Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Last Samurai – John Man

imageThe book is about ancient Japan’s cultural shift, the rise and fall of the samurai, and the story of one man called Saigo who had a part in ushering in a dramatic change in Japan’s cultural, economic, and political landscape.

The book starts as far back as the seventh century, when Japan first came together under an emperor. It is said that this imperial unity lasted for about 500 years and forms the bedrock of the earliest samurai traditions. The samurai tradition flourishes for many centuries and remains a dominant force even after Japan was unified in 1600. After 1600, these “violent, proud, and prickly warriors continue survive on “rice-stipends wrung as tax from farmers, merchants, and artisans, and would remain a vital force for another 300 relatively peaceful years.”

The arrival of American ships in 1845 opens the country after 250 years of isolation and alters the course of Japanese history. It is amid these events that a samurai named Saigo grew in political stature and was catapulted into the mainstream of politics. As a politician Saigo is unique in that as a high official, he lived like monk. He displays a high level of frugality, asceticism, and dislike luxury. It is said that he sometimes “sounded like a Confucian version of a Puritan preacher scourging his congregation.” But after a disagreement his fellow ministers about the merits of sending an envoy to Korea, Saigo resigns from the cabinet in Tokyo, followed by his loyalists (about 10% of the imperial army). This sets the tone for a rebel assault, which Saigo leads. With his soldiers, he fights the governments but pays for it with many casualties (his life included) over a short period of campaign.

John Man ends the book by stating that though Saigo fails miserably in his mission, he is a hero in Japan. He further explains that the hero status Saigo gains is because he stuck to his principles in the face of abject failure. Most importantly, the people realises that Saigo’s love for Japan was a strong motive behind his betrayal.

The Last Samurai thoroughly expands on the influence of the samurai in ancient Japan and today’s modern world. It reveals the Japanese culture and its unique way of thought and actions without dishing out the normal stereotypes. He leads the reader through the dusty old roads to the shiny tarmac as key figures and their ideologies changed the destiny of Japan as a country. A moving book.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Getting Away from “Breaking News”

Are you a person who watches, reads, or listens to news while preparing for work? Or maybe you do any of these things while working. I used to; but not so much anymore. The usual answer I give to the question why I don’t watch news anymore is that I do not want to listen to any more bad news. I have met few people who say they don’t watch, read, or listen to the news anymore because of its gloomy contents.

News come via many media. Radio, TV, and mobile apps have become trendy over the years because of the inquisitive nature of humans. We love to know what others are going through. We check our phones every day, often, for the latest juicy gossip or updates on an event far away. Our news corporations cater to our hunger, hosting 24-hour programmes with exclusive news from around the world.

Whether we like it or not, we identify with what we hear, whether about ourselves or other people. We share people’s pain and unconsciously envy or rejoice with those who have done well. Yet it is inevitable that constant reports on wars, drought, injustices, recessions, and death will eventually get to some people who are sensitive to others’ misfortune. Let us face it, there is more bad news being reported in this world than good news; and too much of that can impact people negatively just as endless mishaps can get people down.

If you are feeling depressed and sad about what is happening around the world, so much that it affects a large part of your day, then reduce your news intake. Take long walks, read a book, visit a local theatre or a comedy show; do anything that will brighten your day or put a smile on someone else’s face. You should enjoy some free time with your family as well, with all gadgets put away. Life is too short to dwell on someone else’s troubles.

Article first published as Getting Away from "Breaking News" on Blogcritics.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Free Audiobook – Road to the Resurrection


Road to the Resurrection
Explore and Share the Miracle of Easter

Greg Laurie

Ray Porter

2.5 Hrs. - Unabridged



“A guidebook to the facts and circumstances surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The listener will examine the people, places and timeline of that first Easter. But more than that, delve into the prophecies of those events, given hundreds of year prior, as well what happened after Christ rose from the dead.”

You can download “Road to the Resurrection” by Greg Laurie at christianaudio.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

A Welcomed Addition

imageI used to love the Amplified Bible because of its unique feature of expanding on word meanings, thus making comprehension easy and reading enjoyable. It is good seeing another bible (Expanded Bible) of its kind making a bow on the scene.

I have heard people say the print version of the Expanded Bible is a lot better than the ebook version. However, I have to say I did enjoy the book because it was easy for me to check up reference verse(s) with a click and not by flipping hundreds of pages.

Apart from easy navigation, the translation in itself is clear, simple, and authoritative. Its clarity and directness makes it easy to comprehend and ponder on. Moreover, the expanded words are well researched as they help illumine the passage and shine more light on its context.

I cannot recommend the Expanded Bible enough. It is a welcomed addition to the family of exceptional bible translations.


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