पुस्तक समीक्षा : जङ्गबहादुर

साधना मासिक सन् नब्बेको दशकको उत्कृष्ट म्यागजिन थियो । यस मासिकका धेरै अंकहरू बाबाले संग्रह गरेर राख्नु भएको थियो, जसमध्ये धेरैजसो डेरा र घर सर्दा हराए । अब केही मात्रै बाँकी छन् । “जङ्गबहादुर” उपन्यास धारावाहिक रुपमा प्रकाशन हुन्थ्यो । गगनसिंहलाई मार्न फत्तेजंग, अभिमानसिंह राना र जङ्गले लिएको सपथ अनि कोतपर्वको विवरण भएका दुई भिन्न अंकहरू अहिलेसम्म पनि सुरक्षित छन् । उपन्यासलाई आधार मानेर सामाजिक शिक्षाको परीक्षामा जङ्गबहादुरको उदयलाई अंग्रेजीमा लेख्ने गर्थें । यो विषयमा मैले पाठ्यपुस्तक कहिले पनि हेरिन । तर बजारमा उपन्यास भेटिंदैनथ्यो ।

यसपाली पुसमाघतिर विशालनगरमा यो उपन्यास अचानक देखेँ । सपनाजस्तो लाग्यो । केही दिनमा पैसा जुटाएर लिएँ तर पढ्ने फुर्सद थिएन । पाँचौँ संस्करण रहेछ । मार्च महिनाको सुरुवातमा जापान भ्रमण ताका सँगै लिएर गएँ अनि पढें पनि । तर थकान अनि किताबमा भेटिएका गल्तीका कारण पूरै पढ्न सकिनँ । फाइनल एक्जाम सकिएपछि चाहिं फेरी थालेँ र पढी भ्याएँ ।

सबल पक्ष

१. उपन्यासले जङ्गबहादुरलाई क्रुर मात्र देखाएको छैन, उनलाई कुन परिस्थितिले त्यस्तो बनायो भन्ने पनि प्रष्ट बताएको छ ।

२. त्यस समयमा भएका षडयन्त्रहरू र हत्याकाण्डहरू कहाली लाग्दा छन् । रानी लक्ष्मीदेवीको उन्माद र राजा राजेन्द्रको अकर्मण्यताले घटनाक्रमलाई अगाडि बढाउन मद्दत गरेका छन् ।

३. कोतपर्व र भण्डारखाल पर्वको चित्रण उत्कृष्ट छ । हत्याका दृश्यहरू सजीव छन् । यसले पारेको प्रभाव माथि पनि लेखिसकेका छु ।

४. जङ्गबहादूरको प्रेमिल पक्ष अनौठो र रमाइलो लाग्छ । यो त्यत्तिकै आएको छैन । जङ्गकी प्रेमिका (पछि पत्नी) पुतलीले जासूस र सलाहकारका रूपमा जङ्गलाई सहयोग गरेकी छिन् ।

५. जङ्ग र उनका भाइहरू बीचको सम्बन्ध राम्रोसँग देखाइएको छ अनि डायमन शमशेरको “सेतो बाघ”को अन्त्यमा भएका घटना (जङ्गका छोरा नातिको हत्या) को बीजारोपण पनि यहाँ गरिएको छ । तर सेतो बाघभन्दा बढी तथ्यपरक छ ।

दुर्बल पक्ष

१. सेतो बाघमा जस्तो लेखकको विचार नै त आउँदैन तर “यसो होला भन्ने कसैले सोचेको भए” भन्ने किसिमका वाक्यहरू दोहोरिइरहन्छन् । यसले कथावाचनलाई अलि कम्जोर बनाएको छ ।

२. चरित्र चित्रण गर्ने केही वाक्यहरू दोहोरिइरहन्छन् । यसले कथालाई छरितो बनाउनबाट रोकेको छ ।

३. अलौ पर्वसम्म विस्तारमा भनिएको कथा त्यसपछि भने सारांश बन्छ । जङ्गबहादुरको बेलायत भ्रमण, मुलुकी ऐनको घोषणा, नेपाल-तिब्बत युद्ध जस्ता विषय केही वाक्यमा समापन हुन्छन् ।

