Love Cooking

Is there anything better than cooking for those one loves? Well, maybe eating a dish someone who loves you made you is a close second, but any work, any toil, becomes a wonderful thing if you’re doing it for the love of others. On this eve before Easter morning, I think of the great spread and banquet in heaven waiting all believers in Jesus Christ someday. It will be feasting and drinking that will never end, as that’s how great our God and Savior is! Is, because Jesus lives! He rose from the dead, conquering death, sin, and the devil for all time and eternity.

I sit on my comfy couch, thinking of the pleasant day I had with my family getting ready for tomorrow. My signature dish, an Indian khorma made with chicken, is bubbling away on my gas stove and the house smells glorious and exotic. The spices sink into everything and I will probably smell of food at church tomorrow, even after I shower well and put on my spring dress and sandals. This korma is a dish of love, and it smells so much better than when I only make it for me. Ok, that doesn’t really make sense, but neither does love, so there. I am glad I was able to make it again as I found some garam masala that was the right taste.

Years ago, shortly after I graduated college and was firmly obsessed with India, and especially Bollywood, I made this dish for the first time. It tasted alright, but, wow, did it take me forever, as at that time I was not a cook. It took me half and hour just to chop the onions, and even longer to cook them, as I was too afraid of burning them, that I didn’t give them enough heat. But, try after try, and the khorma became a constant request from both friends and family. And now it’s back in my life like a old friend and I feel like pulling out my Shahrukh Khan films and Bollywood soundtracks. Will I ever visit India again? Not sure. It’s an overwhelming place where I almost died due to my own recklessness. Getting used to food bacteria in China does not mean one will fare well with bacteria in India. I should have skipped the ice-cream shake made with tap water, no matter how hot it was outside.

Really, I can’t think of another dish I like cooking so much for people. I do have a recipe for bacon-wrapped water chestnuts that’s rather popular, but it’s not quite the same caliber. Kimchi fried rice might be a contestant, but I haven’t really made it for many people yet. Mostly it’s become a recurring lunch staple for me. Butter chicken. That could be it, but it’s never quite as popular as the khorma. Maybe it’s because I add spinach. Why would anyone add spinach to the meat candy that is butter chicken? True, adding too much can give the dish a bit of a sour taste, but I thought it would be something “healthy” to add. I put that in quotes because who knows what’s healthy is these days? When my mom was in college it was “everything in moderation.” These days, it’s: Eat only these certain kinds of food and nothing else. Only meat. Only vegetables. Only fruit. We’ve made eating and cooking into a morality tale that it was never intended to be.

Food is sustenance, food is nutrition. Food really has nothing to do with morality, and we are all so different, different bodies, different blood types. Can we really all have the same diet? Does even everything in moderation work for everyone? How about garlic? This khorma has enough garlic to kill twenty vampires and it will be delicious. Eat and eat well. Eat food that sustains you and keeps you and your family running on all cylinders and out and about doing their thing. Love cooking and cook with love. Cook nutritious, sustaining food. What more can we ask of food? Eat and be satisfied: That’s the goal. Love food, love cooking, love people.

Winter’s Last Hurrah

Some years winter just. won’t. let. go. Here in Minnesota, we’ve gotten our last snow storm of the year well after we were all preparing to settle into spring. Well, hopefully, it’s the last. We did get more winter in May once. So it’s one of those times when one is supposed to be moving forward with the new season, but one is being held back from that and told to wait. That’s probably a metaphor for something. In any case, we must wait a little longer for our sunshine, our outdoor activities, our events and barbecues.

This week I’ve given up trying to read Cynthia Voight’s On Fortune’s Wheel, not because it’s not a good story, but I’m just not in the mood for it. Maybe the romance is just too much or something. It’s a spring story, not a winter one, and so I’ll pick it up again later. What has captured my attention is The Terror by Dan Simmons. I read a book a couple of years ago called The Kingdom of Ice or something like that, and I don’t even remember the author. It was the true story about arctic exploration north by ship in the mid-1800s. Well, the ships got stuck in the ice and never were able to get to the supposed open sea at the north pole. Years stuck in the ice and eternal winter, with no way out and supplies dwindling. I find these cold weather exploration tales fascinating, but hope to never live them myself. I’ll leave the battling of the elements to others, but am happy to read about their exploits.

