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underworld_lucid_dreamer has commented on (8) products.

Egypt (Cultureshock!) by Culture Shock
Egypt (Cultureshock!)

underworld_lucid_dreamer, October 18, 2009

The author generally did a good job of trying to capture the spirit of the Egyptian culture. However, it seems to me that her main source of information was acquaintances who were doing their best not to offend her and who were doing their best to make Egypt look good. That makes the information she presents not accurate at times and she sometimes recommends crazy things that only locals will be capable of safely doing.

The first thing that you are likely to notice is a myriad of typos - missing vowels - that the book is studded with. Then come strange recommendations regarding almost everything. She actually makes riding a bus sound like an everyday practice that is not going to be threatening. Try doing it in real life and you will find that getting on and off a bus can indeed be a true life hazard. She mentions getting around using the subway, which is only feasible for foreigners during certain times of the day. She also recommends that people convert to Islam before getting married to Egyptians - something that must never be recommended. Some of the Egyptian terms, like the term for a janitor, is misspelled.

Her description of the Cairo traffic is quite accurate and so are her recommendations regarding social interactions. The book is full of broad generalizations though. When interacting with Egyptians, it is often wise to remain alert and actually ask about everything. Her explanation of the concept of honor and reputation is just weird.

It seems to me that the author was trying her best not to offend anyone. She actually provides a very rosy picture of Egypt and its customs. She accepted the explanations offered by the Egyptians surrounding her for granted. In other words, she is biased simply because people do not provide the simple truth to you when you're a foreigner. She sometimes presents government propaganda as truth, and she fails to mention that a foreigner is likely to get ripped off when shopping. There are a lot of reliable taxi companies nowadays with functioning meters - more expensive, but feel safer, so her recommendations regarding taxis is relatively outdated.

I recommend that you decide for yourself whether her recommendations are feasible or not when you get there. That's where you will be able to actually judge for yourself. Interacting with the locals instead of being confined to the expat community is always wonderful, but always stay on your toes. Through my experience, some culture smart books were actually able to accurately describe the cultures of the countries that I have been to. To, this one sounds as if the author has a strange form of Egyptomania.
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Russian Stories (Dual-Language) (Dual-Language Books) by Gleb Struve
Russian Stories (Dual-Language) (Dual-Language Books)

underworld_lucid_dreamer, August 18, 2008

A truly wonderful book for anyone interested in Russian or Russian literature. As for me, the main reason I bought this book was to get a feel of Russian literature and to pick up a few Russian words whenever possible. It is truly helpful if you want to improve your vocabulary, the accent marks make it an invaluable resource for anyone who's just beginning to learn Russian.

My advice is to read the stories in English first, search for the repeating words, read them in Russian, make a list of those words, then make flashcards of those words. Just make sure to check the words in an English-Russian vocabulary to make sure that you won't memorize the words along with their grammatical endings.

As for the stories, they're absolutely fantastic. I am not sure that this is the right book for anyone who doesn't have a real interest in the language though, as she'll finish it pretty quickly. For those who only want the literary aspect of the stories and don't have any interest in the language, I recommend buying an anthology of Russian short stories, as it will offer more stories than this book.
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Teach Yourself Russian Complete Course (Book + CD Pack)
Teach Yourself Russian Complete Course (Book + CD Pack)

underworld_lucid_dreamer, August 18, 2008

The main advantage of this book is that it gives you the ability to actually listen to the language, but apart from that there aren't a lot of things that make it superior to other Russian textbooks. It comes in a good-looking package, but there are a lot of other things that are more important than how a book looks.

I may be biased as I started learning Russian using the New Penguin Russian Course, which is superior to this book in many aspects, the most important of which is that it's not about travellers and isn't really directed towards the casual learner. I did get the feeling that this Teach Yourself Russian Course serves those who are planning to travel to Russia more than real language enthusiasts. The dialogues are mainly about a woman called Anna Prince, whose visit to Russia is traced by the author: You see her at the customs, at birthdays, and getting around, this is why I felt that it's more on the side of being a fancy phrasebook. I personally hate the books that follow this format as I neither have the time or the resources to travel to Russia, if I want to be good at Russian conversation then I can use the Pimsleur Language Program, which offers more practice than this book or the CD's that come with it.

So, my advice is to get this book ONLY if you bought the New Penguin Russian Course and want to listen to the "music" of the Russian language. If you are going to Russia for a visit in a couple of weeks and want to hear the language in advance and to understand a couple of words here and there, then this is the only book that you'll need, but if you're moving to Russia then you'll need a textbook that's more serious.
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The New Penguin Russian Course by Nicholas J. Brown
The New Penguin Russian Course

underworld_lucid_dreamer, August 18, 2008

Answering the last reviewer's question:
No. There isn't, but you can get The Berlitz Basic Russian Workbook.

As for the book, it is the most authoritative textbook out there. If you go to any forums where learning Russian is discussed the name of the book will always come up. The only shortcoming of this book is the lack of an audio CD that will help you with the pronunciation. That's why you may need to get The Teach Yourself Russian Complete Course, but this is not really necessary as you can always work on your accent later.

If you're serious about learning Russian and don't have plenty of money to spend then this definitely is the book to get. You can find a lot of websites that will help you with your pronunciation or you can buy the Abby Lingvo dictionary, which is going to be useful on the long run.

As for the first lesson, there are a lot of YouTube videos that will help you practice your Cyrillic. After that you'll be going at a good rate. You won't be having any problems with Cyrillic by the time you reach the tenth lesson(out of 30).
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Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers by Alissa Quart
Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers

underworld_lucid_dreamer, June 1, 2008

I disagree with the previous review about this book. While Alissa Quart may have a judgemental tone throughout the book, the book still discuses a very good topic.

I finished high school not that long ago, but even though I am not an American I understood what she was talking about as this phenomenon is pretty much universal. What she's mainly attacking isn't the brands or the dubious marketing strategies that are adopted by the big corporates: she's attacking the consumerism and the dependence on material wealth and conspicuous consumption for the display of one's worth, or the faking of one's worth to be more precise.

The stories that she's talking about are quite similar to things that I have witnessed in real life and the pressure on teenagers to be "cool" is real. It explains why you will not be that popular if you don't spend all your allowance on peer-approved merchandise if you're a high school student, or why your son keeps nagging about your buying him a PSP.

I am an ESL student and didn't have significant trouble making my way through the book, the vocabulary isn't that complex. I had no idea what Delia*s or Prada were, but that's about all the trouble that I had.

It's not a bad book at all, but it doesn't get 5 stars from me because I felt that some topics were oversimplified, the relationships that she has established between the brands and teenage behavior may be very interesting and her theory is indeed very good, but I felt that she was so confident about her own theory that she treated it as a law in her book.

It definitely is one of the books that can get you through high school if you're not on the top of the totem pole, otherwise it's an interesting read that may make you analyze some of the behavior of teenagers or yourself when you're in a store.
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