४. जङ्गले इष्ट इन्डिया कम्पनीलाई भारतको सैनिक विद्रोहमा सहयोग गरेको प्रसङ्ग आएकै छैन ।

५. उपन्यासमा प्रिन्ट एरर धेरै छन् । सम्पादनको कमी छ । र पुस्तकको ISBN नहुनु आश्चर्यको विषय हो ।

पुस्तक : जङ्गबहादुर

विधा : ऐतिहासिक उपन्यास

लेखक : श्रीकृष्ण श्रेष्ठ

पृष्ठ संख्या : ३०२

प्रकाशक : कामना पब्लिकेशनस्                      

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A review of the Year 2075

The year 2075 B.S. is coming to an end as I am writing this article. The year has been tough but felt like it fluttered away in no time. Time management has been a big deal throughout the year and it’s stressing me a bit. So, here are the things I would like to remember from 2075.

1. At the University

By the end of 2074, I had already admitted in the Masters’ Degree Programme on Engineering Geology at the Central Department of Geology, Tribhuvan University. The classes began from the 9th of Baishakh and assignments began haunting. That week I was excited and completed them long before the submission deadline. However, as time passed, assignments became more than enough and the excitement died. I still completed them but only because I had to. The trend continued in the Second Semester and I regret doing them for the sake of doing.

University has mostly been a frustrating experience. The fees are high but the way we study is not different from what I had experienced at schools and Bachelors’ programme. “It’s like school,” is what I had concluded three months ago. Teachers come and give lectures, we jot them down. But a class is 3 hours long. By the time the class ends, notebooks are filled with incoherent sentences, easily forgettable shorthand, and loads of confusion.

The confusion, as I evaluated a few days back, is because I can’t get through the lessons beforehand. The books are way too technical and the meanings, vague. A lot of terms are defined in similar manner and there is very little time to dissect them. To my own surprise, I have been completely dependent on what my teachers say and I don’t want to revise anything soon because everything felt like heavily into my mind.

Whatever the situation be, it is fun to have people sharing the experience. My 23 friends have been a revelation. You guys are the best thing I got at the university!

You guys make my every day. What else should I say?

2. Poetry and Stories

The frustration wanted to vent out and the best way I discovered was through poems. Short, symbolic and satirical. I had begun to think in poems one time during the first semester. Then I went through the Mahabharat in Nepali and it helped me understand the rhythm in poems.

Though I was writing my frustrations through poetry, it felt insufficient. Also, the environment in the university became hostile to free, direct expression. So, I didn’t write articles, nor did I write anything on my diary. Whatever I am writing here is because I am leaving those things behind. No, I am not going to be frustrated nor sad for not expressing myself.

That’s why, during the second semester, I began writing short stories and continued on my novel. The basic idea was to complete the novel before I complete my four semesters. But I found a plot hole and had to stop. Then I wrote two short stories, one each in English and Nepali. The story in English got into the Top 25 and the latter, I sent to a nation-wise contest. The results will be announced, most probably, within this week.

3. Battle Royale

Before I was writing stories, I got involved in video games FIFA 15 and PUBG (recently banned – will conjure an article on it soon). The game gave me a brilliant idea, which had already become a controversial book and movie some 20 years back. Still, I was awed. I wrote a series of essays on the topic in October-November. Here they are:

https://storiesofsandeept.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/battle-royale-pubg-the-movie-the-novel/

https://storiesofsandeept.wordpress.com/2018/10/26/battle-royale-themes-in-movies-and-books/

https://storiesofsandeept.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/why-kazuo-kiriyama-did-not-win-the-battle/

4. A Week in Japan

Though the university lacks the infrastructure and teaching methodology I had expected, it still provides opportunities to learn and I was lucky to be selected in the Sakura Science Exchange Programme (Feb 28-March 7) between TU (my university) and Shimane University, Japan. I am grateful to the both the universities for making the programme informative as well as fun.

I have a lot to say on the stuffs related to the tour but I couldn’t because the exams knocked on the day we returned back. I will be sharing my experiences there in due course of time.

