Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Moonlight Hotel Top 10 List

1) David Richards is a "Mid-level diplomat assigned to the backwater Middle Eastern king of Kutar in 1983." He is a charming, thoughtful man, who has spent the past couple years of his life there, befriending politicians, wooing lovely ladies, and getting to know the locals. After the rebels of the KPLA seize the capital city he is living in, he and a few other foreigners stay to battle the storm ahead in attempts to help the people of Kutar.

2) Amira Chalsani is the premier love interest in the story; a witty, beautiful women, she is a native of Kutar who was raised in the wealthy ranks of English society. She is still very emotionally tied to the Kingdom, and so, feels it is her duty to stay and aid those in need. She and David play a cat and mouse game of romance for the first half of the book, before finally coming together as the story reaches its climax.

3) Paolo Alfani is a records keeper from Italy, and David's closest friend in Kutar. He oversees the docks and transportation of goods that come into Kutar as the story goes on. Paolo's character provides an interesting perspective into people simply accepting the struggles that war brings, while others such as David insist on trying to make change.

4) Stewart McBride is an American reporter; a self described optimist in a cynic's shell, he is constantly trying to use his position in the media to better the situation for the people in Kutar. However, as the situation in the city worsens, it's all he can do to keep himself from doing something rash. Eventually, he gives into his will to do well, and crosses over the ridge into rebel territory, where he is killed.

5) Laradan: The capital city of Kutar, this place is one whose people live dull and simple lives; car accidents are prone to creating a stir that will last several hours, peaking the interest of citizens. Foreign diplomats' parties are the most exciting things that take place in the capital, up until the rebels of the KPLA lay siege to the city. Eventually, the people become complacent and emotionless, having accepted whatever their fates may be with stoic indifference.

6) KPLA: The Kutaran People's Liberation Army initially starts out as some distant, mysterious threat; a few rebels with a hodge-podge of weapons scaring goats and kids. But out of nowhere, they succeeded in a flurry of battles with the kingdom of Kutar's army, and proceeded to push everyone into the capital city of Laradan, which they constantly bombarded with captured artillery. In their newly found position of power, they made demands, threats, and controlled the city at a whim, until David and the other residents of the Moonlight Hotel decided to take action.

7) The Profiteers: In hard times, there are always those who succeed atop the people's struggles. This is especially the case in war, and in the book it was important to remember that there were people who wanted the siege to continue, and wanted people to keep dying. For quite some time, it was very unclear as to why the siege continued, until characters such as General Kalima were shown for what they were.

8) War: One thing that is done very well in the Moonlight Hotel is the perspective on war-it isn't some glorious thing with magical acts of heroism; it is a terrible, grueling thing that taxes all of those involved, and even making a small difference is an immense struggle. Author Scott Anderson went into so much detail showing how the citizens of Laradan were emotionally run down, day after day, month after month, until the constant death, the lack of food, and the low standard of living sapped every bit of caring out of them.

9) Cowardice: This was one of the most important themes in the book; and Anderson appropriately describes what cowardly people will do when faced with struggle: "You can never over-estimate the sheer ingenuity that cowards are capable of bringing to a task. If it's important enough to them, they can outsmart you every time." (262) In the Moonlight Hotel, it was the United States that chose to abandon their allies, and to run from the fight, while in the city, individual cases of this continued to happen around the characters.

10) Survival: In times of hardship, everyone does something to get by, and the same went for David and his friends. David chose to sit on the rooftops and gaze down at the city with Amira, Paolo poured over his tables and statistics when he wasn't painting the busy docks, and Stewart constantly fumed and drank. Within the city, Laradanis slipped into a void of nothing, as they attempted to hold onto whatever it was that once made them human. This mental and emotional struggle was made to be more demanding than even avoiding artillery shells and bullets.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chapter 2 Outside Reading Week 7(final one)

Part I
Figurative speech

"No, you were on your own now, and your blood was in the water." (symbol)
Symbolizes that the subject is screwed/in trouble.

"But his courtiers were a study in inscrutability." (metaphor)
Describes how they were difficult to read; not an actual study.

"...and Abdur Nassiri, the colorless first minister who was now acting head of state..." (imagery)
Creates a visual image of the minister's personality.