The Terror takes the same story a bit further. Two ships with a hundred or more men are stuck in the polar ice, same time period, same plan of crossing the pole to the other side of the world, etc., only added on top of that the crew is being slaughter one by one by a terrifying creature whose domain is the cold and snow. I haven’t read very far, so I’m sure if the creature is an especially vindictive polar bear or an abominable snow monster of myth. Like all of Simmons’ Abominable, set in the Himalayas and purporting to be about purported said abominable snowman or monster, the writing is detailed, giving one a full picture of the setting and what kind of men are on the ships the Erebus and the Terror. The difference with this story is that I will likely finish it. Abominable simply wore me down with too much detail and delay long before they even started to climb Mt. Everest, and then I spoiled the ending, found that Nazis were involved somehow and thought it too cliche to continue. At this point, Nazis are overused and, well, kind of boring. Maybe they shouldn’t be, but they are. For me, Indiana Jones was the last time they were at all interesting in a story. Ok, maybe Heidegger’s Glasses, but at any rate they’ve been overdone as villains in storytelling.

Dan Simmons and other writers like him, Diana Gabaldon of Outlander fame, for example–I really, really appreciate their attention to historical detail and research. But it’s a pickle and a pain, a real pain, to read a story with too much nonessential detail. How can I, the reader, know it’s not essential? The story isn’t moving fast enough, that’s how! But what about all the hard work the writers put into the details, what about that? Oh, it’s a pickle, real pickle, and a pain. How much detail is really too much? As a writer, it’s often hard to know, but the readers will always know, and they’ll either go with you despite too much detail, or they won’t. In any case, The Terror isn’t as slow as Abominable, and the details are worked better in with the action, so I have high hopes of reading until the end.

Also, I have found a K-drama I am enjoying watching, though it is a second try: Because This Is My First Life starring the talented Jung So Min and character Lee Min Ki. I call Lee a character, because I’ve only watched him in two things and his characters are “characters!” He played a memorable out-of-control band leader in Shut Up Flower Boy Band, so well and so charismatically that for some it’s a struggle that he’s not in the entire series. I know, I know, spoilers, but that show was about his fellow band member and the audience trying to carry on without him. The writers probably didn’t anticipate the audience having to carry on, but Lee Min Ki’s Joon Byung Hee was a firecracker of a character. Also in Because This is My First Life, his Nam Se Hee is extreme. Se Hee insists on having everything his way all the time and explains everything in a robot, nonemotional manner, yet he somehow manages to come across as also thoughtful and endearing.

I’m not sure why I’m enjoying this show so much, especially as I’m to the point where the writer are throwing in a love triangle where it really isn’t needed, but maybe it’s just the attraction of doing something like getting married for other reasons than love. Why is that attractive? Well, we in these modern times often think of marriage as just being a contract, so it’s interesting to see that idea put to the test, even if it’s just in a TV show.

The plot is this: Jung So Min’s Yoon Ji Ho needs somewhere secure to live in Seoul, and Se Hee needs someone to help pay rent and also get his parents off his back about getting married. Both people are fully aware they don’t love each other, yet decide to get married for two years and then separate. I would say here, Se Hee is worrying more about the short term getting his parents off his back than the rent payment, because after two years he’ll need to find a new roommate and he has a lot of requirements that not just anyone, and most of his single, male peers would not be up for. Ji Ho rates highest on his roommate scale because she is an accommodating woman, not so much because she’s Ji Ho.

Of course, the point of the story will be that the two of them will fall for each other without even knowing it, and perhaps will never really answer the question about marriage just being a contract or not. In the early episodes, at least, they are trying to make their marriage a simple contract and coming to find out and having other married people tell them, that whatever marriage is, it’s not simple. Ji Ho finds this out quite suddenly shortly after they are married when she begins by making breakfast for the two of them. Why would she do that? Se Hee doesn’t eat breakfast and they’ve been telling each other they will just continue on as if they are renter and landlord. It soon becomes obvious to both of them, that although Ji Ho said she probably wouldn’t need romance or physical affection at least for two more years, when the contract is supposed to end, that this is in reality not the case. Ji Ho, like most woman, sees marriage as a relationship, no matter if it’s a contract on paper. She’s spending a lot of time with this strange but handsome, kind, and thoughtful man. Maybe being a man Se Hee can’t understand, but there’s almost zero chance she won’t fall for him, especially as he is providing safety and security for her. When Se Hee tries to bring her back to their landlord/renter association, the reaction is immediate: He’s hurt her and she realizes he has and more alarmingly, that she cares about him, which is why her next move is to give him payback. She even says she wants to hurt him back.

Oh, the poor man. He has no idea what he’s gotten into. We women often pretend today that we don’t care about marriage and family–and maybe somewhere in our heads, we don’t, but our bodies are a different story. Our bodies are built for husbands, families, and babies, with all the emotion and complication that entails. Men would be better off realizing that trying to be roommates with a woman, especially in her fertile years, is futile, even if love is involved. She will take the relationship further, because she has to. It’s built into her biology. Se Hee’s the one to wonder about, here. Is he actually attracted to Ji Ho? He calls her pretty, but seems to see that as merely an accurate description. He clearly likes that she’s willing to cede to his demands on a roommate and that in many ways they are compatible as far as living together. Perhaps unanticipated is that her being so accommodating rubs off on him: He also becomes accommodating for her, all the while rationalizing it as being the most logical thing to do.

