Miranda Kerr has been my favorite Victoria's Secret model since almost the start of her career with the retailer, which was why I really wanted to lik...moreMiranda Kerr has been my favorite Victoria's Secret model since almost the start of her career with the retailer, which was why I really wanted to like her book. However, that has proved impossible. This book is yet another in a long line of celebrity publicity pieces in which beautiful, privileged people wax on about the most elemental truths of reality cloaked in new age Chopra-esque feel-goodery nonsense.
For one thing, Miranda Kerr is not a good writer. It's obvious that she is trying, and that she is having a lot of fun sharing her thoughts in this book that reads more like a teenage girl's diary, but that effort and that enthusiasm unfortunately doesn't make up for what the book lacks. For one thing, if a couple paragraphs in a row begin with the same phrase or clause, you know you have a problem. This is an elementary style issue that any good writer would know to avoid, and any good editor would quickly slash out with red ink and fix. I guess not. The fact that the mistake persisted into the ARC makes the writing feel repetitive and clunky, and makes me think it was lazily edited. If edited at all.
For another, there's some really strange phrasing and absurd imagery sprinkled throughout. I'm unfamiliar with the phrase "talk your legs off" when used to describe someone who is particularly chatty. I've heard "talk your ear off" before, but never heard the legs mentioned in this context. Is that an Australian thing? My apologies to the people of Oz if it is. Another such instance that took me right out of the book and had me asking aloud, "What?!" was when Miranda discussed something about positive thoughts being like a seed you plant in your heart. She asks, "If you planted your heart, would it grow?" It was such an absurd moment that I had to stop, push away my incredulity, gather my thoughts, and convince myself to continue.
Another thing I didn't appreciate was her citing of Masaru Emoto's famed water crystal experiment. Pro-tip: just because something is well known doesn't mean it's true and/or valuable insight. For those not familiar, Dr. Emoto claims that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water. He claims that positive changes to water crystals, like whispering words of peace and love and hope, or writing such words on the cylinders, caused distilled water to form beautiful crystals when frozen, and that whispering/writing words of negativity and malice caused ugly, malformed crystal shapes or no crystals at all.
This all sounds lovely, and Miranda certainly explains it in a lovely way. What she neglects to mention is that since Emoto wasn't educated in the scientific community, he has no problem not using the scientific method in his 'experiment.' He doesn't minimize the influence of his personal bias on the outcome of the 'research,' he didn't do any blind tests on the crystals but instead said his own aesthetic sense and character was the most important thing when taking photographs of the crystals, he didn't do a double blind study, sources of error and variation of crystal formation like temperature and humidity were not addressed, the Petri dishes used were not sealed to prevent contamination/disturbance (something as simple as his breath on the crystals when observing them with a microscope can affect the shape), he failed to publish the entirety of his photographs despite being called on to do so, his data in general is suspect since the samples are frozen at -25C, the crystals form at -5C, and yet there are no column crystals in even ONE photograph as there should be given the temperatures, and other scientists have not been able to substantiate his claims, which is the linchpin of the scientific method: that others can reproduce your results.
His ideas are widely believed to be pseudoscience by professionals, and his claims violate basic physics, and in discussing his 'study' the way that she does, Miranda Kerr succeeds only in making herself look incredibly naive and ignorant. It's misleading and disingenuous to attempt to validate Emoto's claims in a book like this. (Or any book.)
After reading through all these basic life truths (be assertive! be grateful! love your family and friends! be positive!), it turns out that the last half of the book is comprised of affirmations written by people like Deepak Chopra (hurl), Louise Hay, Miranda Kerr, and others. They're cute and feel-good-y and vanilla and sparkly, but it's kind of bizarre that more than half the book is made up of pages that feature one quote per page and a drawing of a butterfly.
I did like that some of the chapters end with personal questions, though. They feel almost like journal prompts, and I like that she included those. Also, she included a ton of pictures of herself and her family, and I loved those.
I got this book for free as an ARC, and I did not like it or find much of value in it. Instead, I found it insipid, pseudo-intellectual, and occasionally boring. It was a chore, at times, to get through. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. It struck me as a great example of why some people should not write books - because not everyone has something valuable to say.
I realize this sounds like I'm attacking Miranda Kerr. It is not my intention to do so. She's always been my favorite VS model, and I've always thought she was super cute and lovely. Though I have obvious criticism to aim at the book, I don't have any such criticism to aim at her. Though it might have been a chore at times to get through, every single page of Miranda Kerr's book speaks to the fact that she really does seem to be a very sweet, kind, optimistic, good-hearted person. I truly believe that she believes and practices what she put in this book.
My fascination with North Korea is well known; I've read just about every book on the subject, which was why picking this up was a no-brainer. And the...moreMy fascination with North Korea is well known; I've read just about every book on the subject, which was why picking this up was a no-brainer. And the text did not disappoint.
The author painstakingly walks readers through an exhaustive look at North Korean cultural mythology, and examines the cults of personality built up around Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un. Not only does he examine these cults of personality, he explains why, precisely, it is that they work to sway the masses. He takes the reader on a journey through history, stopping frequently to discuss North Korea's relations with the United States, Russia, and South Korea, and always makes mention of the propaganda that allows North Korea to sell its version of these political narratives to its people. (He adds that the North Korean myth that South Koreans live in poverty and squalor and yearn for reunification under the Great Leader became much harder to sell once North Koreans became aware of the South's wealth in terms of material superiority, so now the myth has become that though South Koreans are wealthy now, they yearn for simple, moral lives and support reunification still. In reality, of course, the majority of South Koreans spare no thought for any of the Kims and are perfectly happy to delay reunification forever.
This is one of the most comprehensive explanations of North Korea's cultural mythology that I have ever come across, and I found it an incredibly interesting and insightful read. The text itself can be kind of dry at times - not as engaging as I'd hoped - but it's important to push through and keep reading, because the author does a great job not only looking at the cultural mythology and successful cults of personality built up in the country's propaganda apparatus, but using that discussion to explain why Pyongyang will never - CAN never - normalize relations with Washington.
