Ruby Ramblings

November Reads
November 30, 2009, 5:21 pm
Filed under: Books

Long plane rides, and a stunted work schedule allowed for some more good reading this month. I am back to the grind in Korea for anyone who is confused.

In reverse order:
PieThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C. Alan Bradley

I first heard about this book from an NPR story on Mysteries You Might Have Missed Along the Way. I really enjoyed reading the uppity eleven-year-old protagonist as she tries to clear her father’s name of a murder over a rare stamp.

food Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee

Casey Han is an first generation Korean-American. Although fully a New York City girl, her parents are Korean immigrants that eventually kick her out of the house for not following their wishes. As her parents struggle with their unfulfilled desires, Casey develops an addiction to shopping, men, and marveling at the differences between Korean and white cultures in the Big Apple. Although it took me a while to get into this book, I ended up really enjoying it. I felt like I knew Casey as a real person, she could be any of the women I see everyday here in Seoul, addicted to shopping, status, and the pursuit of a good (or at least rich) man. Although this may sound like a premise of a chi-lit book, it was far from it. More of a sweeping look at culture, relationships, and money.

Peace The Fifth Book of Peace by Maxine Hong Kingston
I really wanted to like this book, but it really just wasn’t that good. It was divided into five different sections, some fiction, some non-fiction. The first section was fantastic. A recount of Kingston’s return from helping her dying father to find her house, and her latest manuscript, in flames. She tries to recreate the manuscript, but the story falls exceptionally flat. I agree with, and really wanted to rally for this book’s anti-war stance, but it’s not the kind of book you could pass around to friends hoping to win converts.

Skin: Talking About Sex, Class And Literature

by Dorothy Allison

I think for someone who isn’t already a Dorothy Allison convert, this might be a tough read. I’ve read both of her major works of fiction, and I thought I had read all of her non-fiction until this came up as last months pick for the Seoul Women’s Bookclub. I really enjoyed it, but I think it is meant more for a women’s studies class on sexuality than it is for light weekend reading. I read it on the plane back to the states and had to put it down when I got paranoid that the men sitting on either side of me might be looking over my shoulder at the chapter regarding the proper use of dildos.

When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park
This was an amazing book recommended by my friend Susan at Naked Without Books. It outlines Japanese occupation of Korea during WWII from a young brother and sister’s perspective. The title of the book refers to the fact that all Koreans were forced to change their names to Japanese names and learn Japanese language exclusively in the schools. Part of the book talks about secretly learning to read Hangul at home after hours, and an elderly neighbor who refused to learn Japanese after the words for 1-5, so they had to rush her outside for the daily line-ups to make sure she was a low enough number that she could speak. I’d say this is my top recommendation for the month.

Un Lun Dun

Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America By Barbara Ehrenreich
I’ve been a fan of a couple of Ehrenreich’s books in the past, but this one was not at all convincing. Her interview with John Stewart was way more entertaining than the book. The beginning chapters where she chronicles her battle with breast cancer and the relentless barrage of “positive thinkers” in the cancer community was relevant and interesting. After that she goes into a history of positive thinking in America and the book looses a lot of momentum when she takes it from the personal to the research angle. It was a good read overall, but not nearly as convincing as the work she’s done on poverty and job inequity in America.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Barbara Ehrenreich
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

Buried Deep (Retrieval Artist Novels, No. 4) by Kristine Rusch
I started the month with my occasional delve into the sci-fi realm. This was a fantastic read. Everything good sci-fi should be: lyrical, anthropological, and convincing. I didn’t even realize that it was the fourth in a series until I had finished it, but really it made no difference.

Portland, Maine
November 29, 2009, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Travel

For your listening enjoyment: a new song I recorded while I was home for Thanksgiving.

I never get tired of photographing my hometown of Portland. I go to the same spots over and over again, but the light is always different, it’s never quite the same.

Here are a few of my favorites from last week.

Seoul and Such
November 17, 2009, 4:12 am
Filed under: Korea, Travel

There are some folks back home who don’t seem to believe me that Korea is probably the most technologically advanced country I’ve ever been in. High rises, subway cards, and just about anything you could ever want is available here. Hell, they have heated toilet seats, how could you get more civilized than that?