5. Cats

So, after the tragedy with the kitten towards the end of 2074, I thought cats would leave us. But one of her siblings found ways into our house, and with his sneaky ways, he has been protecting himself and his another brother. He is not as close the deceased kitten but he has a cute way of asking what he wants. We brought the dead kitten’s cardboard house and so, he has been a happy guest for about six months now.

The grey male cat here helped me understand new things on parental behaviour in cats

Why Kazuo Kiriyama did not win the Battle

Kazuo Kiriyama is the best “player” of the “game” that involves killing classmates. He alone kills twelve of his classmates. Yet he ends up dead. A lot of Battle Royale video game fans seem to be annoyed by this fact. They say, “He deserved to win.” I say, “He didn’t. A novel or a movie is different from a video game.”

The kid who never smiled

We get the first and the most important insight into Kazuo Kiriyama’s character through Mitsuru Numai in Chapter 11. Mitsuru had been in an occasion, saved from bullies by Kazuo and since then, he had revered the latter. He believed Kazuo was the one capable of beating the system and destroy the Battle Royal Programme because he had defeated local yakuza (Yakuza is an organization of powerful Japanese gangsters or mafias).

Mitsuru and his friends make him the leader of the gang called the Kiriyama family. Despite being called notorious in the city, the Kiriyama family never bullied upon others in the school. They all relied on Kazuo Kiriyama and did things for fun. However, when Kiriyama kills his gang within an hour of the beginning of the game, Mitsuru Numai notices one thing that they had always ignored: “Kazuo Kiriyama never smiled.” (Chapter 11, Battle Royale)

Kazuo Kiriyama is apathetic. He does not feel anything. Neither joy, nor sorrow, no pity, no guilt. We later know that while he was still in his mother’s womb, she fell in an accident and a stake had entered Kiriyama’s head. The accident destroyed his emotional centre. Whatever the reason, Kiriyama is what Shogo Kawada tells us: “A hollow man … There’s no place in his heart for logic or love, no. For any kind of values. That kind of person. On top of that, there’s no reason for the way he is.” (Chapter 67, Battle Royale).

The coin toss

If one thing that changed the complexion of the story, it is Kiriyama’s coin toss. He had two options:

  1. To participate in the game, and
  2. To destroy the Battle Royale Programme and the government.

Kiriyama’s choices are not based on logic. They were based on chance. Had he used logic, he would have chosen the second option. He would have been a great helping hand to our heroes Shogo Kawada, Shuya Nanahara and Shinji Mimura. None of our heroes believed he was capable of killing his classmates. He hadn’t even bullied one! Kiriyama’s coin toss, thus becomes a bane for all his classmates.

Even if Kiriyama had not been thinking logically, had the coin toss made him destroy the Programme, he would have got support from his gang as well as the others. They would not have to fear their own classmates. Forty of them could have brought down the Programme in no time.

In the movie, however, Kiriyama is a new student like Shogo Kawada and is a mystery. In the novel, he is their classmate and still a mystery. Kiriyama from the novel, to me, is a bigger villain. But he could have easily turned into a hero.

Why Kiriyama did not win

Simply, because letting Kiriyama win was against the books theme of love and kindness. Kiriyama is the exact opposite of love and kindness. Had Koshun Takami, the author, let Kiriyama win, he would have set a wrong example. He had to save the lovely Noriko and the lucky Shuya to send a message: “Apathy is a vice,” and: “Choice made without reasoning is a curse.”

Had Kiriyama won, another theme of the book would have been crushed: rebellion. After the coin toss, Kiriyama’s chance of being a rebellion dies. Rebellion stays alive in the form of Nakagawa and Nanahara. They didn’t get long lecture from Kawada about the system and change to get killed in the end. They are there to bring about some change. Kiriyama’s victory would have shattered Shogo’s dream, and our hopes that the Battle Royale Programme would come to an end. Kiriyama did not win. We still have a hope.

[Featured image obtained from fdzeta.com]

Battle Royale: PUBG, the movie, the novel

PUBG: “The original Battle Royale game”

PUBG_compressed

My best friend Anish introduced me to PUBG. The concept was simple. Maximum of 100 players dropped into an island fighting each other and the winner was the last one standing. It looked interesting but my phone could not meet its specifications. A couple of months later, Ashok (my friend from college) discovered an emulator for desktop. At least a dozen of us downloaded the emulator and the game. When the game downloaded, it said: “The original Battle Royale game is now installed on your device.”

