Friday, January 25, 2013

The Confession


Who, exactly, gives us the right to kill? If killing is wrong, then why are we allowed to kill?” ~Keith Schroeder

That’s exactly what I’ve been asking myself while reading this book, another John Grisham’s legal story focuses on death penalty of an innocent man by a corrupt government. Donté Drumm was eighteen years old teenager with a bright future career as football star, when he was accused of raping and killing Nicole Yarber, a high school cheerleader, whose body had never been found. For nine years Robbie Flak—the defense lawyer—had been appealing a lot of motions against the false conviction to release his innocent client.

Keith Schroeder was a Lutheran priest in Kansas. One day a convict in parole with a brain tumor came to his office wanted to make a confession of a murder, for which Donté Drumm would face a death penalty in seven days. Knowing that he was dying, Travis Boyette—the real killer of Nicole—wanted to save the innocent man.

From there the story flowed quite fast, as usual with Grisham. While Donté was counting his last days on earth, there was a lot of commotion around his case.  Robbie Flak and his law firm frantically worked on motions, appeals and all legal maneuvers on the last minutes; Keith sped up his car with Boyette to arrive at Kansas to submit Boyette’s confession; the Yarbers were busy to get attention from the world by appearing in a reality show; while the police were busy handling riots and demonstrations—either pros and cons—on Donté Drumm’s coming exectution.

Social injustice was the central theme of this story. Donté Drumm was not only wrongly accused by his school mate out of envy; he was victim of a corrupt system. The detective who wanted brighter career forced the innocent teenager to confess a crime he never committed. And as there was no evidence at all—Nicole’s body was never found—the police hired convicts to make false testimony for a change of freedom. The prosecutor had a love affair with the judge and had a control over the jury, so the trial ran as he had wanted. The governor was in the middle of election campaign, that he and his team were pleased to death-penalizing as many as convicts before the election to increase votes (this is another proof that people still like to kill others).

It made me sick to think how people loved to kill others. From all characters in this book, only Travis Boyette who had committed a murder—and Boyette was indeed an interesting study of how to transform an innocent kid to a villain. But cruel and wicked as he was, at one point Boyette repented. Not only confessing, Boyette was willing to make effort to save Donté. Why did he do that? He could have been silent for his last months of living and let Donté Drumm took the blame, then, no else would know. I debated with myself, did Boyette do that to let the world know that he was the real murderer—as some sort of recognition? I chose to believe that somehow his conscience—that had been sleeping for a long time—suddenly knocked his heart; and God reminded him to repentant. 

Ironically, they who were supposed to work for justice, had killed Donté Drumm by their cowardice, greediness, indifference and ignorance. How could they still believe Donté was the killer after Robbie had yelled about the false confession and so on for nine years? And when Boyette had finally confessed, they all closed their ears, made excuses and stuck on their opinion that the trial had been fair. I think, all of them were murderers too, just as Boyette. With Boyette, we could understand how his moral became so low, it’s because of how he was educated and bad treatment he received when he was a child from his uncle; and his crime was a passionate one. But what about the authorities? They were members of churches, yet they had methodically let an innocent man be killed. Can you see the irony?

Race issues was also a big issue here—my oh my, when will people realize that we are all equal, because we are all God’s creation? Really, it’s frustrating sometimes to think how educated people can be so narrow-minded. In this story, I was disgusted with Reeva Yarber—Nicole’s mother—who liked to show off her sadness by sobbing, crying, and mourning loudly in public; as if the more people saw her sadness, she could do something better for Nicole. Could it be that Reeva hated Donté that much because he was black? I could not help myself thinking what would be her reaction if the murderer was, let’s say, the Governor’s white and rich son?

At the end, The Confession is not only a legal thriller, it’s a media Grisham had used to criticize about social injustice at one side, and death-penalty at the other. Really, I can’t understand how modern society is still fond of death-penalty? That concept itself is unfair—who authorize us to kill others who are equal to us? And when the legal system that arranges it is corrupted, there’s something so wrong there.

Four stars for The Confession—I did not grant the perfect 5—because the last chapter was rather anti-climax. The most emotional part should be Donté’s execution, but compared to The Chamber (it’s also about death-penalty) this one is less emotional.


