Jeremiah: Always timely

This was supposed to be published last week, but other things got in the way. Gotta earn my daily bacon somehow. Next week I plan to review Tess of the D’Urbervilles and also possibly the Kdrama Melting Me Softly, if I finish it in time. Tried Watcher starring Han Suk Kyu (Secret Door) and Seo Kang Joon (When the Weather is Fine), and made it to episode 5 before realizing I was extremely bored, despite it being an interesting plot of investigation police corruption. Sometimes a show can be too slowly paced, even if it’s a slow burn type of story. On to the prophet Jeremiah:

In Bible reading the Old Testament prophets don’t get a lot of love. Many people like Psalms, Proverbs in the OT, and the Gospels and letters of the New Testament, but the books of the prophets are often a hard sell for daily reading. For one thing, God’s prophets were sent with one main message: Repent or you will be destroyed. Not a happy message. God also asked the prophets to do strange things in their lives, making them into living object lessons for the people. The books of the prophets often require a knowledge and understanding of the history of Israel and Judah at the time as well, so they can really be intimidating. These days, I’m reading Jeremiah, as I’ve never read the whole thing before, but I’m doing it via The People’s Bible series, which combines commentary and annotations to the text, presenting a fuller picture for the reader.

Jeremiah prophesied from 627BC to 586BC, some forty plus years. He lived in Judah after the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed, and went through four kings of Judah in his time of ministry. After I finish Jeremiah, I want to read the parts of 2 Kings that deal with this time in history, as it will give more a picture of each king’s reign. The first king, Josiah, was a good king, who rediscovered the Scriptures and helped lead at least some of the Jews back to worshipping God. Josiah’s sons, however, were ungodly and despicable, and although God’s patience is long, eventually the kingdom of Judah was conquered by Babylon and king Nebuchadnezzar.

A prophet’s life is one of ministry, it’s a calling and is one’s whole life. Jeremiah didn’t get to have a wife or family, as God wanted him solely focused on telling the people of Judah what God wanted him to say. For warning the kingdom of the coming destruction, Jeremiah got no thanks and was much abused by the people and officials of the day. His life was often threatened and at times he was imprisoned or put in the stocks. Still, he kept speaking the truth, hoping that some would listen, repent, and turn back to the Living God who so loves them.

One thing I really like with The People’s Bible series is getting more background of what’s going on. It also helps in separating what parts of the prophecy are Jeremiah speaking and what parts are what God said. For some reason in trying to read it straight through on my own, I didn’t really distinguish it as much, even though it’s pretty clearly identified by Jeremiah. Likely, I was just trying to read it too fast. Forty years, lots of prophecies. Now I’m about halfway, and like with Isaiah, another long book of prophecies, one almost gets whiplash. It goes from punishment to redemption, destruction to salvation, and captivity to freedom. That is kind of the roller coaster or rather pendulum of the Christian faith. Sin, repentance, forgiveness and redemption…and then usually back to Sin again, because our sinful natures constantly drag us down, pulling us away from God. Again, again, and again, we need to be shown our sin and turn back to God. If that’s sounds frustrating for us, it’s probably even more so for God, but he hasn’t deserted us. He has a lot of patience, considering. In Jeremiah, he had a lot of patience for Judah as well, but finally had to fulfill the prophesies of destruction and captivity, for they would not repent of their idolatry and turn back to them.

Unrepentant hearts aren’t unique to Judah. This is a problem every nation faces. Many Christians can see the same effects of sin and idolatry in America today. It’s maybe not outright idol worship, but it’s just as destructive to the country. We have many criminals and people of violence wishing to seize power and drag us down even further. However, I think many people are turning back to God, which is a wonderful thing. Now, a lot of the evil is being so blatant and open about what they are doing that many people’s eyes are being opened to the truth. Our governments have all become very, very corrupt, and it is only by God’s grace that we currently have a president who actually loves America and its people.

The other side only has fear, violence, and hate. Most people don’t want to live that way; they want to live quiet lives and go to work and care for their families. For some reason, in this day and time, God is letting the good people have power again, and they are gaining more every day. I’d like to think that he is relenting in our country’s destruction because many are turning back to him in prayer, but I don’t know for sure. God chooses the authorities and rulers in this world, and, good or bad, he works out what they do for his purposes. In Jeremiah, it’s clear that any ruler who deliberately scorns God is walking a dangerous tightrope, both for himself and for his nation.

Jeremiah also has some good quotes. I’m on chapter 29 and here are my favorites so far:

Circumcize yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your heart, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done–burn with no one to quench it. –Jeremiah 4:4

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, “We will not walk in it.” –Jeremiah 6:16

They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire–something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. –Jeremiah 7:31

O Lord, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress, to you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, “Our fathers possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. Do men make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!” “Therefore I will teach them–this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the Lord.” –Jeremiah 16:19-21

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is him him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that send out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. –Jeremiah 17:7-8

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? –Jeremiah 17:9

“I will punish you as your deeds deserve,” declares the Lord. “I will kindle a fire in your forests and will consume everything around you.” –Jeremiah 21:14

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.” –Jeremiah 23:5-6

“Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord. –Jeremiah 23:23-24

“But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true.” (Jeremiah speaking to the false prophets who kept saying everything would be fine and that Judah would not be destroyed) –Jeremiah 28:9

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” –Jeremiah 29:11-13

There are so, so many more good quotes, so many cool idioms and metaphors, and such great descriptions, that I just couldn’t write them all down. Would have to become a biblical scribe. I’m sure by the time I’m done reading it, I will have many more quotes written down. Jeremiah is timely in his message now and until the end of the world, because we are always sinning, and always need God to remind us to repent and to turn to him and all will be forgiven through the blood of Jesus. It’s very comforting to know that God does take sin seriously, especially idolatry and the evil practices regarding children of the day. This has not gone away. Children are still being trafficked and abused horribly by those in power who practice idolatry or even just pretend to practice it to get ahead in whatever power group in which they want to advance. Because God does take sin seriously, it is all the more comforting to see he is just as serious about our salvation from sin. He wants everyone, all people, to turn to him, to believe on Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life and died for them, and to be saved to eternal life.

