Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Exchange by Jon Langford Review

The story "The Exchange" by Jon Langford is a short story and it consists of only a dialog. The customer comes to the shop and asks the shop-assistant to replace a broken alarm clock.

It looks as his request is being refused by the clerk. All possible options for the exchange are dismissed because of different reasons (the customer doesn't remember when he bought the item, he didn't keep the original plastic packing and prove of payment. The seller concluded, "I wouldn't be able to do anything to help." The dialog further transmits the feeling of being desperate: "Nothing?" "No." "So now I just have a faulty alarm clock forever?"
The story turned to another, optimistic direction in the ending. Here the last part of the conversation between shop assistant and customer:
"Would you like to open a store card? It's completely free and you get five percent off every purchase.
No thank you.
If you open one today you get a free gift.
What's the free gift?
An alarm clock."

This story was on the top of reader's choice on the site for self published writers. I think that It deserved to be on the top, because the author was able to present the whole idea in a very short text, and even the mood and emotions of two characters.

This is the link to the story:


Friday, November 17, 2017

The Taipan by W. Somerset Maugham Review

The short story "The Taipan" by W. Somerset Maugham would refer to the genre of the ghost stories. It is not a typical literary style for Maugham. It is likely that the main idea which Maugham meant was the theme of superiority and personal self-estimation of being better than others.

These lines were put by the author at the beginning of the story:  
"No one knew better than he that he was an important person. He was number one in not the least important branch of the most important English firm in China. He had worked his way up through solid ability and he looked back with a faint smile at the callow clerk who had come out to China thirty years before. When he remembered the modest home he had come from ... and compared it with the magnificent stone mansion, with its wide verandas and spacious rooms, which was at once the office of the company and his own residence, he chuckled with satisfaction. He had come a long way since then."

The Taipan is a foreigner who is head of a business in China or Hong Kong. In other words, he is a boss whose behavior and lifestyle is very different from local Chinese everyday routine. The main character, taipan, came from England, where he lived maybe not so poor but at least modest life. He had everything in China, he could argue with counsel who was a quite important person and "The taipan thrust out his jaw pugnaciously as he thought of the incident."

He was invited to the restaurant where he could drink wine and liquor without payments because it was paid by the firm which was interested in having business with his company. He gained a lot of weight to the point that riding a horse wasn't possible for him.

Once when he came back home from the restaurant, the cemetery was on his way. He saw the graves of people he had known: somebodies were killed in a massacre which occurred in China in the past, others, his predecessors, found his death due to overuse of alcohol. This is how the author described his thoughts:
"They were dead and he was alive, and by George he'd scored them off. His eyes collected in one picture all those crowded graves and he smiled scornfully. He very nearly rubbed his hands."

After that, he saw two coolies who were digging the fresh grave quite big, probably for a large body. He wandered for whom that grave was prepared. He knew only English, for the years of being in China, he didn't think of studying local language at all. He asked coolies and they said something in Chinese.

When he returned home the thoughts about this grave didn't leave his mind. He sent the servant to the cemetery to know about the grave and servant said that there were no fresh graves in the cemetery. "The best thing he could do was to go the club", he tried to relieve himself from the cemetery obsession but he gave up as the grave stuck in his mind. "Suddenly he felt he could not bear to stay in the club any longer."

He came home. "He had dreamed of that open grave and the coolies digging leisurely." He thought about the future death, if it comes in this place, we would be buried with this people, in this hateful country. He took a list of papers and wrote a letter to the headquarter of his company with a request for retirement. He was found dead the next day, with the letter laid on the table near him.

The main idea of the story is about arrogance. We had a proverb in the Russian language which could literally translate to English as the sentence: He came through fire, water, and copper pipe. Copper pipe means a trumpet. The proverb present the idea of difficulties to endure three trials: danger of fire and water and saving personality under a press of praise and homage. Maugham described this idea precisely, in details including the circumstances, behavior, and thoughts of the main character in this well written and easily understandable short story.

The link to the text of the book:
Page 568

Monday, November 6, 2017

Virtual Tour To Jamaica

This virtual trip took place during the 25 minute class in online school with the teacher David. We used the screen-sharing feature of Skype. The version of Skype which David used allowed him to convey not only the image of the desktop of his computer but also the sound. It made it possible to watch video from Youtube together just as if we were sitting in a physical classroom with the TV on the screen.

The most well-known tool for exploring places is Google Map, we used it also. The journey started from the airport in Kingston- the capital city of Jamaica. It is located on the Palisadoes which is a tombolo or spit of the world's seventh largest natural harbor (the spit is a geographical term which means a small point of land running into the sea). The runway stretches into the inner side of the harbor.

There is another remarkable place near the airport - Port Royal. It was destroyed by earthquake twice in 1692, when it was a pirate's city and in 1969. Most of the town went under the water. Now it is a place for diving, the views of the buildings under and above the surface of the water has become another tourist attraction there.

As in all capital cities, Kingston includes the downtown stores, business areas, and parks. We went (by watching video on Youtube) through a park named Emancipation Park in New Kingston. The statues (Redemption Song) of a nude man and woman in the park were the subject of controversies among inhabitants of Kingston when they were erected. We saw in the video the people who were working in the park and playing table tennis.

In the last part of the class, we came to the area where the University of the West Indies is located. The buildings for students look quite comfortable. We stopped in front of the lecture auditorium with an unusual shape. It was built by a Chinese company. David mentioned that the cost of renting it for the educational or business event is approximately $700 US for an hour. The cost of studying in the university there is about $2000 US/year.

Going through the university's campus we came across the tree the Blue Mahoe which is the national tree of Jamaica. Jamaica has a lot of natural tourist attractions and it would be an interesting subject for the new session: future 25 minutes English class on