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Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead: A review

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  It is the 1960s in Harlem and Ray Carney is a furniture store owner there. He also has a side business as a fence. People bring him stolen goods and he either buys and sells them or passes them on to others who will. At one point, in a conversation with another character named Pepper he describes himself as an entrepreneur. Pepper replies, "That's just a hustler who pays taxes." Ray is a family man. When we meet him, he has a wife and daughter and another child on the way. They are his incentive to maintain respectability and legitimacy. He is, in fact, considered a man of standing in the community. But there is another influence that keeps pulling him in the opposite direction. His name is Freddie.  Freddie is Ray's cousin and he is the one who gets Ray involved in all kinds of illegal schemes and heists. The book is divided into three sections; one is set in 1959, one in 1961, and one in 1964. The first one details the major heist of a hotel that Freddie sucks his

Poetry Sunday: Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas

This is likely Dylan Thomas's most famous poem. It's the one that most people could probably name as a Thomas poem. It was dedicated to the poet's father, but in a larger context, it is addressed to all who face death. In other words, all of us.  Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. And

This week in birds - #479

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  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Black-Necked Stilt and Great-tailed Grackle photographed at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. *~*~*~* We hear so much in this country every day about people who do not trust science and who deny even the basic tenets of science. Consequently, I found the results of this survey particularly heartening. It seems that trust in science internationally has increased by about ten points since 2018. *~*~*~* Anthropogenic climate change is such a monumental problem that it is easy to feel hopeless about it. After all, what can one person do? Well, according to The Revelator, it is actually possible for individuals to take positive actions on their own. They have suggestions for a 30-day climate action plan.    *~*~*~* And here's an ecologist who believes that. He says that fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity starts at home. One way to start is to get rid of the lawn. *~*~*~* California has plans to launc

The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James: A review

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  My husband actually owned this book before we got married and for all these years since it has languished on our bookshelves. I've always been curious about it and intended to read it. I decided that 2021 would finally be that year. It has taken me months, reading just a little bit at a time because that's all I could take before my eyes started to glaze over. To say that reading it was tedious would be a vast understatement. The book was published in 1902 and was based on lectures that James gave in 1901-02 at the University of Edinburgh. No doubt the lectures were crafted for students of psychology at the university. They seem designed to emphasize the erudition of the lecturer who never uses one word when twenty will suffice and never uses a single syllable word if one with multiple syllables is available. The author also quotes extensively from other writers. Sometimes these quotes go on for pages, as do many of the footnotes. I think I am a fairly patient reader but my s

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich: A review

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  Acclaimed author Louise Erdrich who is also the owner of an independent bookstore called Birchbark Books & Native Arts in Minnesota has given us a new book that features an acclaimed writer named Louise who has an unnamed independent bookstore in Minneapolis. The book's Louise, however, is not the central character in the new book; that role belongs to an Ojibwe woman called Tookie. Tookie had led a checkered life prior to her employment at the bookstore. In response to a friend's request, she had stolen the corpse of the woman's boyfriend, wrapped it in a tarp, and taken it across state lines to deliver it to another friend. It was a stupid but not evil thing to do. She was trying to help out a friend. What she didn't know was that the "friend" had duct-taped crack cocaine under the armpits of the man. Unlucky Tookie is found out and arrested by a tribal policeman. She is indicted and found guilty and sentenced to 60 years. After ten years, Tookie's

Poetry Sunday: Perhaps the World Ends Here by Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo is currently serving her second term as the country's poet laureate. She is the first Native American to be poet laureate. She is a member of the Muscogee Nation. In this poem, she gives us an appreciation of the humble kitchen table. It serves so many functions in our lives and perhaps the world even begins and ends there. Perhaps the World Ends Here by Joy Harjo     The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live. The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on. We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it. It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women. At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers. Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourse

This week in birds - #478

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 A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Cedar Waxwings have reportedly been seen in the area already, although it is a bit earlier than I normally see them here. I took this picture last year. I always look forward to their arrival. They are a most welcome winter visitor. *~*~*~* Nature itself is our best defense against runaway increases in greenhouse emissions and encouraging and working to conserve biodiversity in the landscape is the best way for us to assist Nature in this important work. Here are some ways for us to best accomplish that. *~*~*~* Apparently, right-wingers are beginning to acknowledge that there might just possibly be something called climate change going on but they are now pairing this acknowledgment of possible ecological disaster with their fears of immigrants . This narrative is finding its way into mainstream politics. *~*~*~* New legislation in Britain will require that all new buildings there have a charging point for electric veh