Human Recipe

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Here you have these cold cuts,

neither too fresh, nor too dry:

just the right degree of aging.

Serve them with a salad on the side:

dog hips and asparagus

to evoke the wilderness,

sea weed against assumptions,

stereotypes and prejudice.

Brain-shaped walnuts

to feed your mind,

a soft-boiled egg to welcome what’s new,

onion to arise strong feelings in you.

Basil leaves for heritage,

cherry tomatoes for identity.

Coriander and a pinch of cumin

tell the passion for foreign things.

For the dressing: a sprinkle of EVO oil

for the love of the land,

and red vinegar for rants.

Doesn’t taste very good;

well, nor do I.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/you-the-sandwich/

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Black Hole Reads: Ender’s Game

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In a future scenario where couples are denied the right to give birth to more than two children, the exceeding ones are recruited and trained as soldiers who will serve in the forthcoming alien war. Six-year-old Ender enters the Battle School: the boy is a natural leader, but before he can fully develop his potentiality he has to defeat bullying and adult idiocy with his cleverness as his only resource.

I decided to read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card after reading a review on BluChickenNinja’s blog. The novel is an enjoyable young adult sci-fi, although I had a bit of a deja-vu: especially in the first part, the pattern of the story is a little harrypotterish. To its credit, the book dates back to 1985, so obviously it was no way inspired by the young wizard.

The climax and ending are brilliant. I didn’t feel the need to continue to the sequel, because it’s such a well crafted story that it’s complete in itself. It can be read as a standalone book.

Endermovie

Screenshot from the 2013 film based on Ender’s Game (image source)

Ender’s Game was recently made into a movie. Disappointingly, the reason behind the school strict discipline is known from the beginning in the film, while in the book the truth is concealed by the adults until the crucial moment. Such a pity, because that unexpected revelation at the right point really enhanced the novel.

Beware, this book could lead to two false assumptions:

1) Because you’re good at video games you qualify to save the world.

2) Rants in a forum or blog by a nobody can influence public opinion and condition international politics.

The Invention of the Internet

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Once, in my childhood home

I sat on the floor

foreseeing my future self.

Wisdom is the meaning of my name,

so I longed to be an intellectual.

Scientist, poet, artist;

anything would do.

I believed, I confess, I would always

hold an advantage on others

because I had bothered

to read all the books.

But later, a vase of pandora

was opened by some IT fool

who failed to see the implications,

and suddenly all the

knowledge in the world

poured onto my head

and I was overwhelmed

by a tidal wave of facts.

They were just too much,

sickly sweet like

fruit tea saturated with sugar.

I was lost in amazement,

agonizing and gasping:

I’ve heard it is called

information overload.

This is the bitter story of how

Google ruined my life.

The Immigrants

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We’ll be gone in the morning.

You and me will sail our ship

to a more favourable wind,

bold and ready for new ventures.

Time to start a new tradition,

far from the pettiness of endless

inane conversations.

We’re in for the real thing.

Deep-rooted folks take for granted

that everyone, given a choice

likes his birthplace best.

Really? It’s an assumption fostered

by narrow-mindedness,

wealth and lack of ambition.

Don’t they know?

Birds sing the same songs

all around the world.

The very idea of homeland

is a propaganda lie.

Tome of the Month: And the Mountains Echoed

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The third book by Khaled Hosseini, published in 2003 ten years from the release of his best seller The Kite Runner, shows an author who has matured and sharpened the tools of the trade.

I remember borrowing his debut novel for an English-speaking friend when it was hot off the press, and being told: “The writing is nothing special, but the plot is compelling”. What made The Kite Runner interesting was indeed the moving plot.

In his latest book And the Mountains Echoed the plot is still emotionally involving, but the author’s writing is also more skillful. Not so much for the style, which is still plain and without frills, but for the complexity of structure: the story has a circular pattern, there are unexpected plot twists, and none of the characters is just black or white.

The chapters are short stories that would also work if read individually. However, it can still considered a novel as the characters’ storylines intertwine. The episodes are also bound together by the theme of the double, embodied by a number of couples: the siblings Abdullah and Pari, the brothers Idris and Timur, the sisters Parwana and Masooma, the wealthy Suleiman and his employee Nabi, the Greek surgeon and his childhood friend, the doctor and the wounded girl, the refugee camp boy and the warlord’s son, the two women sharing the same name.

Each of these pairs is flawed one way or another: be it because of separation, disease, rivalry, jealousy, unreciprocated love, mutilation, guilt, a broken promise or desire for revenge.

