Monday, February 25, 2008

February Book Review

Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Clear, concise, hope-infused. Ramsey's 7-step plan is simple to understand, difficult to follow (not because of an error on his part, but because of my own sin nature), but brings great results. Even as I tackle step two (get out debt), I have been encouraged to see God provide and help me save money for future expenses (like the $1300 plane ticket I just purchased) rather than spend each pay check as it comes in. I'm already reaping the benefits of budgeting and saving. I'm sure I'll refer to this book many times over the next few years as I read the testimonies of God's provision in other people's lives and as I progress through the steps. I highly recommend this book.
Grade: A+

Culture Warrior by Bill O'Reilly
Very interesting read. I learned a lot about the key members and philosophies of the secular-progressive movement. If you want to be more well-informed about the liberal leanings of society, or want to better understand O'Reilly's show (he refers to ideas in this book all the time), read this book.
Grade: A

Wobegon Boy by Garrison Keillor
A huge disappointment. I grew up listening to Keillor's radio broadcast A Prairie Home Companion, so I expected I would enjoy this book. However, the plot meanders to nowhere in particular and even though that's typical of "Stories from Lake Wobegon," this one wasn't even interesting. Perhaps, Keillor should stick to the short story genre. In addition, Keillor's cynical descriptions of Dark Lutherans and the loose lifestyle of his central character got annoying. I almost stopped reading several times, but kept hoping it would get better, which it did not. I wish I hadn't wasted my one fiction book for the month on this one. Can I express my disappointment in any more ways?
Grade: C-/D+

Flyboysby James Bradley Powerful and moving. I cried several times while reading this book and even while just thinking about the Flyboys. Bradley gives a brief explanation of Japanese history and describes the Japanese warrior's mindset before and during the war. He explains the American justification for the atomic bomb and napalm bombings; however, he does not excuse American war atrocities during the expansion west, in the Philippines, and during the war. (And I agree. The US military did some pretty horrible things to the American Indians and other nations we were trying to establish colonies in.) He recounts the true, heroic stories of American pilots, including former president George W. Bush, during the Pacific theater in World War II. He focuses on telling the recently de-classified stories of the torture, execution, and mutilation of US pilots on Chichi Jima. The pilots' families were never told the details of their sons' horrific deaths, and some parents died without ever knowing what happened. This book is well-researched and powerfully written. I think every American should read this book. I have a much deeper appreciation for the veterans of World War II and the difficult decisions our government and military leaders had to make. I also better understand the Japanese history and worldview that led to such a grusome war. This is one of those books that will haunt your memory and affect your thinking for a long time.
Grade: A+

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Obama and Plagiarism

Because I'm in the middle of teaching the research paper to 30 juniors--and because I'm interested in politics, I was intrigued by the latest uproar over Obama's allegedly lifting phrases from other candidates without attributing the statements to the original speaker. My initial reaction was that it's okay, but I decided to do a little research on the matter, before making up my mind. After searching all over the web and reading numerous articles and watching several videos, I came back to where I first heard about the issue--Bill O'Reilly. He sums up the issue nicely in his "Talking Points" memo from February 19. Video. Transcript. Basically, O'Reilly compares Deval's speech (though his video is different from ones I found on YouTube) to Obama's. And he concludes that "people often borrow thoughts when speaking. It happens all the time. If Barack Obama had written an article and not credited Governor Patrick, that would have been plagiarism. Just talking off the cuff like that, I think you've got to cut him some slack." Here are some more articles and videos I found on the matter, if you're interested. Clinton aide accuses Obama of plagiarism This article includes links to video of Deval's speech and then Obama's speech as well as several retalitory examples of Clinton plagiarizing. Here is a longer video of Obama's speech "Don't Tell Me Words Don't Matter" Obama by the Numbers: Twice-Told Tales, and Nine in a Row After doing some research, I still think it was not wrong for Obama to use some of the same quotes and phraseology as Deval Patrick. No one was upset that Obama quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. or President Kennedy or the Declaration of Independence without attributing the statements to them, but it was a problem (to some) that he quoted Patrick's quotation of those statements without recognizing the original speaker. Furthermore, Patrick is an Obama supporter and friend and apparently they have spoken several times about this matter (see the Politico article above). In addition, Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Deval Patrick have all had David Axelrod as a campaign adviser, which may explain similarities in their rhetoric.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