By episode 6, all is not well. Ji Ho wants to hurt Se Hee emotionally, as he’s hurt her emotionally by trying to stick a contract-only relationship. Se Hee is also irritated and thrown off by the fact that now that they are married he’s going to have to pretend to a relationship they don’t actually have, not only in front of other people, but also in front of Ji Ho. This is going to zap a lot of Se Hee’s time, energy, and, yes, emotion, which is exactly what he didn’t want, but now he’s in a situation in which he can’t so easily back out: They have a two-year contract and Ji Ho would be out on the street without him. Oh, the weight of responsibility! Se Hee. Men. I don’t envy that, not one bit. If the situation were reversed, the woman would either have a lot of help from family, friends, and government, especially if the dependent was a child, or she would be released from the contract and the responsibility. Not here, oh no, Ji Ho will likely out of spite make him hold to the contract, and if she doesn’t, her father will. Or his father will.

Or not. Maybe they will both fall happily in love and live happily ever after, grow old together, have kids, and be content in their relationship.

The main couple’s friends highlight other aspects of romantic entanglement: one couple a manly career woman, vulnerable to sexual harassment by her coworkers, and an also driven, but more emotional man who wants to protect her and help her stand up for herself; the other a couple who are in love and living together, the woman anxious to get married, the man not sure if he can yet handle the responsibility, yet willing and able to please her in every other way. Good writing, very good. Enter the love triangle. This will be either done outstandingly or will force the show into an awkward place. Can Se Hee actually get jealous at this point? Even if he was in a romantic relationship with Ji Ho, would he really get jealous, or would he just get mad? He’s actually doing a lot for her. Despite the turmoil of her feelings, shouldn’t she be grateful to him, not spiteful? Do men ever really get jealous, or do they just get mad? Come on, women, they know, everyone knows we don’t care about the other guy. It’s just a ruse, a test to force your man’s hand and get him to tell you how he feels. It’s not treating your man very kindly or like a grown up. Ji Ho wants to know how he feels, she should just ask him. Ok, Se Hee would have to calculate things for a few days, during which his feelings might change, but he’d probably give her an honest answer. And she would and should appreciate him when he does, even if that’s not the answer she wants to hear. And that would seal their fate together more than using another man to make him jealous.

I’m sure Ji Ho will do the wrong thing. She has to: It’s a drama, and she’s a women who feels scorned. Se Hee’s just going to be trying to keep his head above water until he figures out how to help her do the right thing, which, ironically, will probably be sticking to their contract, though they may decide to extend it.

My Strange Hero: Review

Sometimes life is such that I don’t get a lot of time to watch, read and/or write, so it’s been a little while. I will start with K-dramas and move onto Christie mysteries.

Lately, I’ve been struggling to find a Korean drama that I like beyond the first couple of episodes. I miss DramaFever a lot, because I always had a slew of things I wanted to watch and shows that kept my interest. Viki is great, but it just doesn’t seem to get as many new shows in as fast as Dramafever did, and their new shows have few intriguing plots and actors or actresses that I want to watch. Not entirely their fault, though, as they are now having to compete with powerhouses like Netflix for licensing of the dramas.

Initially, I was impressed with The Last Empress, starring Jang Nara (Oh Sunny), who is an amazing actress. Trouble is, she’s such a good actress that when playing a character that’s a bit repulsive she succeeds in helping us to feel revulsion. The Last Empress is a crazy, over the top soap opera set in an alternate universe in which Korea still has a royal family. Down to the last child, this family is full of gossiping, spying, backstabbing, loathsome characters, of whom, Oh Sunny, the new queen and empress, is only a milder version. Ok, she is the heroine, but somehow the writers made her really not likable. She’s greedy for money and really doesn’t seem that talented as a play actress. I was also looking forward to seeing Choi Jin Hyuk in an action role, but his character who goes through a transformation is so unemotional that it’s difficult to connect with him.

Long story short: Although The Last Empress delivers in excitement and nonstop plot twists and turns, it offers little in character growth, and offers few characters to truly root for. I quickly got tired of the constant bickering and intrigues of the royal family and wished Oh Sunny would just leave the palace altogether and be rid of them. After awhile, I just felt like I was wasting my time because I didn’t really care who won in the end. Although I’ve never seen Game of Thrones, I imagine the shows are similar to the extent that one is just watching highly immoral people trying to outdo each other, and any “good” character changes to bad or gets murdered or kicked by the wayside. It felt spiritually draining, and I think as I age I am looking more for stories with integrity than entertainment value. In the middle of Episode 18 I realized I just didn’t care anything about the characters or their fates, and that there was so many more (the show being in half-hour increments) episodes to go.

