Moon Phases


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Moroccan Intrigue

The Lioness of MoroccoThe Lioness of Morocco by Julia Drosten
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those easy read stories that grabs you and totally engrosses you. The Lioness of Morocco is one of those stories that could be reworked into a movie or a tv series. In a nutshell this was a surprisingly enjoyable read. The story line is not your typical beginning, rising action and the climax, rather it is a story that documents the life of a fictitious woman in the mid 1800's Mogador, Morocco.

The story starts off in London at Spencer and Son's shipping. Syballah is an intensely independent woman with an extremely shrewd business acumen. Syballah also tends to flaunt safety rules by bringing her carriage into the docking area. Which leads to her meeting Benjamin Hopkins. Benjamin Hopkins is a rather ambitious young man who wants to get ahead and is willing to cut corners to do it, evidenced by his future plantation in Cuba and his dabbling in the slave trade. The carriage topples over into the water and Benjamin rescues Syballah. This leads to marriage although Syballah does not really love Benjamin. After their marriage Benjamin does not hesitate to boost his wardrobe and other nifties.

The two are later sent to Morocco to open up trading . Benjamin runs the trading while Syballah makes clothes and trades with the ladies in the Sultan and the governor's harem. She is also very respectful of the culture, while her husband is totally opposite. His negative attitude towards Moroccan culture sometimes leads to higher tariffs and taxes for the company. It also makes him enemies. One day he tips off a beggar and then finds himself locked in the Mogador dungeon on charges of dealing with slavery.
Syballah also has a French friend,named Andre Rouston. Together they come up with a plan to rescue him but political events cause a bombing raids against Mogador by the French and Benjamin goes missing. Needful to note both Syballah and Benjamin are having extra marital affairs.

A brief affair with Andre after Benjamin's disappearance produces a young girl named Emily who is raised by, Syballah. The affair with Sybala and Andre comes to an end when as part of a gift from the Sultan , Andre gets an estate and a young woman named Aynur. Andre is drugged and ends up marrying Aynur. The next adventure occurs when Emily finds her father and the estate is attacked by locusts and Berber raiders. Behind it all is a mysterious person.

If you enjoy stories about the Middle East , especially during colonial times then you will enjoy this one. It has plenty of intrigue and plotting along with several love triangle to keep things moving. Lots of forbidden love and definite insights into Moroccan life and culture.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Eddas Translated

The Poetic Edda - Six Old Norse Cosmology PoemsThe Poetic Edda - Six Old Norse Cosmology Poems by Maria Kvilhaug
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Poetic Eddas

Translating poems from the Viking or Norse times can prove to be a challenge. Certain Norse words can have multiple meanings in the given language being translated to, this of course could change the meaning of the entire poem. Then there is the issue of capturing the spirit of the poem. These two items can prove to be a challenge. Characters like Loki and others were mentioned rather extensively yet there is no record of them having a place to be worshipped. Others had several places to be worshipped yet are hardly mentioned in the Eddas at all. Moreover it is important to note that deities were not just characters but rather served or could serve as metaphors to move the story forward. The poems themselves were never meant to be taken literally but were rather vehicles to convey a hidden truth.

Maria Kvilhaug has done a fine job translating the poems and rendering to the reader what possible meaning they may have. Perhaps these poems might not be the most entertaining they are worthy of study and if one wants that deeper understanding then this is one book along with perhaps several others that should be read. Perhaps there is one issue I might have with this is that instead of using the Norse names she renders it in the exact translation. That makes it a bit confusing and hard to follow along with. It must be noted that several of the adventures are really symbolic initiations where in the initiate is symbolicly burned three times before they are initiated or given their powers. Freya the goddess of the Vanir is burned three times before she is given immortality.

In several of these poems there are verbal battles like when the all knowing dwarf wants to marry Thors daughter he answers a bunch of riddles to prove his worth. There is also another poem where in Odin is debating one being or another and a verbal question and answer period begins. The Norse were also big on lineages as in the first poem when the gods are at a feast they encounter the three fares and they inform them of the worlds history.

If you are interested in reading the Eddas I would advise reading Snirri Stulson or some other core translator and then read this book to get the deeper meaning.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Djinn Falls in Love

The Djinn Falls in Love & Other StoriesThe Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories by Mahvesh Murad
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The djinn are coming into their own it seems, now a days we are seeing an explosion of literature and movies about the Djinn. This is a book of short stories about or including the Djinn. These beings called fhe Djinn are being created by Allah of smokeless fire. Angels are being of light and we humans are made of clay .

This compilation is filled with a slew of Djinn stories by way too many authors that I could even begin to name. Some have never been published while others are small,time. Quite a few have put out books about the Djinn or at least Djinn fiction. Most notable of these authors are Neil Gaiman and Sami Shah.

The excerpt is taking from Gaiman's book "American Gods" in this vignette a young man comes from the Middle East to sell,souvenirs to companies. The salesman is down on his luck. Then he meets a Djinn cab driver and the two hit it off romantic stuyle. This must be a nod in depicting gay lovers in lit as there is another story that involves gay lovers. In this other story, not by Gaiman, a pawnshop owner loses a wish gun and the Djinn huntress has come to receive it. Low and behold the pawn shop owner is killed by this gun. In the end he is reunited with his lover, a Christian priest.