The term “Battle Royale” intrigued me. I had seen the term before in Wikipedia when I read about the game but I had somehow skipped it. That time, I guess I only wanted to know why the game was popular. I did not give it another thought. While playing the game (and after going through a lot of “funny moments”, which were not so funny), a thought came into my mind, What if I could write a novel based on the game?

That’s why I looked if there was a novel like that. And (unfortunately for my creativity) I found the Japanese movie. Curious, I went through the Wikipedia, movie was actually inspired by a Japanese novel.

Battle Royale: The Movie (2000)

The Kinji Fukasaku movie destroyed my PUBG experience. It was unlike any of the games I had played. It felt scary, tumultuous, and even childish at times, but mostly it felt nauseous. I mean, who would be in a right state of mind when you are forced to kill your friends in an island. Crazy situation dictates crazy measures but the madness of the fifteen-year-olds disturbed me.

The movie, in my opinion, is not the best in terms of execution but the idea itself felt great. What would happen if 42 students are forced to kill each other in an island by the government? The question hooked me till the end. The outcome of the movie was not unexpected. I actually knew who were going to survive but still I hoped Kawada survived. The end of Kitano (former teacher and BR Programme Supervisor) too felt comical and I thought it could have been better.

Battle Royale: The Novel (1997)

battle royale

Koshun Takami, the author of the novel sent the book for a horror competition in 1996. The horror of being killed by your own friend is inexplicable but the book is more like dystopian adventure. The dispute of genre probably helped the book. Takami’s book became a best-seller and controversial because of its violence. It was banned in several countries. Even the Diet (Japanese legislature) was interested. Then later, it was made into a movie. I felt so excited when I read this history.

And I (wrongly) thought the movie was dark! The novel is even darker. It’s been inspired from the Pro Wrestling Battle Royale as described in the “Introduction” section. (You must have noticed a real long list of inspirations by now.) “I feel like puking,” Shuya Nanahara and Shogo Kawada say often in the book. That’s what I felt. Yes, the novel is even more nauseous than the book.

The book explains the motive behind the initiation of the Battle Royale Programme aka the Programme clearly than that in the movie. It goes in length inside the minds of each character to give the reader complete information about them. This scheme is great mostly and feels boring at times, but I love Takami for taking the risk. The end of the Programme Supervisor Kinapatsu Sakamochi is not comical but I did not feel the satisfaction. I wanted Nanahara to kill him instead of Kawada. Kawada did have personal issue with the government and Sakamochi is a government official but Nahahara had a personal vendetta against him. Sakamochi had raped his caretaker Anno and had killed his brotherly best friend, Yoshitoki Kuninobu.

Differences

Both the Battle Royale novel and the movie have the same basic premise: 42 students forced to kill each other by the government. However, the novel is about the revolt against atrocious Fascist government, while the movie is about the adult-teenagers (teacher-student) relationship. The attack on Kitano in the beginning and then his love for the disciplined Noriko (despite being the Program Supervisor) emphasize this. The movie also might have been made in a lighter tone to make it approvable for 15+.

The book is not just about the teenagers and the adults. It is about the system that has been economically successful but does not tolerate protest. Any protester is a threat to the government who is removed immediately. The Programme is about creating mistrust among people, to keep them divided and to rule upon them. It is a story of how three students deceive the government by trusting each other—an act that was totally unexpected in the state of chaos. Government is the villain in the book. Kinpatsu Sakamochi is only a scratch in a very long and webbed list of villains.

PUBG, on the other hand is a sort of distraction to the youth. A way to let out your frustration so that you can start something anew in an efficient manner. (I am reminded of Fight Club, which I watched today.) The game is addictive and I love the way it has been executed. However, in some years I feel it is going to fade away. I don’t know why. I just feel it. (Let’s say like Kawada’s sixth sense in the novel.)

To conclude this review…

I found the book and the movie influential, though the movie has a lot of issues. (Stephen King and Quentin Tarantino haven’t praised them just to make them popular.) Battle Royale also inspired gaming franchises, which will keep on increasing the popularity of both the book and the movie.

