Fairy tales according to J.R.R. Tolkien

jrr tolkien world

 

Tolkien’s both ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ stories have ceaselessly inspired imagination and creativity for decades, of dragons and semi-humans, of tales of conquest and victory, and those of intensity and fear. Entirely visualizing a fantasy world of his own, Tolkien has added a new perspective towards world literati.

Here is one of his quotes when he’s responding to an opinion that mythology, much of which inspires Tolkien’s universe, is ‘a disease of language’:

 

Mythology is not a disease at all, though it may like all human things become diseased. You might as well say that thinking is a disease of the mind. It would be more near the truth to say that languages, especially modern European languages, are a disease of mythology. But Language cannot, all the same, be dismissed. The incarnate mind, the tongue, and the tale are in our world coeval. The human mind, endowed with the powers of generalization and abstraction, sees not only green-grass, discriminating it from other things (and finding it fair to look upon), but sees that it is green as well as being grass. But how powerful, how stimulating to the very faculty that produced it, was the invention of the adjective: no spell or incantation in Faerie is more potent. And that is not surprising: such incantations might indeed be said to be only another view of adjectives, a part of speech in a mythical grammar. The mind that thought of light, heavy, grey, yellow, still, swift, also conceived of magic that would make heavy things light and able to fly, turn grey lead into yellow gold, and the still rock into a swift water. If it could do the one, it could do the other; it inevitably did both. When we can take green from grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter’s power — upon one plane; and the desire to wield that power in the world external to our minds awakes. It does not follow that we shall use that power well upon any plane. We may put a deadly green upon a man’s face and produce a horror; we may make the rare and terrible blue moon to shine; or we may cause woods to spring with silver leaves and rams to wear fleeces of gold, and put hot fire into the belly of the cold worm. But in such “fantasy,” as it is called, new form is made; Faerie begins; Man becomes a sub-creator.

 

Read the full article in Brain Pickings to further understand his perspective.

Neil Gaiman reimagines Hansel and Gretel, and it’s stunning

hansel and gretel

 

 

Neil Gaiman doesn’t believe in ‘happy-go-merry’ children stories. Particularly after visiting a refugee camp in war-torn Syria, Gaiman got his inspiration to create a darker version of one of the world’s most favorite tales, Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’. With a stygian touch by Italian graphic artist Lorenzo Mattotti, Gaiman wants to introduce his horror-induced tales to children, but with an obvious message: fear of ghosts will not match fear towards far greater things in life when people grow up, especially when it comes to facing the authority.

His personal thought about why some elements of cynicism should be included in children’s stories:

 

I think if you are protected from dark things then you have no protection of, knowledge of, or understanding of dark things when they show up. I think it is really important to show dark things to kids — and, in the showing, to also show that dark things can be beaten, that you have power. Tell them you can fight back, tell them you can win. Because you can — but you have to know that.

And for me, the thing that is so big and so important about the darkness is [that] it’s like in an inoculation… You are giving somebody darkness in a form that is not overwhelming — it’s understandable, they can envelop it, they can take it into themselves, they can cope with it.

And, it’s okay, it’s safe to tell you that story — as long as you tell them that you can be smart, and you can be brave, and you can be tricky, and you can be plucky, and you can keep going.

 

Read the full article in Brain Pickings.

The changing face of international students in US

intl students in US 2014

 

The number of international students admitted in the United States in 2014 is now on its record high. 886,000 – a significant 8% increase compared to last year – is already a burgeoning figure, and this trend continues to increase. What does this mean then? The world still puts its confidence in the superpower – not so much in its ability to lead the global geopolitical order anymore, but rather in its ability to deliver quality education and boundless opportunities to succeed (the American dream to some extent still works). Having nearly half a trillion US$ to spend every year in research, why waste this chance?

But what really strikes out is the structure of international students nowadays. As you can see from the picture above, nearly one-third of all these students originate simply from one country: China. Despite China’s rise as a major, global power, many of these people, exhausted by the country’s over-competitive curriculum system, now resort to overseas studies as an alternative for either their children or themselves to grow. US, in fact, turns out to be the most favored destination. And guess what? 50% of all international students in the country are based simply from three Asian countries: China, India, and South Korea (the third being a principal US ally).

Read the summarized report in Science Magazine to know more about this trend.

 

And download the infographic to learn more about the facts.

