Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Yale Book of Quotations

Descriptions from Amazon.com: This reader-friendly volume contains more than 12,000 famous quotations, arranged alphabetically by author. It is unique in its focus on American quotations and its inclusion of items not only from literary and historical sources but also from popular culture, sports, computers, science, politics, law, and the social sciences. Anonymously authored items appear in sections devoted to folk songs, advertising slogans, television catchphrases, proverbs, and others.For each quotation, a source and first date of use is cited. In many cases, new research for this book has uncovered an earlier date or a different author than had previously been understood. (It was Beatrice Kaufman, not Sophie Tucker, who exclaimed, “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better!” William Tecumseh Sherman wasn’t the originator of “War is hell!” It was Napoleon.) Numerous entries are enhanced with annotations to clarify meaning or context for the reader. These interesting annotations, along with extensive cross-references that identify related quotations and a large keyword index, will satisfy both the reader who seeks specific information and the curious browser who appreciates an amble through entertaining pages.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

Description from Amazon.com: Anyone who despairs of the individual’s power to change lives has to read the story of Greg Mortenson, a homeless mountaineer who, following a 1993 climb of Pakistan’s treacherous K2, was inspired by a chance encounter with impoverished mountain villagers and promised to build them a school. Over the next decade he built fifty-five schools—especially for girls—that offer a balanced education in one of the most isolated and dangerous regions on earth. As it chronicles Mortenson’s quest, which has brought him into conflict with both enraged Islamists and uncomprehending Americans, Three Cups of Tea combines adventure with a celebration of the humanitarian spirit.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Obama Revolution

Our blogger friend Reading Mama gave this book a 4 stars review.... Read her review here.....

In response to her review, the following is my thought:

Besides having charisma, one has to be in the right place at the right time to come to power. If you read the history of China, Europe and you see how Mao Ji Dong, Lenin and Hilter came to power and rose to the top out of nowhere....There is a similarity. I'm not saying Obama is like any of them in terms of personality or governing philosophy. But the fundamentals of how Obama came to power are the same like those... that is "grassroot" campaigning and speeches that struck a cord of the people's heart at the right time when the countries were in chaos, or having economic or social problems. Lenin, Moa, Hilter all knew "power came from the bottom up...and the majority of the people...." They won their power with the support of the pepole who all wanted change, who all desired a new course that would improve their welfare and prosperity....who all disliked the wealthy class and the corrupted government who catered to them ..... Actually, Obama's campaign tactics are nothing new..

"Change", "New Direction", "Revolutionary", "For the pepole"....were big words for Mao, Lenin and Hilter... Again, Obama is not Lenin, Mao or Hilter. Just his campaigns are similar to theirs, and his strategies to motivate the voters are the same. The message of the campaign is so similar, "The current government isn't working for the people, they are working for their own interets and the wealthy people's interest, this is why you need me, to change, to work for you, the pepole..." Moa visited villages after villages to deliver messages like this in China.... The entire China fell in love with him...(too bad this guy turned out to be a dictator, controlled freak)

Obama is a very smart and educated man, there is no doubt about it. But he also happened to be in the right place at the right time when Americans were all feeling lost and hopelessness about their country's economic and political policies and there were enough disgruntled Americans there to demand a new face, a new something.... In a situation like this, all it took was really a new face, a new political party, new energy, a new style to win the pepole over... Obama happened to be that new face, new kid who got "new ideas" (not to me though, I heard those before...)

Only history will tell if Obama is the solution to America's problems like his campaign promised.Obama's campaign is one proof that history always repeats itself, and regardless of race, ethnicity and the culture, what people like to hear and what entice pepole are all the same things....

Right now, I'm neutral about Obama. Coming from China and having grandparents and parents telling me the political change of their time, I just don't get impressed or moved by politicans and their speeches like my American friends. Cause what Obama said, I had heard similar on documentaries I watched when I was growing up....(people often vote on passion , impulse, on "heresays" that's what I learnt from history)I like to vote by studying closely everything the person has done,(his track records) and the practicality of everything he promised. Charisma is not what I'm looking for in a President.

