Ender’s Game, not a review


I remember sneaking my brother's small flashlight into bed with me, and reading Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game all night, finishing it about an hour before I was to get up. It was captivating and it made my imagination move. I loved to read all those scenes in the Battle Room and oh boy, did I enjoy imagining those battles! I really wished I was part of Ender's Jeesh! Of course, I was 11 years old at the time, and very much a budding geek.

Years passed, and eventually I read all the books in the original series. I absolutely enjoyed Speaker for the Dead, and while I found Xenocide a bit too philosophical for my liking, Children of the Mind was a nice wrap-up for the series… or so I thought. Then Ender's Shadow came out and I was captivated again. I read every book and story in the Enderverse I could get my hands on, and loved it. I actually think that Ender's Shadow is better than Ender's Game!

For years there was talk about a movie version. For years I said I couldn't imagine a movie version I wouldn't hate.

Then something happened. I'm not entirely sure, but things started to work out and I read about the casting choices and I realized… I had always imagined Graff to look a whole lot like Harrison Ford! So, surprising even myself, and disregarding several friends' calls to boycott the movie over Card's homophobia, I was very excited to see the movie. Despite the overall negative reviews I read in Hungary, it was very enjoyable to me. I listened to one of my friend's advice and didn't re-read the book in the weeks before seeing the movie, and I'm glad I didn't. I still remembered what was different, but I also had to realize that for each page of the book there was less than 20 seconds of movie time, so some things had to go.

I think the casting was brilliant! I loved Harrison Ford as Graff, and the children were all great. I especially liked Bonzo and Bean. It might help that Bean is my absolute favourite character in the series. Just watching the movie made me realize something, again. As I told Jill, I was, once again amazed, how many things Card envisioned in 1977 (for the short story) and 1985 (for the novel) have become reality. And then I realized that, in part, was because of his awesome storytelling skills.

In his collection of essays Storyteller in Zion Orson Scott Card explores a number of topics, and in his analysis of The Book of Mormon as a story, he also gives the formula for writing good science fiction. He argues that one of the proofs of the genuinity of The Book of Mormon was that things weren't over explained, as in bad historic novels and awful sci fi flicks they tend to be. For someone living today opening the door is just that. And it will be the same in the future, and was in the past, however the method might have been different. Today we use door handles. Maybe cards at the hotel. In the future it might be a button, or just a thought mechanism, or a voiced command… who knows. But to the person it will be opening the door. (I'm very much paraphrasing here, it's been a few years since I read that book.)

When I read Ender's Game for the first time, it was a slightly musty, well worn paperback that my brother had picked up at a second hand bookstore in Cork the summer before. Now, as my 10-year-old is reading the same novel, his experience is closer to Ender's own world than my own little torch with the emergency battery change in the middle of the night just as Ender had his bathroom encounter with Bonzo… Matthew is lying on the couch, with my Kindle Paperwhite, that has built in backlights, and he is listening to his own playlist on his telephone. But it all boils down to reading the same book, and just saying we are reading. When I read the book for the first time, when Card mentioned Ender typing something, I envisioned a desktop computer with a smaller keyboard. I asked my older boys, and they both said that for them it was a netbook style thing. For Matit it is like an iPad. But running Android (gee, I raised him well). We adjust our imagination to what we know.


When my son got to the sentence in the photo, she squealed in delight. “Now I know what your shirt means!” He has been beaming ever since, as someone who has been initiated into some great secret brotherhood of Geekdom. And well, he has been.

To purchase The Ender Quintet and/or the Shadow Saga, click this link.


A light sabre vs. a heavy épée


I think my kids secretly want to become Jedis. At least they want sabres. And an épée.

I think it partly has to do with the fact that Áron Szilágyi won the first gold medal for Hungary in the 2012 Olympics in men’s individual sabre. I think it also has to do with Googling that for 40 years only Hungarians won men’s individual sabre titles in the Olympics. Or maybe it’s just they light the fights in Star Wars. Or maybe it was the old photos of great-grandpa Cohen with full fencing gear. Quite possibly, a combination of all of them above resulted in Justin and Matthew asking me really kindly to enroll them in fencing.

Justin and Matthew were born in Hungary and spent their first 5 years there. They are very proud of their Hungarian heritage. This is the first summer Olympics that they can remember, and they are super excited about it. They did quite a bit of research about the Olympics starting in May, dedicating the last project/theme book of the year to the Summer Games, and Matthew got fencing. While doing his research, he realized that 13 Hungarian fencing olympic participants were Jewish. Add that to great-grandpa Cohen and his brothers being involved in fencing, and there was interest.

