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Book Review

The Children of Húrin

LIFE is hard! No doubt most of you would agree. Each day seems to bring more worries and more troubles and most of us end up feeling utterly luckless. But then you read the story of Túrin Turambar, and you realize things aren't as bad as they could be. Compared to Túrin, we're practically adored by providence.

This is quite possibly the saddest story in all that Tolkien has created. The back-story is slightly overwhelming at first sight though, if you have only read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings and not Silmarillion. But of course, if you are ready to ignore certain details, the book can still appeal to you.

The story is set in the Elder days, during the first age of Middle-Earth. It was the time when the great Elvish Kings waged war against Morgoth, the dark Vala to retrieve the three stolen jewels called Silmarils. Morgoth was the master of Sauron, who is the chief villain in The Lord of the Rings, and was extremely powerful. The other Valar had asked the Elves to be patient. But the some Elves, in their anger, defied their request and wanted to bring down Morgoth by themselves.

So started the hopeless war of the Elves and when Men were discovered, they also joined in the war. One of the mightiest of the Men was Húrin Thalion. And at the battle that dashed all the hopes of the Elves of achieving victory, he stood fighting, last of all, and was taken alive. He mocked Morgoth, and Morgoth placed a curse on him and all his offspring and forced him to watch their fates with Morgoth's eyes.

And there starts Túrin's story: a battle of a man against the powers of fate. From a fatherless child, to becoming a foster-son of an Elvish King, to becoming an outlaw and eventually a great captain of both Elves and Men, and to his final bitter meeting with his sister, Niënor Níniel, Túrin's deeds are both valiant and glorious, but also wrought with failure and sadness. And through it all, he achieves greatness, though it comes at a great price and is of no avail to him.

Underneath the overall message of the powerlessness of Men against doom, there is a subtler message: that of the value of patience, of calm and cool thought. Túrin was a man of rash actions, who took little heed of other people's advice, but that may be attributed to the curse of Morgoth. In many parts of the book, different characters speak of the shadow that hangs above Túrin, as if they could sense the sentence of woe. But he was also kind and brave, and moved easily to pity, which led him to become so loved and respected by most of the people he met, for always there were folk that gave him shelter, be it Elf, Dwarf or Man. In Tolkien's world, he is perhaps the mightiest of all Men and he acquired this status all by himself, fighting against his curse. Because the name Turambar, that he took for himself, means Master of Doom. A Túrin Turambar turún' ambartanen.

It is the longest single story of J.R.R. Tolkien's creation, though he never finished it in its totality. Parts of it were in Silmarillion, though it was brief, and parts of it in Unfinished Tales, published by Christopher Tolkien, his son. That Christopher Tolkien has finally published the story in its entirety in a single book, is a treat for all Tolkien-lovers. So, enjoy and weep! Aurë entuluva!

By Kazim Ibn Sadique


Eid, to a different tune

THERE is no pomp in the air, no pomp or festivity. There is no pomp or festivity in the air because eighteen thousand miles away from the diesel-laced, manic, fairy-light-strung streets of Dhaka, where the month of abstinence has suddenly imbued everyone with an intense desire to run the next guy over, and newscasters on the nine o'clock news itch to cast aside the scarves arrayed across their pancaked brows, Eid suddenly feels a lot exciting.

If there is any joy to be derived from the fact that the new moon has been sighted, that a feeling of good will is buoying everyone's spirits as across the world people sit in front of computers and update their Facebook statuses, and well-wishing and 'Eid Mubarak' make the obligatory rounds, then I must have missed the bandwagon. 'It's a new start,' they crow, bursting at the seams with optimism, but I can only turn the pages of my AP government book and study for a test I cannot get out of, because here in America such things as Eid are only one-line explanations in textbooks that are lost on most people. 'What's Eid?' they ask, and after the thirtieth explanation I tell them not to worry about it. Tomorrow, I know, they will not remember.

And yet I cannot blame them, because what is there to remember when there is precious little to look forward to? No midnight phone calls from friends, no random text messages from second cousins, no crisp five-hundred taka notes doled out from the unyielding wallets of older brothers. No freshly-pressed and laundered clothes to coo over, no strappy new shoes to wear out because there is nowhere to visit, unless it's to the library, to pick up SAT prep handbooks and fill up on volunteer hours. No well-meaning aunties doling out sweets on china plates, no blissfully empty roads to take a rickshaw ride down through. Here there is only Highway 121, and the weather forecast, and another Monday at school.