Some quotes I can’t help sharing here…

I was there when he was born, and I’ll be there when he dies.”
(Roberta Drumm—when Robbie asked her to not witnessing the execution)

Prisons are hate factories, Pastor, and society wants more and more of them. It ain’t working.”
(Travis Boyette to Keith Schroeder)

You’re nothing but a rat in their lab, a disposable body to be used as proof that their experiment is working. An eye for an eye, each killing must be avenged. You kill enough and you’re convinced that killing is good.”
(Donté Drumm’s reflection on death-penalty system)

They don’t care about guilt or innocence, Momma, all they care about is showing the world how tough they are. Texas don’t fool around. Don’t mess with Texas. Ever heard that?
(Donté Drumm to his mother--Fact: For seven years Texas had executed two hundred prisoners!)

~~~~~~

*I read 2011 Dell Export Mass Market edition paperback*

*This book is counted as*

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Receh For Books 2013


Receh For Books 2013 is a challenge hosted by Maya. Receh is a word in Bahasa Indonesia that means small change. We are encouraged to save small changes (no bank notes) during one year, and at the end we could use it to buy book(s) from our wishlist. I have joined last year challenge, but at the end the sum did not reach my expectation, so I decided to put it back to the saving box to be added to 2013 earning. Small changes are sometimes annoying, they make my purse heavier, yet don’t make me (feel) richer :) I used to toss them somewhere and forget about them. Joining Receh for Books challenge makes me appreciate small changes more; they’re not priceless anyway, I could have bought a book for myself last December, if my wishlist doesn’t contain only chunkster books, LOL!

Anyway, to summarize, my earning at the end of 2012 was….

46.000 (= $ 4.60)

Hopefully I can reach at least the same amount as 2012's, then add the sums to buy myself this book:


Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff


OR

The Godfather by Mario Puzo


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Authors Reading Challenge 2013



As it is clearly stated within the title, this challenge encourages you to read books of authors whom you never read from before. New Authors Reading Challenge—hosted by Ren—is our chance to widen our reading experience, and to not limit ourselves in the comfort zone of certain or favorite authors. Fortunately, from my reading list of 2013, I’ve found 10 new authors, which means I can take the lowest level of this challenge:

Easy : 10 – 12 books

And here’s my list:

1. Virginia Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway
2. Herman Melville: Moby Dick
4. Dante Alighieri: The Divine Comedy
5. Laurie R. King: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
6. John Banville: The Sea
7. George Elliot: The Mill on the Floss
8. Deepak Chopra: Buddha
9. Kathryn Stockett: The Help
10. Betty Smith: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn
11. Thomas Hardy: Far From the Madding Crowd
12. Fyodor Dostoyevski: Notes From Underground

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What's In a Name Reading Challenge 2013


Call me a challenge addict, because I think I am… :) I only hope this is the last challenge I’d participate for this year. And..really…I always pick challenges that suit my reading list! :) This one is hosted by my fellow in BBI (Blogger Buku Indonesia)—the largest book blogger community in Indonesia. I originally created this challenge on 2012 (originally: Name In A Book Challenge) but decided this year to 'bequeath' it to Ren as I have already too many events and projects already in my head; and I must admit that Ren has made this challenge more fun!



I take the highest level, and hope I could complete it before end of the year.

Level 4 : Crazy About Name = 20 or more books

And these are what I’m going to have…

Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix – J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling
King Lear – William Shakespeare
Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco
Richard III – William Shakespeare
Little Dorrit – Charles Dickens
The Mystery of Edwin Drood – Charles Dickens
Candide - Voltaire
Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
Medea – Euripides
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
The Dante Club – Matthew Pearl
Veronika Decides To Die – Paulo Coelho
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila – St. Teresa of Avila
Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison
Saint Joan – George Bernard Shaw


Monday, January 7, 2013

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone [Re-read]


After more than ten years, I suddenly craved to re-read Harry Potter series. I wanted to know how I'd think about it now, after my reading interest had been moving to literary and classics books. Then I read the translated version, now I picked the English version (e-book); and I found that nearly everything has changed (in the experience of reading). First of all, while I still enjoy reading it, the book did not fascinate me the way it did ten years ago. Maybe it’s because I have been familiar with the wizarding and Hogwarts world, and with the story? I don’t know… On the other hand, now I could sympathize more with the characters, I spent more time to analyze them, why they became how they were, and how they must have felt. It perhaps had something to do with my being more mature than before.

Anyway, I’ll break down here all I have felt and thought during my reading, but now and then you might find some spoilers of the rest of the series, I warn you!—although I think most of you must have read Harry Potter; if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Grab and read them! :)

