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Showing posts from 2021

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

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My favorite holiday of the year is here! I have a lot to be thankful for but near the top of my list is you, dear reader. Thank you for reading the blog this year and for being a part of the conversation. My fondest hope is that that will continue.

The Promise by Damon Galgut: A review

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  Can I share a shameful secret with you? I don't think I had ever heard of Damon Galgut before he won the Booker Prize for fiction with this book. If I had heard his name mentioned or seen it in print, it obviously did not register with me for I'd forgotten it. But he has actually published eleven novels beginning in 1983 when he was only seventeen. His works have been highly praised and some have won prizes and he had previously been shortlisted for the Booker in 2003 and 2010. He is also a playwright. His writing documents life in his native South Africa both during apartheid and after it was abolished. This current novel details the experiences and actions of the Swart family who live on a farm outside Pretoria. There are three adult children. It begins during the apartheid period and stretches all the way to the present. When we meet the family, their mother has died and they gather for her funeral. Before she died, she extracted a promise from her husband that he would si

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles: A review

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  Amor Towles' latest features two young brothers, an older teenager and a pre-teen, who set out from Nebraska to go to San Francisco where the younger brother has hopes of finding their mother who left them years earlier. Their father has recently died and their home, a farm, is being foreclosed by the bank which holds the mortgage. They have to go somewhere and San Francisco seems like a good option. It is June 1954 and eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson has just been driven home by the warden of the work farm where he was sentenced after being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. His sentence has been reduced because of his father's death and the fact that his eight-year-old brother, Billy, has no other family to care for him. Emmett has a 1948 Studebaker Land Cruiser that he had bought with wages earned as a carpenter before being sentenced. His plan was to take his brother and head to Texas where he thought there would be work for a carpenter and he could support the two

Poetry Sunday: When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple by Jenny Joseph

I have to admit that purple has long been a favorite color of mine and I frequently wore it even before I became an old woman. As for the red hat, well, I'm not really into hats so much but if I wore one it would definitely be red. So, you could say I've been practicing at being an old woman for quite some time now. I should be really good at it by now. Perhaps I've already made up "for the sobriety of my youth."  When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple by Jenny Joseph   When I am an old woman I shall wear purple With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me. And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter. I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells And run my stick along the public railings And make up for the sobriety of my youth. I shall go out in my slippers in the rain And pick flowers in other people's gardens

This week in birds - #477

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  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A Tufted Titmouse stops by my little fountain for a drink and maybe a quick bath.  *~*~*~* COP26 wrapped up with an agreement signed by almost 200 countries that would intensify global efforts to fight climate change. Many activists were disappointed that the agreement was not more forceful in setting higher goals for countries to reach, but looking on the brighter side, at least it established a clear consensus that more is needed from those countries. *~*~*~* The success of COP26 will in large part depend upon whether certain powerful countries like the United States, China, and India that are major emitters of greenhouse gases actually live up to their promises . *~*~*~* Satellite data reveals that the deforestation of Brazil's Amazon rainforest rose by nearly 22 percent over the past year. It was the worst loss of any year since 2006. Many blame the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro.  *~*~*~* In some better

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves: A review

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  I had seen the "Shetland" series on television but had never read any of the books, even though I am a big fan of Ann Cleeves' writing. So I decided to remedy that starting with the first book in the series. It was a creditable beginning. Raven Black takes place in the fictional town of Ravenswick, Shetland, where on New Year's Eve a simpleton loner named Magnus Tait is visited by two teenage girls, Sally Henry and Catherine Ross. When the girls turn up at his door, he invites them in to toast the New Year. The girls then leave but they, especially Catherine, have left a vivid impression on Magnus. A few days later when he's riding a bus, Catherine gets on. When they both start to leave the bus, Catherine offers him her hand to help him down and he invites her in for a cup of tea.  A deep layer of snow covers Ravenswick but the next morning a local artist on her way home sees some bright colors in the distance on the snow and ravens circling around the area. Sh

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy: A review

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  "Don't read Cormac McCarthy," they said. "He's too bloody and violent. You wouldn't like him," they said. And for years I heeded that warning. But finally, this year in thinking about ways to challenge myself with reading, I considered McCarthy again. After all, how bad could he be? How much worse than some of the other bloody stuff I've read? (I'm looking at you, Jo Nesbo.) So, I picked up No Country for Old Men and began to read. What I learned was he's not bad at all. In fact, he's very, very good. Oh, he's bloody enough all right. I quickly lost track of the body count that continued to rise throughout the book. But the violence was never particularly explicit. It was just reported rather matter of factly. You've probably read the book or seen the popular 2007 Coen brothers movie based on the book. There was, of course, a lot of talk about the movie after it came out and especially after it won the Oscar for Best Movie, so

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - November 2021

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And just like that, here we are in November. Where has the year fled? We've been enjoying unusually pleasant (for us) autumn weather here in zone 9a. Cool, sunny days and often quite chilly nights, sometimes dipping into the lower 40s F. And while the garden still looks a bit raggedy around the edges, it, too, has enjoyed this cooler weather with the occasional fall rains. Here's what has survived to bloom this month.   The Encore azaleas have been putting out a few blooms recently. If it's autumn, then of course Esperanza "yellow bells" must be in bloom. A pot of pansies on the patio table, just added for fall and winter color. And I must have my red cyclamen, also for seasonal color. The Cape honeysuckle has been in bloom for several weeks and shows no signs of letting up. Another autumn "must-have" - petunias. Duranta erecta blossoms with their beautiful attendant, a Tiger Swallowtail. These butterflies seem to particularly like these blossoms. I see