100 Books You Should Read (to call yourself human)

One of my friends (Alison Gray) started this list several months ago and has been slowly adding to it. (I'm happy to say, I contributed to the list. :-) Any suggestions for no. 100? I've highlighted in bold the books I've read and I italicized the ones actually on the bookshelf by my bed waiting to be read. I hope this inspires you to read some classics and "modern classics." You'll be a better person for it. 1. War and Peace - Tolstoy 2. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte 3. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley 4. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Marquez 5. Pride and Prejudice - Austen 6. Remains of the Day - Ishiguro 7. The Lord of the Rings - Tolkein 8. Frost in May - White 9. The English Patient - Ondaatje 10. The Great Gatsby - Fitzgerald 11. Great Expectations - Dickens 12. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Safran-Foer 13. Lanark - Gray 14. My Antonia - Cather 15. Peace Like A River - Enger 16. Kidnapped - Stevenson 17. Middlemarch - Eliot 18. Their Eyes Were Watching God - Hurston 19. The Heart of Darkness - Conrad 20. Crime and Punishment - Dostoevsky 21. Howard’s End - Forster 22. To the Lighthouse - Woolf 23. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte 24. A Fine Balance - Mistry 25. Midnight’s Children - Rushdie 26. Pale Fire – Nabokov 27. Blindness - Saramago 28. Saturday - McEwan 29. Lord of the Flies – Golding 30. In Cold Blood – Capote 31. To Kill a Mockingbird - Lee 32. The Brothers Karamazov - Dostoevsky 33. Housekeeping - Marilyn Robinson 34. Ulysses - Joyce 35. Anna Karenina - Tolstoy 36. Of Mice and Men - Steinbeck 37. Catcher in the Rye - Salinger 38. American Psycho - Ellis 39. Jude the Obscure - Hardy 40. Trainspotting - Welsh 41. The Adventures of Augie Marsh - Bellow 42. The Outsider - Camus 43. The Unbearable Likeness of Being - Kundera 44. The House of the Spirits - Allende 45. 1984 - Orwell 46. Animal Farm - Orwell 47. For Whom the Bell Tolls - Hemingway 48. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - McCullers 49. The Sea, The Sea – Murdoch 50. The Red and the Black - Stendhal 51. Disgrace - Coetzee 52. The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Chabon 53. A Room with a View - Forster 54. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Solzhenitsyn 55. White Noise - Dellilo 54. Cry, the Beloved Country - Paton 55. Things Fall Apart – Achebe 56. The God of Small Things – Roy 57. Soul Mountain – Xingjiang 58. On the Road – Kerouac 59. The Golden Notebook – Lessing 60. Dubliners – Joyce (I've read some of this collection) 61. Les Miserables – Hugo 62. Slaughterhouse Five – Vonnegut 63. Waiting for the Barbarians - Coetzee 64. A Christmas Carol – Dickens 65. The Scarlet Letter – Hawthorne 66. The White Guard – Bulgakov 67. Love in the time of Cholera – Marquez 68. The End of the Affair – Greene 69. A Passage to India – Forster 70. Madame Bovary – Flaubert 71. The Giver – Lowry 72. The Portrait of a Lady – James 73. Charlotte’s Web – White 74. Oscar and Lucinda – Carey 75. The Woman in White – Collins 76. Dracula - Stoker 77. Waverly – Scott 78. Treasure Island – Stephenson 79. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Stephenson 80. The Sopranos – Warner 81. Decline and Fall – Waugh 82. Jungle Book – Kipling 83. Middlesex – Eugenides 84. Fahrenheit 451 – Bradbury 85. Wild Swans – Jung Chang 86. Wide Sargasso Sea – Rhys 87. The Bell Jar – Plath (I read a large portion of this one day at Barnes and Noble) 88. Wise Blood – O’Connor 89. Out of Africa – Denisen 90. Ethan Frome – Wharton 91. Robinson Crusoe – Defoe 92. The Secret Agent – Conrad 93. Anil’s Ghost – Ondaatje (I have a student named Anil; I should read this in his honor.) 94. The Secret History – Tartt 95. Dr. Zhivago – Pasternak 96. Black Swan Green – Mitchell 97. Cancer Ward – Solzhenitzen 98. History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters - Barnes 99. Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami 100.