One thing has never changed, I always love how Rowling started this story, with the peculiar things happened around Privet Drive number 4, McGonagall sat as a stiff cat, Dumbledore came and turned out the street lamps, the witty dialogue between McGonagall and Dumbledore, Harry’s first trip to Diagon Alley, and the first years’ sail to Hogwarts; it all had a magical sense that had never ceased in me. I feel that somehow Harry was never too surprised to find the peculiarity about wizarding world and the fact that he was a wizard. I think this helps the readers too to be absorbed into the story quickly, never feel it too strange to be true.

From this second reading, I also realized how Harry’s life has always been hard, even from he’s a baby, Harry must struggle through his whole life. He was nearly dead because the greatest dark wizard wanted to kill him. After that he must live with a family who hated him so much and never treated him properly; must go to school where he didn’t have any friends and must went through bullying nearly everyday. In short, Harry’s whole life was miserable…until he found what he was: a wizard.

But still, from the moment he entered Leaky Cauldron, Harry had been burdened by people’s high expectation on him—the boy who lived—while he was nobody. In Hogwarts, people scowled at him when he did a mistake—a hero should bring them something good, not doing something careless that hurt them. Do you realize that Hagrid was the first person who showed his care for Harry, the first time in his life he felt a touch of love, that he was not alone in this world? Remember when Harry received a letter from Hogwarts (the summon to enter the school), a letter that was addressed to him? How—for the first time—Harry knew that he belonged to something, that he was accepted and expected, someone has sent him a letter!

I was very touched by the scene where Harry ‘met’ his parents and relatives through the Mirror of Erised; it must be a lonely life when you did not have parents and relatives who loved you; how Harry must have longed for her mother’s touch of love, that he risked being caught by Filch or anybody for wandering at night, only to meet his parents. And speaking of risks, who wouldn’t risk breaking school’s rules when you know that the most feared wizard who had killed both your parents was somewhere out there wanted to kill you? So, it’s not just because Harry wanted to meddle with things he shouldn’t in the first place, it’s because he was so connected to Voldemort; it was he who Voldemort was after. It became personal for Harry at first, but I think Harry also have concerns for the wizarding world and Hogwarts particularly. In some way, it’s about humanity too.

Other thing I have never thought I’d think about was Aunt Petunia. Really, I felt sorry for Petunia Dursley; I can understand why she became that bitter woman who hated Harry and was so irritated everytime her sister’s name or world had been mentioned. It must have been tough for her; Lily, who at first her loving sister, with whom she had spent a lot of time growing together, was suddenly taken away from her by the wizarding world. I can understand that she hated that world now, more than anyone else.

One thing left unanswered for me after I finished this book is about Voldemort. If all those times Voldemort had been taking part of Quirell’s body, why hadn’t he given any signs to Snape—everytime Snape got suspicios to Quirell—that it was his master’s business and that he shouldn’t stand up against Quirell? And if Quirell knew that Snape had protected Potter all those times, didn’t Voldemort knew it too and got suspicious of Snape being disloyal? Or was it because Voldemort hadn’t been strong enough and he knew that his followers wouldn’t return to him unless he regained his power, that he kept silence? Well, it’s most likely so, anyway, it’s typical weakness of men for being loyal only to the strongest party from whom they can earn a comfortable life, isn’t it?

Speaking about Snape, only now I realize how he—despite of his obvious disliking of Harry—always protected Harry from the beginning. Dumbledore mentioned it as a way Snape got even with Harry’s father for saving his life once, but we all knew why Snape did it. I just only realized it now that it has started from the beginning. I’m just wondering how it feels for Snape when he caught Harry’s green eyes for the first time after eleven years….

Last but not least, I’m always fond of J.K. Rowlings’s wisdoms, I’ll quote some of them…

“The mirror (the Mirror of Erised) will give us neither knowledge nor truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven to mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible.” >> “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” ~Albus Dumbledore

“The two things—money and life—most human beings would choose above all—the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.” ~Albus Dumbledore

“Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you have its own mark. Not a scar, no visible signs…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.” ~Albus Dumbledore (Oh, how deep and beautiful Rowling’s interpretation of love is!)

This one is from Firenze, the Centaur. I’m sad at the scene of Voldemort killed the innocent Unicorn to drink its blood.

“You have slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.” ~Firenze

I think it’s a good lesson for us to not doing bad things to the weak and innocents, I always believe that it will return to us somehow.

Well, in the end, I cannot say that I’m fascinated by this book the second time, but I got so many moral lessons and a deeper understanding about human being from it. Four stars for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and I can’t wait to reread the second sequel next month!