Where I sit, gray skies and steady rain, Eid is accompanying my parents to Wal-Mart, three brown people in an oasis of tank tops and shorts, ambling down aisles of summer ware that are displayed prominently on sale. 'What have we here?' my mother exclaims, aghast, as suddenly a rack of bikinis loom in our way and my father tries desperately hard to manoeuvre the shopping cart away from their general direction. And we turn corners and find blue-shirted men restacking the shelves with Chardonnay, and pot-bellied fathers in their Dallas Cowboy jerseys jostling to get to the Bud Light. 'This is not how Eid is supposed to be,' the heart sighs, and I agree. But this is how things stand.

The moon looms into my horizon and I only close the blinds. I shut out its wan glow and turn on the table lamp. No fairy lights for me. No polao cooking on the stove, or alarms to be set for the seven-thirty prayers at the mosque. No patter of feet outside the door, telling me to wake up, telling me that it's Eid. No. None of that.

On my midnight-blue laptop, keys worn smooth from much availing of cyberspace, chat conversation windows remain unanswered. 'What are your plans for Eid?' my friends ask me, friends who have places to go and people to meet and shoes to wear out, wallets to stuff their crisp hundred taka notes into, people to embrace. And I tell them, 'I have no plans.' No plans, they exclaim, and promptly they forget. How quickly these things are brushed aside.

By Shehtaz Huq

It's all Music...

ISN't it? However, after interviewing people our age across 6 continents (Antarcticans are surprisingly hard to get a hold off) - there just might be a bit more behind why we listen to the music we listen to. Factors like parents or peers can, wait for it, actually have an influence on us. That is not simply stating the obvious- the question is how much of an influence and in what way?

Ask some people what they look for in music and a few answers will soon begin to dominate the poll results- the beat, the lyrics, and whether or not it suits the “mood” of the individual. These answers pretty much ruin the chance that different upbringings influenced that person's music, right? WRONG. Examine that person more carefully- what exactly did they listen to as a kid?

For those of us whose parents played music that we could dance to (I somehow managed to dance to Vivaldi's Four Seasons) - the data seems to tell us that we prefer listening to music for its beat. We pose ourselves the question “Does the beat suit our mood at the moment?” This seems obvious but these people tend to ignore the lyrics when looking for songs. The other elements of music play second fiddle to the beat of the song. That idea seems completely ludicrous, especially when people sing along to songs with a good beat. However, examine the lyrics of the song you're singing to- whether it's Metro Station's “Shake It” or Flo Rida's “Right Round” the lyrics of the song are not particularly memorable.

For the children of parents who believed in playing classical music, the trend seems to show that they prefer listening to the movements of the music. Whether or not a song really picks up, changes key/time signature, or just completely changes on us is important. The more complex a song, the more we can really begin to appreciate it. Soon, parallels between Metallica's “Ride the Lightning” and Pachelbel's “Cannon” begin to emerge. The lyrics and the beat are incorporated into this idea of the movement of music, but there is a factor that includes more technical elements of music. However, these ideas are more difficult to identify in modern computerized music, which is why at times it fascinates these people, yet at times it appals them as well.

Finally, there are the children whose parents fit into neither category, which is where we see the peer pressure begin to come in. If someone was heavily influenced by their friends and tried to fit in with the “cool” crowd at school, then they don't really give a rat's bottom about what people think of the music they listen to now. All they care about is the lyrics of the music- whether or not the general theme of the song is what they can associate with right now. The parents did not really play a definitive type of music, hence came the heavy influence from the peers. However, once we realized that we have a better chance of finding out who JFK's assassin was as opposed to appreciating the cool kids' music, our own musical path emerges. Since we did spend so much time listening to other people's garbage, and we put up with it, we've lost all sensitivity to peer feedback about the music we like.

With the results of all these people, the idea of what music we listen to seems to be a very complex mystery. The fact that music and math are in the same general region of our brain probably means there is some all empowering complex formula that makes the Schrodinger wave equation look like trig functions. The more we learn about people and all the influence that the music the listened to as a kid has on them now, the more we can really appreciate why we listen to the music we do today. But what happens if our taste's and preferences take a sharp turn in a different direction now?

By Ihsan Kabir




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