This book just changed my life, and I am not even a writer. It is like how getting a driving licence makes you a better pedestrian, more conscious andThis book just changed my life, and I am not even a writer. It is like how getting a driving licence makes you a better pedestrian, more conscious and responsible. So is the effect of Stein on Writing - if it won't make you a better writer, it will make you a more conscious reader. What he does is expose the tricks and techniques a writer uses and in a manner so straight forward and unapologetic, it is vulgar. Or at least this is how I perceived it. He is putting them out like raw meat (that maybe the more skilled could turn into some fusion cuisine).
Indeed there is something repulsive about this book. Besides the smug tone of the author, what worries readers and wannabe writers is that there are such dos and don'ts that seem to stifle creativity and innovation. According to Stein, though, they are the key to improving your craft and one day you'll thank him.
In my book, there is a profound deference between breaking the rules because of ignorance and breaking them knowingly. Like in "Fuck it, I'll leave the two adjectives even though he said I should remove one". It's a choice. And incidentally, I am reading a novel that defies most of Stein's recommendations - The Physics of Sorrow. It is fragmented, doesn't need a villain, there isn't really tension or suspense, and still is a great book. ...more
OK… This book is not as bad as "It" by Alexa Chung and not as good as "Luella’s Guide To English Style" by Luella Bartley. (The latter I consider a maOK… This book is not as bad as "It" by Alexa Chung and not as good as "Luella’s Guide To English Style" by Luella Bartley. (The latter I consider a masterpiece in the genre, even more so after reading the other ones.) We shouldn’t be very harsh when approaching these kinds of books. After all we are looking for a light, undemanding read and something visually pleasurable. We should approach with the right set of expectations. If you enjoy it and don’t have the feeling you are losing you time, it’s ok. And truly, the first half is cool in the fashion dedicated pages and entertaining in the comparisons between parties in Paris and in New York and how it is at fashion week. (I haven’t read Doré’s blog previously, so I didn’t mind if that was already published – it was all new to me.) By the end however it gets annoying. I didn’t like that cheeky way of talking to the reader, and I didn’t really care about her love life, the light-hearted stuff bordered with the infantile, and the interviews were straight dull. What is more, the personal bits that she shares are so safe, it is as bad as a presidential autobiography. ...more
As Byrne’s lyrics are characterized with slightly removed “anthropologist from Mars” view of human relationships, the same can be said about his generAs Byrne’s lyrics are characterized with slightly removed “anthropologist from Mars” view of human relationships, the same can be said about his general view on music. He is impartial, open-minded, analytical and very much down to earth. Unlike many musicians (ironically mostly the dullest pop singers) who tend to talk about music as if it is nuclear physics, or something so spiritual that is virtually incomprehensible to a non-musician; the craziest, far-fetched metaphors cannot begin to describe the process of making music. No. Byrne is refreshingly unpretentious and a living proof that the more you know about music, the less snobbish you are.
How to Age explores the preconceptions of and prejudices against old age and is concerned with the social aspects (historical, economic, cultural). ThHow to Age explores the preconceptions of and prejudices against old age and is concerned with the social aspects (historical, economic, cultural). The author explains how we got to where we are in terms of assumptions as a society. I was expecting the advice section (influenced by another book from the School of Life series I just finished) but it never came. The pieces of advice are there but they are very subtle and spread throughout. Overall How to Age is an intelligent and informative read that offers a healthy change of perspective. The main point it argues - Aging is a process, and not a crisis.
This sanity thing demands effort and time. One should reflect, keep a diary, invest in relationships..., do excersises with their partner, do physicalThis sanity thing demands effort and time. One should reflect, keep a diary, invest in relationships..., do excersises with their partner, do physical excersises, pick up new hobbies thus keep learning new things. Honestly, who has the time? “If you don’t use it you lose it” and “If we do not grow we shrink” are depressing thoughts on a certain level because there are so many things to work on. The day is not long enough to work only on the body, what is left for the intellect, not to mention the 8-hour workday and the overwhelming load of errands. The exercises described in the end of the book are the type of eastern focused attention techniques - on the breathing, on your thoughts, on the mundane things we do (washing dishes, taking a bath, etc.) - and very similar to the relaxation techniques that the yoga practices end up with.
I say the above without any negative connotations. Of course you have to work for the things that are precious. This book is in a way in the category of the self-help books or how-to books but it doesn’t offer quick solutions. It lacks the American “everyone can do it”, “everybody can succeed”. As Alain de Botton put it (most likely he was quoting someone else) “Life is cheerful is the devil’s talk”.
