Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Sunday Book Review: Two (I Mean Three) Memoirs

Product DetailsI've just finished reading "Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)" by Jenny Lawson, and if you want to laugh your head off, read it. (new, under $9 from Amazon).

The only time I remember laughing harder was when I read the second volume of her memoirs, "Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things" (new, under $11 at Amazon.

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Why did I read the second volume first? Because I found it on sale in an airport bookstore, so I read it, embarrassing myself as I chortled and chuckled and howled with laughter on my ride home. So then I looked for the first one. It isn't as funny, but you still might want to read it first. Nah, forget the first one, just go ahead and read "Furiously Happy." Really.

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Meanwhile, I've been reading Gloria Steinem's "My Life on the Road," which hasn't left me in stitches with laughter, but has been considerably more edifying and enlightening (new, just under $11 at Amazon). And it also isn't full of the f-bomb and other vulgarities which, although sometimes hilarious, did detract from my enjoyment of the two Lawson books.

But I do recommend all three.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Fiction Friday: Stranger Than Fiction

Yep, I give in: I have nothing stranger to write about today than the fact that our country has just inaugurated a new president, a joke, a clown, a laughingstock who has made our whole country into an international laughingstock.

But there's this: Best Protest Signs from DJT Inauguration

I tried to post a couple of the photos here, but can't make it work. So do follow the link to see them.

It's a good reminder that we're not alone.

And is anyone else as sick as I am of photos of that usurper's face? I would like to see, from now on, only photos of the back of his head, his whole body, as he is leaving.

Again, I tried to post a photo showing what I mean, but I wasn't able to. But you can check out this Vanity Fair article about the history of his hair.

And this article about how his hair got this way: "A hairdresser explains why Donald Trump's hair looks like that."

One more try with the photo of the back of his head (from Slate): 

Image result for trump back of head

Know Where You Stand

Check out this great article, the best summary and explanation I've seen of how our country got to this deplorable place, where we are today, with the inauguration of a man who is unworthy in every way to hold the office of president.

The author goes all the way back to the Republicans' so-called Southern strategy, which spoke to the racism of white folks and was a response to the social unrest of the 1960's, which was itself a cry for justice for all people of the U.S. and defined the core values of the Democratic Party.

And then he gets to the present day, the situation we're in because those same Republicans who have supported racism and elitism and wealthy people for-almost-ever, have broken all the rules of a civil government in order to elect a lying, misogynistic, clown.

And this section, showing exactly where we stand now that this creature is in office:

Transition to the Presidency
So, yeah, I'm marching. And calling my senators and representatives. And more. And will keep doing it. Now is not the time to stop paying attention. Sure, I didn't watch any of the inauguration stuff today, and won't. But I'm paying attention. And I hope all of you are, too.

(Thanks to Neva for sending me this link!)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Brexit and the Election of DJT

Dear Madame L,

Can you please explain what Brexit is and what it has to do with the election of Donald Trump?

Thanks in advance,


Dear Friend,

Thanks for asking --- and what a hard question to answer! I'm sure you know what Brexit is, just wondering how it happened. But let's start with this definition, from Investopedia:

"Brexit is an abbreviation for "British exit," which refers to the June 23, 2016, referendum whereby British citizens voted to exit the European Union. The referendum roiled global markets, including currencies, causing the British pound to fall to its lowest level in decades."

More from Investopedia:

"Supporters of Brexit based their opinions on a variety of factors, from the global competitiveness of British businesses to the European debt crisis to concerns about immigration. Britain had already opted out of the European Union's monetary union – meaning that it uses the pound instead of the euro –  and the Schengen Area, meaning that it does not share open borders with a number of other European nations. "Out" campaigners argued that Brussels' bureaucracy is a drag on the British economy and that European Union laws and regulations threaten British sovereignty."
If this seems biased, you may want to check out other online sources. Here's an article from CNN, "5 reasons why Americans should care about Brexit."

Briefly, the one advantage to Americans of the Brexit vote is that it will be cheaper to travel to England. Wahoo.

The other four reasons why we should be interested in the Brexit vote are that it could hurt the American economy, leave a less stable Europe, strain the "special relationship" between the U.S. and the U.K., and give Trump an excuse to "go full throttle on his immigration ideas."

And thus, we have gotten to Brexit and the 2016 electoral disaster in the U.S. And here's what Brexit had to do with the election of DJT:

The same forces behind Brexit, mainly xenophobia and economic worries, are behind the support for DJT in the 2016 election.