The next drama I tried was much more promising, but it stars the handsome Sung Hoon (Oh My Venus) who I think could be a pretty actor given the right script. Up until now his acting, except in Oh My Venus, in which he capably played a strangely vulnerable sport fighter, has been rather wooden and expressionless. I Picked up a Celebrity on the Street had the possibility of being pretty funny, so I gave it a go. The first episode was actually kind of freaky, with scary music and a creepy opening montage. I figured I wouldn’t make it past the first ten minutes, but something about the way the story unfolded was unusual. Spoilers: A young woman ends up accidentally murdering a celebrity, only to find he’s not dead, but that she has to hold him hostage in order to not get caught.

The main character, Lee Yeon Seo (Kim Ga Eun), come off as truly psycho, and, although the drama is supposed to be a dark comedy, it just turned me off after awhile. Keeping someone hostage, continually knocking them out, and deliberating how to best get rid of the body isn’t really that funny. In a movie, sure, it could probably work, but hours and hours of this? No way. The plot also became quickly repetitive. It seemed that every episode ended with Yeon Seo thinking, yet again, that she’d killed the celebrity, only to have him wake up at the beginning of the next one. It got old, fast. However, I do have to say that Sung Hoon may have a knack for this kind of comedy, and that his lack of expression in some cases ended up being a plus. I Picked up a Celebrity just wasn’t good enough to keep watching until it became great.

After that, I retreated to rewatching a drama I knew delivered both in comedy and heart: I am Not a Robot. A story about a wannabe inventor who ends pretending to be a robot for a part-time job, the story makes few false moves, and nearly all the characters are given room to grow. It’s an instant classic, and both Yoo Seung Ho and Chae Soon Bin are extremely watchable.

Now, I am watching My Strange Hero, also starring Yoo Seung Ho, and realizing what a great actor he is, having the advantage of naturally expressive eyes, especially when paired with a pretty, but not very good actress, Jo Bo Ah. Jo Bo Ah has definitely improved her skills since Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, but she’s still not quite on point as an actress. The second lead, played by Kwak Dong Yeon, goes almost toe-to-toe with Yoo Seung Ho in screen presence, giving him a bit of a run for his money. Kwak Dong Yeon will be someone to watch in the future, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he soon gets his own starring role. The plot for My Strange Hero is a little weak, but the half-hour episodes help keep things moving along, and additions of veteran actors like Kim Mi Kyung (Healer) and Cheon Ho Jin (City Hunter) are a good move. I’m only on episode 9, and there’s already quite a bit of heart in the story, and I’m excited to see where it goes and if it ends up having a great payoff.

Silence: No Answer?

Silence by Shusaku Endo takes on a weighty topic: God’s apparent silence while his followers are tortured to deny their faith, sometimes even facing death as martyrs.

Set in Japan in the seventeenth century, Silence is about a time in history where a number of European countries were all trying to gain a foothold in trade and political power over Japan. It was also the same time that many Catholic missionaries were also trying to convert the Japanese to Christianity. Although fictional, the story is rooted in real events. Jesuits priests from Portugal and other countries did come to Japan, were tortured for their faith, along with Japanese Christians, and were asked to and sometimes did apostasize, or renounce their faith.

Silence follows two Portuguese Jesuit priests who come to convert the Japanese, but also to find their former priest and teacher Christovao Ferreira, who it is rumored has given into torture and apotasized. The first half is narrated first person in letter written by Sebastian Rodriguez. Rodriguez appears to be serious about his faith and looking forward to going to Japan, even though it is against the wishes of his superiors for being too dangerous. He and his companions wait on the island of Macao until they can find a ship to take them to Japan. While waiting they meet a Japanese expat named Kichijiro. Kichijiro becomes the bane of Rodriguez’s existence, a Christian who denies his faith at the first sign of trouble and even betrays the Jesuits on several occasions.

Expectations are tricky things. I am a Christian, and I expected Silence to hit me hard. In some ways it did, certainly the climactic scene (spoilers) in which Rodriguez finally steps on the icon of Christ, and in which he hears Christ telling him that’s what he came for, for men and human beings to trample him. That scene made me cry, for of course is it correct that Jesus Christ came in the world to suffer and die for sinners, which is all of humanity. He was tortured and experienced a terrible death and temporary separation from God on the cross. It’s a horrible thing to contemplate and leaves one feeling like the wallowing, helpless creature one actually is inside. This, however, is not what distinguishes Christianity from other religions. Most religions acknowledge the sin of man.

