Not as superbly plotted as other Penny novels, with some missed stitches, but Penny still nails her characterization of the complex makeup and motivation of ordinary lives.
[on having a too-controlled, button-downed, persona; relying too much on intellect and not enough on heart]
“Do you think he’d [Peter] lost his mind?”
“I think … Peter could afford to lose some of his mind. It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.”
Ariana Miyamoto is Japanese by legal definition. The 20-year-old was born in Japan. She is a Japanese citizen. She grew up in Japan. She is also Japanese by beauty pageant definition—she was just crowned Miss Japan to represent the island nation in the Miss Universe pageant. But in spite of her impressive accomplishments and pride in her nationality, Miyamoto has been receiving criticism around the web for not being Japanese enough.
Miyamoto’s mother is Japanese and her father is African American. Miyamoto is the first biracial Miss Japan, and the first half-Japanese, half-black woman to compete in Miss Universe. But she is doing so with some criticism from citizens in her own country. She told Japanese press that “while I don’t look ‘Japanese’ on the outside, on the inside, there are many Japanese things about me.”
On GirlsChannel, a popular web forum dedicated to commentary about Japanese stars, there was complaint about how Miyamoto was chosen over other beautiful contestants who looked more traditionally Japanese. However, there was also an outcry of support for the pageant’s decision. One commenter wrote, “Who cares? All that matters is that she is a citizen born in Japan and she loves our country.”
Ariana Miyamoto upon being crowned Miss Japan 2015. (Photo: Instagram)
Miyamoto faces a high chance of doing well in the Miss Universe pageant, which favors crowning leggy, tanned, Gisele Bündchen-doppelganger pageant queens with Victoria’s Secret blowouts. Countries that have changed their judging standards from local ideals of beauty to globalized ideals of beauty have done well. For example, in the preface for Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, author Susan Bordo shares the anecdote of how Nigeria’s Miss World contestants used to do very poorly at the Miss World competition because they were representative of local standards of beauty. When an entrepreneur, inspired by Hollywood, entered a light-skinned and very thin contestant named Agbani Darego into the competition, she subsequently became the first black African to win Miss World. Japan has won Miss Universe twice: in 2007 and in 1959—and it is the only East Asian country to have ever won.
Miss Kyoto with Ariana Miyamoto, who competed as Miss Nagasaki in the Miss Japan pageant. (Photo: Instagram)
The traditional definition of being Japanese extends far beyond just looking East Asian. There have extensively studied cases of discrimination against Japanese-born Koreans and Japanese-born Chinese in Japan. The country has held a tumultuous history on the continent of Asia, and up until 1853 when Matthew Perry led his four ships to Tokyo Bay, Japan had been closed off to the rest of the world in attempts to maintain its solid Japanese identity and culture. Being Japanese has always been a fairly narrow definition.
The choice to crown Miyamoto as Miss Japan is not just one that expands and contests the idea of whose ideal beauty represents a country—but is also a strategic motion by the Miss Japan Organization to remain competitive in the Miss Universe arena.
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Jan 26, 2015Sylvia rated it 5 of 5 stars · review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, blog
Snow is a Canadian on the other side of the world in Russian vodka country, content to be depressed and miserable for the rest of his life, until an accident puts him into a coma.
We’re then taken into the past and what has happened to him up to that point with the help of the woman, Magda, who won’t give up on him. There is also a danger that is making the workers sick, and as a keeper of the documents for the company, he may be the deciding factor in exposing the threat before it continues on its dangerous course.
Magda was an interesting character, and her determination to not give up on Snow and pull him out of his darkness defines her complex character even more. I felt a lot of sympathy for Snow as well, and his past that helped put him where he is now. The conditions that they have to endure are harsh and in many ways unforgiving. This is a great read for anyone who enjoys unconventional thrillers that have something to offer other than the usual.
[on being invited into an art gallery showcasing a major local artist]
“Here around him was his heritage. His country. His history. But it was more than that. Here on the wall were his insides. Out.”
I’ve never drunk a cup of coffee in my life; I can’t stand the smell or taste. I am, however, somewhat obsessed with elephants and a new blend coming from Thailand/Vietnam might just get me to try a cup. Or not. Maybe I’ll just stick to my go-to hot beverage, Market Spice tea.
Elephant dung coffee works like this:
Vietnamese elephant owners feed their elephants high-quality coffee cherries. The cherries are then “processed” through the elephant’s digestive system and deposited in a lump of dung at the other end. The beans are then dried in the sun before being washed, roasted, and ground. The taste has been described as fragrant and buttery, even chocolaty.
On how formal education, learning, improving oneself, doesn’t always make things better…
[looking at some paintings hanging in a restaurant after having previously looked at some much superior painting by a master in a gallery]
“If he hadn’t looked into the windows of the Galerie Gagnon, Jean-Guy might have thought these [restaurant paintings] were quite good. But he had looked. And now he knew the difference. Part of him regretted that. He might now like better things, but he also liked fewer.”
“…she knew the real threat to her happiness came not from the dot in the distance, but from looking for it. Expecting it. Waiting for it. And in some cases, creating it.”
Penny on feeling jealousy for what other people have, of feeling hatred towards people in your life and the devastating effect this has on yourself instead of the intended target(s). In this case, it refers both to Inspector Gamache’s feelings for his parents (who died when he was young), and successful but staid artist Peter Morrow who can’t accept that his artist wife accomplishments and talents have outstripped his own.
“It’s like drinking acid,” said Myrna, “and expecting the other person to die.”
I’ve worked overseas over half my life, in eight different countries and have been surprised not only at the sheer number, but large proportion, of severely messed up people I’ve met, far more than those that were comfortable simply staying at home.
One of Penny’s quotes echoes a thought that has long been in mind on that subject.
“The investigators knew that most people who took off were running from unhappiness. Loneliness. Failure. They ran, thinking the problem was one of location. They thought they could start fresh somewhere else.”
“It rarely worked. The problem was not geography.”