Nobody is reading books?
From The Apostolic Fathers
, ed. Jack Sparks: Shepherd of Hermas, Epistle of Barnabas, and the Didache (the latter two were rereads). With that, I have finished the book.
Sheperd of Hermas: As the editor (Jack Sparks) points out, Hermas is not a theologian. There's some normal, decent moral teaching, but there's definitely a passage where he appears to have an adoptionistic Christology (there are some scholars who argue that is not what he is saying, however), and that is one of those things we kind of just excuse because the Church had not yet at that time (2nd century) clearly defined its Christology and theology in the Nicean Creed.
Epistle of Barnabas: I had been trying to remember, while reading through this volume of the Apostolic Fathers, where that weird passage was from that was talking about sexual sins and comparing them to the actions of certain animals but with totally incorrect ideas, e.g. hyenas change their gender every year. This is the book that's from. Aside from that, overall, it has a lot of really extremely allegorical readings of Scripture. It wasn't all weird, out-there stuff, however; there were quite a few interesting tidbits that weren't totally out in left field, also, for example, there's a completely plain command against both abortion and infanticide, like in the Didache (infanticide in addition to abortion was widely practiced in the ancient world, and the ancient Christians would rescue abandoned babies left to die of exposure and raise them as their own).
Didache: I enjoyed this statement by the editor: "Athanasius, the outstanding and heroic bishop of Alexandria in that [fourth] century, recommended it highly as a good basic book for new converts to read. We would have to say the same thing today. It is certainly far more useful than most of the material we find on the shelves of contemporary Christian bookstores." Like he said, I think it is a really great, basic (and short!) book for Christians to read, I enjoyed rereading it, and I think out of all the writings of the Apostolic Fathers that were collected into this volume it was the most worthwhile.
Other things:Brothers of Earth
by C.J. Cheryh. Sci-fi story about a man whose spaceship lands on a habitable and inhabited alien planet but who has no way to return, so he is stuck there for the rest of his life. He gets found by some people from one of the societies there, integrates himself into their society, and gets caught up in a civil war. While the premise sounds good, the execution was so-so. Pacing was often rushed and there were many things not adequately explained; I found the main character's personality to be contradictory at times and not very convincing; and although the author did put a lot of time and detail into trying to create the alien cultures, I personally generally find when reading fiction about alien or fictional cultures that fictional cultures can't hold a candle to the complexities of real foreign cultures, so they always come across as fake and as a blending of various elements from real-world cultures rather than original. There were also some things identifiably American-culture about the way the book was written and the way the main character acts (his nationality was not specified), which is just something that always catches my attention.
I guess the main other thing that is noteworthy about the book is that it is typical of a trend in SF written by women, which is that there tends to be more of a focus on anthropology and relationships than on "hard" science fiction. Besides having a lot of effort dedicated to fleshing out the alien culture, the book is also, as the title suggests, despite the civil wars and whatever going on, at its heart a story about the friendship and family bond between two men. That kind of focus has its own appeal and strong points, so this is not a criticism of the fact that the author focuses on those things (I tend to like that kind of focus myself), but there may be better-executed examples out there.Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
by Marjane Satrapi.
This is an autobiographical graphic novel about a girl growing up in Iran leading up to and during the Iraq-Iran war.
There are some things I found out by reading this book, like that during WWII the Allies asked Iran to ally with them (because they had oil), but the ruler said no and declared Persia neutral—so the Allies invaded and occupied Iran.
I don’t think that was in our history books.
There was some adult language and content in this book, but I was moved by the author's early relationship with God (and saddened by her loss of it), and I think overall it is one of those kinds of books that is good to read because it makes you aware of the kinds of things people have gone through in other parts of the world. Recommended.反省しないアメリカ人をあつかう方法34 (How to Handle Unreflective Americans: 34 Ways)
by Rochelle Kopp (founder and Managing Principal of an international consulting firm focusing on Japanese businesses). This book is interesting in that it is written in Japanese (not translated) by an American. It is a book of advice for Japanese people who work with Americans and explains a lot of the cultural differences and differences in ways of doing business that cause friction between Japanese and Americans who work together and gives advice for how to address them.
There were a few places here and there where I disagreed to some extent with something she said about Japanese culture, for example, she was giving some reasons why Japanese people tend to not praise their subordinates very much, and she didn't mention at all one main reason which is that Japanese people tend to feel shy or ashamed about praising people, and she also said that Japanese people might think that if they praise an American about their work performance, the American will expect a raise or promotion (I don't think Japanese people are thinking this, and I asked a couple of Japanese people who also don't think Japanese people are thinking that, but Ms. Kopp has long experience with Japanese companies and is running a consulting company specifically for Japanese-American business, so perhaps she really has encountered in her experience some Japanese people who think this way). Come to think of it, there were a few places where I disagreed with what she said about American culture, also. (She said that talking about family at work is taboo for Americans, but in the places I have worked that has been an accepted norm and is usually one of the first conversation topics that people go to when trying to make small talk; maybe it is a regional difference?)
However, although I've mentioned a few things I disagreed with, most of the book was not like that and was pretty much on-target, and I thought it was very helpful. It is only available in Japanese (written for a Japanese audience), but for those who are interested in this kind of topic but don't speak Japanese she has also written some books in English, like the unfortunately-titled The Rice-Paper Ceiling: Breaking Through Japanese Corporate Culturehttp://www.pacificdreams.org/e/bookstor ... ochelle_en
Reread the two books of the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay:The Summer TreeThe Wandering Fire
I haven't read these books in a long time (well over 10 years), but I was amazed by how many specific details and moments from these books had stuck with me after reading them only once or twice as a child. A few thoughts upon returning to them as an adult:
- Highly derivative (LoTR etc.)
- At times overly sentimental, sometimes to the point of cheesiness
- Including fantasy races (but not including the villains), almost every character in the book series is caucasian/white, and although there's one remarkable beauty who is dark-skinned, for the most part it really sticks closely to a standard of beauty of fair hair and pale skin; even the people group that resemble native Americans are in this book white.
- There are a lot of instances of women being referred to as "girls" (however, please note that overall these books are not sexist and have plenty of independent and strong female characters.)
- Although it is mostly not at all explicit (there is one exception), the characters have sex so frequently and indiscriminately that it's laughably unrealistic. Pretty much everybody is having sex all the time. There are also some things like in the Native-American-like culture, the cultural norm is "women call the shots and they sleep with whomever they want prior to marriage," and there is a female-led religion with a bunch of priestesses who, except for a few of the very most high-ranking ones, on one night every year ritually go out into the town and find some random person to sleep with. It is like a world in which STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and single mothers living in poverty do not exist.
- The world is carefully-constructed and has a lot of history, but not so much that it becomes overwhelming or boring; there are also a few tweaks to some of the fantasy tropes to make it not the same as every other fantasy book out there.
- There are some parts of the books that are genuinely emotionally powerful.
- I was amazed by the author's ability to give the five main characters very distinctive personalities from the very first chapter of the book. With a large cast of characters, of course some characters are more developed than others, but for the most part characters are well-drawn and there is good development of the characters who get development.
- As I mentioned above, the books do have plenty of strong and independent female characters who have meaning relationships with each other, not just with the male characters.
- In the case of the character who is raped, the book deals very seriously with spelling out how life-shattering it is and how extreme the lasting damage is, which I think is necessary when dealing with that topic.
- Overall the series is well-paced and enjoyable.