All the time reading Silence it was impossible for me to forget that these priest were Catholic missionaries. To an outsider it is easy to think that Catholicism is Christianity. And certainly for a long time Catholicism was or appeared to be the only official Christianity practiced. But it went through a huge Reformation begun by Martin Luther in Germany for a very good reason: Catholicism was at that time, and often even today, not following Christ. They were selling indulgences, ways for people to buy their way into heaven and spitting in the face of Jesus by doing so. If we can buy our way or earn our way into heaven in any way, Christ died for nothing!

Silence is a book that will certainly impact all Christians, but especially Catholics, as the focus is often on sin, death, and the law. The focus is not on God’s Grace where it should be. It is a difficult thing for humans to truly understand how sinful we really are. We are so sinful that we can’t save ourselves. We can’t even grant ourselves faith, which was the conclusion Martin Luther came to. Sometimes Christians lose our focus, we enjoy thinking about how awful we are and how much Christ had to suffer for us, all the while continuing to live in ways contrary to Jesus’s teaching and his word. It seems to me that this wallowing is where Catholicism stays, because all too often it teaches that Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t enough, that there are still works we ourselves must do to get into heaven.

Other branches of Christianity also promote this fall doctrine. In human terms, this philosophy of doing good works isn’t so bad: it has certainly led to many christians helping out their fellow man in any way they can–orphans, the homeless, soup kitchen, disasters, etc. But while we should be doing these things in thankfulness for what Christ has done for us, all too often it is about earning points with God. Can we really earn any points with God? If so, what does Jesus’ death on the cross mean? What does His resurrection mean? Can we really atone or make up for our own sins as if they’d never happened? Do humans have that power? Can humans by their own power forgive sin?

My goal here is not to belittle Catholics, but to point out that wallowing in the truth of our sin–that we are like Kichijiro was to Rodriguez, a waffling traitorous person not even worthy of being spit on–is no virtue by itself. Many people succumb to torture and denying one’s faith is certainly awful. It’s interesting in the setup of the book that Rodriguez himself isn’t really tortured. No, he gets to watch other people tortured and other people die for their faith. And all the while he’s thinking and questioning what kind of faith they actually have. He apostatized presumably to save his fellow believers from torture, but it seems pretty clear the torture of others is going to continue no matter what he does. Why this all is not virtuous is because the focus is not where is should be, on God’s wonderful and bottomless love and grace, but on human frailty, deceit, and weakness. For me, as Christian, this story isn’t edifying as it’s mostly asking me to look at my own inadequacies and faults (of which there are many), but not pointing me to the cure for it all: God’s great love for us and how Jesus came to live perfectly in our place, yes, awfully dying on the cross, but ultimately rising to life again, symbolizing the new eternal lives we all possess in Christ. Silence largely brushes over Grace instead of wallowing there, if we are to wallow in anything.

Rodriguez often thinks of Judas betraying Jesus just like Kichijiro keeps betraying him. I’m no theologian, but I always had thought that Judas was not “saved” because he didn’t believe God could or would forgive his sin. Add suicide on top of that, and there’s no time for one repent of that unbelief, which is why suicide is something to be avoided at all costs. That disbelief that Christ’s sacrifice covers “even me,” that’s the crime against the Holy Spirit that damns one, because if you’re only looking at what you’ve done, the judgement will always be for hell. For believers, though, the judgement is always heaven, for we are trusting in Jesus, his holy, perfect life, and the fact that he paid for all sins, no matter how small, and no matter how great. And as long as one is still living, there’s time to repent, there’s time to believe in Jesus.

As to the “silence” the book refers to: God often does appear to be silent, often when we are having a hard time. But we were never promised a problem free life on this earth. Thats what heaven is for. Sometimes it’s clear that God steps in and rights some wrongs and make things better for awhile, but just as often He lets us go through the suffering. It often seems as if He doesn’t care, but that’ not true. He cares very much, and His desire is that through the suffering we would turn to Him and become closer to Him, trusting in His Grace ever more firmly. He is not silent. Everything in His creation shouts out to us every day how much He loves us, His Word in the Bible tells us that, the life and death of His Son Jesus tells us that, the love of our family tells us that, the love of our fellow man tells us that, it’s just that when we are focused on ourselves and our own troubles, we aren’t getting the message.

Think of your disagreements or problems with the people in your life. Sometimes, they too, are silent. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t saying anything, especially in their actions. An answer is always there, it’s just that we often, purposefully or not, don’t see it. Our imaginations take hold of us and we think the answer must be the worst thing we can think of: They don’t care, they don’t love us, they don’t want to do whatever it is we need them to do. Later, we are surprised to find just how much they do care for us, love us, and want to do what we need, it’s just that we refused to take their gift, or their help, and were even actively pushing them away, with no understanding that that’s what we were doing. How even more this happens with God! We assume the worst: He hates us, He loves watching us suffer, He enjoys not giving us easy answers or solutions, etc.