I'm sharing some excerpts that I found particularly fascinating:
"...But judging from refugee testimony, North Koreans are no fonder of the solitary activity of reading than South Koreans are. Most get their romance from films and TV dramas, which still depict love in a twee and formulaic manner reminiscent of Bollywood, with girlfriends summoned by bird-call imitations, courtship conducted while bobbing around a tree, and so on. The childishness of the love exalts it. As the DPRK's most influential writer once said of his characters, their "love is permeated with Korean morality, in contrast to the greasy love of Western people." What may look to outsiders like a simple love story is thus as much a part of the Text as anything else."
Though I dispute his wrongful simplicity in describing Bollywood love films (which I'm not really a fan of myself - I prefer classic Indian cinema from the 1950s - but still, even I can tell you that his interpretation of Bollywood courtship is wrong, and betrays a misunderstanding of the Indian culture), I thought the contrast set up between "Korean moral love" and "Western greasy love" was interesting.
About the cult of personality:
"A personality cult comes into being when a one-man dictatorship presents itself as a democracy. The goal is to convey the impression that due to the ruler's unique qualifications and the unanimity of the people's love for him, his rule constitutes the perfect fulfillment of democratic ideals . . . To eliminate all doubt that the Leader's virtues were inborn and not acquired, the Text plays up his impeccable lineage ... and the very young age at which he began manifesting his virtue . . . With very short hair and a soft, pale-moon face marked by small and feminine features, the boy Kim [il Sung] recalls the children pictured in imperial Japanese schoolbooks. Usually he looks cheerful, showing the dimpled smile to which the Text constantly draws attention. In some pictures, like one in which he receives a gun from his mother, he seems to sense the responsibility weighing on his young shoulders, but even here his eyes are blank: because true Korean spontaneity ends where an intellectual expression begins, Kim is never shown thinking."
This was one of the most incredible insights I gleaned from this book. It put everything else I'd learned about North Korea (and its propaganda) into context. No other text had bothered to explain it like this: the Koreans believe they are a superior, clean race. Their leader is the embodiment of that clean race (but on steroids). One of the Korean characteristics is spontaneity, and a childishness born of virtue and naivete that makes them superior beings in this dirty, cruel, brutal world. Because of this, none of its leaders can be seen as intellectuals! The author explains further:
"Stories of Kim's "on-the-spot guidance" are alike not only in their depiction of the hero, but in their storylines and secondary characters as well. The latter usually include a rather slow-witted aide - a different man each time, the better to play up his comic astonishment at the leader's every word and deed. Things usually start off with Kim in an unidentified office. (In contrast to the Stalin cult, with its many paeans to the "light in the Kremlin window," the Text does not associate the leader with any particular residence or workplace; he was and is everywhere, for he is at the heart of every Korean.) The standard plot: the aide reports on a problem in a remote farm or factory, the leader jovially suggests a road trip, and the two men head out in the presidential sedan, throwing everyone into a tizzy when they arrive. The leader must then be shown solving the problem, but without coming off as cerebral and therefore un-Korean. Both problem and solution are thus described in terms a child can grasp."
About how the Dear Leader is often represented hermaphroditically:
"...Just enough should be written to counter the reader's skepticism that sane people could give themselves over to the adoration of a male mother figure. Sigmund Freud wrote of every child's yearning for a phallic mother, a truly omnipotent parent who is both sexes in one, and Ernest Becker agreed that the hermaphroditic image answers a striving for ontological wholeness that is inherent to man. This may explain why Jesus and Buddha are far more feminine and maternal figures in the popular imagination than in the original scriptures of Christianity and Buddhism. THe North Korenas' race theory gives them extra reason to want a leader who is both mother enough to indulge their unique childlikeness and father enough to protect them from the evil world."
About the idea that Kim Jong Il or Kim Jong Un wanted/want America as an ally (basically, repudiation of this idea is the hidden thesis of the book, the light at the end of the tunnel, the realization that dawns on the reader after working his or her way through this entire text):
"The obvious retort to this wishful thinking is to ask how the DPRK could possibly justify its existence after giving up the confrontational anti-Americanism that constitutes its last remaining source of legitimacy. We are dealing here with a failure not just of information analysis but of common sense - a failure to understand that North Korea is one of two states laying claim to the same nation. It must either go on convincing its citizens that it is the better Korea or acknowledge Seoul's right to rule the whole peninsula. This is why it is so futile for the West to promise Pyongyang aid and assistance in return for disarmament. As if the poorer Korea could trade a heroic nationalist mission for mere economic growth without its subjects opting for immediate absorption by the rival state!"
A truly fascinating read that I wish more folks in Washington would pick up.
Many thanks to Edelweiss and Melville House for the ARC!(less)
Tea, Zen Buddhism, flowers, Taoism, art, orientalism, and a relentless mocking of the Western world for its racism and absurd notion of exceptionaism....moreTea, Zen Buddhism, flowers, Taoism, art, orientalism, and a relentless mocking of the Western world for its racism and absurd notion of exceptionaism. Brilliant. (less)
It is quite difficult to give a lengthy, involved review of a cookbook, so instead, I will give you everything you need to know about this book:
Expect...moreIt is quite difficult to give a lengthy, involved review of a cookbook, so instead, I will give you everything you need to know about this book:
Expect lots of inventive recipes. You've probably had Southern/Soul food before ... but you've never had it like this! Who ever had hush puppies with caviar? Almost every recipe has some unexpected ingredient that really takes the whole dish to a new level, but retains the familiarity of a dish that is a time-honored favorite.
As you cook - or try to decide what to cook from this incredible selection! - you'll learn the story of a family, of a culture, of a state, and more. Sections are accompanied by passages written by the authors of their experiences moving from Manhattan to Louisiana, where they started their own restaurant shortly before Hurricane Katrina hit and turned the gulf area into a veritable war zone.