Conscious, curious and in good company seem to be the keys to a sane and probably happy life, but I want to focus more on the last chapter of the book which is called What’s the story? and is concerned with the patterns we have adopted to deal with different situations, the filters through which we look at the world. Sometimes those patterns serve us well, sometimes they lead us to a self-defeating behavior. We can brake those patterns when they don’t work in our best interest and edit our story. When thinking about this, a scene came into my mind – one of the most impressive scenes from an overall impressive movie – The Great Beauty. Rome’s intellectuals are sitting drinking on a rooftop discussing art and life. A beautiful mature woman is telling the story of her success. The main character Jeb is irritated by her arrogance and decides to put her down in front of their friends. He tells the same story, but it is glamorous no more. “Stefania, mother and woman, you’re 53 with a life in tatters like the rest of us. Instead of acting superior and treating us with contempt, you should look at us with affection. We’re all on the brink of despair. All we can do is look each other in the face, keep each other company, joke a little. Don’t you agree?"
This is enjoyable to browse though and a lovely birthday present, which it was for me.
I like Alexa Chung as there is nothing not to like. I know she iThis is enjoyable to browse though and a lovely birthday present, which it was for me.
I like Alexa Chung as there is nothing not to like. I know she is always on top of the best-dressed lists and it would be fun to see how she developed her style. IT tries to indulge into that but quite superficially. The pictures in the book and the subjects, I found somewhat random. There is no concept of it all and it’s like I’m going through Alexa’s tumblr page. If there is anything I will steal from this book, it will be wearing red lipstick when flying. I liked the idea of a glamorous look at the airport.
Out of more than 6000 books that have been written about Lincoln (more than the books about all the other presidents combined), this is the first forOut of more than 6000 books that have been written about Lincoln (more than the books about all the other presidents combined), this is the first for me. For that universal and everlasting fascination we can look for explanations on many levels. First is this American notion that you can do anything, which Lincoln exemplified by overcoming several handicaps. One being his very limited education. He went to school for a year but turned himself, according to many, into the best writer to ever occupy the White House. He also suffered from clinical depression and talked about suicide, although Doris Kearns Goodwin does not find evidence that he was unstable during his presidency. Especially considering the pressure and stress of the job. He had his fair share of failures in his personal live, business initiatives and elections but still he is the one that defined success as “going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
More importantly, I think what attracts people to study his live and work both as historians and as layman readers is the curious fact that merely reading about the man somehow makes us better human beings. I am not considering at all his political genius and the significance of the consequences of such acts as the preservation of the Union, the emancipation proclamation and others less popular deeds. I am thinking only in terms of personality. Compassionate, wise, just but most of all capable of disciplining the lower human instincts inherent to the ego as pride, vengeance, jealousy or rancour. And we find multiple examples in the book of his ability to transcend personal vendetta, humiliation, or bitterness. On several occasions, I asked myself if I would act in such generous manner but it is not the isolated act that counts – it is the consistency. You don’t become a man like that upon decision. It must be a cultivated quality.
I believe that we should judge history and its heroes by the standards of their respective time and not necessarily by our own. But Lincoln passes the test of our time on most levels.
“Washington was a typical American. Napoleon was a typical Frenchman, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country—bigger than all the Presidents together.”
, said Tolstoy and continued,
“We are still too near to his greatness,” Tolstoy concluded, “but after a few centuries more our posterity will find him considerably bigger than we do. His genius is still too strong and too powerful for the common understanding, just as the sun is too hot when its light beams directly on us.”
Interesting because of the subject itself, but I found it chaotic and fragmented and by the last chapter – enraging. After this book, I officially disInteresting because of the subject itself, but I found it chaotic and fragmented and by the last chapter – enraging. After this book, I officially dislike Mr. Johnson on a personal level, and distrust him as a historian. He makes bizarre value judgements and throws opinions as facts. If his evaluations of events I have opinion on are so absurd, even horrifying, I find it hard to respect his views on the subjects I know nothing or little about. He has been on the wrong side of history far too many times. He is talking affectionately about Reagan, George W. Bush and destroys Jimmy Carter (one of the reasons – he wore sweaters in the White House). He has “defended Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal, finding his cover-up considerably less heinous than Bill Clinton's perjury”; professed himself unimpressed by Nelson Mandela, and...
"And I like that lady—Sarah Palin. She's great. I like the cut of her jib." The former governor of Alaska, he says, "is in the good tradition of America, which this awful political correctness business goes against." Plus: "She's got courage. That's very important in politics. You can have all the right ideas and the ability to express them. But if you haven't got guts, if you haven't got courage the way Margaret Thatcher had courage—and Reagan, come to think of it. Your last president had courage too—if you haven't got courage, all the other virtues are no good at all. It's the central virtue."