Monday, February 04, 2008

January Book Review

One of my New Year's resolutions is to read a book a week. I did well the first two weeks of January, but then got a little off-track later in the month. (More on that later.)

Grendel by John Gardner
I love Beowulf, so I was excited to read this retelling from Grendel's point of view. Gardner captures the sense of the Old English language (which I love), but he also uses the postmodern techniques of stream of consciousness and multi-genre writing to good effect. At times, the language and story are revoltingly jarring and Grendel exemplifies anti-Christian, existential philosophy. Grendel spends much of the book raging against God and against the society that has rejected him.
Grade: C

Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred by Carolyn McCulley
Excellent book. A well-written, encouraging book for Christian single women. I especially appreciated her discussions of the Proverbs 31 woman and the single woman's role in the church.
Grade: A

I almost never read more than one book at a time because I get distracted when I do that, but for some reason I started three books at once at the end of January. Therefore, I still haven't finished any of them. (I'm pretty close with a couple, though.) I'll review the books in my "February Book Review" when I finish them.

Books I started reading in January:
Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Because this book came highly recommended by my brother who recently followed Ramsey's advice and got out of debt exceedingly quickly, I bumped this book up on my reading list and tackled his "baby steps" plan immediately.

Culture Warrior by Bill O'Reilly
Very interesting read, but sometimes O'Reilly rants self-righteously and defensively and excessively.

The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within by Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry is an excellent non-fiction, fiction, and poetry writer. Just the foreword and "How to Read this Book" sections had me in stitches and pleased me with the pleasant phrasing.

New Year's Eve Party

The Filipiaks invited me over to their house on New Year's Eve to enjoy their end-of-the-year celebration. The Baldwins, Babins, and several singles were there and we ate delicious fiesta food, played games, and prayed in the New Year. For more pictures, click here.

Gab Gab beach

On December 29, 2007 the Singles class went to Gab Gab for a fabulous afternoon of snorkeling, picnicking, jet skiiing, and fellowshipping. Gab Gab is a beautiful beach on the main Navy base, "Big Navy." We had to sign up a month in advance and show ID to get on. I'm glad we have several members with base access, so it was possible for us to get on and enjoy a relaxing afternoon. I've been on Guam for 2 1/2 years now, and until this week, I had never been on a military base. However, during the last two weeks of December, I went on base 6 times! For more pictures, click here.

Here's to the Heroes

On February 1, I performed the song "Here's to the Heroes" for the Harvest Christian Academy Faculty Recital. I chose this song because my brother is in the Marine Corps, so I've been feeling especially patriotic these last two years. In addition, several men from my church have been deployed/are currently deployed to the Horn of Africa. I wanted to honor those who are serving in our armed forces and pay special tribute to the soldiers from Guam who died for our country.

Here's to the heroes
Those few who dare
Heading for glory
Living a prayer

Here's to the heroes
Who change our lives
Thanks to the heroes
Freedom survives

Here's to the heroes
Who never rest
They are the chosen
We are the blessed

Here's to the heroes
Who aim so high
Here's to the heroes
Who do or die

Mia monacha prosefchi (A single prayer)
Pera os pera alithini (Truthful throughout)
Gia panta mesa stin kardia mou (Forever in my heart)

Here's to the heroes
Who aim so high
Here's to the heroes
Who do or die

As I sang, a PowerPoint presentation played in the background. I collected pictures of Ryan, the son-in-law of one of the faculty ladies, my brother, and several members of HBC who are/were deployed to Africa. The last few pictures are of Guam's fallen soldiers since the beginning of the war on terrorism.