Secret Love Affair: A Work of Art

It’s rare that one comes across a TV show that is a work of art. Artsy movies abound, as do some many series, but hours and hours of a TV show? Well, it’s just not that common. In fact, I don’t really know that I’ve ever watched a TV show I would consider a work of art–up until now, that is.

Something about affairs, whether it’s the illicitness or the adventure, something about affairs is often involved in the art of story. This is something you can find right across history, from The Bridges of Madison County to the Illiad and that whole thing with Helen of Troy. Maybe it’s just the fact that in an affair there are likely to be high emotions and also retributions from the injured or cuckolded party–plenty of dynamics and fireworks possible.

Although publicly society generally doesn’t condone affairs, in our entertainment and art, they are everywhere. Sadly, few of the fictional stories about affairs truly touch how wrong it is to break one’s vows of marriage. The Korean drama Secret Love Affair is no different in this, and that’s because the sin it focuses on is not the affair itself, but the reason for it: The main character is living in an awful environment and denying her true self any agency.

A trend in K-dramas in recent years has been pairing older women with younger men. I’m sure real young men would be a bit horrified at this, but it’s just a reversal of the standard in visual storytelling, which for decades has been older men with much younger women. In real life one sees age gap pairings, but they are not nearly as common as TV and movies would lead us to believe. In my own experience, couples, married or not are two people of roughly the same age or within a few years of each other. The older I get, I realize that age doesn’t really matter that much when it comes to a relationship, but biologically, it can. Older women, for example, have less childbearing years ahead of them. That in itself may give a young man who wants a lot of biological kids pause. In Secret Love Affair, this aspect is not even a consideration, though the age gap is 20 years.

As a women who is in her 40s, I can’t even fathom dating a man of twenty or even early twenties. That aspect of this story grated on me throughout, for the young man was way too much of a boy still. He hasn’t even had time to think if he wants kids in his future or not. He was, essentially, a way for the female lead to change her life, and she also helped him change his life, but beyond that, it was a bit creepy. I don’t know how big an age gap has to be to be creepy–everyone probably has a different threshold–but for me, 20 years is too much. So, why did I continue watching? Hands down, for the music and the sort-of redemption story.

Secret Love Affair (aka Secret Affair) stars Kim Hee Ae (Mrs. Cop) as Oh Hye Won, a director/personal assistant to the Seohan Arts Foundation. In her job she is wedded deeply and dangerously to the family who owns the foundation. These are not nice people. Her husband, played well by Park Hyuk Kwan (Six Flying Dragons) is a do-nothing hanger on who has no music or teaching whatsoever, but somehow got a spot at the music school the foundation owns. Their marriage is one of convenience, both wanted to be a part of the foundation and saw that they could if they were together. This was the biggest sin Hye Won made in her life, for it led to her entanglement with the foundation and a life of walking on glass. When we are first introduced to her, we see that Hye Won has great talent at her job, that she has tact and guile and has helped the foundation succeed. It seems unlikely that she herself has musical talent, but we soon discover she does.

During preparation for a big concert, a young, lowly delivery guy happens upon the scene. Lee Sun Jae, played very well by Yoo Ah In (Chicago Typewriter) is a quiet, hesitant man in his early twenties. He quickly gets into trouble stealing some piano time on the schools expensive grand. The kicker is, that his performance is recorded and immediately Hye Won’s husband sees the young man as his ticket to greatness at the school and beyond. He pesters his wife to give the kid a listen and declare him someone who should be admitted to the school right away.

The couple’s real first meeting is at this audition at Hye Won’s home, and as a first meeting, it’s amazing. Few couples get to spend this much time together, ever. Ok, I exaggerate, but it’s unusual one gets to spend so much time with a person upon first meeting them. Hye Won listens to Sun Jae play and is immediately hypnotized. You see, she has musical talent at the piano. Back in the day, she could have been a star, but she was convinced to work in administration instead. She listens to him for hours and then starts to play along with him. The two immediately connect emotionally, spiritually, and physically through playing together. Their style of playing is very similar, their appreciation of music, as if they are one heart. It’s instalove, but spread over a few hours.

Inevitably, they do have an affair, but though they sort of attempt to hide it, it’s really not a secret to anyone. Hye Won is really the only one surprised, but it’s hard to see oneself and how one changes and flowers under real love and real passion and emotion. That takes an outside view. Everyone else could see how obviously she was changing except herself. Through her relationship with Sun Jae, Hye Won starts to realize what a truly toxic environment she’s been living in. Her life isn’t really her own; her husband’s life is barely his own. To save herself and also Sun Jae’s future, Hye Won embarks on a path of intrigue in order to take down the family and the foundation.

This show is a great, intense watch. All of the actors are spot on, especially Park as the irritating husband. He is so perfectly loathsome, he brings Hye Won down with him. What kind of women is she really to have entered into a marriage of convenience with him? The writing and directing are also top notch. Each episode feels like a film, and it reminded me most in style to Heartless City (also a great watch, but hard to finish). The music is all consuming and nearly ever present in the background. This is classical music, but stepped up to ten in its emotional impact. Contrast that with the awful school and the owning family, and the parts where the characters experience real joy in their practice and performances become jewels to be treasured.

One aspect that was almost too much to handle, was the supporting cast of women in the show. Many of these characters were prone to scary violence, and it’s quite possible that Hye Won herself could’ve one day become like that had she not turned almost all her emotion off.