Violence and suffering, both physical and emotional, permeate the book. Like in The Kite Runner we are not spared strong imagery. It’s no surprise since Hosseini worked as a doctor for a decade before becoming a full-time writer.

One more topic is the sense of estrangement of Afghan refugees who go back to or visit their country after the war. They feel awkward and unable to really create a bond with the locals. The author himself emigrated to the US at 11, so it’s probably something he experienced first hand. This idea expands to the ethical implications of using other people’s painful real life experience as inspiration for fictional works.

To me, And the Mountains Echoed confirms that Hosseini is not a one hit wonder and I’ll be looking forward to read future works by this author.

Black Hole Reads: The Fabulous Riverboat

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The Fabulous Riverboat is book two of the Riverworld series. I love how P. J. Farmer created characters based on historical figures, and built a storyline for them so that they repeat in the Riverworld novels, though obviously in a quite different way, what they did – or wrote – in real life.

In the first volume we had Robert Burton, who in his past life had been exploring Africa in search of the headwaters of the Nile, now trying to reach the source of The River.

In a similar way Sam Clemens, alias Mark Twain, is devoted to his project of becoming the captain of a steamboat, and spend the rest of his second life sailing up The River. His alter ego, a mighty but good-hearted giant, is always on his side. Their situation parallels that of Huckleberry Finn and his friend Jim to some extent. Just like them they have to deal with racism. Also, Jim spoke in vernacular: no wonder his counterpart Joe Miller has a speech impediment. However, Sam will be not nearly as carefree as his fictional Mississippi boy.

A brand new start is impossible on the Riverworld, because men are revived with pristine bodies but also with the memories of their earthly life. Their moral flaws, prejudice, sense of guilt and feuds have followed them beyond resurrection. To Sam, this is evidence to his deterministic philosophy.

In order to realize his dream Sam has to compromise many times: he commits murder and treason, allies with an untrustworthy partner and falls in the traps of diplomacy. A small scale industrial revolution develops around the shipyard, but along with the re-invention of useful technology come pollution and the making of more effective – and deadly – weapons. It’s clear by now that this is not heaven: at most, it’s a steampunk purgatory.

Also, Clemens is haunted by the ghosts of his pasts. He becomes even more troubled when his lost wife reappears at the side of another man. Here’s what he says when reminded of his reputation as a writer:

“A humorist is a man whose soul is black, black, but who turns his curdles of darkness into explosions of light. But when the light dies out, the black returns”.

This sounds like a statement he could really have said. Let’s compare it with something Twain has actually written on the subject:

“Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven”. – Following the Equator

The final chapter opens up like a happy ending, but Sam’s trouble are not over yet: expect a cliffhanger.

The Prisoners

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My kind lives long enough
to achieve wisdom.
I’ve travelled the Universe
for eons, crossing paths
with countless species;
but I found Terrestrials
to be a most peculiar race.

They spend their fleeting lives
trapped in phantom cages
they build for themselves,
willing prisoners of
choices not made
or inability
to delay gratification.

They endure decades of
dull, hidden pain
to avoid the discomfort
of one single
embarrassing moment.

And to think that all it takes
for the penance to cease
is to say “no”
at the right time.

“No” is the password
to freedom, fulfillment
and health.
Bu so are Humans:
a helpless, pathetic breed.

Killing the Bad Guy

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I picture myself with a gun
I’m taking the aim while you run
You’re bleeding around
You make a strange sound
Shut up or you’ll spoil all the fun.

I’ve chased you all over the state
So many years spent in the wait
Things fall into place
You’re losing the race
You’re finally meeting your fate.

This morning as I hit the trail
I made up my mind not to fail
This looks like a mess
But I must confess
I’ll grin on my way down to jail.


Please, don’t get me wrong: I’m not an aspiring serial killer. Although there are psychologically abusive people in my past – as in everybody’s – whom I find hard to forgive, I’m not actually planning to slay anyone. The only murder I can conceive is that committed with a pen (or keyboard). Ridicule is a more effective poison than cyanide, and doesn’t take you to court…provided you don’t mention any names, of course.

My Contribution to In-flight Literary Magazine

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I’m delighted and proud to say that two of my unreleased poems, White Noise and Paper Mill, are being featured in the third issue of In-flight Literary Magazinepaper-plane

This online periodical is published by the Paper Plane Pilots, a group of talented writers whose mission statement is, among other things, to “make the numb feel again”.

So, if you have a few minutes to spare, check out my poems and let me know what you think here on the blog. It’s great to have some feedback.