~~~~~

*I read e-book version for:*

1st book for Hotter Potter

Friday, January 4, 2013

All The President’s Men: Third Level Inquiry


This post serves as well as my final review for this book. All The President’s Men is a history of political journalism which covered the fall of Richard M. Nixon in one of the most humiliating political scandals in White House. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were two reporters in Washington Post, they were appointed to cover a case of breaking-in and tapping at the Democratic headquarter in Watergate by five people. This soon turned out as extraordinary news, since it involved several men from President Nixon’s Committee for Re-election of The President (CRP) team. Interviews being made, and slowly but surely, Bernstein and Woodward unveiled organized illegal intelligence activities with the aim to win Nixon as a President. Not only both reporters, but Washington Post as a whole institution must suffer a lot in its fight to reveal the truth, but—as we all know—by the help of inside sources and honorable intentions of its crews, Washington Post had helped people of America to finally force its President to resign.

From the series of news published in Washington Post, Bernstein and Woodward then arranged them into this chronologically crafted history book. It becomes sort of political detective story, but the fact that this is a true story, made this book stands out from any other similar themed books. Four stars for All The President’s Men! And following the first and second level of inquiries for my The Well-Educated Mind Project, this is my analysis for the third level inquiry.

Dustin Hoffman & Robert Redford in the movie adaptation


Rhetoric-Stage Reading

What is the purpose of this history?

The main purpose is to show how people of America were proud of and respected honesty and honor in their blood; that when the sacred of White House was corrupted, there are brave people who sacrificed their career—and often their lives too—to reveal the truth. From the fall, this history also teaches us about how the conspiracy had been built.

What does it mean to be human?

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward showed us that we as human have the responsibility to correct the error in all aspects of life; and we must do it with the right and honest ways, with persistence and commitment.

Why do things go wrong?

Greediness and arrogance—I think—that had corrupted the White House at that time. Nixon was in his second period of presidential, he and his men must have thought that because they had put every other institutions—FBI, CIA, Ministry of Justice—under their control, their illegal activities won’t be revealed. Hunt, one of the President’s men, even blackmailed the President because he had some evidence about Watergate. The moral corruption of President and his men had been in the lowest level when they knew they would surely win.

What place does free will have?

In their fight to reveal the truth, both reporters and the Washington Post must face a lot of trials. Bernstein and Woodward were summoned to the court because they have tried to interview the jury. White House had openly attacked Washington Post’s reputation, and the newspaper’s stock had been crashed down to 50% in the stock market. At one time the two reporters were warned that their office and houses might have been tapped, and their lives were in danger. However—from the reporters, the senior redactors, to the owner—Washington Post had persistently kept their intention to supply honest investigations to its readers and to help the nation to know the whole truth; they fought to the end.

What is the end of this history?

When Bernstein and Woodward started their coverage for Watergate case, I believe they never thought where this would have ended; a breaking-in to Watergate was not unusual anyway. However, when they found that a huge amount of fund and someone from the closest circle of CRP were involved, they knew that this would be a delicate case. From then on they always looked at the higher level to see who was actually in control. Both reporters ended this history book when House of Representatives finally opened investigation to impeach President Nixon, and the law process began. Six months after this book first published, Richard M. Nixon resigned from his office after the Republican announced that they had been ready to the verdict against Nixon.