I still have a lot of things to say about Battle Royale—book and the movie, as well as some of the individual characters. I won’t include all of them here. I will come up with more essays on this topic. (That’s a sort of influence, isn’t it?)

“So it goes!”: A take on Slaughterhouse Five

I had never heard about Dresden, I had never heard about Kurt Vonnegut though I think I had heard the book’s name somewhere (I am not so sure) before I watched the Crash Course Literature videos on Slaughterhouse Five. At the end of those two videos, I felt I must read the book.

The first chapter of the book which seems like a preface or the background, is about Vonnegut trying to write a book on Dresden for more than 23 years. He thinks he can do it but cannot pull it up. While still writing the preface, he also adds a case of dialing a wrong number, which we know later on,  had been received by Billy Pilgrim–the main character of the novel. After he meets O’Hare’s wife Mary, he promises that he would not glorify war and call it the Children’s Crusade. Therefore, the Slaughterhouse Five is also known as The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death.

Billy Pilgrim’s Plot (Summary and Analysis)

Billy Prilgrim is a prisoner of war (POW) in Germany but he can time-travel. He can be in the moments of past, present and the future. Vonnegut says, “Billy has come unstuck in time.” The life of Billy Pilgrim is not shown in chronological order. In one moment he is a soldier, in another he is a twelve-year-old boy and quickly, he becomes an old optometrist who lives with his daughter in Ilium. He sees his infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age and even death.

On the day of his daughter’s wedding, he says he had been abducted by the toilet plunger-like aliens known as the Tralfamadorians. Billy says that he had been to the alien planet for years but nobody missed him because the aliens had warped the time in such a way that years would become less than seconds on the earth. The Tralfamadorians are able to see the fourth dimension–time and they can go to the moments again and again. The linear concept of time is absurd to them. On free-will, a Tralfamadorian says:

“If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings,” said the Tralfamadorian, “I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by ‘free will.’ I’ve visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.”

–Chapter 4, Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

The Tralfamadorians believe that what has to happen will happen. They cannot change the moments that have happened and will happen. They can see every moment that will occur but they can’t change the bad moments. They look for the good moments and find peace in it.

Billy Pilgrim himself has no free will. When he is twelve, he does not want to swim but his father forces him into the swimming pool. He does not want to come out of the water but it pulled out. He did not imagine marrying Valencia, yet he does. He wanted to die in the war but he survives instead of the characters around him who wanted to survive.

Billy Pilgrim also tries to find moment of happiness and solace but he never finds such an instance. In all the above examples, he is unhappy. Even in the moments he tries to be happy, he is reminded of the war and deaths. As the story progresses, we know that Billy cannot speak about the war to anyone and that has resulted in a mental disorder.

Billy’s mental instability is the result of the losses of his mother, his wife, his father-in-law and most of all, his experience during the war in Germany and in addition to that the fictions of Kilgore Trout. Despite his psychological imbalance, he is saner than the people who thought that bombings on Dresden were justified. Dresden was not a strategic point for warfare, there were no industries that produced weapons and hence, there was no logic behind the attack. Thousands of lives were lost for the show of unnecessary pride.

“So it goes”

This is a repetitive phrase throughout the novel. According to Nick Greene (2014), the phrase is repeated 106 times. Whenever death and destruction are mentioned, the phrase comes up. It is in accordance with the Tralfamadorian concept of time, life and death. The death is inevitable but there is nothing to worry about it. In other moments a dead person would always be alive.

I found this “Tralfamadorian” concept similar to the Bhagavad Geeta where Lord Krishna says to Arjun that there is no need to worry for someone’s death. The death is pre-determined. It’s not in the hands of humans to change it. And there is no need for regretting that.

Billy Pilgrim, too tries to take things as his fate and accepts that he had no power to change them. But it’s too difficult to get out of the trauma he feels. “So it goes”, might give him solace for a while but it is not a statement he wants to follow. It’s been dictated upon him by fate.

Some Memorable Quotes:

“Billy had a framed prayer on his office wall which expressed his method for keeping going, even though he was unenthusiastic about living. A lot of patients who saw the prayer on Billy’s wall told him that it helped them to keep going, too. It went like this: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom always to tell the difference.” Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future.”

