Check it out:

Best Tea for Reading with Russian Novels

There’s also a great short story and some fenceposts as well.


Happy Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine’s Day. Forgot?
I went to Vons this morning for I didn’t have a card yet and the chaos was amusing. Frantic and even nervous people picking out flowers, chocolates, and cards. Nothing was in order. Young people were there as well (meaning highschoolers) and they were probably the most nervous. Being in love in highschool was always a little more precarious, but that was probably due to the age. Knowing you are so young convinces you that this relationship will not last but you are at a place where you are beginning to want someone to love you (and not pets or parents). My first Valentine’s day (and not when I was one) was back when I was Sophmore in highschool I believe. I had only been dating for one month and thus did not know the guy very much at all. Valentine’s day fell on a Sunday that year, so much more potnential for possible embarrassment. He couldn’t make it in the end for Sunday morning service and felt bad so he sent a present through a friend (for the life of me I cannot remember who that friend was, might have been my best friend at the time for she lived closer to him). I told her that I didn’t want to open the gift without him and thus waited until that night when we both had AWANA together (we were both leaders). I still didn’t open the gift till I was home alone in the garage (a red velvet beanie baby bear which I then hid for the longest time as well because I felt embarrassed – why? I don’t know). It makes me laugh to think about it now. Why wait till I was alone I don’t know. Why hide it? Because I’m crazy. Because I was in highschool and really had no clue what love was or Valentines day.

Favorite Article of the Day, Month, Year, Etc

Appeared in The Herald today in the U.K. Someone obviously has something personal against Harry Potter.

Enjoy. I bolded some of my favorite parts.

Harry Potter and the Money-Making Machine
February 08 2007

There are some things which have to be said, even if they make one desperately unpopular with a nation’s children. Some of us – and I’m speaking in a whisper here – are glad that the seventh and final Harry Potter book has been finished. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, we’re indescribably, heel-clickingly overjoyed that J K Rowling has written “fin” for the last time.
The author herself, it seems, feels the same way, describing a simultaneous sense of “heartbreak and euphoria” in signing off a publishing and marketing phenomenon which gave children’s books a much needed boost and made her one of the richest women in the world.
But are we allowed, politely, to heave one very big sigh of relief as well? Some of us are weary of the hegemony even more than the hype. Some of us – well, OK, quite a lot of us – have come to regard Harry the global brand as a total bore, as predictable as Coca-Cola, as stimulating as a Big Mac and as profitable as Nike. We will be happy never to hear the name mentioned again.
Certainly, it is possible to describe as cultural tyranny the way in which Harry has dominated popular taste for the past decade or so. An astonishing 325 million copies of the books have been sold around the world, which has little to do with the intrinsic merits of a jolly saga about a boy wizard battling evil, but everything to do with the power of the marketing industry, children who are both less literate and more overtly consumer-conscious than previous generations, and parents clutching at a liferaft in the sea of their busy lives. This is a thing peculiar to its time.