Part II
In the final section of the book, I have come to the conclusion that if it weren't for the ending and final chapters, i probably would have come away from the Moonlight Hotel feeling pretty irritated that i wasted so much time on such a slow moving story. Now, i have read the Old Man and the sea (and i loved it) which is supposed to be a slow book, but it appealed to me more. It was a book of physical and willful struggle, both concepts which i found very entertaining. Meanwhile, the Moonlight Hotel was far more depressing throughout; the major theme was finding anything to cope with the horrors of siege and war. With the exception of the book's love interest, Amira Chalsani, these supposed bright spots were very realistic, and so, somewhat dim. I'm not saying that i wanted this book to be unrealistic, but i think that it was so close to reality that it was just boring. In three days, i sped through a book of similar length, simply because it was far more interesting and amusing.

Now, i did mention that the ending saved it for me, bringing it up to an acceptable level on my personal scale. In the last few chapters, the book finally picked up the pace and sprinted for the story's climax, with General Kalima leading a sneak attack upon the KPLA that was hurriedly planned. Finally, as an interesting twist, David, whom the story follows, was knocked unconscious and taken prisoner during the battle (which the rebels, not Kalima's army, won) and regained consciousness, to find the city in new hands, with the Americans and foreigners back. This change in who knows what is going on (from me, to the other characters in the story) was a very nice way to end the story, with something of a happier ending coming out of the darker times.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Quarter 2 Outside Reading Week 6

Part I
"My opinion is that you should stay. My opinion is that it would be disastrous for this country if you left." (354)

Significance: Every day of the four months that David has remained in Kutar, the locals in charge of the government have looked to him expectantly, hoping that the American representing their greatest chance of aid would have answers that would help to end the current crisis. However, David has failed each and every time; he has never felt that he was in a position powerful enough to make a difference in the Kingdom, until the most recent letter from the U.S. arrived. It described how the U.S.'s lack of involvement and their order to the Kutaran government not to negotiate with the rebel terrorists was the result of a clerical error. Enraged, David filed his resignation from the Embassy, and undermined the order for the king to leave, instead telling him to do what David knew was right.

Part II
In this most recent section, not much has changed within the city on a political scale, though on personal levels, there has been a little shifting around as the fog of winter, the Ajira Takharan, settled in a dense blanket that shrouded people and buildings from sight. Two of the men David befriended during his stay in Kutar, Nigel Mayhew, and Stewart McBride, have been killed at the hands of the rebels; Nigel while walking alongside David to the palace, and Stewart when he crossed over the ridge into Rebel hands in a search for knowledge. Also, David and Amira Chalasani have become a couple, which seemed inevitable from their first meeting; the author Scott Anderson made it very clear from the initial encounter that she was the only attractive woman he would mention, and that her role was certain to be the chief love interest. Despite the losses of two friends, her companionship makes David seem far less alone; early on in the book, it was just him and his thoughts, fears, and hopes. The loneliness emanated straight off the pages in Anderson's words.

Another thing that has arisen at this point in time are the bad guys; it was quite clear in the beginning that the rebels were the evil trouble makers, but now, as David has discovered, there is corruption and deceit throughout Kutar. This newly realized element seems to make the situation much more real, and not just a book. It had seemed that there was a piece missing, and i actually feel like i have a greater understanding of the situation now then i did previously. At Paolo's shipyards, there is an enormous smuggling center, where people shuttle in vast quantities of goods that vary from the elegant, to the mundane, such as toothpaste. Even in the army that is supposed to be protecting the city, the General Kalima is profiting, and to continue doing so, he must keep the war going. He tortured and killed rebel teenagers in a successful effort to provoke the rebels, who had been nearing negotiations with the King of Kutar.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Quarter 2 Outside Reading Week 5

Part I:
"You can never over-estimate the sheer ingenuity that cowards are capable of bringing to a task. If it's important enough to them, they can outsmart you every time." (262)

significance: Nigel is warning David that the U.S. government, like Nigel's friend Sergei (who he is describing) will likely come up with a way to avoid participating in the crisis in Kutar. As it turns out, he was correct.