It’s interesting at the end how Sun Jae keeps calling Hye Won to be good, but she knows she has to callously take down the family first or neither of them will ever be free. In some ways, Sun Jae is content to stay as he is with Hye Won almost as a stand-in mother figure to him (yeah, creepy), but she nudges him, gets him to spread his wings, and soon he’s making new friends all on his own and leading secret jam sessions. By this point we barely miss the cuckolded husband, though we are maybe shocked at how upset about the affair he actually is, as they seem to have had a loveless, sexless marriage. More likely, he finally realizes just how much of a loser he is on all levels. So Hye Won gets her redemption story and Sun Jae has hope for a future. Will they stay together? By the end, it doesn’t really matter, for they’ve fulfilled whatever was needed for the other by the end of the show.

Sad the story revolves around an affair, but I suppose these types of plots are signs that at least some of modern society still takes marriage vows seriously. And that’s a really good thing. It was shocking to see how isolating a loveless marriage can be. If Hye Won hadn’t had a couple of good friends, she would likely have had a total breakdown at some point. Your spouse should be your best friend and lover, someone you can confide in and be yourself with. She found that with Sun Jae and he with her. The piano music sort of packaged everything together.

Secret Love Affair is a worthwhile watch, and there are moral lessons in the story, though probably not the ones you’d expect. This show is a work of art on all levels.

Tess: Afraid to Read the Next Chapter!

Somehow throughout my schooling as an English major I avoided ever having to read Thomas Hardy or Tess of the D’Urbervilles. This year I am giving it a try and wow, what gorgeous writing!! And I feel so, so bad for Tess! What a jerk and rapist her sort-of cousin is. In reading the book, it doesn’t seem as if Tess herself really understands if she was raped or not. Maybe she wasn’t? Maybe she did acquiesce? Have to read what other scholars have said about this, but it doesn’t seem she liked the guy very much, and did not enjoy the experience, at any rate.

My favorite part of the book so far is at the dairy farm. What fun! What descriptions! Makes me want to work on an old-time dairy farm for a summer. After all that Tess has been through, having a child out of wedlock, and then losing that child, at twenty she finds some happiness and falls in love with Angel Clare. This part of the book is so happy, I just want to stop here and not read the rest, but curiosity will get the best of me, I know it. As they are 40 or so miles from where Tess had the scandal with her cousin, Angel and those on the dairy farm don’t know that Tess isn’t a virgin and she is reluctant to tell Angel, as she’s sure her chances with him will be gone. Her mother, who is practical for all her drinking, says not to tell him. Sometimes this is the right thing to do; it’s not necessary to confess all of your sins to everyone all of the time. Often it’s between you and God. However, as she had a baby from it, this is clearly a big secret that if it comes out–and it’s likely to–will ruin Tess forever. She dithers back and forth between telling Angel or not, knowing that it’s probably better to get in front of the matter than clean up behind.

Angel is portrayed as a broadminded sort of fellow, so it’s likely that he won’t care as much as she thinks he will, but sometimes these so-called broadminded people turn out to be very narrow-minded and unforgiving in the end, thus her very real fear to tell him. Angel himself is inconsistent in at least one way: he claims to not care for old, wealthy families, but then is overly impressed that Tess comes from the now decrepit family of the once prosperous D’Urbervilles. Several times before the wedding, Tess attempts to tell Angel, but can never quite do it, and then the wedding day arrives, they get married and they’re in their new digs, and suddenly Angel wants to confess to her his failings of fidelity.

Aha! She is thrilled at this news. They have both committed the same sin and will both forgive each other for it, so after his confession she bravely launches into her own…and his response is in chapter thirty-five, and I…just…can’t…read…it! He’s going to reject her, acting the hypocrite, I know it! And throw her out of the house and denounce her to all around! These are fictional characters and not real people, but sometimes it’s so hard to read or watch even fictional people go through these trials. Maybe I will work up the courage by tomorrow.

Pretty Proofreader: 100%!

Who doesn’t love a story about a person who gives 100% in what they do? These books, movies, and shows are always inspiring to me and I wish there were more of them. One of my favorites of these is Morning Glory, starring Rachel McAdams, and I think the girl power version of this 100% dedication could be its own sub-genre.

The Japanese drama Pretty Proofreader is the second J-drama I tried on Viki and this was a hit! What a show! Perhaps I’m a teensy bit biased as I used to proofread for a codebook (city and county ordinances) company and often miss doing it. Proofreading is one of those unsung heroes types of jobs, especially as the reality is that very few of one’s suggestions are often taken. It requires dedication in the face of that.

Etsuko Kono, played by the petite Satomi Ishihara is a bubbly, vivacious fashionista in her late 20s. Ever since graduating, she’s applied every year to the publishing house that owns Lassy fashion magazine, hoping to get hired as an editor. She is the magazine’s biggest fan, having kept all of their copies over the years and reading them cover to cover. To her surprise, I think this is the 7th or 8th time, she is finally hired! But it’s to the proofreading department in the basement.

At first Etsuko is disappointed, but she quickly rallies, delving into the proofreading with a relish she probably didn’t know she had. Her greatest skill is checking the facts of the novels she proofreads, and soon she’s taking off at all hours of the work day to confirm things. This isn’t so unusual, fact checking is a part of proofreading, but the proofreaders usually just stay at their desks. Some of her colleagues previously built model houses, acted out sword fights, and the like, but soon all of them are out and about, checking the facts and getting to know more of their countrymen in the process. If only real proofreading jobs were more like this! Perhaps there are some, but it may take persistence to find them. Etsuko’s blatant questioning of some of the novelists choices would probably normally get her fired, but here, they quickly warm to her and are encouraged by her to do even better jobs at writing.

Yukito, the love interest, becomes so fascinated by the proofreaders that few know about, that it inspires him to write a whole book on all of the unsung heroes in Japanese civilization, the people who keep the electricity going, the trains running safely, and so on.

If one knows Japanese, the show would be even more enjoyable, because there’s a lot of play on words–much to her chagrin, Etsuko Kono, or Kono Etsuko is shortened by her colleagues to koestu, which literally means copywriting, and I know I likely missed a lot of that not knowing much of the language.

