In the Bookshelf #2: The Old Man and the Sea

old man and the sea

I’ll make a confession to you and I’m shy about it. For 27 years of my life, I had never read a book by Ernest Hemingway. Well, it’s now a thing of the past. The Old Man and the Sea was my first Hemingway’s experience. I can say I’ve really appreciated it. To make a little background, the book was written in 1951 in Cuba and published in 1952. It is the work that made Hemingway well known. He won a Pulitzer Prize for it in 1953 and it was one of the main reasons for is Nobel prize of 1954.

In this book, the author bring us into the life of an old cuban fisherman named “Santiago”. The whole book is a battle between a fisherman and a huge fish (a large marlin). At the beginning of the book, the protagonist is out of luck. He didn’t catch any fish in the last 84 days. On the 85th day, he sail far on the Gulf Stream with the intention of turning the tide. By noon the first day, a fish bait is line. The battle begin. After days of struggle, he finally catch the giant fish. Unfortunately, he’s unable to get the fish inside the boat. The marlin is simply too heavy. The catch will be devoured by sharks on his way back. The fights that Santiago had with the marlin, nature and sharks can offer many life lessons. Here are my three favorite lessons.

One of the main message of the book is that luck isn’t something we should depend on. Santiago is called a “Salao” by the villagers. It means  that he is doom by the worst luck. He even lose is fishing partner, a young boy, because of that. Santiago believe in his own skills. He thought that with perseverance he can shift to momentum. “To hell with luck,” he thinks. “I’ll bring the luck with me.” The old man work hard and he use the best techniques. He knows that good things don’t happen to those who wait. He’s a great example to follow. As Thomas Jefferson said:“I’m a great believer in luck, and I have found the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Another important lesson of the book is to accept the present moment for what it is. The fight between Santiago and the fish is long. It last a few days. The fisherman hurt his hands during the battle. He’s alone and he doesn’t have anything to cook food. Even with all those problems, he doesn’t quit. He knew that all of it is a temporary situation. “He was shivering with the morning cold. But he knew he would shiver himself warm and that soon he would be rowing.” He accept the suffering without complaint.

Finally, the book put a lot of emphasis on the idea that we must refuse to give up. A man can be destroyed but not defeated“. Being destroyed is something you don’t have control on. You can die, but it doesn’t mean it happened because you gave up. To be defeated you need to give up. If you don’t, you can’t be defeated. The best example is the American conflict against communists in Vietnam (1959-1975). The south of the country was occupied by US army but Viet Congs never surrendered. Therefore, they were never defeated. Even if Santiago only brought back the fish bone, he wasn’t defeated by the sharks because he never abandoned the fight.

 “The Old Man and The Sea” is a Great introduction to Ernest Hemingway. This book is much more than a simple novel. Most of the things you will read in it can be applied to your daily life. In other word,  you should read it. If you don’t have time to read it, I will probably call you a lazy motherf*cker because it’s only about a 100 pages. Anyway, if you really don’t have the time, I recommend that you watch the oscar winning animation film (1999). I’m still not sure what will be next Hemingway’s book. A Farewell to Arms or For Whom the Bells Tolls?

The Death of Robin Williams


I’m probably not breaking any news, Robin Williams died August 11th. You probably know him for his roles in Jumanji, Will Hunting, Hook, Dead Poets Society and bunch of other movies.

Death is always a surprise no matter how it happen. In the case of Robin Williams, it’s a different matter. I was astonished when I heard that the cause of death was suicide. I just couldn’t believe it. A sickness or an accident would have been way easier to accept. I’ve tried to figure out why he did it. I couldn’t find any answers. Out of curiosity, I’ve started researching about his past. 

Williams was a workaholic He had problems handling fame.  He had a past of alcohol and drug abuses. It is well known that he was taking coke in 1982 (look for John Belushi’s death). In 1988, he said in the people magazine: “Cocaine was a place to hide. Most people get hyper on coke. It slowed me down.” Then, for 20 years he was clean. In 2006, he was in rehab because of relapsed. His demons weren’t anything new. He has suffered from depression in the past. He wasn’t the ideal projection than most people thought he was. I’ve noticed a pattern that most of us have. We think that fame, success and money are necessarily equal to happiness. We are far from the reality. Celebrities are humans just like us. They can feel depress, they can feel bad and they can be unhappy.  We tend to see the life of celebrities as fairy tales. We tend to see them as ideal people with perfect life. Famous people have flaws just like us. 