You are in for some amazing pictures. These aren't just your standard 'pictures of food' that you're used to in just about every other cookbook you've encountered - these are pictures that somehow manage to encompass the dish itself, as well as its cultural history in the South.
Southern Comfort is one of those cookbooks that wows dinner guests, tells a story, and is a pleasure to both display and flip through again and again. (I'd recommend getting a physical copy of the book, though. Not only do the pictures take longer than you'd like - ie, longer than an instant - to load on an eReader, but I feel like the impact of the book itself would be much more impressive as an actual, tangible book.)
I give this book a 3.5/5 stars, but I'm rounding up to 4 on GoodReads.(less)
I have been a fan of Jonathan Kozol and his work since I read Savage Inequalities in college, and I was thrilled to be able to review an ARC of his ne...moreI have been a fan of Jonathan Kozol and his work since I read Savage Inequalities in college, and I was thrilled to be able to review an ARC of his newest book, exploring the intersection of race, poverty, and childhood in the South Bronx, illustrated by children and families near and dear to Kozol's heart.
The book, which is a compilation of about a dozen stories, each one focusing on a different child or family, but framed under the general narrative of the effect of poverty and racism on education, is typical of Kozol's style. His writing is clear and at times stark, free of flowery prose, incisive, and utterly effective.
The journey starts out at the Martinique Hotel, a hotel in Midtown that used to house many homeless families before it was shut down in the eighties or nineties as a blight on the affluent City Proper. The early passages reminded me of a story I read in sixth grade that piqued my interest in child poverty in America: Monkey Island by Paula Fox, which made a tremendous impression on me as a child in a small, private school in the Chicago suburbs where I received quite a good education. At the time, I simply couldn't believe that children like Clay Garrity - fictional character that he was - existed in America.
But there are many Clay Garritys in America, and Kozol introduces us to some that he knows quite well. Some of them have prevailed over the incredible odds stacked against them, and some some have not.
Kozol doesn't mince words when he writes about the Martinique. Plagued by drug addicts, criminal activity, vermin, rape, violent and cruel management, and according to one occupant, tension so thick you could cut it with a knife, the Martinique is hell on earth.
He writes of several similar tenements in the city, each with the same problems, used to house the most vulnerable among us, the ones in need of the most care, including many, many children. I cannot adequately describe the horrors there on my own, so I'll simply provide Kozol's words:
I would later spend considerable time in a number of his buildings because so many of the children I was meeting in the Bronx were Mr. Schuster's tenants. There was one building in that complex that I got to know particularly well because I went there several times to interview the family of a child named Bernardo after he'd been killed by falling from an upper floor through an empty elevator shaft. The elevator door wasn't working properly and would open unpredictably even when there was no elevator there. The tenants had complained about the danger many times; but the company refused to make repairs. Bernardo's body landed on the steel roof of the elevator unit, which had stopped four floors beneat his own. He was not found until his blood began to drip on passengers.
Mr. Schuster managed to clean up his image at a later time by making contributions to important Democratic politicians, some of them strong advocates for the very people he had treated with contempt and whose lives he had imperiled - Hillary Clinton, Richard Gephardt, and John Kerry, among others - or by giving parties to raise funds on their behalf, which won him a degree of prominence in Boston's social pages.
Many of the families that Kozol writes about lived at the Martinique for several years before being given an apartment - which they had to accept no matter what the living conditions there were like - and moving out. The years at the Martinique affected these children tremendously, and early on Kozol notes a pattern when he explains that in two different families that had stayed at the Martinique, the older children had developed such harmful destructive tendencies that they had died very young, while the younger, more resilient (and at the time, more oblivious) siblings managed to pull through and survive.
I won't ruin the narratives by attempting to give a succinct account of them in this review; I would do the stories of those families no justice that way. You simply must read the book itself, and be introduced to the families that way rather than through a casual review.
And Kozol truly does introduce us to some spectacular characters, whose determination, ferocity, and even cheerfulness cause them to leap right off the page. Keep in mind that these characters are Black or Hispanic, with a couple exceptions. The reverend at Saint Anne's, for example, is a white woman named Martha who does her community in the South Bronx an incredible service, and seems to be Kozol's partner, a similar driving force, in this narrative.
But the other characters are overwhelmingly minorities, and the race relations that sulk between the lines of Kozol's text should surprise no one. One woman we meet is Ariella, a mother of two young boys who is determined to give them the best she can, and she knows the key to a better life is a good education.
Kozol writes of her activism efforts,
Projects of this nature, and efforts to reach out to influential and supportive sectors in the mainstream of society, have come to be her dedication. She speaks from time to time at universities and colleges. "I spoke at New York University," she told me recently. "The students wanted to find out how anybody could survive on $16,000 in New York, even twenty years ago!" -- which she said "was not the subject I had planned to speak about."
She holds her own effectively with people in the world of academia. "I don't need a Ph.D. to talk about the things I know. I'm not intimidated by professors when they question me. I can handle their linguistics and gymnastics." When they ask her "how to stop the violence" but, she says, "don't want to hear about the way they put our kids in neighborhoods that are most violent already - you know, 'put them in the fire, then tell them to stop burning' - I don't let them throw that at me. I know what an oxymoron is. I'm not afraid to answer.
That passage made me love Ariella even more. This was a woman who became homeless with her two sons because she refused to stay with an alcoholic husband who beat her. Due to cancer, I believe, she couldn't work and had to apply for welfare when she left her husband. She fought tooth and nail to secure the best for her sons through education, and to help her community, and I loved and envied her strength and her clarity of purpose.