As is traditional with these stories, there is a romance, but it was kind of meh. Yukito (Masaki Suda) is a college student and magazine model who runs into Etsuko by accident. They click right away, but over the course of the show there didn’t seem to be real chemistry. She had more chemistry with the editor for the proofreading department, Mr. Kaizuka (Munetaka Aoki), who she calls Octopus. Perhaps because Yukito is quieter and more blasé, and the other two are loud and dynamic, that’s why I thought they got along better, but, honestly, I just found Mr. K to be more manly and attractive and was hoping they would change course and make the romance with him. Oh well. Etsuko and Yukito support each other well in their work and lives, and maybe that’s more important than a lot of passion.

Etsuko lives above a neighborhood Odon restaurant owned by a friend of her dad’s, and her apartment is cute, but she spends at least half of her time there in the restaurant. Odon is a hot pot or soup that’s popular in Japan and the show inspired me to try and make it sometime. I find most Asian foods from whichever country to be delicious, so it’s always fun to try new ones. Odon is from the Kantu region in Japan, and the broth is made of dashi, or fish and kelp stock, and miso. The main ingredients in the soup are usually fish cakes, boiled eggs, and daikon radishes. Not sure how I’m going to find or make fish cakes.

Pretty Proofreader is only 11 episodes, but the time is used well, and it’s a warm blanket type of show as there’s really no outright villains, and almost every character is caring and caring of others. It’s very, very sweet and comforting to watch, even if it is fantasy. I have noticed with K-dramas and now this J-drama that the characters are often more caring and kind to each other on American shows. This is maybe because most American shows are plot driven, but really it’s probably our independence here. We take much pride in doing things ourselves, and bottom lines often override everything else. The characters in this show are workaholics also, but it’s portrayed as work uplifting and meaningful to their souls, not a lot of talk about making money. What talk there is, is portrayed as troublesome and missing the mark of both connecting with people and doing a good job. It’s a refreshing perspective, though I’m not sure how much of it is true of either Korea or Japan, having never lived there.

Unsurprisingly, this show is based on a book of the same name. There is a Chinese version, and I do know a smidgeon of Chinese, but I’ll have to put getting this book out of my head as I’m trying to learn Korean enough to read their novels. It’s very slow going: Never have I fluently learned another language.

Have a great Labor Day weekend, everyone!!

Monday’s Child: RRR

Another Regency Romance Review this week. Although there was a bit of tackiness in Monday’s Child by Barbara Hazard, it is a book I enjoyed and one that I’m likely to keep to read again. The romance was heartwarming.

A Fawcett Crest Book published by Ballantine Books in 1993, Monday’s Child was definitely a more modern story than the other two I reviewed. Although there was some nonsense of force against women, it didn’t, thankfully, come from the romantic hero. Hazard’s writing style was a bit in the vein of Julie Klassan, so maybe that’s why I liked it so well. The main character, Sarah Lacey, was very likable and that helped also.

This is another story which tries to imply what a curse it is for a woman to be beautiful. I’m sure in real life there are downsides to having a pretty face, but it’s kind of like Brad Pitt or someone like that claiming to have been a nerd in high school. No one really believes it. And maybe that is the real curse to being blessed with good looks: It’s really hard for regular people to believe the good looks truly give a person difficulty.

For Sarah Lacey, her curse isn’t so much her looks as it is her family. They remind me of the father and oldest daughter in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, always grasping for more wealth, class, and titles, and refusing to be content with their own class and station in life. This is not to say that people can’t strive after wealth, they certainly can, but this isn’t the way to go about it: Practically selling off one’s daughter instead of working hard with one’s property, in this case a farm, which is already wealth beyond measure for many around the world. The Lacey family is contrasted nicely by the humble and productive farmer Evan Lancaster. Though in his own humbleness, he doesn’t realize what a catch he actually is.

A young earl in the neighborhood takes a fancy to Sarah’s pretty face and insists that they will be married. He is younger than her and refuses to take no for an answer. Add a bizarre suggestion of kidnapping into the mix by Sarah’s rake of a brother, and events in the novel strain credulity. Young men certainly do have wild ideas, but it’s really, really hard to believe that this young earl would have actually kidnapped Sarah and held her hostage until she agreed to marry him or slept with him, or both. It’s a case of trying to make a character into too much of a villain. His insistence despite Sarah’s wishes and clear disinterest in him is really enough, and I was disappointed in that whole part of the story, even though it was funny how Sarah thwarted the young earl’s efforts.

The best part of this book was the love story between old friends. Sarah and Evan have long been friends and long been in love with each other, and finally they both realize it and understand that no one else will do. Friends falling in love are some of my favorite romances. It’s so sweet to see them slowly realize, wait I love this person! In addition to that, Hazard did well with the minor characters included and also made the village of Sutton Cross come alive. Old biddies gossiping over tea are a must, as are holiday events, balls, and the like. This book was a joy to read compared to the other two and has me excited to read more. Oh, “Monday’s child is fair of face.” That’s where the title comes from, a poem the book says was “quoted by A. E. Bray, Traditions of Devonshire.” The original author must be unknown.

Chicago Typewriter: Kdrama review

As a Christian, I don’t believe in reincarnation. However, it certainly makes for interesting plots. The first time I came across them was when I went through a major Bollywood obsession, and I’ve seen them a few times with Korean dramas as well. The Kdrama Chicago Typewriter is about a famous writer, a delivery girl, and a ghostwriter) who are all reliving past events of their former selves from the 1930s.

This was a really fun drama to watch even if it wasn’t always clear just where everything was going. Writer Han Se Joo (Yoo Ah In, Six Flying Dragons) is a bestselling author who is sent a possessed typewriter and simultaneously comes down with writer’s block. He’s also dealing with fans like Jeon Seol (Lim Soo Jung, Search: WWW), who are way too obsessed with him, and haters who think he stole their work and come and attack him in his house. Sometimes fame and talent is as much a curse as it is a blessing, but Han Se Joon takes it relatively in stride, considering.