–Chapter 3, Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

“Everything is all right, and everybody has to do exactly what he does. I learned that on Tralfamadore.”

–Billy Pilgrim

“It was peaceful in the ruins.”

“American fighter planes came in under the smoke to see if anything was moving down there. They saw Billy [who was also an American] and the rest moving down there. The planes sprayed them with machine-gun bullets, but the bullets missed.”

“The blind innkeeper said that the Americans could sleep in his stable that night, and he gave them soup and ersatz coffee and a little beer.

“Good night, Americans,” he said in German. “Sleep well.””

[Americans had destroyed Dresden only two days ago. These lines brought tears to my eyes.]

 

References:

SparkNotes Editors. (2002). SparkNote on Slaughterhouse-Five. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/slaughter/

Greene, N. (2014). 15 Facts About Slaughterhouse-Five. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from http://mentalfloss.com/article/58888/15-things-you-may-not-know-about-slaughterhouse-five/

Monthly Feature 15: Zootopia

Zootopia–a play on the word utopia. Utopia–that can also be pronounced as Zootopia (in Sanskrit and in Nepali). Zootopia–a movie I watched twice in about twenty hours. One of the movies I cannot forget.

“Anyone can be anything in Zootopia,” Judy Hopps, the first rabbit police officer claims. But Nick Wilde, a fox and con says, “Everyone comes to Zootopia, thinking they could be anything they want. But you can’t. You can only be what you are. Sly fox. Dumb bunny.” Between these two quotes exists the story of Zootopia–the major city of world in which “preys” and “predators” are history. They have learned to live in harmony.

But fear still exists. Animals that were traditionally “preys” fear that the “predators” may go savage again. Someone targets the fear, turns some predators into savages and disrupts the harmony. Maybe Mr. Big (a tiny shrew(?)–I think he is a shrew, I don’t know😜) is correct in saying, “We may be evolved, but deep down we are still animals.”

Zootopia shows fear and prejudices can disrupt the peaceful coexistence. “Predators” are ostracized. Zootopia was, “a unique place. It’s a crazy, beautiful, diverse city, where we celebrate our differences,” Gazelle, the popstar says. She adds, “This is not the Zootopia I know. The Zootopia I know is better than this. We don’t just blindly assign blame. We don’t know why these attacks keep happening. But it is irresponsible to label all predators as savages. We cannot let fear divide us. Please, give me back the Zootopia I love.”

Fear rules the modern world and it is fear that divides us. A world free of fear can only unite us all.

More info on IMDb

Monthly Feature 12: Let’s take a “Breathless” Revision

When I began writing posts under the category of “Monthly Feature” at the beginning of this year, the only thing I aimed was consistency. The other aim was to review music, movies and art. As I look back, I realize that there have been movie reviews have become more numerous than the others. On the twelfth monthly feature–the last for the year 2016, let’s take a revision.

On January, I featured a Nepali folk music band: Night. Despite being named Night, I discussed how the band is taking Nepali music on to the light. The second post was the review of a wonderful Nepali movie Jhola. On the third monthly feature that came on March, I could not find a specific topic, I guess. So I discussed how our very existence could be an art and how we can indulge ourselves in art as well.

I went to a wood-art exhibition in March. Later, it turned into April’s monthly feature. I was really mesmerized by the way, artists from various parts of the world to create the best they could. May’s featured post offered condolences to Thinle, the hero of Dolpa whose movie Himalaya (aka Caravan) was nominated in the Academy Awards. In June, I analyzed Maleficent (2014) and discussed if it is fair to call her a villain.

In mid-June, I watched Kalo Pothi, a movie based on lives of Karnali. I reviewed its pros and cons in July. For August, I seem to have lost a specific topic again. So, I shared some songs and music I was listening that month. They were only a little part of the music I listened to, however.

The last three monthly features have been movie reviews. In September, Inside Out was reviewed, and Interstellar in October. The last post was on Pashupati Prasad, one of the finest movies that have been made in Nepal.

 Just before I wrap up, I would like to share a song–Breathless by Shankar Mahadevan. Most people are amazed by the way he sings; but to me what he sings strikes a chord deep within me.