If at first the President and his men still arrogantly challenged their ‘enemies’—Washington Post was their biggest target—at the end President’s men fought each others, raced to reveal evidences, to get a chance to put the blame on the others. Nixon was under his men’s control and forced to sacrifice one of his assistants, and at the end his closest friends fell with him too. In a way Washington Post helped America to clean up their corrupt government by their journalism. The end of this history opened a new hope of a better presidential (Nixon was succeeded by Gerald Ford).


~~~~~


*I read translated version in Bahasa Indonesia by Penerbit Serambi*

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hotter Potter January Meme


I am now joining the Hotter Potter Reading Event to re-read Harry Potter series. Besides reading, there is also monthly meme (for seven consecutively months) that encourages us to post about certain theme related to Harry Potter’s world. Here is the first one, January meme’s prompt:

Jika kamu menjadi salah satu guru di Hogwarts, kamu ingin menjadi siapa? Alasannya? (If you would become one of Hogwarts’ teachers, who would you like to be? Why?)

From the moment I read the question, I know instantly who’d I become, because she was my favorite teacher and one of my favorite characters from this series ever:


Professor McGonagall – Transfiguration teacher




Minerva McGonagall is a remarkable woman, as well as a remarkable witch. Her very first appearance in this book is when she was sitting silently on the wall at Privet Drive number 4 as a cat! Yes, that’s what impressed me from the very first time I read Harry Potter. Imagine how surprised I was when Dumbledore arrived and all of a sudden the cat—of course I didn’t know at first that it’s not a real cat—leaped and *hop* transformed to a woman!



Isn’t it just amazing that you can transform something into something else only in a wave of wand? Or in the case of Animagus (the skill of a witch or wizard to transform oneself into an animal at will), isn’t it cool that you can be an animal when you want to avoid someone or are in a danger? Transfiguration is indeed an interesting thing to learn if I was a witch, and mastering this skill to be a professor is..wow! Not that it is easy to do, Prof. McGonagall herself has warned her pupils at their first class about this branch of magic:

"Transfiguration is some of the most complex and dangerous magic you will learn at Hogwarts. Anyone messing around in my class will leave and not come back. You have been warned."

But not only because of the class she was teaching, that I’d like to be Professor McGonagall, I also admire her whole personality. McGonagall was a strong woman. She was very strict, but sometimes she could also be flexible when needed. McGonagall wasn’t reluctant to deduct points from her own house (Griffindor) when her pupils made mistakes. However, sometimes McGonagall could also bend the rules (not punishing Harry when she saw him flying on his broom and catching Neville’s remembral on his first flying class, because she wanted to make him seeker).

McGonagall showed her bravery after Dumbledore died and she became the Headmistress. Like Dumbledore, McGonagall always loved Hogwarts and her pupils. She stood erectly to defend her students from the twin wicked teachers who were Death Eaters (I forget the names), she also fought bravely when Voldemort’s armies invaded Hogwarts. I think McGonagall must be Harry’s most favorite teacher in Hogwarts—and the second person he respected the most after Dumbledore and later on Snape, of course. I remember how Harry stood for her when one of the Death Eaters (again, I forget who :D) insulted her, which made McGonagall was deeply touched.

McGonagall's fighting for Hogwarts

In short, you would never find any scene in this series where any of the students insult or said nasty things or laugh at McGonagall. Her name was always mentioned with respect—not fears as of Snape’s, but respect. And Minerva McGonagall indeed deserved that respect! McGonagall’s class was also one of only few classes where the students always studied in silent, this only proved that she had an air of authority in her. Harry was right, Minerva McGonagall was “not someone you wanted to cross”.

I love Professor McGonagall, and if I was to be a teacher in Hogwarts—or even in Muggle world, I would be very proud to be a teacher like Professor McGonagall!





Wednesday, January 2, 2013

All The President’s Men: First and Second Level Inquiry

These are the first and second level inquiries for completing tasks of my The Well-Educated Mind Self-Project. The third one would be posted separately.


Grammar-Stage Reading


Who is this story about? What challenge did they face?

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward are two Washington Post’s reporters who covered news of Watergate scandal that forced President Richard M. Nixon to resign his office. They wanted to reveal the truth—who, why, how—behind the breaking-in and tapping of the Democratic headquarter.

Who or what causes this challenge?

Watergate seemed to be controlled by President Nixon’s Committee for Re-election of The President (CRP) team. Of course, White House denied and covered up any inquiries from reporters that had any chance to put them in dangerous position.

What happened to the two reporters?

Confronted with the absolute power of high level executives, the two reporters had bravely submitted direct inquiries to powerful people, sometimes attacking them through their news—while kept maintaining the newspaper’s integrity by never reporting something they were not 100% sure of the accuracy —in order to reveal the truth.
  


Logic-State Reading


Look for the reporters major assertions

Since this story was previously written as series of reports in newspaper, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward published this book also as a chronological series of reports; and therefore I could not find the explicit major assertions within the history. However, I think the reporters wanted to highlight that it is the nation’s and people’s responsible to seek the truth about their government, even if it might have been conducted by the highest levels of authorities. We must always look at and thoroughly work on all possibilities and chances; that nothing is impossible.

What questions are the reporters asking?

They knew that Watergate had something to do with the high levels in White House; the question was how far the moral corruption had infected White House. Did the President involve in this, did he know about it, or was it merely his men’s action?

What sources do the reporters use to answer them?

They dug every news—new and old ones, every comment from interviews with so many people--but they had also a valuable secret source that seemed to know everything and involved in the case. This source—nicknamed Deep Throat—has guided the reporters to find the truth, without revealing his own identity. They also consulted their lawyer for legal aspects of interviewing, quoting comments and reporting it for the newspaper.

Does the evidence support the connection between questions and answers?

In their reports, the two reporters always followed journalism ethics by cross-examining and reconfirming news with other sources, and provided the subject chances to deny or confirm the news. So, I think they always used a respectable evidence to answer their questions.


~~~~~



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