Some cityscape shots from near the Namdeamun market in Seoul:

Zafar, a friend from Pakistan flashing a peace sign.

Getting fancy for the holidays.

Seoul Tower

Yongsan Station

Home again, home again. My street.

Green Books Campaign – Wherever There’s a Fight
November 10, 2009, 4:46 pm
Filed under: Books, economics, Peace, Politics


Eco Libris, in a random act of generosity, offered 100 free books to 100 bloggers who were willing to review them. The idea is to get the word out about publishers that are environmentally friendly with their printing/paper services.

“Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website”.

My book:

Wherever There’s a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California

Published by the Green Press Initiative and Heyday Books.

This is a very conversational, thoughtful, and engaging look at the history of various civil rights movements in California. Being a huge, and hugely diverse state, I think it serves as an example, and interesting reading for anyone just about anywhere. The first thing that struck me about the book, is that we really do need reminders that a short time ago in history, discrimination and violence were not only legal, but encouraged by majority groups.

Although this book could be used as a college level textbook, it is not at all dry, and has so many other uses for anyone interested in American rights movements, history, and globalization.

The book is largely split into chapters that follow a time period, but although each chapter ends a little later in time, they all go back in history to roughly the mid-1880s looking at the chain of events that lead to the breakthrough in rights. Chapters one through three look at early California history including immigrant rights and workers’ rights. The next set of chapters look at racial equality, the rights of women, and political dissent. Moving further in time the authors examine free press, religious freedom, GLBT rights, people with disabilities, and criminal justice.

The first chapter Staking our Claim was a horrific look at some the early practices of violence against, in particular, Chinese laborers and Mexican people. One story was of a Mexican woman whose house had been broken into. She defended herself, wounding her assailant, and was then dragged into the streets, beaten and hanged for doing so. This chapter references some of CA early women’s rights laws, such as a woman being able to keep her property after a divorce, which wasn’t so much for the concern of women, but to attract wealthy, single women to California as potential wives.

Under Color of Law looks thoroughly, but not only, at African American rights, times of indentured servatude after slavery was ended, and also Mexican anti-segregation movements, the Filipino movement to end anti-miscegenation laws, and the Native American take-over and protest at Alcatraz.

The only chapter not in the time line is the final chapter, and is the one that is probably most personal to the co-author Stan Yogi. It is entitled Behind Barbed Wire and addresses the removal and incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Stan’s dedication in the beginning of the book reads, “Stan Yogi dedicates this book to his parents…who were incarcerated during WWII and still had faith in the promise of American freedom and justice.”

Although this book is very readable in its entirety, there is no need to read each chapter followed by the other. They stand alone as well researched pieces that could be used as references to each particular issue.

Book Giveaway I would be happy to pass on this book. If you are interested in reading it, leave a comment and I will pick someone at random.

“We elected to print this title on 30% post consumer recycled paper, processed chlorine free. As a result, for this printing we have saved:

22 trees (40′ tall and 6″ diameter)
9,884 gallons of wastewater
7 million BTUs of Total Energy
600 pounds of Solid Waste
2,052 pounds of greenhouse gases”

October Reads
November 1, 2009, 3:44 pm
Filed under: Books

How is it November 2nd already? A more robust month due to the read-a-thon, but still nowhere near my unemployed-living-in-a-camper-reading-12-books-a-month rate.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

The Pearl Diver by Jeff Talarigo. This one gets my vote for the best book I read last month.

Fourth Uncle in the Mountain: The Remarkable Legacy of a Buddhist Itinerant Doctor in Vietnam by Quang Van Nguyen

Cork Boat by John Pollack

Che’s Chevrolet, Fidel’s Oldsmobile: On the Road in Cuba by Richard Schweid

The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty by Peter Singer

Hearing Birds Fly: A Nomadic Year in Mongolia By Louisa Waugh. This was also outstanding.

Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon. Some fluffy fantasy for Halloween.

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester. I finally finished this book. I’ve been really slowly working on it for months. It was good, but I just couldn’t get into it for long stretches of time.