Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home


History 101: Part IV

Hannibal had human liver for breakfast, Julius Caesar missed an important meeting, the Pope decided to appear out of nowhere, Genghis Khan got a pedicure (and CONQUERED THE WORLD), Europeans started blowing things up with their new gun powder, and Joan of Arc stunned the world with her Warrior Princess outfit. So what's next? RED INDIANS OFCOURSE!

How? (ironically, that probably means 'hi' in their language) Christopher Columbus, that's how. Born in 1451, in Genoa, he was an explorer and navigator. He was always up and about, going away in his ship. He was probably trying to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy cities, but he could never get away from the big band of singing sailors that tailed him wherever he went. It was a good thing because in one of his many voyages into the Atlantic, he happened to discover America without actually falling off the edge of the flat planet earth. There he color coded the Indians and decided to call them red. The friendly natives welcomed them with food and open arms. Although the Indians were slaughtered for this kind gesture, we shall come to that in another issue.

During the 14th Century, another big change was taking place all across Europe: the Renaissance. People started getting ideas: Crazy ideas that made other people get a lot more crazy ideas. Children started doing maths, Leonardo (da Vinci, not Dicaprio) made drawings of helicopters and smiling women, and more buildings were made than most of the buildings of the previous centuries combined. Why, though?

No apparent reason, really. Every once in a while you need some changes around the house, and that's exactly what people were doing.

It started in Florence, and spread to most of Europe by the 16th Century. 'Renaissance men' or 'Renaissance thinkers' assimilated knowledge from all over the world, and studied them till the cows came home. And strangely enough, when the cows did decide to come home, the thinkers thought 'Hmm…I don't think I'm done studying…maybe I'll make my own stuff to study'. And so they thought. They thought, experimented, questioned their own experiments and wrote down every single thing in their daily lives, till they could study no more. Arts, Literature, Mathematics, Physics, Metaphysics, Philosophy- these subjects were merely the tip of the iceberg. Within a few short centuries, the whole of Europe had undergone enlightenment. Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo, and Shakespeare were only a few of the big names who walked the path of the Renaissance. We cant just ignore them!!

Leonardo Da Vinci: probably the most famous of the lot. Named after my favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (or is it the other way around?), he was born in Florence in 1452. He was an artist, sculptor, architect, musician, botanist, mathematician, engineer, anatomist, and a helluva cook. He is most famous for his two paintings, the Last supper, and the Mona Lisa. His drawings were breathtaking, even centuries after they had been published. Most of his ideas were visionary, to say the least. He visualized helicopters, tanks, and calculators, and if we had video editing back in those days he'd have out-performed Peter Jackson and George Lucas.

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni ( or Mikey for short ) : another Ninja Turtle favorite, he was the rival of Leonardo Da Vinci. However, he did not favor drawings much, but he was a master sculptor. In fact, it could be said that he was the most famous sculptor that ever lived. His most famous statues include the 'David', 'Moses' and the Pietà. He preferred sculpting over arts, but even so, he produced some of the most magnificent artworks of the Renaissance: the Sistine Chapel ceiling, The Last Judgement, etcetera etcetera. One could go on. These renaissance rebels would've give today's graffiti artists a run for their money.

Galileo (1564AD 1642AD): Now there was a chap with brains. Not that any of the other Renaissance thinkers didn't have brains….but anyways. Galileo had guts to boot. He supported another thinker, Nicolas Copernicus, who said that the Earth was not the center of the Universe. Quite a let down for some, but science finds a way. Galileo started astronomy as we know it today. He improved the telescope to a point that a person could actually use it, researched on Kinematics(to non-A level maths students: that basically means the worst thing you can possibly read about in a book) and discovered a whole lot of other things that I will not qualify to understand in this lifetime.

We cannot leave the Renaissance without discussing one final thinker: Shakespeare (1564 1616). Most of us are familiar with his works. His plays have been performed in languages that haven't even been invented yet, and they are taught in schools the world over. He is called the greatest English playwright who ever lived. And why all the hype?

Well back then they didn't have Archies. Or limited edition Batmans. So yes, there is a reason for all the hubub. He changed literature as people knew it. And what was so special about his plays? His characters had character. They had a depth that very few writers had previously incorporated. (and he wore a cool gold earring, which helped the public image a lot). Hamlet, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, these are just a few of his many plays.