With the typewriter, from Chicago and the 1930s, he starts to see images of a past life and even starts writing a story about it that is an instant success. At this same time ghostwriter Yoo Jin O (Ko Gyung Pyo, Strongest Deliveryman) shows up, and it’s unclear if he’s writing the story or if Han is. Han is having trouble remembering things. As the story unfolds, Han keeps encountering both Jeon Seol and Yoo Jin O, and we all soon find out they are all embodied by three friends from Japanese occupied Korea in the 1930s.

As the series continues, the scenes from the 1930s really started to take center stage, and in the latter episodes, at least one whole episode is devoted to that timeline, which was riveting. It reminded me a bit of Casablanca, and what an interesting thing it would be to have a Kdrama remake of that amazing movie. It would be cool. Also if they did one of The Princess Bride.

Back to the reincarnation stuff. Although this is a new thing for writer Han, Jeon Seol has been dealing with these visions her whole life and is afraid that in the past she killed someone. Yoo Jin O, who (SPOILERS!) we find is actually a ghost whose name is a play on playwright Eugene O’Neill, is also afraid of what happened back then. He can’t remember how he died, only that he loved Jeon Seol’s historical counterpart, and was friends with writer Han’s counterpart. Not sure what the rules are with reincarnation, but it seems odd that Han had has no problem regarding it until present day. Of course he ends of up falling for Jeon Seol at the same time he’s remembering falling in love with her club singer back in the 1930s.

The acting in Chicago Typewriter was solid. Not so sure about some of the clothes in the modern scenes, though. Writer Han looked like he’d stepped out of the 1990s much of the time, and Jeon Seol’s clothes were often not flattering. The outfits in the past scenes were all smashing, however. Ko Gyung Pyo essentially played the same character throughout, but he had a great screen presence that helped ground, the modern scenes. This worked especially well with the character of Han, as Han was larger than life, but not always in a good way. Yoo Jin O made him instantly more relatable and someone one could be friends with. As for the other two leads, well done acting. I ended up like their 1930s characters a lot more than the modern ones, but I kind of think that’s where the writers were going with this, anyway. The minor characters and actors were all okay, no big standouts. The shaman or fortune telling lady didn’t seem a big help at all, and for some reason couldn’t see ghosts, which didn’t really make sense to me, although it was rather funny.

Writing stuff: How fun to watch stories about writers and publishing. It almost never gets old. Both writer Han and his nemesis had writer’s rooms or offices that were to die for. Han’s house was a character in itself, with unique windows, sometimes looking like squares over the panes, and sometimes looking like white crosses peeking through a lattice. Something covered up, something revealed. The black stain of sin, the white light of redemption. Books were everywhere in this drama. Also, who could not love the cool Chicago typewriter that Jeon Seol’s past self tells writer Han’s past self is also the name of a certain gun that sound just like a typewriter.

The romance: Although this similar love triangle has been done a zillion times over, it totally worked. It was made all the more bittersweet by the fact that the love never really got to manifest: Freedom fighters can’t afford to fall in love, and that’s probably as true today as it was then. Yoo Ah In did an especially great job of using his expressive eyes, and although there was only really one great kiss, it was a great kiss. As for Lim Soo Jung, her Jeon Seol was a bit meh, but she shined as the woman from the 1930s and then it started to make sense just why the men were so taken with her.

Redemption: In the end everyone makes peace and is at peace, especially, Yoo Jin O. While that makes for a great story, it just reminded me again why I am a Christian. In reality, there’s only one person who can atone for sin, and that’s Jesus Christ. He only had to do it once for everyone. These freedom fighters live by a code in which they can’t forgive and have to meet out instant justice as they see it. It’s just kind of sad because the club singer and Yoo Jin O could have had a good life together, because she would have come to forgive him in time. She loved him, even if only as a friend. In the constraints of the story, however, that was not possible, and Yoo Jin O only gets a sense of peace and maybe forgiveness in the present day.

Still, he doesn’t go to heaven or Nirvana or wherever, but decides to stay and be reincarnated so that in his next life he will have his love story. The promise of another life in this sinful world, which might be better than your last, but will ultimately end in death in which you are sent back again to the world to do it all over again, just doesn’t do it for me. It’s not real, lasting comfort or hope. Christians get what some would call a second life in heaven with God, but the difference is, it’s a completely different life separate from this world of sorrow. Anyway, the redeeming or atoning done in association with reincarnation stories isn’t impressive, although the story itself might be.

Chicago Typewriter was one of the better Kdramas I’ve watched in the recent past. Wish there were more like it, as at times it really seemed like a work of art and not just another TV show. As I was curious how good an actor Yoo Ah In really is, I’m currently watching Secret Affair, and it’s unfortunately about adultery and even more unfortunately a masterpiece. He’s good, maybe even Seo In Guk good. If only this amazing artwork had a worthier plot, but the very sinful characters have much to do with why it’s so great. More on that another time.

No Coincidences

The older I get, the more I realize that there are few real coincidences. Most of the time it’s God’s providence or timing, some of the time it’s actually man’s plans or timing. Today’s post is just a comment on political events happening right now. Next reviews will be Chicago Typewriter Kdrama, which I’m really digging, and the yet-to-be-read tacky Regency Romance, Monday’s Child.

On to politics: As I’ve mentioned a few times, I follow Qanon, or Q. Q is real, as in someone is making posts to 8kun (formerly 8chan). Q is not a conspiracy theory. It may be a hoax, but it’s more likely not. Q or the Q team are not presenting theories on something. They are disseminating information, specifically regarding enemies to freedom, and asking questions that they encourage readers to take to heart. Many followers of Q have done just that and have amassed a large amount of research showing that much of what Q has shared is, in fact, true.

A lot of Q’s posts center on the Obamagate FISA-gate or spy gate scandal, whatever you want to call it. I didn’t first hear of this information from Q, however. I heard it from Sundance over at The Conservative Treehouse. Whoever Sundance and his team are, they are amazing researchers and have covered Obamagate in a way that puts every MSM journalist to shame. If you want the details on the whole, entire, tedious thing, go to that site and start reading.