Part II:
At this point in the story, the American reporter Stewart has decided that the only way to bring awareness to the ongoing crisis is to discover what is truly going on beyond the ridge in the KPLA's camp. Obviously this is a very risky idea, considering the fact that the rebels are supposedly terrorists who might resort to genocide, and wouldn't have a problem killing him. I'm glad that someone has decided to take a more dramatic action, rather than sit on the rooftop like David and Amira, or constantly argue, as Paolo and the Contessa do. I found that this decision has definitely intrigued me; in the past, I would have no trouble putting this book down once i had finished a section. however, i'm now finding it harder to stop as the story (halfway in) is finally beginning to gain weight. Unfortunately, there are still another 9 days (in waiting for the Esmerelda to come and go with news) in the story left until he departs; I imagine David will go with him, (or so i hope) because if he doesn't, then I'll again be left waiting for something to happen. This book is somewhat slow when it comes to developing, as a sense of boredom, censorship, and distant oppression creep in. Interestingly enough, this slower literary approach has more realistically created the feelings that the characters are experiencing; there is nothing "safe" to talk about that won't stir up uncomfortable feelings, so conversations are dull. People can't go on adventures much, as the streets aren't safe (Nigel was shot just walking to the palace) and the citizens aren't very lively, as they have to live in fear.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quarter 2 Outside Reading Week 4

Part I
Brevity (213)- Short in duration; brief.

Edwardian (191)- Characteristic of the reign of Edward VII of England.

Part II
At the start of this sixty page section, the author Scott Anderson is detailing the actual specifics of an artillery shell exploding and the effect it has: what areas will be "swept clean", which will leave behind human limbs, and even the slightly morbid tidbit that bees are more attracted to blood than flies are. Using this as a lead into the current events, all hell breaks loose upon the Kutaran capital of Laradan, as the rebels upon the ridge line pour a barrage of deadly explosives on the city, targeting important buildings of transportation and communication sources. Now, I think that, while I could definitely see this occurring somewhere in the story, i think that it is a little out of place right now; there was no provocation for the rebels to attack, and it almost seemed like the story would continue with a secretive evil (the rebels) looming in the distance, but near enough to be felt. Instead, they immediately attack after making it seem like everything was hunky-dory, creating an unpleasant backdrop to the focus of the story: David. This brings another thought to mind; amidst the tragedy of death, casualties, and struggle, I still don't feel that the Rebels are the main issue. They do govern the entire goings-on and daily activities of the main characters, but the situation almost seems like it is just an afterthought. In terms of how the characters at the Moonlight Hotel are acting, it is the most pressing thing they are experiencing, but still is not a tremendous issue.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Quarter 2 Outside reading Week 3

Part I
Pseudo: not genuine, but having the appearance of. (129)

Acquiesce: To accept or comply. (132)

Part II
At this point in the story, the evacuations of Kutar are underway, and people from all over the country are surging towards the southern harbor, so as to make an escape by sea. Amidst the panic going on outside the Embassy's gates, U.S. ambassadors and employees are taking care to leave no papers for the approaching rebels(who have been compared to the Khmer Rogue) to use as an excuse to harm innocent people. The main method of the disposal of documents was massive bonfires erected throughout the Embassy courtyard. It was during this frenzied departure that Jim Draper, the U.S. ambassador to Kutar, asked David if he would be willing to stay behind as the lone United States representative. Almost any other person in his situation would say no; supposedly blood thirsty rebels were closing in on the capital of perhaps the most dreary backwater in the world, while back home was a comfortable job and parents who wanted to see him safe. But, it was David's admirable loyalty to the ideals of America that made him stay; he wanted to show that the United States wouldn't just leave its allies behind-that there was good to be done, and he would be there to do it. Although i don't think i would be willing to remain in such a place as Kutar, this decision certainly places David in a more positive position in my mind. Obviously it is necessary that he stays, otherwise the story would miss this entire crisis (assuming it was in real time) and there would be no moonlight hotel.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Locations and Purposes of Debate

1) Presidential Debate
-location: on TV
-purpose: help viewers to decide who they want to elect
-help?: yes
-structured/no: structured
-effect: Viewers hear topics they care about discussed by people with varying viewpoints, and so they get a better idea of who they want as president.

2) Competitive Debate
-location: School
-purpose: Test and challenge the debating skills of students willing to compete
-help?: yes
-structured/no: structured
-effect: Students offer a different approach from those of the actual decision makers, giving perspective to whatever issue is being discussed.

3) Formal Debate between two friends
-location: Tree in a Californian forest waiting for a rescue crew
-purpose: Convince one another of the likelihood (or nonexistence) of global warming.
-help?: no. at best, one will acknowledge that the other is somewhat correct-few people would completely surrender their beliefs so easily.
-structured/no: not structured
-effect: Each is more knowledgeable than when they began, and can go on to make further deliberations on their own.