Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just Finished: The Unlikely Disciple

While The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University is probably not timeless, it is definitely timely. Kevin Roose, an aspiring journalist from Brown University takes a semester off school to "study abroad" at the ultra-uber-conservative Christian Liberty University, known for its larger-than-life founder Jerry Falwell and its strict rules. Hiding the fact that he is a non-religious Quaker looking to write a book about his experiences, Roose emerges himself into a world that is wholly foreign to him.

What he encounters is hilarious, horrifying, and humbling (nice alliteration, no?). Few people fit the stereotypes that his concerned family and friends expect and Roose finds himself genuinely enjoying most of the people he meets at Liberty. Although he continues to disagree with their anti-gay, anti-abortion, Republican worldview, he does find himself changing as regular Bible reading, prayer, and church going become part of his life.

Roose even gets the opportunity to interview Jerry Falwell in what turned out to be his last interview and finds that the controversial leader of the Moral Majority also has a very likable side.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Just Finished: The Woodlanders

What a perfect name for a book. What a perfect book to read in October. And oh how nice to get back to some classic literature--there's something so much more grounded about it. Perhaps its the 100 years or so years it's had to be mulled over.  I am so bad at writing book reviews...anyway.

The Woodlanders is my second Thomas Hardy book and while not as heart rending as Jude the Obscure it is does have plenty of weight. Much like Jude the Obscure focuses primarily on Jude, The Woodlanders is a novel about a group of people who inhabit a small wooded area called Little Hintock. The whole novel is covered in leaves as Hardy describes this hub in the woods where nature and the seasons are almost a character unto themselves.

There is no one main character in the novel, but several major players and they are connected by the themes of love, desire, and loyalty.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Photos of fallen Fulu Jie

After my discoveries biking the other day, I wanted to return to a little area I saw on this tiny road called Fulu Avenue. The area is being slowly torn down (the character written below Chai means destroy or tear down) while a few houses remain intact enough for people to remain living there. 

I met an elderly woman washing clothes who was very excited to talk to me, which is unusual when I'm wielding a camera. I don't think she lived there but somewhere nearby and was using an outdoor faucet because the water is running free of charge amidst the rubble.

Unlike a lot of Chinese here, she was not so gung ho about having these old areas torn down to be replaced by bland high rises. I didn't take a picture of her, unfortunately. I just don't have enough gumption to ask yet, knowing how skittish it can make people here are a few mostly people free pictures.


More photos after the jump...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Just Finished: The Dud Avocado

Oh scandalous cover! I get so many people trying to read my book covers on the metro that I tried to keep this one carefully tucked away. Oh's art people.

The Dud Avocado (author Elaine Dundy) was apparently received with very high praise when it was first published in the 50s. As Groucho Marx wrote, "I had to tell someone (and it might as well be you since you're the author) how much I enjoyed The Dud Avocado. It made me laugh, scream, and guffaw (which, incidentally, is a great name for a law firm)."

It's the witty story of a young American woman full of wanderlust. Recently graduated from college, her eccentric uncle gives her a comfortable allowance so she can go abroad and sow her wild oats, so to speak.

Sally Jay Gorce is the girl and words like zany and madcap don't quite do her (or the predicaments she gets herself into) justice--although they do fit in with the 1950s language of the novel. Living in Paris' Left Bank, she aimlessly hobnobs with a hodge-podge of people--artists, ne'er do wells, directors, an Italian diplomat, etc. All the while making a number of questionable decision which are a skillful combination of hilarious and unfortunate.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Listening: Mt. Desolation

I was in the mood for some new tunes and just saw that a band composed of members from Keene, Mumford & Sons (you are listening to Mumford aren't you), The Killers & Noah and the Whale has formed a "supergroup" side project that, so far as I can tell, seems to be a compilation of melancholyness and alt-country. Sounds about perfect for October.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion: A Double Whammy

This week I've had two articles go up on An all time record. Ha! One on a great organization we've worked with at SVG called Compassion for Migrant Children and another on some Bluegrass Musicians from, of all places, Inner Mongolia!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Finds: Dusty Chinese antiques

It's hard to find real finds in Shanghai. There are so many people that inevitably a few million or so have already traversed every path. But the Shanghai Mu Lan Hua Ge Jia Ju Li Curio Co. just might be one of those places.

It's a loosely walled warehouse in Pudong (East of the Huangpu river) just off Line 8 (Linzhao Xin Cun Stop) with an inexhaustible supply of mosquitoes and old Chinese furniture that is literally stacked to the ceiling. Along with knick-nacks (sp?), glassware, old cameras, etc etc etc.

The prices weren't dirt cheap, but they were really decent the more we bought and bargained. (I told the manager I didn't want the "good friend price" but the price he'd give his mother...humor also helps with bargaining.)

I went with a couple of friends and we got thoroughly dusty and bitten, but we found some cool artifacts, the ages of which I have absolutely no clue. I'm hoping I can find an antiques expert of some sort to take out there and thus have some fodder for my next article!

(I included the business card below.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kitchening: Peanut Butter & Pumpkin Brownies

A little while back I bought a Queensland blue pumpkin which was so pretty, but not to pretty to break open (with a machete). I never buy puree of pumpkin anymore. It's expensive here and pumpkins are always available, though the Queensland blue was a special find from the organic farm I sometimes order from.  Anyway. What you really want is that recipe I mentioned a little while back. Pumpkin, peanut butter, and chocolate all swirled into an slightly unusual but very hard to stop eating brownie. The recipe was on Natalie's Killer Cuisine which is a slightly ominous title.

The cool thing about this recipe is that you make a master batter, divide it into three and then flavor it with the pumpkin, PB, and chocolate.

Peanut Butter & Pumpkin Brownies

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1 cup butter
6 oz chocolate (semisweet or any kind that melts)
1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup peanut butter (I used some homemade pb and it worked great)
Chocolate Chips, optional