I think other politicians can succeed if they refer to history what works and what doesn't work in terms of getting support. (not just from Obama's success, yes, his too, but before him, there were others who used the same strategies) My other question is: Would Obama have beaten Hilary Clinton if the United States were truly democratic. (when all Florida and Michigan's votes were not counted??? Or if the Primaries were run by one undisclosed vote per voter instead of caucasus and the system of delegates? Caucasus and delegates are still very weird concepts for me, may be because I'm not American and I don't really understand how democracy is defined in America....)

Monday, April 20, 2009

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Description from Amazon.com: An unconventional novel of prairie life, My Antonia tells the story of a remarkable woman whose strength and passion epitomize the pioneer spirit. Antonia Shimerda returns to Black Hawk, Nebraska, to made a fresh start after eloping with a railway conductor following the tragic death of her father. Accustomed to living in a sod house and toiling alongside the men in the fields, she is unprepared for the lecherous reaction her lush sensuality provokes when she moves to the city. Despite betrayal and crushing opposition, Antonia steadfastly pursues her quest for happiness--a moving struggle that mirrors the quiet drama of the American landscape

Sunday, April 5, 2009

All He Ever Wanted - By Anita Shreve

Like many literary fictions, one has to finish the whole book, think about it and only until then one can start to appreciate it.

Contrary to the modern book cover, the story was set in the early 1900s. It's a recollection of an Egnlish professor who was remembering and writing the story about his marriage and his wife. The story first appeared to be a typical early 20th century "boy meets girl" story that ended up in a nuptial. Through the seemingly ordinary and peacful years of the narrator's married life, the book raised a question in my mind as "how many marriages in that era were having deceiving covers like that, and how many couples are living through similar marriages nowadays?"

This is the second book I read from Anita Shreve. Like "The Pilot's Wife" I last read, the author had plotted secrets in a story that's about ordinary people. I guess this has become Anita Shreve's signature to expose some secrets and to brew some storms, so that she can break the calm and peace of her heroes' lives. However, my problem with this book is that I didn't get the big fuss about the secrets when they were finally exposed at the end of the book. After being bored for weeks (cause I had a hard time turning the pages of this book, this just isn't a page turner for me..) by the slow development of the Professor's pursuit of his wife and his narration about his marriage, I was somewhat disappointed when I finally learnt the secrets.... Maybe if I were from the early 20th century, I would have found them more shocking.

As much as I felt bored reading this book, I do find this story thought stimiluating after I finished it. I admire the author's ability to use an ordinary story to examine the human desires, weakness, emotion and feelings. While the characters are ficitional, the underlying observation is real and timeless (whether it was the early 1900s or now). The story helps me see that: 1) Many marriges are entered into because of selfishness. 2) Love is very often a decorative word for one's obsession and desire to possess another. 3) Children are often by-products of a marriage or bargain chips used by married couples to control one another and to build leverage in a marriage. 4) Many people are often selfish and cowarded and they don't have the courage or backbone to face the consequence of their choices. 5) Many people are greedy and they often pursue things that they want but are unwilling to pay for the price. 6) Many people tend to create misery for themselves by wanting things that just don't belong to them... (may I know why?)

The book's main characters did exaclty all the above. Etna, the professor's wife is the character I dislike most and is a woman I have no respect for. (whatever you think I mean about Etna is mostly not what I actually mean, email me to find out why, but you need to read the book first to understand.) I don't like Professor Van Tassel that much but I somehow have some symphathies for him. I just wish he could sound more masculine, cause the kind of details he gave about clothes, interiors, and feelings, made me wonder, "could a man really talk like this?" May be a man from that era could. I don't really know. Just I had this mental picture of a woman dressed up as a man acting in a play while I was reading the book....

For those of you who haven't read the book yet, I want you to know that whatever happened at the time when the narrator met his wife has lots of significance of whatever happened at the end of the book. The twist is not what you think it is... (if you read the backcover excerpt and have an idea, you've probably got the wrong idea like I had...)

I hate reading the book, but I kind of appreciate it now that I have finally finished reading it. This is all I have to say and I hope that I didn't reveal too much of the plots and the story.

Thursday, April 2, 2009