Friday, June 22, 2018

Oishinbo: Sake by Tetsu Kariya

Every time I read Oishinbo, I wish that it was translated and published in English in chronological order like most manga. Having them published by subject means that the overarching plot becomes jumbled and impossible to follow. That said, having them published by subject means that it’s possible to quickly and easily learn about one aspect of Japanese cuisine.

Like the title says, Oishinbo: Sake is all about sake. Sake is actually a generic word for alcohol, what this book focuses on is mostly nihonshu (Japanese alcohol), with one story on champagne. There are six stories in this book and they basically focus on how a lot of sake in Japan is fake sake (diluted with alcohol and additives) which tastes completely different from real sake. And that real sake pairs wonderfully with food and can hold its own against the finest wines.

While most of the stories are short, there is one six-part story called “The Power of Sake” that goes into detail on how sake is made, how to differentiate between the different types of sake, and the sake scene in Japan (at the time it was written - this manga is really old so things probably have changed a lot by now). There is an abundance of information here and I wish that I read this earlier.

As someone who wasn’t fond of nihonshu when I lived in Japan, I wonder if my dislike of the strong alcohol taste was because I wasn’t drinking the real stuff. As a student, our class parties would take place at restaurants with all-you-can-drink options, which I guess makes it natural that they would only serve the cheaper nihonshu.

I would definitely recommend this book (and entire series) to anyone who loves Japanese food! The style of drawing is slightly different from the regular shoujo and shounen manga around today, but the stories are interesting and information-packed. I only managed to read the first few volumes in Japanese, so if I see other English translations, I’m gonna borrow them even though the big storyline won’t make sense.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton by Jeremy Clay

I have to admit, I requested this book based on the title - you don't really hear about weird Victorian news these days (or I suppose any day since most people don't read the Victorian newspapers).

The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton is basically a collection of weird Victorian news stories that may be exaggerated or made up (or perhaps reality really is that strange). The topics covered range from animals (lots of wild animals in Britain, apparently), to health and medicine, and even wagers. Some of the weirder stories include monkeys committing suicide a large, headless turkey ghost. The latter half of the book is quite sad, though, since it covers tragic incidents rather than the ludicrous. The last section is a brief follow up on some of the stories.

While the stories are definitely strange and unbelievable, they aren't told in a very interesting way. It seems like the newspapers like to report things rather drily, so this isn't really a book that I wanted to binge. It was, however, pleasant to read it over several sittings, to take in the strangeness that managed to pass as news back then.

By the way, the titular burglar caught by a skeleton is really what it says. A burglar was in the house of a doctor, got his hand caught by a skeleton while fumbling in the dark, and then promptly fainted and was found by the doctor whose house he was in.

Looks like skeletons may be better than guard dogs.

Overall, this was an interesting collection of stories that will appeal to people who like weird and obscure history.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Shining Like Stars by Lindsay Brown

My sister brought this book home and recommended I read it and it is so good! Shining Like Stars is about the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) and what they do.

I’ve got to admit, I’m not familiar with the IFES. And from what I read, they’re a non-denominational movement dedicated to training and raising up Christian student leaders and missionaries. The book talks about why they do this and shares lots of stories about their students.

Reading this makes me feel a bit guilty that I didn’t do much Church things during my university days. I always thought that because there were so few Christians in my uni (and in Japan in general) that there wasn’t much I could do. But the students here put me to shame because they’ve achieved amazing things in harder situations with much less. I’ve learnt that:

- Evangelism starts with personal friendships. You can do big events, but if you have not yet laid the groundwork by showing the love of Christ, it’s not going to work.

- All of us must be able to give a defence of our faith at any time (echoing Matthew 22:37). Reason does not replace faith but it provides the basis for our faith - and if we cannot explain why we believe, there is no reason for others to listen to us.

- Students (everyone) can do great things through Christ. It was amazing to read the testimonies of how God used these students to spread the Word while helping their community and standing against things like corruption and other social ills.

- Christians should be concerned with social issues, but we must remember that they are not the end goal.

This was a really fantastic book. I would recommend it to everyone - students and non-students alike, because although it’s centered on IFES and the work it does, the principles for Christianity and evangelism hold true for everyone.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Pandora's Lab by Paul A. Offit

After reading Do You Believe in Magic by the same author, I wanted to read more from him and decided to read Pandora’s Lab, which is about stories of science gone wrong. If you know the story of Pandora, she was given a box from the Greek Gods with explicit instructions not to open it. But open it she did, and she released all sorts of evil into the world.

Likewise, this book is about the ‘evil’ that science has unleashed into the world. While most scientists work towards the betterment of mankind, the law of unintended consequences mean that some of these ‘wonderful’ discoveries end up killing tens of thousands of people. The stories in this book are:

- How the quest for a non-addictive form of opium led to the creation of heroin and OxyContin

- How a misunderstanding of saturated and unsaturated fats led to a move towards margarine and heart disease

- How the invention of creating nitrogen from air helped us feed more people, but also created deadliest weapons

- The story of eugenics. This was chilling but it was also strange how while he rightly called out people like Margaret Sanger for her support of eugenics and saying that it was time for “human weeds to be exterminated” the author glossed over Darwin’s influence on his half cousin Francis Galton, the father of eugenics.

- The story of the lobotomy and how people thought there was an easy fix for mental illness.

- How Rachel Carson rightly pointed out man’s impact on the environment, but by ignoring evidence and unfairly targeting DTT, led to its ban and as a result, many needless deaths by malaria.

- How Linus Pauling, a novel prize winner, managed to fall off the intellectual cliff and recommend excessive amounts of vitamin C, sparking the vitamin craze.

Every chapter of the book ends with a lesson we can learn from that particular example of science gone wrong, and the last chapter recaps it all while adding even more examples.

If you’ve read Do You Believe in Magic, you should also Pandora’s Lab for more information on how we can apply lessons from the past to the issues of today.