Sami shah is aPakistani writer and comedian. he has written " Boy of Fire" about a boy who is half djinn. In this short story the American military is keeping an eye on a Taliban village. While observing this they witness a djinn girl murder a villager and a Taliban terrorist. In the end she is seemingly executed but how can humans kill Djinn?

In the other stories we have Djinn possession of astronauts in space. Other stories have a post apocalyptic world where it humans and Djinn against corporations. Some stories involve kids pulling out an old tome and conjuring the Djinn. If the djinn are your thing then this book is for you.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Jerusalem of the Balkans; The Heart of Sephardic Jewry

Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern GreeceJewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece by Devin Naar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Salonica, once hailed as a Jewel,of the Balkans was once home to a very vibrant Sephardic Jewish community. The city was called " the Jerusalem of the Balkans" and the heart of Sephardic Jewry. The city was so completely Jewish that not only were a good many were Jews in Salonica but the city businesses were closed on STurday. Many Jewish leaders, especially the liberal ones proposed that Salonica be homeland for the Jewish people instead of Palestine. Of course this was not to be.

Ultimately the community of 50,000 Jews perished in the holocaust when the Nazis took over . Despite the fact that Jews were such an integral part of Salonica, many Orthodox Christians helped the Nazis round up Jews and deport them to Aushwitz. Only 2000 Jews remained and when they returned they found their cemetery bet achain was taken over. Their synagogues were destroyed with decorative motifs stolen to aggrandize other churches and private homes. Parts of a Torah scroll were used to make soles of someone's shoe. Tombstones were used by Mason's for various construction purposes. Total,desecration. Even a church leader exhorted his corelifionist to help the Greek Jews. The plea fell on deaf ears. The survivors have move forward while maintaining the memory of Salonica.

The genesis of this community occurred after the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. The sultan allowed them into Ottoman lands. Under the Ottomans the Jews were called th most loyal millet. They had almost complete autonomy and there was no pressure to speak the Turkish language. The Jewish community appointed their Hachamm Bashi to deal,with the central government . The rabbis ran their community like a fiefdom. They had control over their own education.

After World War I Salonica was part of Greece. Life for the Jews of Salonica took a turn not necessarily for the better but not a state of decline like some would like to think. With treaty of Lusane there was massive population shift between Turkey and Greece. All th Muslims in Greece went to Turkey and all the Orthodox Christians of Turkey were moved to Greece. Most of these Christians were not so Greek. They spoke and were Slavic. Greece for their survival and Natioanl interest had to create a Greek society.

For the Jews this meant less autonomy and lots of changes. The first was their autonomy. Where as back in the day they completely ran their affairs like a state within a state, now they had to cooperate with the central govt. this presented a challenge for the Jewish community both within and with their neighbors. With were challenges of selecting a rabbi. Who should it be? Should the rabbi be modern? More Sephardic more ashkenazi? There were changes in the education. The courses for secular studies had to be in Greek, students had to learn Greek history. Education was meant to Greekify everyone. The Jews also had to deal with rising antisemitism and land expropriation.

This book gives a very thorough history of the Salonica Jewish community from the ending of Ottoman rule all the way through a the interwar years culminating with annihilation in World War II. Let the memory of Salonica live on.

I do not like to delve into politics but this history just goes to show that no matter how good the Jews may have it in a certain location in the end they always suffer a massacre or major pogrom. It underscores the need for Jewish homeland somewhere on this planet. I will not speculate on there "where should it be?"

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Susannah's Song

Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, #6)Song of Susannah by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuing where Wolves of Calla left off, the ka tat, or group is on the trail of Susannah. Sometime after the battle, Susannah was taken over by Mia and is carrying Mia's child Mordred. Mordred is the son of Roland and much like the Arthurian myth Mordred is destined to kill his father . But that is for later.

Stephen King likes to center on walk ins and doorways to other dimensions and alternate Earths. Susannah went through the door and wound up in New York 1999. Things are rather strange. Susannah must flee to a computer center in her mind. It is called the Dogan and from here she can control things and speak with her friends. In New York she finally has some legs but they are white and she is African American. Using a charm she hypnotized a diplomat and convinces him to give her money. She is waiting to give birth to the chap at the " Dixie Pig" all the while Susannah and Mia both struggle with each other and learn each other's story.

Roland and Eddie Dean end up in Maine during the 70's or 60's by a lake. They are immediately set upon by gangsters who shoot up a liquor store trying to get them. Next they travel to force someone to sell them some land with a rose on it. It is connected the tower and beams that are falling apart. Finally they meet Stephen King himself and convince him to continue his story and of course they are hunting for clues.

Jake and Father Callahan end up in New York as well. After a scuffle with a cab driver and a meeting with another priest they go off searching for Susanah. In the end they'll meet at the Dixies pig and boy is everyone in for a surprise.

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Holy Morroccan Sage engaged in Prayer

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One blond hair blue eyed Calfornian who totally digs the Middle East.