When I started following Q, I quickly realized that Q was sharing much of the same information on the treasonous spying the Obama administration engaged in, and I wondered at the time if Q was getting the information from Sundance or if Sundance was getting information from Q. It also was baffling to find out that Sundance didn’t think much of Q and certainly didn’t follow him or them.

About a month ago, Sundance explained that if the Justice Department did not start unlocking indictments and getting the process started on the numerous criminal prosecutions that absolutely deserve to happen, he would himself begin to reveal the ongoing investigations to the general public, forcing the department’s hand. The deadline that Sundance and his team chose was mid-August, so, right about now. Sundance says he has been in talks with key players, giving them information that they should know, but don’t. Q, who has repeatedly said they “have it all,” referring to info on criminal actions, has also said indictments are coming and that August would be the start of Movie 1, the spygate scandal.

Now, it would appear that something is happening. Whether that something is due to Sundance’s efforts and hard work, or whether it’s due to the longterm plans of the mysterious Q team who has been silent since 7/31, time will tell. Hey, maybe it’s one for the Justice Department itself, but I really doubt it. It is odd, to the point of surely not being a coincidence, though, that Q said Movie 1 would start in August and Sundance made his deadline for action from the Justice Department also for August 2020. Is Q following Sundance? IDK! It’s just a really strange thing. In any case, everyone welcomes what is hopefully the first step in a very long, thorough prosecution of a band of very terrible criminals and people: a coming to us soon guilty plea by former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith.

At the same time there appears to be a renewed effort by the Masters Of The Universe to unperson all people talking about Q. With Q being brought up to the President during news conferences now, one has to wonder if the MOTU are actually on the Q team’s side. Are they completely unaware that the more they suppress this, the larger it will grow? But then, Q often says, “these people are stupid.” And, really, if Sundance and Q are right, these criminals are truly stupid, for the amount of evidence beggars belief. Well, I’m hoping justice is served, but humanity brings out the skeptic in me. Either way, Q, Sundance, thanks for trying to save our republic in such an entertaining way. We don’t deserve either of you. Now, more popcorn…so I can avoid wearing that totally-not-political-at-all-DNC mask.

Quick Reviews

Haven’t finished anything to review lately, so just have some quick partial reviews:

The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier: Am about halfway through the book and it’s pretty much the same as the movie, except it takes place in France instead of England. Enjoying Du Maurier’s writing as usual, but I think the main character comes across as a lot more charming in the movie. The other characters seem all the same. The film makers did a good job at adapting the story. I already know what’s going to happen, but am super curious about how the endings are different.

Peanut Butter Sandwich: This Japanese romantic comedy just wasn’t my cup of tea. Made it to episode 4 and just realized I was very bored. The story was neither funny nor romantic, though I was impressed at the government rookie being able to fit into so many service jobs without a hiccup. She’s got skills. The middle-aged woman obsessed with PB sandwiches was creepy and the guy agent looked dazed half the time. As for the other characters and their storylines–meh. Also, who wants the government investigating our love lives? None of their business.

Lookout: This Korean drama is a second watch for me. With hopping music, dynamic characters, and plenty of intrigue, I think I’m enjoying it even more this time around. The show stars Lee Si Young (Boys of Flowers) and Kim Young Kwang (Pinocchio), both of whom I think were born for these roles. Kim is especially on the money and enjoying acting his character and his character acting. The episodes are only half hour ones, so the plot and action moves relatively quickly.

Your Name: Also a second watch. Some of the best animation out there. Although I didn’t care for the Garden of Words, Makoto Shinkai hit this one out of the park. Definitely best to watch on a big screen if you can. It’s difficult to imagine an American cartoon or even CGI production that can touch what Japan can do with anime. Can’t wait to watch Weathering with You again later this fall.

The Garden of Words: A Mis-step

With the highly anticipated digital and DVD release of writer-director Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering with You just around the corner, I thought it might be fun to check out another of his anime films, The Garden of Words. Although on the one hand Garden can be considered a great story, it’s also a giant mis-step in storytelling and knowing one’s audience. Spoilers and much negativity ahead.

As with Weathering with You and also, Shinkai’s previously popular Your Name, the artistry in Garden is amazing. Rain, storms, any sort of weather, really, gives the illustrators the chance to really show off what they can do. It is a feast for the eyes. The trouble here is the story, or rather the ages of the people in the story, or rather that it involves a high school student and an older woman…who works at his school.

Let me explain, and I’m by no means the final opinion on this, but sometimes one has to know the waters into which they are dipping their toes. Maybe Japan embraced this storyline and didn’t think anything of it, but for American audiences, this story is a turn off due to not only the age gap, but to the fact that the 27-year-old woman works at the teenager’s high school. Why does she end up leaving her job? Accusations–wrong, but still–accusations of inappropriate behavior with the students. Talk about a storyline in which you are all but assured you’ll be misunderstood.

People are often uncomfortable with relatively harmless stories like Big starring Tom Hanks, a comedy where a kid gets to experience being grown up for a time. Despite the funny, rather endearing story, there’s a serious creep factor involved in having any sort of relationship that’s not a family relationship between a child or teenager and an older person. It’s a truth that cannot be avoided. In the past, sometimes teenagers were thought of as adults, but for many countries they are now considered children, no matter how mature they may be for their age. Artists today continually pick at this boundary, trying to make something palatable in the main stream which should not be. Quite a lot is at stake regarding this. Great harm can come to children and teenagers because of it. Monsters prey on teenagers and children precisely because they are too young to truly understand how they are being manipulated.

Even one of my favorite dramas, High School King of Savvy starring Seo In Guk, weirds people out, though in that he’s the American equivalent of 18, pretends to be ten years older for much of the story, and great pains are taken to show how mature and responsible he his. It would just be a more comfortable story if the character was, say, in college, but then it wouldn’t be as funny. Although the romance was done well, it’s just an uncomfortable story all around.