The Renaissance ends. People have new things to think about, England goes through the plague(again!), and the War of the Roses begins, and America….well it just comes into existence. But these events are a mere fraction of the excitement in store next week. Not to be missed!

By Naveed C

Photo Feature

Our community-service based group makes frequent visits to slum schools and this shot was taken at one of those. The school is called "Aalok Shishu Shikkhaloy" - one of our closest affiliations. I've personally visited them on several occasions and I absolutely adore the kids. They're extremely talented, brimming with massive potential. Each visit brings me closer to their lives and their smiles. It's amazing how they've kept their spirits alive, given all the hardships they have to go through.

Every time I'm in their area, they would spot me from a distance and come running, shouting and jumping to "Diya Apu! Diya Apu!" They'd follow me (and my friends) around, put up mini performances - their energy is contagious! I sometimes end up feeling like the Pied Piper of Agargaon (where the school is located) as they would follow me to my car in a straight line, loudly singing songs. No matter how hard I try to ditch them because it becomes unsafe for so many children to cross roads together - they somehow find me and wouldn't let go.

It's an experience of a lifetime. And I'm so grateful to these children for letting me feel it.

By Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

Book review
King of the Castle

We're just ordinary people We don't know which way to go
-- John Legends

When you are in the practice of writing regularly, there's nothing scarier than waking up one morning and realising you can't write anymore. Oh, it starts very insidiously. First you find yourself procrastinating over something that took you just a few minutes to complete. You make excuses about being busy, about being distracted by something 'important', about the 'mood' not being right. Hours turn into days without a single paragraph being written. As deadlines approach, you begin to panic. You find your fingers freezing over the keyboard, even as the words dance out of your grasp. It doesn't matter that you know your material, or that you've researched your topic; finally you come to the conclusion that you… Just. Can't. Write. That's how scary writer's block can get.

That was pretty much my life during the past month. And then I read King of the Castle. This is the story of an average man, living an average life, with his average family. He's a stay-at-home-dad, juggling a job as a humour columnist along with the responsibilities of managing the affairs of three very demanding children. Adding to the chaos in his life is an assortment of oddball friends; the hippie, the yuppie, and the loser in love. This is one year in his life, and he's inviting you to live it with him.

It's Sue Townsend meets Cheaper by the Dozen, as Martin Plimmer takes you through a bittersweet period in his life when he is struggling to understand himself. A freelance columnist, comedian and broadcaster, he finds himself unable to grab the bull by the horns and write the book he's been planning to all his life. This puts his work, his marriage, and the very stability of his life on the rocks, because his self-image plummets. Even as he dibbles about, avoiding the spectre of the book, he finds himself appreciating things in a new light. The speedy evolution of his own children as they grow up and out of his reach, teaches him to savour his relationship with Weeny, a little girl he baby-sits for an acquaintance. His wife's fixation with re-modelling his kitchen leads to an interest in DIY projects, which ultimately becomes an obsession until a social faux pas leads him to reconsider.

The book is divided according to seasons, beginning with winter and musings on Christmas shopping and responsibilities, and ending once again with Christmas the next year. As he trips, and stumbles and blunders through the year, the material for a book unfolds.

Filled with the unique quirks amidst the ordinariness of life, peopled with real characters, their individual oddities laid bare, this is a book anyone can relate to. Plimmer manages to find the magic in the mundane, and has you smiling through to the very end.

By Sabrina F Ahmad

Down the road where the mist hides the house numbers

I am in familiar territory now
In rooms, clumsily caked with plasters
That, instead of hiding the previous shade of paint
End up highlighting it.

Some rooms are smaller than I remembered
Others have wallpapers peeling from corners,
Curling in - as if,
A change in the occupants
Has prompted them to shed their skins.
Change into something fancy, pretentious.

Walking in and out of these rooms,
I sometimes wonder if I am deceiving myself.
The traces of familiarity are perhaps my own making
The people I view as outsiders,
Are the ones who truly belong.

Perhaps, it is vain to walk the streets
Searching, for a place lost with you.
Perhaps home is only a thing of the past.
The present a lonely walk,
Down the road where the mist hides the house numbers.

Poet did not sent the name



home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2008 The Daily Star