“I’m shy, paranoid, whatever word you want to use. I hate fame. I’ve done everything I can to avoid it.” – Johnny Depp

People are fast to judge that he was weak, that he was selfish to commit suicide. No matter what we can say, the man was in deep pain. He couldn’t handle it anymore. Most of us don’t know how it feels to be famous. How would you react if all people you cross in the street knew who you are? Some people can simply not adapt to fame. Johnny Depp is good example of someone who disdain fame. On my part, I know I would totally hate it.

33 years ago, Robin Williams addressed the dark side of fame in the Mork & Mindy Show. He was playing an alien meeting Robin Williams. He was doing an investigation about fame on earth. At some point during the episode, he said:Being a star, sir, is a 24-hour job and you can’t leave your face at the office.It’s like he was already seeing fame as a prison.

Randomness of July 2014

In “randomness”, I’m posting about the interesting stuff of the last month. It can be quotes, books, articles, websites, movies or whatever I think you could find interesting.

I’m kind of late this month. I was in the Balkans for 15 days and I’ve come back a week ago. The trip was awesome. I had the chance to visit Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro. I won’t go in more details.

[1] I rarely read fiction book and I want to make amend of that in the future. Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale was my first move on the good path. It’s the first book of the James Bond series. It’s more or less the same story as 2006 movie but in Cold War setting instead of the present. You can also take off the poker game by baccarat. A good book pack with action.

[2] I read a quick book just before leaving to Europe. It was Nate Green’s Bigger Smaller Bigger. The author take us in its adventure to get 20ibs of muscle in 28 days, lose 20ibs in 5 days, and get it all back. It’s interesting on the self-experimentation perspective. If you have any interest on getting muscle mass, I think it’s a good inspiration for it.

[3] I had the chance to see the legendary hardcore band Cro-Mags in show upon my return from Europe. I was surprise to see how many well-known rock bands say they were influence by them. One interesting stuff is that I thought the lead singer was in his late thirties…he’s in fact more than 50. I’ve done some research and the guy is an advocate of healthy lifestyle. He is the author of the book Meat is For Pussies about the lifestyle of being vegan, athletic and strong. I’m not vegan but the book look good and I would be curious to read it. Even the MMA fighter Jake Shields is a fan of the book.

[4] I’ve stumbled upon a quote from the business thinker Peter Drucker: “What gets measured gets managed.” Whatever you’re goal, if you can measure it, it will be way easier to achieve it. For example, if you goal is to lose weight you can measure your carbs intake or the calories you’re eating. I’ve noticed that the habits changes I wanted in my life were way easier to achieved when I was measuring the goal and tracking the progress.

[5] If you want to watch a weird documentary, I suggest Room 237. It’s free on YouTube. It’s about theories from fans on Stanley Kubrick’s Shining. It’s fun to see all those odds theories like the idea that Shining double meaning is the genocide of Indians. The fan show all the clues that point toward that theory. You’ll see theory like the Holocaust, the thematic of the Minotaur and much more. It’s nothing really serious, but it’s entertaining. My favorite part was the study of the set, I think it’s the best part.

[6] Do you like board games? One of my friend as a hardcore boardgamer and he always try new Kickstarter projects. Last time I went to his place, we’ve played a game of Kremlin. It’s an updated version of the old 1980’s game from Fata Morgana and Avallon Hill. It’s a strategic game of influence that take place in Soviet Union. The goal is more or less to take control of the Politburo.

[7] One of my favorite book is Letters From a Stoic by the roman philosopher Lucius Seneca. The book was written 2000 years ago and it could have been written today.  I’ve bumped into one of my favorite quote from the book last week: Now I bear it in mind not only that all things are liable to death but that liability is governed by no set of rules. Whatever can happen at anytime can happen today.” Whatever can happen someday, could happen today. You will die someday, but not rules says it shouldn’t be today, in a week or in 65 years.

[8] You’re serious about weightlifting but you don’t know how much alcohol you should take? I suggest you read Dr. Jade Teta’s article on the subject: A Lifter’s Guide to Alcohol. I’ve learned a bunch of things because of it. Seriously, a whole book should be written about that subject.

[9] I’ve got my hand on a cooking book. It’s La Technique by Jacques Pépin. Each recipes or techniques are shown step-by-step with pictures. That is must to learn and master cooking techniques. This is something I’ve been putting off since a long time. I like to cook, but since a year and half I’m really lazy. Hopefully, this book will motivate me to get the job done.

[10] We will finish with a quote from Jacques Pépin:”All the great chefs I know – Thomas Keller, Jean-Georges Vongerichten – they are technicians first.” This can apply to any fields, you need to understand and learn the techniques if you want to become good. It’s the same whether you are a cook, a martial artist or a pilot.