Sunday Update Week 10

The last two weeks crazy with life stresses, and I got almost no reading done. Sorry I got to no one’s blogs or comments for a while. Real life, you know.

But one nice thing that happened is that I went to my step-son’s Kindergarten concert, which was really sweet. He wants to be a ninja when he grows up! We decided to sign him up for Tae Kwon Do lessons soon. He already took a ninja class, but it was mostly gymnastics where the Tae Kwon Do lessons will be martial arts. It’ll be fun watching him progress. His sister will also be taking Tae Kwon Do, at least until her art class starts in summer. She wants to be a sculptor when she grows up.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading

Still working on Don Quixote. This is a really difficult book for me. In fact, I began skimming so thinly that I decided I’m not getting enough out of the story, so I’m going to try another tactic. I got the audio version of the same translation, and I will listen to it while reading along. I think that will help me to get through the book with less struggle. Hopefully.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

51fiqy7wejl-_sl500_Synopsis: Dorian Gray is a beautiful and innocent teen when his portrait is painted by an admirer. However, Dorian is soon corrupted by the world. Somehow, the portrait of Dorian becomes uglier and uglier as Dorian’s soul becomes blacker – but Dorian himself remains as beautiful as ever.

My Thoughts: This seems like one of those books that literary folks all want to have read, but no one actually reads. It wasn’t a book I’d ever read again, but I think it was quite…soulful.

3 and half snowflakes

Well-Educated Mind Analysis (SPOILER ALERT): Even though this book is not one of those suggested by Bauer’s The Well Educated Mind, I’m using her outline of questions to analyze this story:

👽What is the most central life-changing event?

Dorian Gray had a love interest towards the beginning of the book. When he realized that love wasn’t all it cracked up to be, he was very cruel when ridding himself of her. She killed herself in response. This is when his portrait changed for the first time.

👽Am I transported? Do I see, feel, and hear this other world?

Well, it wasn’t the most exciting book I’ve ever read, I suppose, but it was entertaining enough.

👽Can I sympathize with the people who live there? Do I understand their wants and desires and problems? Or am I left unmoved?

I don’t know if I can really sympathize with Dorian Gray. He is a terrible, selfish person and he deserves any negative outcome that he gets. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really get many negative outcomes at all. In this way, I am emotionally involved in the story of Dorian Gray.

👽Is this a fable or a chronicle?

This is a fable.

If the novel is a fable, what was the intent? Is it an allegory? If not, is it speculation?

I believe this was an allegory about the state of one’s soul. Perhaps that beauty is only skin deep. Or that one’s greatest secret is the state of one’s soul. To be honest, I didn’t really get the book.

👽What does the central character want? What is standing in his or her way? What strategy is pursued to overcome this block?

This character wants to enjoy life selfishly, with no thought about how his actions might affect others. The only thing that stands in the way is the portrait, which reveals in horrifying detail how deranged Dorian’s soul is. Dorian puts the painting away in an attic and kills the only person who has seen it.

👽Who is telling you this story? Is this person reliable?

The narrator is omniscient. It seems reliable enough.

👽Where is the story set?

England

👽 Beginnings and endings. Does the beginning sentence/scene come with meaningful imagery that represents where the story is going? Does the end have a resolution or a logical exhaustion?

In the beginning, Dorian first met the man who would end up negatively influencing him the most. By listening to the philosophical ramblings of this character, we learned where Dorian would be led.

There was a resolution at the end, though not an optimistic one. It implied that Dorian’s greatest problem was solved (he was no longer in danger of being killed by the brother of his former lover), and he was going to continue living his degenerate life without negative repercussions.

👽Did the writer’s times affect him?

They always do

👽Is there an argument in this book? If so, do you agree?

I don’t think so.

Caesar’s Last Breath, by Sam Kean

61fun1jph3l-_sl500_ Summary: This book is a detailed scientific description of a variety of different gases. It works as both a history book (covering the discovery of different gases throughout history) and a science book.

My Thoughts: This was a fun book to listen to, but I often wondered what the point was. It lacked a certain charm that I expect in popular science books. On the other hand, it covered a lot of interesting material, and I certainly learned a lot.

3 and half snowflakes

The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future: First historical references to Israel

The oldest known reference to a city in Israel is in the Execration Texts, originating in ninteenth century BCE. The Execration Texts are clay tablets carved with the names of Pharaoh’s enemies. The tablets would be smashed and otherwise desecrated. Then they would be buried – a representation of the destruction of the enemies. Some towns in Canaan were mentioned on some of the tablets.

Execration Texts. Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Execration_texts

Another collection of Egyptian texts, called the Amarna Letters, mention cities in Canaan. These fourteenth century documents were letters written by Amenhotep to other rulers of Syria, Turkey, and Iraq as well as to his own appointed mayors in districts like Canaan. They are filled with information about Canaan at the time of Egyptian rule.

Amarna Letter tablet. Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amarna_letters

The first mention of Israel as a land is in the Merneptah Stele. This is a large rock placed as a monument of the Egyptian king Merneptah, who ruled in 1203 BCE. It has a text inscribed on it which enumerates his fabulous conquests. At the end of the inscription, are a few lines about Canaan. Translated by Miriam Lichtiem, they say:

The princes are prostrate saying: “Shalom!” Not one of the Nine Bows lifts his head: Tjehenu is vanquished, Khatti is at peace, Canaan is captive with all woe. Ashkelon is conquered, Gezer seized, Yanoam made nonexistent; Israel is wasted, bare of seed, Khor is become a window for Egypt. All who roamed have been subdued. By the King of Upper and Lower Egypt…

Merneptag Stele: Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merneptah_Steleo

Notice that all of these ancient references are about the defeat of Canaan. The Bible was written as a way to cope with the changes that occurred during and after defeat. They are a way to remember how things came to be, and a guide of how to rebuild when conquest is over.

  • Wright J. L. Defeat and the Response to Defeat. The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future. Emory University. Coursera. Spring 2018.
  • Wright J. L. The Oldest Reference to Israel. The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future. Emory University. Coursera. Spring 2018.