Saigon Express

On Shattuck and Addison, closer to Oxford. This is a Downtown Vietnamese restaurant, and pretty standard, by all accounts. I find their goi cuon (fresh spring rolls) to be the tastiest I’ve had in Berkeley. I’ve never gotten the pho here, but the bun (vermicelli) dishes are pretty decent sized, and the vegetable/rice dishes are good too. They have a good vegetarian selection, which is a plus. It’s more bang for your buck than Le Regal, but the options are more limited.

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

By JK Rowling, but if you didn’t know that you must be living under a rock. I really don’t have much to write about this book. It was entertaining for almost the entire 870 pages, and while I found it long-winded at times, I think that was because of the age group at which it was targeted, and not a fault on Rowling’s part. In the book, Harry becomes distinctly more teenaged, full of angst and having an existential crisis every 50 pages. He’s forced to contend with the fact that the good guys aren’t always perfectly good, and that the bad guys aren’t perfectly bad, which is important, and something that other children’s books usually touch on in the form of one or two characters. It’s more of an onslaught in this case. And that, I think, was the most enjoyable part of the book for me — it acknowledges the world is messy.

Memoir from Antproof Case

By Mark Helprin. This book was recommended to me by my friend Amrys, and for that I thank her. While I am not yet convinced that Helprin is God’s gift to writing, he does spin a damn engrossing tale. The chapters of this Memoir tell the unbelievable story of an extraordinary man who has been a lover, a thief, an investment banker, a gold-stacker, a WWII pilot, and and English teacher. It is not told chronologically. Rather, he picks up on themes of his life and follows them with his memories, coming across another thread and following that in the next chapter, and so on.

One constant thing however, is his hatred of coffee. So it was with much guilt that I sat down to read the book in a cafe in Berkeley with my double espresso. Since reading it I haven’t had a single cup, although I’m sure that will change eventually. I did have tea, after all. But the passion of his fight against the bean which he claims has “enslaved the world” is both humerous in its extremes and also reminded me that there are principles worth fighting for that seem absurd, but they help to define who you are. Sticking by your beliefs is important, and ther world would not be the same without iconoclasts.