out of the way, I most certainly did enjoy listening to Anthony de Mello’s lectures and his style. Of course, most of his teachings about the uselessness of language, the subjectivity of reality, the difference between the “I” and the “me”, the inherent selfishness of what we commonly refer to as love or falling in love etc. wasn’t anything new to me. In fact a lot of what I heard are deeply held beliefs of mine. But a lot of other things he mentioned are matters I will want to revisit, for I think they are as timely and deep as ever and a single listen cannot possibly contain their gravity, moreso because, as with all the great teachers, De Mello’s teachings and the new mentality he proposes are intoxicating in their truthfullness, but alas, one cannot handle and take in this much truth all at once. At any rate I believe he was right in warning the listener about the dangers of substituting one brainwash for another: the point is to always be aware and to forget about existing concepts. What would the difference between “enlightenment” and dogma be otherwise?

I can easily see myself revisiting this countless of times at random intervals in my life. It does feel like a flow of precious advice and living the way De Mello suggests feels deep within me like a precious ideal one would do well to strive for – or not strive for, since there should be no effort involved! I’m giving it 4 stars instead of 5 because it wasn’t anything groundbreaking for me – “just” a collection of profound, valuable insight.

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