IIE – Open Doors 2014 -Infographic -InternationalStudents

Africans in Guangzhou – ‘Chocolate City’

africans in guangzhou

 

Migration has been a continuous trait in human journeys across the world, one continent and beyond. Globalization, in fact, makes it even more intensive, and more complicating than ever; as many as 250 million people over the planet – that’s a quarter billion – are now living outside their home countries, and it is rapidly increasing higher than ever.

Global migration changes the demographic faces of countries, cities, and societies; they also transform how people perceive of social and cultural fabric within their neighborhood, forcing them to rethink about ‘durability’. As changes are always constant and imminent, people, like it or not, must be prepared for changes.

Guangzhou, one of China’s largest cities, is one example. Populated by over 10 million people, this city, once nearly homogenously Chinese, has seen a drastic influx of African migrants, all of whom are in search of better life. Between 20,000 and 200,000 Africans, scattered across dozens of countries over the continent, are now calling this metropolis ‘their second home’. They don’t simply set up businesses, earn money, and leave it; they are meant to inhabit it. Some marry local women, and now, a whole new generation of ‘Afro-Chinese’ children are now growing up in Guangzhou. It’s something no one had imagined three decades earlier, when everyone was busy about market reforms.

 

View the whole slides in Al Jazeera to understand better about this brand-new community.

Extreme Wealth Is Bad for Everyone—Especially the Wealthy

wealthy not happy

 

The addendum of conventional success we have mostly adhered to sounds like this: “the more you achieve, the more dissatisfied you must be to continually perpetuate your success.” As creatures induced by desires and wants, it is inevitable for us to crave for some things, and try to do something, or anything, to get what we look out for. This applies for all the history, and it is also a driving force that makes our society advance.

But does ‘the more, the merrier’ rule apply indefinitely? If everything were left unconstrained, you would definitely encounter a perfect inequality. A ‘winner-takes-all’ situation where, in a realm of limited resources, people are racing savagely to gain something, like a zero-sum competition. And here, inequality has become one issue. It is not that competition is bad; we are, instead, being faced with ‘free-for-all’ mindset. And too much of it is increasingly a bad thing, not a good thing after all.

Read the full article in New Republic about the growing inequality in United States, and what should, ideally, be done about it.

 

Excerpt:

 

Billionaires seems to have been sparked by West’s belief that rich people, newly empowered to use their money in politics, are now more likely than usual to determine political outcomes. This may be true, but so far the evidenceand evidence here is really just a handful of anecdotessuggests that rich people, when they seek to influence political outcomes, often are wasting their money. Michael Bloomberg was able to use his billions to make himself mayor of New York City (which seems to have worked out pretty well for New York City), but Meg Whitman piled $144 million of her own money in the streets of California and set it on fire in her failed attempt to become governor. Mitt Romney might actually have been a stronger candidate if he had less money, or at least had been less completely defined by his money. For all the angst caused by the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson and their efforts to unseat Barack Obama, they only demonstrated how much money could be spent on a political campaign while exerting no meaningful effect upon it.

As West points out, many rich people are more interested in having their way with specific issues than with candidates, but even here their record is spotty. Perhaps they are having their way in arguments about raising federal estate tax; but the states with the most billionaires in them, California and New York, have among the highest tax rates on income and capital gains. If these billionaires are seeking, as a class, to minimize the sums they return to society, they are not doing a very good job of it. But of course they aren’t seeking anything, as a class: it’s not even clear they can agree on what their collective interests are. The second richest American billionaire, Warren Buffett, has been quite vocal about his desire for higher tax rates on the rich. The single biggest donor to political campaigns just now is Tom Steyer, a Democrat with a passion for climate change. And for every rich person who sets off on a jag to carve California into seven states, or to defeat Barack Obama, there are many more who have no interest in politics at all except perhaps, in a general way, to prevent them from touching their lives. Rich people, in my experience, don’t want to change the world. The world as it is suits them nicely.

JT Singh gets the Internet ‘shanghaied’

 

A few months ago, JT Singh and Rob Whitworth shook the Internet with their lively city-branding portrayal of Pyongyang, a city otherwise known for its totalitarian, robot-like population as always perceived by media influence.

This time, Internet gets ‘Shanghaied’, as the word implies, from this China’s most populous metropolis. Once a city with empty skyline three decades ago, today, the number of skyscrapers has surpassed 4,000 – according to Whitworth, twice the number of those in New York City, the pioneer of ‘corporate cathedrals’. Even with 4,000, this is already a breathtaking fact. Welcome to the future.

Hmm, they should try Hong Kong next time. It even has 8,000 skyscrapers, no match for the world ranks.