Justin has been playing soccer, but he doesn’t really like it. So when his brother asked me to enroll him in fencing, he wanted to join in. Of course Justin loves horse back riding and swimming as well, and he runs with Kevin… can you see the pattern? Signing him up for épée made sense. In case he realizes he likes shooting, too, the switch to modern penthatlon will be easy. Hungary’s former president, Pál Schmitt, the one that had to resign because of plagiarism, won two Olympic golds in épée, and no matter what happened afterwards, that feat was something he should always be remembered for. So Justin is starting with it in September.

In case you didn’t know, épée is a modern form of the duel sword. Out of the three weapons, épée is the most enjoyable to outsiders, I believe. It’s also something that, as I mentioned above, will be allowing Justin, a super sporty kid, to make transition to another sport they like watching.

Matthew, on the other hand, was quite specific in what he wants to do. He wants a sabre, and wants to learn that. Like great-grandpa. After talking to a local club, they immediately took Justin, but when I mentioned that Matthew has mild CP, and while it doesn’t impact his everyday life any more–thanks, botox!–he is not the most flexible kid right now. The lady on the other side of the desk was thinking, looking through papers, made a quick phone call, and then finally said, “It’s okay, master Hungarian Name is more than happy to work with him.” Seriously? A Hungarian master. I asked, and she said, “Yes, he is from Hungary, he has been in Israel about 8 years now.” What are the chances?  Then the lady said, with a smile, “Not everyone has to become an Olympic or Maccabiah champion to find joy in fencing. I’m sure they’ll both like it.”

Then she handed me a shopping list.

To be honest, winning the Olympics does seem to involve a lot of joy!

9 years already?


Wow. Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix was published 9 years ago.

Why do I remember it? Because that was the day my sons Justin and Matthew were born. They are the only two of my children who have been my children since birth. They are the only ones I can really tell what the day and the night when they were born was like. Kevin had that experience with Craig, too, and I love listening to the two of them talk about that morning. I also like to tell them the story of their births and how everyone was speculating about the book on the labour and delivery floor. They always giggle at that. I keep telling them that 5 million people had been waiting for their day of their birth. That always gets me the biggest smiles, especially since they do get the joke.

So today they turn 9. Twice. That’s 18 candles on two cakes. Matthew asked for home made Texas sheet cake. Bella decorated it with chocolate LEGO figures. Justin really wanted an Angry Birds cake, and really didn’t care what it tasted like. We got a special bakery made Hungarian style punch cake for him, with real marzipan birds and pigs. Marzipan pigs are kosher, by the way. 😉

The boys got the best ever gift: a little sail boating, courtesy of Kevin’s colleague!

Happy birthday, boys!

The Most Refreshing Drink Ever


Cucumber Water

I thought cucumber water was so 2011, but apparently it’s still trendy. And this post is, no matter what you think after the next paragraph, is about cucumber water.

Today is Lag B’Omer, and as such, a school holiday for the kids. They came to celebrate the day with us, and so far so good, there are no burn injuries and everyone’s eyebrows are intact. That is not something I could say last year.  Some of the kids stayed last night, some went home after the bonfire Kevin took them to. Among those, who went home was my TV Paprika and other food channel addict son, Matthew. Around midnight he saw a program that shared the recipe of cucumber water, and he remembered that I used to make it last summer, so he decided that he’ll make some for today. He did all the chopping, mixing, filtering, pouring, refrigerating, and ice cube adding all by himself. He didn’t even forget the mint, but when I tasted the most refreshing drink ever, I suspected he added some secret ingredient, possibly lemon? It had a strange, tangly sour flavour to it. Kind of like… pickles.

Yes. My sweet little boy made cucumber water from pickles. 🙂 We had a good laugh about it, and threw away his water bottle–no way I can ever get the vinegar and dill smell out of it, and had ice cold Coca Cola instead. It was refreshing enough.

Things my kids say


The other day we were over at my sister’s for Craig’s birthday. We discussing Megasztár, a Hungarian singing talent show. My brother-in-law commented that all the male singers seemed to be metrosexual. Matthew asked what metrosexual meant. Justin replied “You know, someone who loves public transportation.”

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