Ross King’s Brunelleschi’s Dome offers a profound understanding of Renaissance Florence. It focuses on a single event – the construction of the dome oRoss King’s Brunelleschi’s Dome offers a profound understanding of Renaissance Florence. It focuses on a single event – the construction of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, however through it is revealed a larger picture of the morals, customs, dynamics of society, the atmosphere and the state of the art during this particular time frame. Along with the details on the construction, many peculiar, entertaining and sometimes outrageous stories are intertwined in the narrative and namely those I found immensely fascinating. Very skilfully Ross King transports the reader to one of the most prosperous cities in Europe by the early 1400s, lets him walk the streets of Florence among artists, artisans, philanthropists, members of the guilds and allows him to witness decisions of public interest being made, rivalries between artists, political feuds, wars, and plagues. In this way, we can see what was known in the world of architecture, engineering, sculpture, warfare, etc. by that point and appreciate the innovative steps. I read the book before my trip to Florence and reread most of it after I came back. Now I value it even more.
A couple of people here said that the most fascinating historical period, in this book is presented in a dry and unexciting manner. “He takes a very eA couple of people here said that the most fascinating historical period, in this book is presented in a dry and unexciting manner. “He takes a very exciting and interesting historical era and makes it snooze.“ “Johnson offers an unimaginative and superficial history, with insidious signs of haste.” My eyebrows shot up. I only dream at school they thought us of the Renaissance this boring. I found it well written, engaging and with some insight. Organizing the themes by chapters is apt and convenient. I particularly enjoyed Part 2 The Renaissance in Literature and Scholarship. The influence of Dante and Chaucer, Boccaccio and Petrarch, Machiavelli and Erasmus to the advancement of culture and society is well explained and illuminated. Perhaps if I had read that at school I wouldn’t hate Dante’s Inferno so much. The biggest merit of it though is the selection of events and characters to be presented. I am sure thousands of PhD thesis and millions of pages are written on each of the names mentioned here and to choose what to include and leave out demands critical thinking and discipline. Overall, it is a good book for what it is and helped a lot for making my trip to Florence more meaningful.
Having said that, I’ll admit I have some concerns in connection to Mr. Johnson body of work. He has written books on Churchill, the Jews, Christianity, Socrates, Napoleon, George Washington, Darwin, Stalin, Ireland, Egypt, the papacy, to mention just a few. People usually dedicate their lives to one historical period and this guy is all over the place. My suspicions were justified in the next book of his that I've read - Heroes: From Alexander the Great & Julius Caesar to Churchill & de Gaulle, in which he makes bizarre value judgements and throws opinions as facts.
“One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been”, begins The Power Broker. And it ends with a question. A bitter question in th “One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been”, begins The Power Broker. And it ends with a question. A bitter question in the minds of Moses’ disciples - “RM was right as usual. Couldn’t people see what he has done? Why weren’t they grateful?” In-between there is the whole life of a complicated individual, his highs and lows in terms of morals, achievement, power, reputation, creativeness. An individual so influential that his personal/professional ventures are intertwined with those of a city. Robert Moses reigned New York for 44 years – from 1924 to 1968. The Power Broker came out in 1974 – a time when NYC was falling and failing on a massive scale. “Dirty, dangerous, and destitute. This was New York City in the 1970s. … Economically, stagnation coupled with inflation created a sense of malaise. The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 delivered another blow to the U.S. economy, and brought the misery of long lines to buy gasoline. Conditions in Harlem and Bed-Stuy were horrendous, with abandoned buildings and widespread poverty. The subways were covered everywhere with ugly graffiti and they were unreliable. It seemed as if the entire infrastructure was in decay. Political corruption, sloppy accounting, and the cost of the war were killing the city. Times Square, the crossroads of the world, was seedy and sleazy. Pimps, hookers, and drug dealers owned the night there. Crime was rampant, and the police were powerless to stop it. Random killings by the “Son of Sam” made New Yorkers even more fearful. The parks were in decay, with litter and bare lawns, and it was home to muggers and rapists. When the proud City of New York had to beg the Federal Government for a financial bail-out, the President said no. The Daily News headline said it all: “Ford to City – Drop Dead”.
“The 1970s are regarded by some as New York's nadir. The city had become notorious the world over for high rates of crime and other social disorders.”, says Wikipedia.
… You know there is a ten year delay in the Soviet Union for the delivery of an automobile. And only one out of seven families in the Soviet Union own… You know there is a ten year delay in the Soviet Union for the delivery of an automobile. And only one out of seven families in the Soviet Union own automobiles. There is a 10 year wait, and you go through quite a process when you are ready to by, and then you put up the money in advance. This man laid down the money, and the fellow in charge said to him: Come back in 10 years and get your car. The man answered: Morning or afternoon?
(big pause for laughter)
And the fellow behind the counter said: Ten years from now, what difference does it make? And he said: Well, the plumber is coming in the morning.
Throughout this book, I was thinking of bits and pieces from my childhood under the Regime. I have to admit it was nice to hear of Sofia and Bulgaria (not so nice to hear of Georgi Dimitrov) being mentioned as we are so often left out of world history. At times though I was picturing the famous Thatcher - Reagan dance viewing it as the other extreme. Godless communism vs. ruthless capitalism. Stalin’s quote “When we hang the capitalists they will sell us the rope we use" sums it up perfectly.