While it is true that God’s justice and holiness does hate sin and sinners, His Love of Jesus overcomes that wrath. Jesus led a perfect life in our place!!! This is not talked about enough. We talk of his suffering, death, and resurrection, but now about the reason Jesus was able to pay for our sins: He was perfect as God would have all of us be! Because of Jesus, God sees his perfection and loves us, He wants us to turn to the comfort of our salvation and promises of new life in Christ in the face of all suffering. In the book of Romans it says:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” and: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” and “If God is for us, who can be against us?”, and finally: “For am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 8, selected verses (NIV)

Does God often appear to be silent in the face of His followers’ sufferings? Sure. But that doesn’t mean He isn’t communicating with us with every part of his being. He communicates His love to us each and every day. Faith allows us to take the blinders off and see it, but we in our weakness keep trying to put the blinders back up. Did Jesus come to be “trampled” on by mankind? Yes. He came to make the payment for all sin so that we wouldn’t have to. Separation from the love of God is the ultimate torture and Christ experienced that on the cross so that we wouldn’t have to. We think Japanese torture sounds awful, but we have no clue what the abandonment of God would be like and we can’t even imagine it. As bad as this world is, it and we haven’t been abandoned by God. God calls his abandonment Hell, and we often just throw it around as a cuss word as if it’s no big deal. But it is a big deal, and Jesus experienced hell on the cross.

The world silence, isn’t really accurate, is it? If we give someone the “silent treatment,” we may not be speaking, but we’re definitely communicating. Sadly, for humans, it’s often anger, that we’re communicating, but it’s other things, too: hurt that we’ve been misunderstood or that the other person can’t see how much we do care for them and are trying to do the best thing for them. Fear of burdening others with our own troubles and feelings, and the list goes on and on. But we really aren’t “silent” in the sense of no communication. This is why we often say: “Actions speak louder than words.” Because they do. A human can say anything and not mean it. This is not the same with God. God’s words have powers beyond ours, and not only has He created us with His Word, in the Bible, He’s already told us everything we need to know. His silence is not the same as our silence. The world goes on and on in suffering in the hope that over time there will be more and more believers in Christ, and more people in heaven. That is the ultimate goal of God, to get us to stop looking inward for salvation, but to Him. It’s a paradox: We are accountable for our sins, but we can’t save ourselves. Jesus was innocent and led a perfect life, but took on the punishment of hell for all the sins of all people of all time for all time, simultaneously granting us eternal life and bliss. That is not silence, that is an overwhelming display of LOVE.

I might read this book again, but for literature purposes only. It just did not connect with me faith-wise in the sense that it truly pointed me to Christ. That is not to say that Endo is not a fine writer and very brave to take on this topic. There is much food for thought in the story, whether one is a Christian or not, and it is complex portrayal of Japan and that time in history.

Kdrama review: Devilish Joy

Wow. I wrote this a few days ago and totally forgot to push the “Publish” button! Argh. Well, happy reading. –Pixie

With a name like Devilish Joy, I was hoping that this Kdrama would be a fun, romantic ride. It definitely started out that way. Petite actress Joo Gi Beum (Song Ha Yoon) and hunky neurologist Gong Ma Sung (Choi Jin Hyuk) meet by chance on a visit to the Chinese island of Hainan and fall instantly in love. Their meeting was both naughty and magical, with a murder thrown in for extra intrigue, and I was set to experience, if nothing else, a thrilling story. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

I’ve actually been to Hainan. It’s a lot like Hawaii–beaches, flowers, boardwalk, jet skis. It’s the kind of place where if you sit alone on the beach someone’s bound to come talk to you, ask you out, try to kiss you, or at least give you a friendly wave. In Hainan you can set off fireworks on the beach, drink cheap beer, and instantly make friends with people you will never see again. Probably all such tropical tourist vacation spots are like this, but the island was a perfect setting for the first episode. It went downhill after that.

As far as the general story of Devilish Joy, it wasn’t bad, neither was the acting or production. The height difference of the main couple was fun. I am 5’3″ myself, and it’s amusing to see just how short one does like–almost like a child–compared to someone a lot bigger and taller. It’s easy to see why bigger and taller people might not take one very seriously at first. The biggest drawback of the drama was that it wasn’t ambitious enough. Everything stayed very safe and close to the tropes we are used to: The overbearing rich family, the spend happy nonserious heirs, the plucky heroine doing everything she can to raise money for a family that doesn’t help her much, and a hero with a memory problem. For me it was all just, meh. So meh that I didn’t even watch the last couple of episodes.