The Harry Potter books are, as entertainment, inoffensive. But they’re not literature; they’re middle-brow pot-boilers. I will not presume to go as far as the great Yale professor, Harold Bloom, author of The Western Canon, who said of J K Rowling’s work: “The writing was dreadful; the book was terrible. As I read, I noticed that every time a character went for a walk, the author wrote instead that the character stretched his legs’. I began marking on the back of an envelope every time that phrase was repeated. I stopped only after I had marked the envelope several dozen times. I was incredulous. Rowling’s mind is so governed by cliches and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing.”
But I’m with Bloom in his demolition of the well-rehearsed argument which says that at least children are reading something, and that Harry Potter will lead them on to a life of reading – and, by inference, erudition. Now the first part of this argument does have something going for it: no doubt some children who would otherwise have spent their lives playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on their games console have been rescued from zombiedom by the gripping tales of Voldemort and Hogwarts.
But the second part doesn’t hold water. Harry Potter will not lead children on to Swallows and Amazons, the Just So Stories, Wind in the Willows or Alice through The Looking Glass. What it will do, as Professor Bloom declared, is train them to read Stephen King. (Not, one gathers, a writer he admires greatly.) Certainly, in my own experience, the craze for Harry Potter books was a peer group thing for children, not unrelated to wearing the right brand of trainers. They were bought as status symbols and then languished, a quarter read, for years under the bed. How many of those 325 million copies failed to change the trajectory of the modern TV-raised child who, tragically, does not read for pleasure and probably never will? More than a few, I suspect.
Where I really quarrel with Harry Potter is not in the quality of the writing but in the marketing. This Harry – Harry the brand – really is a monster of the first order.
So that’s the elitist argument against Rowling, if you like: that her work is part of a general dumbing down; that in a way the whole Potter phenomenon represents a missed opportunity to stretch children’s imaginations and teach millions the use of supple, challenging, original writing.
It’s all a little harsh. Rowling’s books are not that bad and have brought pleasure to millions. I remember as a child exactly the same kind of literary snobbery attaching to Enid Blyton books: speaking personally, I was forbidden Noddy and Famous Five books on those very grounds, but made up for it later with wall-to-wall absorption of Mallory Towers, read illicitly under the bedcovers by torchlight. Some would say they can see the malign influence still.
Where I really quarrel with Harry Potter is not in the quality of the writing but in the marketing. This Harry – Harry the brand – really is a monster of the first order. Somewhere along the line the author waved bye bye to her creation and saw it become a global money-making colossus, one which exploited the thrill of the chase and the tribal yearning to be part of something. It wasn’t a book; it was a badge of belonging; a cult, Warner Bros. And more than 70 million Google entries. “I’ve got mine. Have you got yours?”
Oh, we fell for it. We were sent to spend nights queuing in the cold on Sauchiehall Street, in order to be the first to purchase one of those doorstopper hardbacks for our employers. This is when I perceived another worrying phenomenon: the rise of the adult fan. Frequently, the grown-ups queueing for their copy weren’t doing it for nieces or nephews, but for themselves. In some cases their lips were moving when they scanned the lines, in other cases they didn’t even have that excuse.
Read children’s opinions of the Potter phenomenon, and they are surprisingingly thoughtful. “It’s the most well-written book since Roald Dahl, but I still think it’s over-hyped”; “Most kids don’t know who Harry Potter is and only follow the crowd”; “When the film comes out I want to see if it’s as good as the book”.
Far more infantilised are the adults who have latched on to Harry Potter. Last weekend my colleague, Damien Henderson, in an admirable and thorough testimonial to J K Rowling’s undoubted achievements, explored the commercial phenomenon that is Harry. He received an e-mail from an adult female Potter fan in the States, telling him she felt an “emotional, intellectual and personal” connection with him because of what he had written. The books, she said, had made her reflect on her own childhood and she was “enriched and satisfied”.
Now all this is very sweet; and one can only be pleased that she and millions of fans like her are happy, but one does have to question whether J K Rowling is now being hijacked into territories which she never intended to visit. In that sense it is interesting that both the author and the young actor, Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry in the (largely lamentable) films, have expressed sincere relief at the end of the saga. Is it too presumptious to suggest that everyone creative connected with Harry has been imprisoned for too long in an immense money-making machine; one which has came close to crushing the original joy of an adequate story? I don’t think so.© All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Romeo and Juliet?

Even though its most likely not Romeo and Juliet, these remains do strike you. Who really dies together like that, especially when they’re young? Probably just two kids drunk and made some suicide compact. Anyhows, here’s the story, compliments of CNN:

“ROME, Italy (AP) — It could be humanity’s oldest story of doomed love.
Archaeologists have unearthed two skeletons from the Neolithic period locked in a tender embrace and buried outside Mantua, just 25 miles south of Verona, the romantic city where Shakespeare set the star-crossed tale of “Romeo and Juliet.”
Buried between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, the prehistoric pair are believed to have been a man and a woman and are thought to have died young, as their teeth were found intact, said Elena Menotti, the archaeologist who led the dig.
“As far as we know, it’s unique,” Menotti told The Associated Press by telephone from Milan. “Double burials from the Neolithic are unheard of, and these are even hugging.”
The burial site was located Monday during construction work for a factory building in the outskirts of Mantua. Alongside the couple, archaeologists found flint tools, including arrowheads and a knife, Menotti said.
Experts will now study the artifacts and the skeletons to determine the burial site’s age and how old the two were when they died, she said.
Although the Mantua pair strike a rare and touching pose, archaeologists have found prehistoric burials in which the dead hold hands or have other contact, said Luca Bondioli, an anthropologist at Rome’s National Prehistoric and Ethnographic Museum.
The find has “more of an emotional than a scientific value.” But it does highlight how the relationship people have with each other and with death has not changed much from the period in which humanity first settled in villages, learning to farm the land and tame animals, he said.
“The Neolithic is a very formative period for our society,” he said. “It was when the roots of our religious sentiment were formed.”
The two bodies, which cuddle closely while facing each other on their sides, were probably buried at the same time, an indication of a possible sudden and tragic death, Bondioli said.
“It’s rare for two young people to die at the same time, and that makes us want to know why and who they were, but it will be very difficult to find out.”
He said DNA testing could determine whether the two were related, “but that still leaves other hypotheses; the Romeo and Juliet possibility is just one of many.”
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.”

