28 November 2013

Thanksgiving shorts

The photo above is from a year ago, but the same scene played out today--except that today's photo would have included the snow and ice outside our building's entrance. Again today we put the Thanksgiving feast--the result of three days' work, mostly by Judy--into huge bags and waited for a taxi to carry them to the Institute for serving to our colleagues.

The traditional centerpiece of our Thanksgiving meals: the two loaves peaking out from the bag on the left. They're turkey cardamom braids, and this year they turned out absolutely perfect. I know--I just had some more as a late dinner after coming home from our night class.

The cranberry-pear-honey sauce got its usual enthusiastic endorsement from our friends, as did the mashed potatoes with garlic, the apple-raisin-cranberry crumble, and the wild rice stuffing. As instructors continued to cycle in and out of the teacher's lounge during the day, I was happy to see that we were able to surprise several of them with an unexpected meal before or after their classes.

I'm so pleased that we've found this way to mark one of my favorite holidays--a way that combines its familiarity for us with novelty value for our friends.

Our last class of the day was our weekly gathering of non-degree-program adult students who come for conversation practice. Our main subject today was this opinion piece on protecting Russian culture and language.

Our first question to the students: does the article present the true state of affairs? Is it true that Russian mass media deliver a disproportionate amount of English-language imports to their audiences?

Our participants agreed that the article described things accurately, but also pointed out that this was not the only story. The television programs that deliver this content are themselves imports. That is, the formats (for example, Voice, mentioned in the article) are taken from foreign sources, so it's not surprising that they deliver foreign content. Another imported format, talk and debate shows, were hardly ever seen a couple of decades ago, but now are a major phenomenon.

Concerning the effect on Russian language, our participants didn't voice much anxiety. The Russian language is alive and is like a sponge, and always has been, they pointed out. Russians adopt foreign terms on a simple basis--convenience. As for the politicians flogging linguistic nationalism, a student pointed out that those politicians are perfectly capable of using earthy Russian to suit one audience, and switching to loanword-loaded business jargon to suit another.

So the article describes things accurately, but do its prescriptions ("strict cultural protectionism") make sense? Our group seemed to agree that it wasn't a good idea to give government functionaries yet another arena to practice their favorite sport, forbidding things. But in addition, one of our group members made two interesting observations: first, that Russia goes through pendulum swings in its attitude to foreigners and foreign influences--alternating between enthusiastic receptivity and stone-faced xenophobia. Neither extreme can be taken as normative. Secondly, education in patriotism and love of one's culture should be focused on young children. After the age of eight or so, he said, these efforts are much less effective.

I can say with serene confidence that I've just finished reading the best crime novel I've read in my whole life, Jo Nesbø's Police.The author manipulates his readers with shameless abandon, and I was completely happy to be along for the ride. For those who have followed this detective's career through the whole series of Harry Hole novels, and who know how the previous novel ended, it's now almost impossible to say anything about the new story without immediately wandering into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say that Nesbø deals with his detective's mortality and resurrection with wonderfully casual and unapologetic aplomb. His reappearance (and I guess it's useless to conceal that he somehow does return) is both understated and quite moving.

The plot itself--based on a series of murders of Oslo police detectives at the scenes of their failures in solving previous crimes--puts our hero in an excruciating dilemma, a direct confrontation with his own obsessions and addictions. This recurring confrontation is part of what makes Hole consistently fascinating. The resolution in the latest novel is both unexpected and satisfying, except in one respect: did Nesbø tie up all his loose ends for good, or is there room for yet another sequel?

Becky Ankeny's new appreciation for Psalm 119.

"Raising Christian Kids in a Sex-Filled Culture."

"The healing power of a chicken casserole should never be underestimated." A Thanksgiving contribution from Rachel Held Evans: 5 Reasons I Am Glad I Was Raised Evangelical." What continues to amaze and gratify me is that my childhood and upbringing had NONE of these elements, but the longer I've been among these weird and changeable and imperfect and loving people I call "church," the more I experience retroactive healing for my wilderness years.

Maybe the most important thing I've read in the past week: "KKK member walks up to black musician in bar--but it's not a joke...." With thanks to Darleen Ortega for the reference.

Prayer material for Russia's intercessors: Read this page from top to bottom.

"I was Virginia's executioner from 1982 to 1999. Any questions for me?"

Eric Bibb and a wonderful group of collaborators ... presented in loving memory of Jeremy Mott.

1 comment:

Nancy Thomas said...

I thought of you both over the holiday, imagining your feast at the institute. So I'm glad to get the details. What a nice offering to your colleagues.

I just downloaded "Phantom" and "Police" on my Kindle, getting ready for the next trip south. Thanks for the tip.

Russia's language wars sound similar to what's happening in Bolivia with both the Spanish and English influence on Aymara, and the protests of the purists. Fascinating.