Xenophobia, or fear of "the other," rightly happens to be Dictionary com's word of this year. It's a form of racism. It makes people from other countries, in this context meaning refugees and others from countries with mostly brown-skinned people, dangerous.

And it's related to the supposed economic worries, because of course the xenophobes are worried that these darker-then-them strangers are going to take their jobs. And it's profoundly anti-democratic and un-American.

These racist and xenophobic ideas are cropping up all over the Western world lately, bringing Nazi and neo-Nazi candidates to the forefront in elections in France, Germany, and Italy. And of course it's behind DJT's anti-immigration rhetoric.

Maybe all of this is just the normal and to-be-expected swing of the pendulum from the liberal and progressive direction it has seemed to be headed back in the opposite direction. Even it that's "all" it is, it is deplorable.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Weird Word of the Week: Freeping

It's a great word for a deplorable tactic. I found this word in an article, "The One-Star Blitz on Megyn Kelly's Book and the Weaponization of Amazon Blurbs." 

Silly me, I thought this article would be about how wishy-washy liberal Commie pinkos were giving one-star reviews to Ms. Kelly's "Settle for More."

But in fact it's about how right-wing trolls and know-nothings are giving one-star reviews to it, with such comments as, "Wow get over yourself. Your not that good! … Your treatment of Newt and Trump was inexcusable.”

The Slate article defines "freeping" as "a sleight-of-hand that depends on brute force. It originated on the right, which makes sense given its most prominent uses so far: howling about diversity in science fiction, mutinying against lady Ghostbusters, rallying around Trump."

Monday, January 4, 2016

Retire at 30?

Sure, why not?

I found a great article at Vox/com by Pete Adeney, AKA Mr. Money Mustache, about how to retire at age 30. Of course, his case was different from many people's, since I think being a software engineer might give one a better chance of earning and saving up enough money to retire after 10 years in that career.

He says it's simple, though not easy: "...just spend much less than you earn and pour the difference into efficient index funds. When your collection of investments reaches 25 times your annual spending, you're done."

Yeah. Right.

Yet his advice in this column is interesting and, I think, generally good. So I went to his own blog and read some more, and I was even more impressed.

I especially liked reading his thoughts about why we, people in general, work. What do we get out of it? And, by the way, why is money so important to us? Check out this post, "Get Rich With the Position of Strength." It's fascinating, and I guess I like it so much because it fits in with my own thoughts on all these issues.

Turns out it's not the money itself, but the ability that money gives us to have some power or control over our own lives, the strength it gives us. Makes sense, right? And that's why, Mr. Money Mustache says,  it's so valuable to retire early---or not actually retire, because who really wants to spend their waning years plopped in front of a TV set or playing golf with a bunch of geezers? No, retirement in that old sense is out, am I right? The way to retire is to use your freed-up time, your power, to do some good for people. So, if you're LDS, you might go on a mission. (Or not. Your choice. Don't let some visiting authority or local leader tell you that's what you need to do!) 

But what I really liked about this post were the ideas about strength. For instance:
  • Giving is a form of strength. When you say, “I have more than I need, and thus my desire to take should fade away as my desire to help out grows”.
  • Taking is therefore a form of weakness. On the playground, Luxury maintains just a little more desire to take,  which competes with his desire to give. Meanwhile, Mr. Abundance is always working on needing less. The “taking” weakness continues to shrink, allowing him to invest more in his “giving” strength.
  • Health is a form of strength. With health comes a clearer mind, more energy, a greater range of options and comfort zones, and a longer time alive to enjoy the offerings and mysteries of this planet. Life can dish you a blow, and you can get up and get back to work.
  • Physical Strength is the part of health that is mostly ignored in the United States, yet it is the most useful and efficient component. Sure, aerobics and bicycling can keep the worst effects of early decay at bay, but lifting heavy old-fashioned barbells and dumbells is a much faster and more thorough way to keep all of your systems in working order and create a foundation for the rest of your life’s strength.
  • Skills are a form of strength....
And so on.

Here's another blog post by Mr. Money Mustache, about nutrition and weight-loss. It's full of good, true, useful information. What do you eat for breakfast most days? Because if it's a slice of toast or a bowl of cereal, no wonder you're hungry an hour or two later! Which we all know, right? Just need to remind ourselves sometimes of these fact.  (And stop paying attention to Dr. Oz and all those idiotic women's magazine headlines.)

Anyone who follows these links, please let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Let America Be America Again"

This great poem by Langston Hughes, written in 1935 and first published in 1936 in Esquire Magazine, still resonates. Check out this video:

This stanza says why we need to keep working on America:
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
And here's the entire poem:
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!