In the teenage world, even a year can be a big difference. When dealing with teenagers having any sort of relationship with an older stranger, one must consider first that this will be a turn off to the audience, and rightly so. Making the character as young as 15 is not a wise choice. It’s a mis-step, because the likelihood that you and your story will be misunderstood is very high. Again, I don’t know a whole lot about Japan or Japanese culture, but the director here doesn’t help himself in the slightest. He very much makes their relationship romantic–a beautiful rainy garden, facing a storm together, quoting poetry, him tracing her feet, the boy mistaking what they have for romantic love, and so on.

It’s a story meant to show a connection between two strangers. Sometimes when one is extremely lonely, it is a complete stranger who fills that void and becomes a badly needed companion, but due to the age gap of the characters and the fact that she works at his school–I think she’s a counselor or something–it’s just, again, a great mis-step. To his credit, the young man gets rightly angry when he finds out she works at his school and didn’t tell him. Shinkai may think that what he’s asking of his audience is to appreciate a connection of companionship between strangers, but in reality, that’s just not what he presented. A lonely, alienated from both friends and family teenager is exactly who adult pedophiles pray on, and women commit this sin just as men do. I talk about this more a bit further on.

Let me take a break to give some background involving a newer phenomenon surrounding pedophilia and what the media calls conspiracy theory. To me, the term conspiracy theory is a made up term created to stop people questioning certain things. One of those things that people really need to start questioning, is what the rich and powerful do with all that money and time. Because many are involved in human trafficking and the sex slave trade.

Have you heard of Q-anon? That whole Q thing is entirely about good people battling the pedophiles. Supposedly President Trump and certain people in military intelligence are breaking up pedophile networks around the world. This is something you can actually look up. Since Trump took office, there have indeed been a very high number of people caught doing these things and there have been many, many children saved, all around the world.

Believe that’s Trump’s aim or not, I thought it pertinent to mention, because the other aspect of this is the still-under-the-radar slow push to make pedophilia ok in the mainstream. This follows on the transgender push for teens–these people know exactly what they are doing. The slow push manifests itself not only in films like this, but continual pedophilia jokes from celebrities and comedians on Twitter, the demanding that young children have the right to choose their gender (and thus consent to sex, right?), and the growing number of articles about the poor pedophiles and their plight. The crimes of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislane Maxwell are only the tip of the iceberg of what’s going on here.

For those who followed Pizza Gate, which was actually not debunked, and now for those who follow Q, there is evidence that those in power, politicians, celebrities, a staggering amount of people, are all involved in human trafficking of minors–and using our money to do it. You don’t have to take my word on that, but if you’re curious, there’s plenty of research to find online–well, the stuff that the “masters of the universe” tech companies haven’t censored yet. I warn you, though, it’s not a happy place to go. The only comfort in the knowledge of the bad going on is the knowledge that whether it’s Trump or the Q team or not, some people with the power to do it have been slowly bringing these monsters to justice.

Back to the film: All that above is probably something that the director wasn’t aware of, but it’s just another angle to the whole age gap that reveals what a poor choice making the main character a teenager, and even a young teenager at that, was, at least for an American audience. Again, I am not sure how the film was received in Japan, but I do know that the director’s other films are wildly popular.

The creepiest part of the story is the fact that the woman works at the boy’s school and the accusations against her. At least in America, we have a very real problem with teachers and school workers preying on their students in a sexual way, specifically female teachers. In the past ten years there’s been way too many new stories about yet another 30+ year old woman teacher having sexual relations with her male students. These true incidents are why a story of this sort is a really difficult sell for Americans specifically: The audience is being bated to some degree to say this is ok. In a story like this, we are being asked to agree that it’s ok for a teenager and older adult to have a friendship like this.

But in reality even a friendship is not ok, because even if the adult sets appropriate boundaries, the teenager is likely to confuse things, just like he did in this story. Teenagers are just figuring out love and the opposite sex, and it’s up to the adults to not put them in situations in which we confuse them more, something the female character absolutely did in this story. She withheld information from him and it speaks volumes for her character that instead of facing her troubles, she goes to the park to drink beer, eat chocolate, and spend time with a student, eerily close to what she’s being accused of. I’m not sure any audience should be feeling sympathetic towards this woman. She’s completely clueless to a degree in which one has to question if she actually is clueless.

I’m sure I’ve now overstated my case twenty times over, but the choices made in this film, visual amazingness aside, were such a mis-step that it begs incredulity. Again, what exactly is the audience being asked to condone and why? It’s hard to believe that the creators of the movie are actually that naive. For those who love the film, perhaps just as I love High School King of Savvy, these stories are really flawed, and maybe it would be better not to admire them–for the children’s sake.

Books I Wish Were TV Shows: The Apothecary’s Daughter

Needing a break from the tacky Regency romances, I’ve just finished a Regency romance by Julie Klassen. She’s definitely my current go-to modern author for them, and although she’s no Jane Austen, her stories are intriguing, heartfelt, and somewhat religious without being overbearing. A few of her books have bored me to tears, but some, like The Girl in the Gatehouse and her Ivy Hill series would make great TV shows. A third book now joins those ranks: The Apothecary’s Daughter.

Lillian or Lilly Haswell has grown up without a mother. Romanticizing the abandonment of her family, Lilly often looks for her mother on the bridge overlooking the canal that goes through the town of Bedsley Priors. Her mother always spoke of traveling, about seeing the world, and Lilly hopes she’s doing just that, but will someday come back to them. Lilly’s father runs an apothecary shop, similar to what we know today to be a pharmacy, and Lilly and her younger brother Charlie help out how and when they can. Having a near photographic memory, Lilly is a great help–almost too much so, for she an easy resource for her father’s apprentice, Francis, to use as a crutch. She remembers all the correct ingredients to make the various potions, pills, and concoctions, while he seems to remember nothing.

