Tuesday, March 20, 2007

“The Personal Touch” vs. “Thief”

The Personal Touch” by Chet Williamson and “Thief” by Robley Wilson Jr. are two considerably different stories. One sets the scene at home and the other takes place in an airport. One is about subscription renewal and the other is about a pickpocket. However, when comparing the themes of each story, similarity arises. Invasion of privacy is the common theme of both stories. As seen, both protagonists in each story and the events of each plot reveal how intrusion happens in our everyday life.

In “The Personal Touch”, the author uses subscription renewal letters as a course to discover the protagonist Joe Priddy’s misconducts and the consequence that he must payoff. The story begins with a Snoop Magazine subscription renewal letter that Joe received. He is irritated with the message that tries to appear personal, but indeed is a computer-typed message. He replies to the subscription renewal letter in a nasty manner. In return, there is a steep bill that he needs to pay. The magazine company holds a picture of his indulgence in tasting forbidden fruit and knows the exact money that he squirrels away from his wife. Joe is unfaithful to his wife; not only has he an affair with another woman, he watches a girl undress in an apartment. By using snoop technology, he invades a girl’s privacy, and he, however, never expects that the magazine company will use the same strategy to pry into his affair. This lesson makes him learn about the feeling of a victim in an invasion case.

In Robley Wilson Jr.’s “Thief”, the story develops around a business man who is waiting in the airport for his flight to leave. In this busy place, a young black-haired woman catches his eye. He stares at that woman and his mind is filled with lascivious imaginations. The woman becomes aware of the harassment, but she ignores him. Often, a man is off his guard when temptation has arisen. At least, this theory is applicable to the protagonist in the story. When he feels the brunette jostling him from behind, he is startled at first, and then disregards it and smiles at her. He does not realize that the brunette has picked his pocket, until he cannot find his wallet. A series of events that happens in the airport makes his life a chaos (or into a chaotic): first, he has to clear his name from incrimination, and then he has to cancel and reapply for all the documents and identifications in his billfold. Paradoxically, his billfold is returned to him intact in the mail two weeks later. The best way to explain this situation is that the brunette wants to give him a lesson for the invasion he did.

Invasion of property is condemned everywhere. Sexual harassment is a kind of invasion because body is one person’s property. The actions of both married reprobates trespass beyond accepted boundaries. The final moral message that the two authors want to convey through these stories is that people get their comeuppance for transgression.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cry Uncle (or Say Uncle)

Meaning: Concede defeat

  1. The Serbs want the Bosnians to cry uncle.
  2. If you say uncle right now, I'll let you go first in the next game.
It seems that while "crying uncle" is today regarded as an Americanism, its origins go all the way back to the Roman Empire. Roman children, when beset by a bully, would be forced to say "Patrue, mi Patruissimo," or "Uncle, my best Uncle," in order to surrender and be freed.
As to precisely "why" bullies force their victims to "cry uncle," opinions vary. It may be that the ritual is simply a way of making the victim call out for help from a grownup, thus proving his or her helplessness. Alternatively, it may have started as a way of forcing the victim to grant the bully a title of respect -- in Roman times, your father's brother was accorded nearly the same power and status as your father. The form of "uncle" used in the Latin phrase ("patrue") tends to support this theory, inasmuch as it specifically denoted your paternal uncle, as opposed to the brother of your mother ("avunculus"), who occupied a somewhat lower rung in patrilineal Roman society.

Chinese Wall

Definition :
  1. a fortification 1,500 miles long built across northern China in the 3rd century BC; is 1,500 miles long and averages 6 meters in width
  2. A barrier, especially one that seriously hinders communication or understanding. ["still believe a Chinese wall can exist between public and private selves"]
  3. In business, Chinese Wall is a barrier against information flows between different divisions or operating groups within banks and securities firms. Examples include a policy barrier between the trust department from making investment decisions based on any substantive inside information that may come into the possession of other bank departments. The term also refers to barriers against information flows between corporate finance and equity research and trading operations.
Potential phrase origins

The term Chinese wall is said to have originated after the catastrophic stock market crash of 1929, when the largely unregulated United States market suffered a 40% drop between September and October. According to one theory, the crash resulted from inflated stock values created by price manipulation and insider trading. After the crash, Congress passed a law mandating the separation of commercial and investment banks, in an attempt to prevent conflict of interest. Rather than enforcing physical or corporate separation, however, the law only mandated that policies must be in place to create a logical division between these segments.

Chinese wall is usually said to be a reference to the Great Wall of China, erected over 2000 years ago to protect inhabitants from invaders. However, other theories exist. In a Wikipedia entry, for example, the author argues that the term probably derives from a diplomatic contrivance of the Late Imperial period in China: "...if a junior mandarin saw a senior mandarin on the road he was expected to bow and present his compliments. In Beijing this tended to happen quite a lot and so traffic was frequently blocked. Instead mandarins came up with a method of pretending they did not see each other on the road by the clever placing of a retainer with an umbrella. Because they did not "see" each other, they were not obliged to stop." (~excepts from whatis.com)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Harbinger of Spring

After months of sluggish, frigid winter, today the temperature hit 45°F (about 7°C) in State College. Weather is getting warmer. If you look at the sky, you will see our feathered friends flying in formation shaped liked the alphabet “V” back to north. This is the sign of fast-approaching spring season. I cannot tell you how much I have missed the vernal sunshine, colorful flowers, the scent of grass in the air, and the chirping sound of birds. The earth is coming to life again!

“In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.”

Willian Shakespeare