But that passage about her standing up to professors who found it so easy to condescend to her about her experiences - I loved that most of all. That made me want to stand up and cheer. The image of a white professor trying to speak FOR people of color, or for those less advantaged, at the expense of their experiences, to interject with his own and erase their struggles and their experiences, is one I'm quite familiar with, and one that still makes me angry. I was so proud of Ariella for being unwilling to put up with that White Nonsense (TM). (White Nonsense refers to white people using ideas and notions of white supremacy to demonize or erase People of Color, or to erase or diminish their experiences and struggles. It's evil and pervasive and damaging to us all.)
Alice, another strong woman we meet in this book, doesn't let Kozol off the hook with his White Nonsense, either.
She was a politically sophisticated woman. When she came upon a story in one of the papers that offended her intelligence, she would cut it out and write her often pungent comments in the margins. Understatements and omissions in the daily press in stories on the homeless and places like the Martinique stirred up her indignation. The organized abuse of women in the building, she believed, would have made front page headlines in the press if those who were the victims were not overwhelmingly [B]lack and Latino. When I was initially reluctant to agree with her, she grew impatient and she said, "Come on! You know they wouldn't tolerate disgusting things like this for women like your mother or your sister!"
It seems pertinent to mention here, for those who are unfamiliar with the man, that Kozol is Jewish, and a white man. (I do not use the word Caucasian, which is built on notions of Aryan superiority. I say 'white' people.)
I couldn't agree more with Alice's remarks. Not only am I glad she 'grew impatient' and said those things to Kozol, but I'm also glad that he chose to recount those words in his book. That woman is absolutely right. Systemic, organized rape-for-protection of white women would NOT be tolerated, but is ignored and excused (by men who think like Kozol seems to have thought, that the race distinction just isn't there) when it happens to women of color. Because Black/Brown life is cheap, in a way that White life isn't.
I know too well the meaning of those words - men, women and children from the country of my parents' births are dying daily in drone strikes. 90% of the victims of drone strikes in Pakistan are innocent civilians, per the Brookings Institute. White life is precious, Black/Brown life is cheap. This is a reality we face every day, but one that too many white people (seemingly, Kozol at one point included) ignore or try to ignore.
When Alice would chide Kozol for his impatience with his mother's impatience with his near-senile father, she would remind him that his mother was elderly and they didn't have much time together, and he'd hate himself every time he remembered something unkind he said to her. Kozol writes,
Friends can give advice like this, intending well but doing harm. Sometimes they don't realize that the kinds of words they use, and the tone that they assume, can be crippling to you; sometimes perhaps they do. Alice was different in this sense. She understood a lot about fragility in people that she cared for. Even when she grew impatient with mistakes she thought her friends were making, she never showed the slightest wish to demonstrate her competence at the cost of someone else's self-respect. This was one of the qualities in Alice for which, in time, I came to be the most grateful.
Alice had quite a sense of humor, too. When commenting on a club employee's strike because they suddenly weren't being paid extra, like they used to, for cleaning the blood/vomit/excrement of party-goers at the Harvard Club on 44th in Manhattan, she said,
"If people who went to Harvard can't control themselves and drink too much," she said, "I think they ought to be grown up enough to clean up their own vomit."
She often spoke as if she was convinced that a persistent self-indulgent immaturity was one of the entitlements of privilege. She noted, for example, when erotic misbehavior by the very rich was granted absolution by the press that would not be given to the men and women in her neighborhood.
"Another millionaire who didn't bother to get married had another baby," she reported to me once in speaking of a well-known real estate tycoon. "I notice that they never say rich children are born 'out of wedlock.' They never say these babies are 'one parent children.' If you're rich, you don't get judged the way poor people do."
In more ways than one. I'm reminded of a political cartoon I see make the rounds every now and then - the gist being that if you're poor and found with drugs, you go to jail; if you're rich and found with drugs, you go to rehab.
Another story from Alice struck me as especially poignant:
Once, on a steamy Sunday afternoon, she showed me a story in the New York Times that said the heat had been especially uncomfortable for the carriage horses, which are popular with tourists in the midtown area. "It wasn't much of a week to be a horse . . .," the paper said. "People, at least, have air-conditioning and friends with pools."
Her reaction to the glibness of this sentence was less bitter than resigned. "I guess that puts me with the horses," she said quietly."
I found this book problematic because in several places - like where he disagreed with Alice about rape being more easily tolerated when WOC were victimized - Kozol showed his own naivete and the unique ignorance that comes with being a white person in regards to race relations (and I'm sure we can agree that when it comes to racial relations, Kozol is no slouch - that's why it's important to highlight that even if a white person really educates himself/herself in these matters, he or she will make mistakes).
He speaks to a young Latina about Barack Obama being president, and probes about us edging closer to a post racial world because of him. Most of my fellow POC, that I know, would laugh themselves hoarse upon hearing this post racial White Nonsense.
"Now we have a president-" but she cut me off- "who," she said, knowing right away where I must be heading, "happens to be [B]lack."
"Doesn't that mean something might be going on?" Something in that "attitude of white superiority [that must be attacked]" she had just described?
"Not really," she replied.
"You don't think it means we're getting closer to a point where we can start to find solutions to at least a couple of the problems you described?" [Huma here: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.]
"Nope," she said. "Because that's not the reason we elected him. And if he did the things he should, a lot of people who elected him, from what I understand, wouldn't be behind him anymore. A lot of people aren't behind him even now, and he hasn't done a thing that I can see that will make a difference to poor children and the schools we have to go to and the places where they almost always put us, you know, in the neighborhoods, not just in New York . . ."
Once she got her teeth into a big and meaty chunk of obvious injustice she'd experienced first hand, Pineapple clearly wasn't going to hold back. "President Obama didn't have to go to inner-city schools. You know? Where everyone is poor? And everyone's Hispanic or everybody's [B]lack? Why does he think it's good enough for other kids, like children in the Bronx?"