Our heroine is at odds with the local manor house at the beginning, caught stealing flowers by Roderick Marlow, the young heir. That the theft was to make a sorely needed balm seems to matter little to him, and for years afterward, Lilly is loathe to encounter the man.

Throughout the story Lilly has several changes of fortune and almost too many suitors. We get to know her family and a few of the residents of Bedsley Priors, as well as a few characters from London. This is a multifaceted story with enough subplots and characters to make a fully formed miniseries or TV show, just like the other work by Klassen mentioned above. To its credit, it has a satisfying romance, but it’s perhaps a bit overdone in the sense that Lilly seems to be attracted and drawn to every handsome would be suitor that crosses her path. She doesn’t know what kind of man she wants. Show writers would probably cut some of the romantic possibilities–I counted five men all interested in her and it was excessive–but a way to keep them and “solve” things, as it were, would be to play up some of the other romances going on in the story.

Another reason I think this would make a great TV show is the timeliness of the medical themes. Today tensions till exist between the various categories of the medical profession. MDs and NPs are considered near sacrosanct by general society, while the just as knowledgeable practices of pharmacists, alternative medicine, chiropractors, herbalists, and the like are too often scorned and derided. Here we have a time in history when doctors had begun moving against apothecaries by force, instilling licensing, required schooling and classes, and the like. Not entirely bad, but not entirely good at the same time. What else is a doctor’s trade based on but an apothecary’s one? Why is it assumed that doctors and providers have intimate knowledge of medications, but pharmacists somehow do not? More important for today: Why are all traditional remedies and prescriptions roundly derided for manufactured pills, expensive radiation treatments, and more expensive surgeries, when the alternatives, although taking longer, would work with the body to truly heal it?

The plight of a licensed doctor is shown no more clearly than in that of Lilly’s hesitant suitor, Dr. Graves. He is a good student, but has no deep connection with healing in the way that Lilly, her father, the apprentice Francis, and also another apothecary, Mr. Shuttlesworth do. These apothecaries do more than dispense medicine, they make it from start to finish, spending hours laboring with mortal and pestle, growing and drying herbs, and filling the shoes of an occupation with a wealth of knowledge, that at least in this story, often exceeds that of the medical doctors. They also make house calls and treat patients at their bedside. Dr. Graves can’t begin to compete with them, even though he’s a satisfactory doctor. The apothecaries are physicians in their own right, and that is where the conflict comes–expensive schooling versus knowledge passed down through the centuries.

I don’t want to diss doctors, many are amazing and very knowledgeable, but all too many simply know only what they are taught and toe the line of the day instead of considering what’s really best for the patient. Too many are content to treat conditions instead of finding out what’s causing them and attempting at a cure. Strangely, vaccines, which are not a cure, are continually held up as one–think of the “let’s wait for a Coronavirus vaccine”–and more and often often mistaken for one by the general public. Really, it’s not the doctors’ fault, they are forced into it by the very medical schools that take them in, the various medical boards, licensers, and hospitals that all too often can’t see past the ends of their noses.

Happily, there are some doctors with curious minds who are finding out that cheaper medications and older remedies may actually be what helps the patient, not least of which is an all natural diet, which works wonders on the body. Happily, many in the general public are becoming tired at their diagnoses simply being managed; more and more often they are turning to the alternatives and finding relief and success.

This book doesn’t fully go into all these issues, and in some ways the apothecaries are ignorant, too, but it’s fascinating that we allowed the MDs to reign as if they are or were somehow better. It wasn’t that they were better, it was that they gave themselves power to secure their livelihood for ages to come. If that’s an uncomfortable truth to ponder, well, so be it.

Also in the mix of the story is the idea that a woman can be neither doctor nor apothecary. It’s the age old problem of woman’s primary province being the home, but some consideration can be made for different types of homes, I think, and the fact that being a healer comes naturally to many women. Lilly’s home is the apothecary business. She cares for her family and also the business. For some–not all–women this is entirely doable, and the difference we often fail to address in these modern days of feminism is that many women simply choose not to do both, because, well, it can be exhausting. And that’s ok and should be considered ok. Providing is a province men thrive at and it’s really ok to ceed that to them. And for most men, either way is ok, they really just want to make us happy, and enjoy what appreciation and attention we can give them, financial concerns aside. Sadly in our quest for society we’ve made it far more difficult for a family to exist on one income alone.

Well, this review grew a lot longer than I thought it would. Clearly, I have a volume of opinions on medicine and the sexes. It’s interesting to be at a time in history when many are rethinking these aspects of our lives and turning to the way things used to be done. Having the freedom to choose the old ways is a relief for many, and it’s a bit ironic that we derided the limitations of old only to realize now that we simply exchanged one set of limitations for another.

Updates: Despite enjoying Hannah Tinti’s fine first book, The Good Thief, I could not get into The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley. Although I appreciated the tall tale aspect, which is very American, the violence was unnecessary and off-putting, as was the odd relationship between father and daughter. I don’t think I made it 50 pages. Why do so many Americans think our gun culture is about being violent? It’s not. It’s based around practical things like hunting, and as a country, primarily about keeping the tyranny of fallible, human-run governments in check.

Am in the middle of both Tess of the D’urbervilles and The Man in the Iron Mask. Enjoying both, but they are lengthy reads and other books keep drawing my attention. Eventually, I will have some reviews on them. Currently reading The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier.

Just watched episode one of Cinderella, an Italian version with English dialogue and set in the 1950s. Delightful production! Sadly, though, Amazon does not have the second episode available for viewing.

As for K-dramas, I’m trying out Oh My Baby starring Jang Nara. I thought it was a remake of Three Men and a Baby, but it doesn’t look like it now. Also it’s hard to watch a show that hits too close to home, so not sure if I’ll continue with it. There’s a Japanese show on Viki called Peanut Butter Sandwich that looks cute, so I might try that instead. I’ve never watched a Japanese show before, and somehow Japan keeps inserting itself in my life. Maybe that’s just the way it is with Japan, who knows?