The two leads were ok, but it seemed like their characters didn’t really suit them. Choi Jin Hyuk is way better in bolder, more physical and more emotional roles. He was wasted as the neurosurgeon with memory loss and didn’t even need to stretch his wings. I’ve started to the watch the popular The Last Empress, and I think he’s going to be a lot better in that (also, only a few episodes in, it is a fantastic thriller that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Definitely a review coming in the future). As for Song Ha Yoon, if I’ve seen her in anything else, I don’t remember her. She’s a good actress, but doesn’t quite have that “it” factor that keeps one watching. Also her character seemed to change drastically from episode one to the other episodes that begin three years later. Obviously, the character has been through a lot, but I struggled believing that it was the same girl. Same for the lead male character. On top of that, despite their magical beginning, the leads really didn’t have much chemistry after Hainan, and I think that’s partly due to bad writing and partly due to miscasting. I think that someone like Li Min Ho of Boys over Flowers fame would have been a far better choice here, because even if his acting is sometimes awful, he has a magical star quality presence. He also knows how to look at a woman onscreen–really look at her in a romantic way that draws the audience in.

There were some interesting parts and characters, but mostly from the minor characters. The romance between the leads wasn’t half as interesting as that of Sung Ki Joon (Hoya) and Lee Ha Im (Lee Joo Yeon), who were both alternately annoying and fun to watch. Their banter could have been its own show and Lee Joo Yeon just looks like a star and has a solid screen prescence. Hoya, who I’ve only see in Reply 1997, isn’t my favorite actor, but it was great seeing him play an over-the-top pop idol wannabe. Then there were the villains, the extremely one-note aunt and mother Gong Jin Yang (Jeon Su Kyeong) and the intriguing Dr. Yoon (Kim Min Sang). Kim Min Sang is an awesome actor (see him in Tunnel) who, again, was totally wasted here, but he brought depth and character to his role and made the doctor intriguing to watch. The other notable minor character was Joo Sa Rang (Kim Ji Young), Gi Beum’s younger sister obsessed with makeup. Please get this actress her own show! She has talent and feistiness galore and I wanted to see more of her.

Devilish Joy, named after the main characters, was a show that never really lived up to its name and seemed to be just going through the motions to get to the end of the story rather than trying to emotionally impact or even entertain the audience. If the writing itself it bland, everything else is bound to be bland, too. Other Kdramas are better and more worth one’s time.

This Is for All the Marbles

This week’s been a bit tiring, so I didn’t get in as much reading and/or watching as I wanted to in order to post a review. After 2+ years I am still reading War & Peace, but I am still reading! It’s a sad story so far, and so…human. People are awful to themselves and to each other, and this causes so much unnecessary conflict and heartache in the world. I am also almost halfway through Silence by Shusaku Endo. The missionary life is so unique no matter what country you’re in. It’s at once so much easier to witness to the truth of Christ, but so much harder. Anyway, more on that when I finish reading it. As for Kdramas: I am almost done with Devilish Joy (odd title) and hope to have a review up soon.

On to some fun stuff, if one considers politics fun: If one is winning, politics can be very, very fun. A few times I have mention Q or Q-anon. If you search for this person/team/phenomenon, you will find many, almost too many articles writing it off as a “conspiracy theory.” The older I get the more I realize that things are lumped into a category of conspiracy theory in order to get the questions to stop. Since the dawn of time those in power have been lying to those not in power, mostly to keep their power, but for various other reasons, and sometimes just because they can. Conspiracy theories actually have a lot of truth at the heart of them, one just has to get past the idea that the government or the media or whoever has been telling the truth this whole time. In many, many instances they have not been telling the truth. Sometimes it’s staggeringly because they don’t know, especially when it comes to truths about the natural world or what we call “science.” I don’t know what science actually is. I know what we’re taught it is, but what it actually is has nothing to do with the truth or seeking it out.

But I digress. Back to Q. Q, who says he/they are “military planning at his finest,” is starting to have a very, very good year. Q has been posting on 4-chan, and now 8-chan since the fall of 2017. The other anons or anonymous posters on the chans have been doing research on the information that Q drops. It’s a lot of info that is often expressed vaguely. This is understandable: Q is supposedly working in conjunction with President Trump to bring bad actors to justice, bad criminals whose only intent is harm to others and enrichment to ourselves. The information relayed has a lot to do with American national security and the security of other nations around the globe. Q isn’t a conspiracy theory at all, it’s one group of, probably military, people cryptically bringing information to light to those whom the media has failed (that would be all of us). It’s also a great way to reach people who would rarely watch the evening news even if it was truthful. Researching things for oneself can be very rewarding and eye opening. It can also be a joy to share the info one has found. Q is really training a whole lotta of people to be real journalists in pursuit of the truth.