This girl gets it. I'm glad she explained it to Kozol. "Post raciality" is a concept White (TM) people love. I use "White (TM)" to mean those people, who happen to be white, who diminish the effects of racism and/or think it is something that can be solved as if it were a simple problem, and not a pervasive social, political, cultural force that has persisted, violently, over centuries. White (TM) people love 'post racial' shit. They're the ones that say things like, "I see no color, we're all the human race!" That statement, of course, does nothing but diminish/erase the harmful effects of racism that POC suffer *daily.* It is not a helpful statement. No POC wants to hear that White Nonsense (TM). (Again, this does not refer to ALL white people. This refers to the douchebags who actually think this way.)
I loved that Kozol chose to write about these little anecdotes in which POC schooled him, however gently, on the vast differences between the reality of a white man and a POC. (Person of Color, if you haven't picked up on the lingo yet.)
Kozol's stories about these children and families he cares for deeply end with the story of his godson, a story I particularly recommend to readers. He saves it for the end, he says, because it's the hardest to write.
Toward the end of the book, Kozol draws us out of the small world he created for us in the South Bronx, and forces us to confront the larger picture, especially in terms of our rhetoric.
THe word "accountability" is very much in fashion now. Children in the inner cities, we are told, must be "held accountable" for their success or failure. But none of these children can be held accountable for choosing where they had been born or where they led their childhood. Nor can they be blamed for the historic failings of their schools. Nor, of course, are any of these children responsible in any way at all for the massive unemployment, and the flight of businesses and industries, that have put so many young men on corners of the streets with no useful purposes within their daily lives. ("Visitors," Martha told me at the time of the recession in 2001, "are asking if the economic crisis has taken a high toll on people in our parish. I tell them that we've always been in a depression in Mott Haven, so it's hard to see a difference.")
This, of course, would be an excellent launch into a discussion of the GOP platform of seeking to ban abortion, even in the case of rape (per the 2012 platform), and then seeking to privatize (gut) Medicare and Social Security and all sorts of other programs for the poor. It would be quite pertinent to point out that the GOP doesn't give a shit about children unless they're unborn, in which case the GOP will fight to the death for those children to be born ... while Mitt Romney quietly makes a profit off aborted fetuses through Bain Capital. (Look up the Stericycle deal.)
But I'm not going to go into that. (Any more than I already did.)
The epilogue strikes the perfect note of weariness and optimism and, above all else, persistence and resilience.
Kozol is talking to Pineapple (a pseudonym for one of the girls in his book) about his work.
I explained that I was simply having trouble finishing my book. I said I wasn't sure how much had changed back in the neighborhood where she and I had met, but I told her I kept going back and forth on this, because I didn't want to end up on a dreary note.
"Jonathan," she said, "I want you to think positive. Lara and I are going to go back and help to change things once we both have our degrees. You know? Make little changes that we can? If lots of people do that, then the changes won't be little anymore."
I said, "I'm going to steal those words."
"Do it!" she said." And she asked if I remembered something that I told her once when we were walking by the water near her parents' home. "You know? Picking battles that we have a chance to win? And not getting frozen up and flustered in your mind by things that are too big for you and me to change, not at least for now. Which isn't any use to anyone at all."
I said, "I think I'll steal those words as well."
"Do it!" she said a second time. "You're the one who said that to me anyway. I'll give it back to you for free."
A riveting, compelling story, clearly written and effectively told. Don't ever expect anything less from Jonathan Kozol.
Note: Kozol mentions a discretionary fund, comprised of donations from readers, that he uses to help the children in this book and many others with things they need. Sometimes this is for health insurance when a child develops a serious illness and needs to wait a semester before going back on a college's health plan. Sometimes it's for food. Sometimes it's for clothes that actually fit. If you'd like to learn more about the fund or help sustain it, contact the Education Action Fund, 16 Lowell Street, Cambridge MA 02138, or email EdActInc@gmail.com.(less)
I am a big fan of cookbooks of any kind: whether they offer traditional recipes for comforting, familiar fare, or branch out with inventive ideas that...moreI am a big fan of cookbooks of any kind: whether they offer traditional recipes for comforting, familiar fare, or branch out with inventive ideas that I've never even thought of, much less attempted before.
Sara Forte hits a unique balance between these two opposing perspectives in "The Sprouted Kitchen," a book born from her blog about whole foods. There are so many amazing recipes - from snacks to entrees to even happy hour - that include ingredients that I wouldn't have ever considered putting together - and I'm not stuck in a rut in the kitchen by any means. She hits up basics like omelettes (who doesn't love eggs in the morning?) and cultural standards like lassi (I'm a Pakistani girl - mango lassi may as well be our national beverage) and yogurt-with-dates (which is very big in Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, and likely has been for centuries), and then surprises you with something like "stacked watermelon with feta and white balsamic" (honestly, I never would have thought to combine watermelon, watercress, and cheese, but I can totally see how it might work).
There are so many recipes in here that I can't wait to try - like the honey mustard broccoli salad, roasted asparagus with breadcrumbs and herbs, grilled peaches with maple creme fraiche, and so much more.
If you're not sure what separates this from, say, finding a hipster food blog and just copy-pasting recipes into a Word document (shudder - both to the hipsters and using anything other than Evernote to organize recipes), let me tell you: the pictures are amazing. Every other page features a gorgeous picture of seriously appetizing food, shot by the author's husband. Not only is this a great cookbook - it's one you'll love to both flip through and display.
Many thanks to Edelweiss and Random House Crown for the ARC!(less)
Being at least somewhat familiar with Joe McGinniss's work as a journalist, I wanted to be sure I read this when it finally came out. I remember readi...moreBeing at least somewhat familiar with Joe McGinniss's work as a journalist, I wanted to be sure I read this when it finally came out. I remember reading celebrity gossip blogs on the day that Joe moved up to Alaska and ended up setting up house right next door to Sarah Palin and her brood. The verdict across the interwebz was pretty much unanimous among the celebrity blogs: Sarah Palin is a twit and a rabid psychopath, but this is just plain creepy and desperate.