"Women Propose and Men Can't Refuse"

ORANGO ISLAND, Guinea-Bissau (AP) — He was 14 when the girl entered his grass-covered hut and placed a plate in front of him containing an ancient recipe.
Like all men on this African isle, Carvadju Jose Nananghe knew exactly what it meant. Refusing was not an option. His heart pounding, he lifted the steaming fish to his lips, agreeing in one bite to marry the girl.
“I had no feelings for her,” said Nananghe, now 65. “Then when I ate this meal, it was like lightning. I wanted only her.”
In this archipelago of 50 islands of pale blue water off the western rim of Africa, it’s women, not men, who choose. They make their proposals public by offering their grooms-to-be a dish of distinctively prepared fish, marinated in red palm oil.
It’s the equivalent of a man bending on one knee and offering a woman a diamond ring, except that in one of the world’s matriarchal cultures, it’s women that do the asking, and once they have, men are powerless to say no.
To have refused, explained the old man remembering the day half a century ago, would have dishonored his family — and in any case, why would he want to choose his own wife?
“Love comes first into the heart of the woman,” explained Nananghe. “Once it’s in the woman, only then can it jump into the man.”
‘Now the world is upside down. Men are running after women’
But the treacherous tides and narrow channels that have long kept outsiders out of these remote islands are no longer holding back the modern world. Young men are increasingly leaving Orango, located 38 miles (60 kilometers) off the coast of Guinea-Bissau, a country in West Africa.
They find jobs carrying luggage for tourist hotels on the archipelago’s more developed islands; others collect oil from the island’s abundant palm trees and sell it on the African mainland.
They return bringing with them a new form of courtship, one which their elders find deeply unsettling.
“Now the world is upside down,” complained 90-year-old Cesar Okrane, his eyes obscured by a cloud of cataracts. “Men are running after women, instead of waiting for them to come to them.”
Standing in the shade of a grass roof, he holds himself upright with the help of a tall spear and explains that when he was young he took extra care to maintain his physique, learned to dance and practiced writing poetry — all ways in which men can try to attract women, without overtly making the first move.
‘Now, with men choosing, divorce has become more common’
In recent years, young men have become increasingly bold, going so far as to openly propose marriage — a dangerous turn, say traditionalists.
“The choice of a woman is much more stable,” explains Okrane. “Rarely were there divorces before. Now, with men choosing, divorce has become common.”
With records not readily available, it’s unclear how many divorces there were earlier, but islanders agree that there are significantly more now than in the years when men waited patiently for a proposal on a plate.
They waited some more, as their brides-to-be then set out for the eggshell-white beaches encircling the island, looking for the raw materials with which to build their new house.
Women build homes; afterward it’s official
Women built all the grass-covered huts here, dragging driftwood back from the ocean to use as poles, cutting blankets of blond grass to weave into roofs and shaping the pink mud underfoot into bricks. Only once the house is built, a process that takes at least four months, can the couple move in and their marriage be considered official.
There are matrilineal cultures in numerous pockets of the world, including in other parts of Africa, as well as in China’s Yunnan province and in northeastern Thailand, says anthropologist Christine Henry, a researcher at France’s elite National Center for Scientific Research, or CNRS.
But the unquestioned authority given to women in matters of the heart on this island is unique — “I don’t know of it happening anywhere else,” says Henry, who has written a book on the customs of the archipelago.
That things are changing is evident in the material chosen for the island’s newest house: concrete. It was erected by paid laborers, not local women.
Although priestesses still control the island’s relationship with the spirit world, their clout is waning, as churches sown by missionaries have taken root.
Missionaries bring upsetting new custom of men proposing
“When I get married it will be in a church, wearing a white dress and a veil,” says 19-year-old Marisa de Pina, who strikes a modern pose under the blond grass of her family’s hut, wearing tight Capri pants and sequined sandals.
She says the Protestant church she attends has taught her that it is men, not women, that should make the first move, and so she plans to wait for a man to approach her. To make her point, the teenager pops into her hut and returns holding a worn copy of the New Testament, its pages stuffed with Post-it notes, letters and business cards.
It’s a decision that has caused strife inside the mud walls of her family’s house.
Like her niece, Edelia Noro wears store-bought clothes instead of the grass skirts still favored by some older women. She, too, attends church. But she says she doesn’t see why these trappings of modern life should alter the system of courtship.
More than two decades ago, she set off for the closest beach looking for the ingredients with which to propose to the man she loved.
Noro waited for the tide to recede, then dug in the wet sand for clams, collecting them in a woven basket. She was embarrassed, she said, that she was too poor to afford a proper meal of fish and could only offer her groom-to-be what she could gather with her own hands. So after preparing the dish, she placed it in front of him, then ran and hid behind a tree, peeking out to see his reaction.
“He did not hesitate and ate right away. I could see the love shining in his eyes,” she said, a glow spreading across her cheeks.
‘I learned the hard way, a man never approaches a woman’
Although the island’s unique customs may be fading, there are still pockets of resistance. Often, it’s women that lure men back into the fold of ancient ways.
Now 23, Laurindo Carvalho first spotted the girl when he was 13. He worked in a tourist hotel, wore jeans, and owned a cell phone and thought of himself as modern and so he thought he could turn tradition on its head, asking the girl to marry him. With the wave of a hand, she rejected him.
Six years passed and one day, when both were 19, he heard a knock at his door. Outside, his love stood holding out a plate of freshly caught fish, a coy smile on her face.
Carvalho still wears sandblasted jeans and flip-flops bearing the Adidas logo, but he now sees himself as embedded in the village’s matriarchal fiber.
“I learned the hard way that here, a man never approaches a woman,” he says.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