I’ve been following Q since last summer. I’d heard about it from a controversial writer named Vox Day. He would mention in passing about something “Q” had posted and I always thought that it must be just some political insider. Eventually something sparked me to looking further into Q, but I can’t recall what. I think I thought that if someone as smart as Vox was following this person, maybe I should too. It was amazing to find out what a huge following Q has and that it was actually a plan to subvert the lying, mockingbird media. Since following Q posts, drops, and the anons, some not so anonymous, who decode them, my view of the world has been, well, turned upside down. Not so much in the sense that evil is always trying to dominate (aka the cabal behind the scenes), but that those on the side of good are fighting back in a spy vs. spy alternate reality that rivals any movie. I don’t know for sure if the Q team’s (essentially President Trump’s plan?) to save the world from criminality run rampant will ultimately succeed, but it appears that it just might. At least for a time. We can’t expect to keep evil in check permanently. Only God can do that.

Q has long indicated that President Trump will be using the Army Corp of Engineers (clues being Red Castle/Green Castle) to build the wall. This week it appears as if that will indeed be happening, although the president was careful to have exhausted every other effort first. Optics are important. Q has also long been saying that criminals like the Clintons will be brought to justice and that they can’t escape the pain that is coming. Q has said that the fake “Russia, Russia, Russia” investigation into Trump will soon be ending. As if on cue (Q?) the mockingbird media has begun squawking about not being disappointed if Mueller’s investigation doesn’t reveal collusion like they’d hoped. The media is setting the stage so they won’t look either stupid or like liars once all of the information about the true, treasonous collusion against the American people and their duly elected president, Donald J. Trump, comes to light. Q is being proved right faster and faster and it is clear, if one truly looks around, that thousands of people who were in power a couple of years ago are not now. They have either been arrested, fired, or stepped down from their positions. It is mostly the new, alternative media that has been reporting on these things, especially the staggering amount of human trafficking and pedophile rings that have been busted worldwide since Trump took office. Check that. It’s probably been since he started campaigning.

Why are Q and Trump succeeding? They know how to play the long game and they are playing for all the marbles. They are not in this halfway; they are all in because their lives, the lives of their families, and the lives of their fellow countrymen depend on this plan working. This wasn’t just another four year election. This was about bringing back power truly to the people. By the grace of God, their plan is working, and both Q and Trump do acknowledge God, asking us to pray, pray, pray! There’s a Christian saying: Pray as if everything depends on God, and then act as if everything depends on you. This is exactly what Q and President Trump appear to be doing. And if they ultimately succeed, so do we, the American people, and also the nations of the world. It is an amazing time to be alive. This, this takedown of criminal power, is WW3 happening right before our eyes. Pray for good to win, and keep an eye on Q to find out what the media’s not telling you. Q drops are posted on various sites like qmap.pub

The Tales from Ivy Hill Series

Tales from Ivy Hill – Book 3

The Tales from Ivy Hill series isn’t for everyone. It’s for those who are fans of or enjoy the regency era novels of Jane Austen, Fanny Burney, and Elizabeth Gaskell (ok, she’s probably post-Regency, but, anyway). Most fans of Regency romances are likely women, and it is curious to me that although both sexes are part of romances, it is women who seem, well, obsessed with them. Just in our nature, I guess. I’m not as insane at the main character in Austenland, but I’ve done some Regency memorabilia shopping and have even been to the Jane Austen museum in Bath, England. Tea there was lovely.

This series may also not be for everyone because it is slow almost to a fault. This is also true for Regency novels written at the time, but Ivy Hill has the benefit of multiple romances to keep one’s interest and doesn’t go on for chapters describing scenery–yes, I’m looking at you, Ann Radcliffe of Udolpho. The series is also nominally Christian lit, but not heavily so; still, it might turn some readers off. That being said, I love, love, love! this series and Julie Klassen, why are there only three books?!? Where is my fainting couch? A little to the right? Ah, there we go. One of the endpapers in the last book does advertise an Ivy Hill Christmas novella coming in the future, so that’s at least something.

So, what on earth is so great about this series? For me, the characters are all very realized and very well-rounded, and even though in real life not everyone gets a happy ending, in this book world the characters work out everything by faith, trust, honesty, and love, and the happy endings fit. It’s a cheery, fantasy world where nothing super bad really happens. Also, for some of the romances it’s a question of who the women will choose, so there’s a little suspense in that. The men are pretty much all dreamy, which is just as they should be. The one thing I’d say the series lacks is more humor, but not every author can make me laugh out loud like Fanny Burney, not even “dear Jane.” Tales from Ivy Hill would be a perfect book series for, say, the BBC to adapt into a TV series with several seasons–I mean series, because in Britain a show season is called a series–which is series-ly confusing.

Anyway, this is Julie Klassen at the peak of her skill, and I do hope she will keep on writing.