Like most casual observers of this incident, I didn't really have all the facts about the move. McGinniss explains early on in this book how he came to rent that house, even though his original plan was to live in Anchorage, a good drive away from Wasilla. He explains how the Palins distorted the situation, claiming that he could look into Piper's window when Piper's bedroom was actually above his living quarters, and how he'd sit there with a camera and spy on them, when he wasn't, and how he was somehow spying on members of the Palin family even when there was no one home at the Palin house. Again, given what I know of McGinniss's other work as a journalist, I am inclined to believe him. I was persuaded by his account of the situation.
That being said, I believe about 80% of what is recorded in this account of Sarah Palin's bizarre political life (the bizarre part being the fact that people take her seriously despite her wildly insane, racist beliefs). To be fair, it's clear that there are things in here that McGinniss himself doesn't seem to believe, but is reporting because that's what he heard, and the contradictory accounts are also provided in those situations.
Why do I believe 80% of what's written here? Because Sarah Palin is a psychopath. She is one of the worst people to have ever been unleashed on the American public, and I include her family in that, too. (But then again, I also believe that we get what we deserve. Our news media is a joke, and so we got a joke in the form of Sarah Palin, and of course the media ran with it. It was shameful.) Furthermore, I heard accounts from friends of friends who lived in Alaska and knew far more about the Palins than the rest of America, and I had a sense of deja vouz over and over in this book because so many of the things Joe McGinniss wrote about were things I'd already heard of from Alaskan friends. (For example, her affair with Todd's former business partner. It should be noted that the day the Enquirer broke that story, which got next to no attention, the man in question filed an emergency motion to seal his divorce records. When McGinniss started talking about the affair, I started skimming a bit because I'd already heard all about it years ago from friends there who said it was pretty common knowledge.)
Also, reading this book made me realize that I always end up with friends in the weirdest places. I literally had a friend right there, on the ground, when the January 25th uprisings started in Cairo, Egypt, in Tahrir Square. I got live updates from her basically around the clock, and was able to talk to her throughout the ordeal. I knew more about what was going on in Egypt, on a very micro-social level, than I had any business knowing as a Midwestern girl in the suburbs of Chicago who has never once left the country. Reading this book and remembering the stories my Alaskan friends told me during Palin's VP run was a very similar experience.
I could talk about the book, which I enjoyed very much and felt was well researched and written in an engaging, familiar, occasionally sardonic manner that is quite typical of McGinniss's work ... Or I could let excerpts speak for themselves. The excerpts I've picked are pretty awesome. Let's move on to them:
This is from when McGinniss moves in next door and everyone flips out because he is obviously some pedophile pervert spying on the Palins and watching Willow and Piper and Bristol undress. Obviously.
In the Washington Post, Dave Weigel quotes me accurately: "Look, this is a pain in the ass for htem. I understand that. If I were her, I'd be upset. I'd be annoyed. But I'd be an adult about it, and I would figure out, okay, how can we resolve this in a way that's not going to make it into something that everybody gets obsessive about?"
Sarah's inability to do that has taught me something important about her: she has no sense of proportion, no ability to modulate her response. She's over the top in all directions: rah-rah cheerleading for those whom she supports, spewing vitriolic condemnation of anyone who challenges her.
This strikes me as a potentially dangerous character flaw in someone seeking a position of national leadership. If this is how she reacts, as a private citizen, to an unwelcome neighbor next door, what would she do as president if the Iranian government suddenly irked her?
This is not an idle question. An unchecked emotional response could cost millions of lives. Such a notion becomes considerably less unthinkable when you consider that Palin herself has said that she believes us to be in the "end-times," awaiting the rapturous return to earth of Jesus Christ, an event she has predicted will occur during her lifetime."
I do not take issue with these Rapture beliefs of hers. That's not the issue at all. But I fully agree with the part I bolded for emphasis. The woman is over the top and it's insanely scary.
I found this passage about the blog culture in relation to politics, especially, and also to things like religion and civil rights, to be quite on point.
I sometimes wonder why anyone bothers to blog. Almost nothing anyone writes ever changes anyone else's mind. Most people who read a blog already agree with the writer's point of view. The others read so they can write quick, nasty comments in response. The whole blogosphere sometimes seems like one vast game of verbal paintball.
The following is written by a woman that I believe Sarah either unseated politically or managed to get fired after she did something Sarah didn't like. The woman survived breast cancer after a radical mastectomy, and Sarah repeatedly laughed loudly when GOP radio shock jocks called her [Green] a cancer on the progress of Alaska.
Green leaves no doubt about her feelings: "Sarah becoming governor was an insult to educated women," she says. "Sarah was a know-nothing idiot who hadn't paid her dues. I think she's utterly without morals, as well as being paranoid and narcissistic."
This is one of many examples in which McGinniss refers to stupid things that Sarah wrote - "wrote" - in her autobiography.
John Wooden has died and Sarah commemorates the passing of the former UCLA basketball coach on Twitter: “You shall be missed dearly, and we shall remember your lessons.”
This brings to mind Sarah’s paean to Wooden’s wisdom as recounted in Going Rogue. “Ever since we were kids, Todd and I have looked at Coach John Wooden as a true hero. His quotes plastered our bulletin boards, school notebooks, and locker doors.” She gives an example: “Our land is everything to us … I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember our grandfathers paid for it – with their lives.”
It’s not clear where Sarah had that particular quote “plastered,” but it is clear that John Wooden never uttered those words. They come from a 1960 essay entitled “Back on the War Ponies,” written by Native American activist John Wooden Legs and reprinted in 2003 in We are the People: Voices from the Other Side of American History.This can happen when your ghostwriter gets careless while Googling inspirational quotes.
HAHAHAHAHAHA. WHAT A FUCKING MORON.
That wasn’t very nice, but I don’t care. All of the mockery in the world isn’t enough for this hateful, proudly stupid woman.