January 2007 Books

To help me remember what I read every month and to keep me accountable in reading, I am going to start to list around the first of each month, what I have read. So for this month (it was a big month, though a couple of the books were small):

Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
A novel about exploring eternity and the ideas that are associated with eternity, such as truth. None of the characters I found any sympathy for or liked, which made it a hard read until Coupland began to finally deal with ideas and not his characters primarily. The challenge of thinking through what he was saying was an enjoyable mental exercise, but thats all I found in this book. @@

William Wilberforce
I read some small paperback biography of Wilberforce to be reacquainted with him since the movie Amazing Grace is coming out on 02/23/07. It was simple as it was written primarily for children I believe, but gave a good synopsis of his life. @@

Bridge to Teribithia by Katherine Paterson
Another movie coming out this month on 02/16/07 that I wanted to re-read for that sake. I would call this a young adults book definitely for the characters in it. The movie looks nothing like the book, or the movie will be dwelling more on the magical world the children create while the book I found dwells very little. The reason behind the author keeping the magical world from us readers is that it was a private world between the boy and girl. In the book they never mention it to anyone, thus the reader knowing that it even existed was an act of grace. @@@

A Passion for the Impossible by Ruth Harkness
A biography on the missionary Lilias Trotter who was a Victorian woman who went to Algeria. An interesting read to see how a group of Victorian woman tried to share the gospel in Algeria under no mission board and ended up creating a large ministry. I couldn’t help but feel the whole time that I was reading it that I was only getting a picture that they wanted us to see which made me defensive reading this book. @@

By Searching by Isobel Kuhn
Isobel Kuhn was a missionary in the 1940s and the 50s. Formerly an agnostic, this book trails her journey from disbelief to getting on the boat to China as a missionary underneath the China Inland Mission. A great book with many lessons to teach from every stance in a young woman’s life, even if she is not considering being a career missionary. It is slightly frustrating that she does not tell her story completely in chronological order or that she leaves things out (like her’s and John’s relationship), but after reading the book I see that her desire is not merely to tell the story of how she came to the point of being a missionary, but to share what God has taught her to her readers so that their walk in the Lord may be encouraged. @@@@

In the Arena by Isobel Kuhn
Another book written about Isobel Kuhn, though this one dwells on the lessons learned while being a missionary in China. This time she shares more about her experiences there and not just her relationship with God. A better balanced book that captured my attention and taught me a lot too. If any book of hers I would highly recommend, it would be this one. Again, these lessons do not pertain to only those who are considering missionary work, but any Christian woman. @@@@@

Isobel Kuhn
I read this simple biography to see if I could learn more about her life, since Isobel left out bits. I was disappointed in that it was only a regurgitation of everything in Isobel’s book. Everyone is better off just reading one of Isobel’s books. The only light that this book brought was that it gave details Isobel did not give, such as her last couple of years battling cancer. But even that chapter was barely a page long. By erasing so much of her personal life, her life really stands out as a memoir/worship to the Lord. @

In trying to rate these books I decided to use the “@” sign. Just to make sure that all know that its not me or my keyboard becoming slightly more psychotic.

Rowling, Dickens and News of the Morning

Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows out July 21 2007.

Now the frenzy can begin, except that I think it already has once the title was released. The end of the series can be a good thing. Will be a good thing. It will either bring Rowling more than just pop fiction fame, or she will remain a Charles Dickens of sorts. Someone can write thousands of words that capture a large audience and thus be read for decades upon decades merely for the fact of trying to understand the times in which she was writing.