This is a more personal anecdote, and unsupported, but frankly, I believe it. We saw enough evidence of her weird mood shifts on the campaign trail, and on her dumb reality show, even if not to this extent:
Acquaintances were struck by Sarah’s frequent and extreme mood swings. “You never knew what Sarah you were going to meet,” one told me in 2010. “You never knew if it was going to be happy Sarah. It could even be super, super manic-happy Sarah, like if it was a day that she hadn’t eaten in two days and her boobs were sticking out good and her pants were good and tight and she was feeling good and slim and her hair was good. Or you could go all the way to the level of, walk in, look at you, and walk into a room and slam the door. You never knew who you were gonna meet. You never knew. She was a different person every ten minutes.”
I mean, she hid it better than that on the campaign trail and on interviews and press junkets and all, but then again, she was on the job at those times. This is one of those things I’m kind of ehhh about, but then again, it’s just a question of the degree to which it’s true: we saw plenty of evidence to indicate how duplicitous the woman was in her emotions and her moods.
This anecdote is just kind of bizarre.
During her reelection campaign, Sarah no longer hid either the intensity of her religious convictions or her close ties to the Valley’s right-wing evangelicals. Internally, she’d purged city hall of those who she felt were insufficiently Christian and had begun to use her office time to lead staff prayer meetings. A former director of development recalls driving to work one day and seeing a dozen people standing outside the city hall building leaning forward and pressing their hands against the wall. When he asked a receptionist inside what was happening, he was told, “Oh, those are people from Sarah’s church. When they know she’s in the office, they come over to communicate the word of God to her through their hands.
This is partly about that bullshit stadium she had built.
Competence Sarah took a city that had no debt and $4 million in cash reserves and in six years turned it into one that had piled up almost $20 million in long-term debt. During her tenure, the cost of debt service increased 69 percent. She increased the sales tax from 2 to 2.5 percent to pay for the sports arena. While Wasilla’s population grew by 37 percent during her tenure, total government expenditures rose by 63 percent, spending on salaries for city employees by 67 percent, money spend on office furniture and equipment by 117 percent, and administration spending on outside professional services by 932 percent.
This is the account of a government official interviewed who worked very closely with Sarah for a long time. The quote just amused me.
He takes a sip of the sweet tea Corky has served. “You know what she was? A housewife who happened to be governor. I’d fly cross-country with her many times and she’d spend the whole trip looking at People Magazine, or one of the others like that. Knowles and Murkowski, they used those hours to work. For her it was like she was waiting for her appointment at the hair salon. She was really into celebrities. She could spend hours looking at pictures of them.”
Everything we learned about Sarah Palin during the election cycle points to this and screams ACCURATE.
Sarah’s paranoia made the deepest impression. “She was just so defensive all the time. Everybody was out to get her. This ran deep and it made her mean. Maybe she’d be mean anyway. But I’ll tell you one thing: she’s no mama grizzly bear: she’s a rabid wolf. Take a look in the snow: where she’s been, there’s a trail of blood in her wake.”
I loved the imagery of that quote.
This is from Whitaker, a man that worked with Sarah very closely for a long time.
The strongest and most disturbing recollection Whitaker has about Sarah comes from her appearance at the Fort Wainwright deployment ceremony on September 11, 2008, while she was campaigning for vice president. Track was among those being deployed.
“I said to her, ‘Look, I’ve spoken at these events and they’re very emotional, so know that it’s okay to show your feelings. You’re talking to 4,500 soldiers going off to war, and some of them will not be coming back. We know that and they do, too. And your son is one of them. So don’t be embarrassed if you cry.’”
He pauses then resumes, speaking slowly and deliberately for emphasis. “I have never,” he says, “seen such a detached and self absorbed speech to deploying soldiers. Her lack of emotional involvement was scary. Her speech was all about her. Then, at the end, it was suddenly, ‘Go! Fight! Win!’ That was the moment I lost the last of my faith in Sarah Palin.”
More LOLz about how dumb Sarah Palin is, and how phony.
Sarah has just made a speech at California State University Stanislaus, for which she received a $75,000 fee. She told her audience it was no wonder Ronald Reagan had always had such a sunny disposition: after all, he’d grown up in the “Golden State” of California and had received his education at “California’s Eureka College.”
Even though he’s her greatest political hero, she didn’t know that he grew up in Illinois, where Eureka College is located, about halfway between Normal and Peoria.
Another report from a person close to the Palins:
Bess doesn’t question Sarah’s sincerity. “I’d be a lot happier if I thought she were cynical and doing things for selfish reasons, but she’s not. She absolutely believes, as she’s told Phil Munger, that the earth is six thousand years old and that dinosaurs and man once lived together. And she absolutely believes that Jesus will return to earth during the course of her life. These beliefs are at the core of everything she says and does. She is locked into that worldview. If you don’t’ appreciate how totally she is governed by these beliefs, you will never understand Sarah Palin.”
About her racism:
Her charm was less evident off stage. During her earlier months in office, another of her long-suppressed attitudes, her distaste for people of color, became manifest. As governor, Frank Murkowski had given state jobs to about two dozen members of racial or ethnic minorities. After he lost the primary, he directed all state workers to help Sarah get elected. About twenty minority employees formed a coalition called The Diversity Group. They worked as campaign volunteers for Sarah when not on the state clock. Almost as soon as she was elected, she ordered them all fired.
“She didn’t keep any of them,” John Bitney told me. “I said, ‘Wow, you could at least keep one, for appearances’ sake,’ but she wanted everyone of them gone: Filipinos, Hispanics, Blacks, Samoans, Koreans. Nobody who was dark skinned got a job and a lot who were dark skinned lost jobs to make space for white guys. Her chief of staff, Mike Tibbles, came in one day and said, ‘They’re all fired. That’s what she wants.’ I was like, ‘All of them’ He said, yes, all the dark skinned people had to go.”
It was explained that the reason none of this got any press was because the POC who were fired were all lower level government employees; no one really noticed that they were gone. They were fifth tier. The NAACP said they’d picket the inaugural ball in Anchorage in 2007 but they didn’t.
Mocking her tweets and general idiocy:
In another tweet, she squeezes all her scientific knowledge into 140 characters: “Earth saw clmate chnge4 ions; will cont 2 c chnges. R duty2responsbly devlop resorse4humandkind / not pollute&destroy; but cant alter naturlchang.”
Other than pointing out that “ions” are not “eons,” what can you possibly say to that except to bemoan the existence of Twitter?
I want to end on this quote, that I thought summed up things very well, including the situation of readers who think this book is credible versus readers who don’t:
It is perhaps the most blistering assessment of her character possible that many Wasillans who’d known Sarah from high school onward told me that even if she had not faked the entire story of her pregnancy and Trig’s birth, it was something she was eminently capable of doing.
I’m not getting into the Trig thing, even though many people pointed out all the inaccuracies in Sarah Palin’s story about his birth – to the point that even if she’s 100% telling the truth, that means that she deliberately put her unborn child at risk in a way that is basically unconscionable.
My point here is that whether you personally believe everything in this book is true or not, the fact that many, many people believe Sarah Palin is at least capable of this shit is itself an indictment of her as not only a politician but also a person. (less)
A very informative, well researched book about the effects of the disastrous Great Leap Forward, a supposed revolution in industry and agriculture dre...moreA very informative, well researched book about the effects of the disastrous Great Leap Forward, a supposed revolution in industry and agriculture dreamt up by the fuckwit known as Mao Zedong.
It's long and dense, but a valuable, compelling read. The author focuses way more on the politics and political hierarchy of the times, at the expense of more personal stories from on-the-ground, in-the-trenches, but attempts to make up for that in the last part of the book.
It's well written enough, but suffers due to occasionally awkward wording and usage issues. For example, the author repeatedly uses 'decimate' as a synonym for 'annihilate.' Decimate means to destroy every tenth part. If I decimate a plate of ten cookies, I only ate one. The author will spend an entire chapter talking about how many people died of the famine, and will end on a sentence about how the famine 'decimated' rural towns, which causes the reader to think all of a sudden, "Eh, no big deal," despite the fact that all evidence points to the fact that this was a very big deal. Random word flubs like that would often take me out of the book, and I'd have to force myself back in.
If this book can be distilled down to a few bullet points, the salient points the author keeps hitting again and again:
- Mao thought he was some sort of demi-god that knew everything about everything - Mao was, in fact, a galloping, raging idiot of a nutsack - Fuck Mao Zedong - No, seriously, fuck Mao Zedong - The big ideological problem was that he took the "People's Army" and made that a reality on every stage of society, every single rung of the ladder, so that farmers toiling in the fields were also 'soldiers,' and that kind of useless rhetoric is quite socially, culturally, and politically damaging in both the long and short run - Fuck Mao Zedong - The environment was plundered to the point that it's a miracle that it recovered at all - Fuck Mao Zedong - The Great Famine wasn't just a famine: it was a collapse of virtually every sector of the economy. It wasn't that people ran out of food. The food was often there. But distribution failed. Inflation ran rampant. Corruption soared. Beaurocracy placed a stranglehold on ordinary government mechanisms. All resources, not just foodstuffs, became scarce or seriously defective. Ancient cultural rites and religions, anything that held the society together and was traditionally used to keep destructive forces like violence at bay, were systematically wiped out. All of this was ignored at the top, or explicitly encouraged at the top. - Mao had a hard on for making things rough for Russia because Stalin used to treat Mao like the little nutsack that he was. - No, seriously, fuck Mao Zedong, may he rot in hell forever, if you believe in hell.
Also, read this book. I highly recommend it. You will come away knowing more than you ever wanted to about this dark time in China's history, and how much Mao Zedong sucks. (less)
It should be noted that the author was convicted of plagiarizing this book from a Saudi woman, per the Wikipedia page on the subject. He is also being...moreIt should be noted that the author was convicted of plagiarizing this book from a Saudi woman, per the Wikipedia page on the subject. He is also being sued for plagiarism by another author. His argument is that plagiarism among religious scholars is okay.
That being said, this book is helpful and also problematic.
The author claims it's written for all audiences, regardless of faith. I disagree. The book is still quite esoteric despite the fact that the author does occasionally incorporate the sayings of Kant and Lincoln and Carnegie. It's still very much a book for Muslims, and does to some extent require a particular knowledge of Islamic culture. (Yes, Islamic culture is a problematic term as there is no such thing as Islamic culture, but I'm hoping people generally understand what i mean when I say that.)
This book is odd in its dealings with race relations. You'll see weird things like how Black and Chinese people don't succumb to heart diseases because they lead happy, tranquil lives. What? Way to generalize. And way to erase the experiences of Black/Chinese folks who DO struggle with depression.
Also, this is not a politically correct or medically informed book. If you're looking for any mention of how depression is caused by a hormone imbalance, for example, you won't find it here. Depression and sadness are used interchangeably, and that's incorrect. Depression doesn't ALWAYS include sadness. You can be sad without being depressed, and you can be depressed without necessarily being sad.
Also, this book is CRAZY REPETITIVE. Certain things are repeated OVER AND OVER AND OVER in only slightly different words. That makes the whole book feel very disorganized adn chaotic and juvenile.
That being said, I did learn some valuable lessons from this, and I did come across some inspiring stories. So all in all, I'm glad I read it. (less)
Hahahaha this book is such a POS. I found it in my quest for bad self help books, which are totally my guilty pleasure popcorn books, and boy is it a...moreHahahaha this book is such a POS. I found it in my quest for bad self help books, which are totally my guilty pleasure popcorn books, and boy is it a bad self help book. This guy takes 250 pages to say absolutely NOTHING.(less)