Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Wallace Stevens

Her green mind made the world around her green.

-- Wallace Stevens


According to the Poetry Foundation, Wallace Stevens (1879 - 1955) is one of America’s most respected 20th century poets. He was a master stylist, employing an extraordinary vocabulary and a rigorous precision in crafting his poems. But he was also a philosopher of aesthetics, vigorously exploring the notion of poetry as the supreme fusion of the creative imagination and objective reality.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Ted Kennedy

Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, Blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy….

-- Ted Kennedy, 1987 hearing for Robert Bork (who was not confirmed)


According to the Biography web site, Ted Kennedy (1932 - 2009) was the youngest brother of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. He was elected to the Senate when he was 30, and continued to work in Congress throughout his life. Though marked by scandal, Kennedy was viewed as an icon of political progressivism and liberal thought by the time of his death, on August 25, 2009.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Judy Garland

Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.

-- Judy Garland


According to Goodreads, Judy Garland (1922 - 1969), a Minnesota native, was the star of many classic musical films, was known for her tremendous talent and troubled life. She started out in show business at an early age. The daughter of vaudeville professionals, she started her stage career as a child.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Doris Lessing

There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag – and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty-and vise versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you.

-- Doris Lessing


According to Wikipedia, Doris Lessing (1919 - 2013) was a British-Zimbabwean (Rhodesian) novelist. She was born to British parents in Iran, where she lived until 1925. Her family then moved to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where she remained until moving in 1949 to London, England. Lessing was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. In awarding the prize, the Swedish Academy described her as "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny".

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Book Review: Leaving Everything Most Loved

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear is my 10th Maisie Dobbs novel. I'm most definitely a fan. Each novel features an intriguing, knotty mystery with most of the violence happening either before the story begins or outside our view. My kind of mystery... spare me the gory details. Maisie Dobbs is both cerebral and psychological in her approach to solving a case, and she is always haunted by her own demons while she  pursues justice for others.

Leaving Everything provides Winspear's typical satisfying story, combining a social problem (in this case the treatment of Indians in London) with the killer's very personal motives. But reading it, I experienced a stronger than usual sense of melancholy and dread about Maisie's future and the future of her friends and colleagues. I felt like I was supposed to be on Maisie's side and share her desire for adventure and self-discovery, but I kept thinking "Poor James!"

[Spoiler alert coming up for Elizabeth George readers] Midway through her wonderful series of mysteries, Elizabeth George chose to kill off her detective's beloved and pregnant wife, Lady Helen. Readers were livid. George spent time explaining herself on social media and even wrote another entire book about it (What Came Before He Shot Her). In the end, I think most readers forgave her. As George explained, it was something she had to do for her series to continue. Writing her detective as a happily married man with a baby simply didn't work. It lacked the level of angst and drama that she needed. 

And my point in recounting George's journey is because I think that Winspear has arrived at the same juncture. (Meaning she arrived there in 2013, when this book was published. And if you've read all her novels and know the answer, don't tell me!) I don't think she can see her way forward if Maisie becomes happily married to James, plus she needs to change up the cast of characters, replacing Billy and Sandra with new people. She's not exactly bored and out of new ideas, but she's definitely looking for a major change of scenery. When I read the next novel, I'll report back. I remain a serious Maisie Dobbs fan and don't expect to be disappointed with her next adventure.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Tracey Gendron

I define 'elderhood' as the developmental stage encompassing later life. There are two primary reasons why I think the term 'elderhood' is essential. First, we believe that to be 'successful' at aging, we need to maintain roles and interests associated with adulthood. I disagree. I believe that roles and contributions in elderhood evolve and can look and feel different. Sometimes the contribution is active engagement, but sometimes it is a quiet reflection that is more personal. [emphasis mine] Both are developmentally healthy and appropriate. 'Elderhood' accounts for the nuances where the term 'older adult' or 'old age' does not.

-- Tracey Gendron


Dr. Tracey Gendron is chair of the Department of Gerontology at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author of Ageism Unmasked: Exploring Age Bias and How to End It.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Elie Wiesel

Mankind must remember that peace is not God’s gift to his creatures; peace is our gift to each other.

-- Elie Wiesel


According to the Nobel Prize organization, The Nobel Peace Prize 1986 was awarded to Elie Wiesel (1928 - 2016) "for being a messenger to mankind: his message is one of peace, atonement and dignity."

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Nobel Prize Lecture -- Maria Ressa, Co-Winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize

I heard Maria Ressa interviewed this morning as part of an International Women's Day event. The bad news (the embarrassing news) is that I've never heard of her before. Somehow, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to two journalists last fall didn't hit my radar screen. The good news is that now I have heard of her and listened to her impassioned plea for truth in journalism, destruction of the disinformation machine, and reining in of social media.

After the brief and impressive interview this morning, I went in search of her Nobel lecture to learn more. Wow!! She is articulate, impassioned, and persuasive. And she is courageous. It is one thing to plead for the protection of truth in journalism in "the West," where you might suffer significant bullying both online and IRL. It is a whole different thing to make that plea in a society where going to jail for what you write and say is a reality. 

Ressa is of course critical of countries like her native Philippines that regularly threaten journalists with imprisonment or government sanctioned violence. She tearfully listed fellow journalists who have recently died or been imprisoned around the world. But Ressa reserves her strongest criticism for the tech algorithms that come out of Silicon Valley. She calls it a behavior modification system that encourages fear, hate, and bigotry in the service of surveillance capitalism than monetizes our clicks.

I can't begin to do justice to her powerful speech. I plan to come back to it here whenever I find myself wondering if Facebook is really so bad. 

Quote of the Day -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

For age is opportunity no less 

Than youth itself, though in another dress, 

And as the evening twilight fades away 

The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.

-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


According to the Poetry Foundation, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was one of the most widely known and best-loved American poets of the 19th century. He achieved a level of national and international prominence previously unequaled in the literary history of the United States and is one of the few American writers honored in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Book Review: Reading People

Reading People by Anne Bogel is essentially a "Cliff Notes" to popular personality frameworks. Bogel takes a tour through The Five Love Languages, Keirsey's Temperaments, The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, The Clifton StrengthsFinder, and The Enneagram. My primary mission for this book was to learn about the Enneagram because I am constantly encountering references to it and felt mystified.

I did learn enough about the Enneagram to fake my way through a conversation, but much to my surprise, I learned a lot more about Myers-Briggs. I first encountered Myers-Briggs several decades ago in a workshop at work. Since then, I've taken the test several more times. My results always come out the same (INTP) and my feelings about it haven't varied much over the years. 

I have no trouble with the N (big picture versus facts) and the T (driven more by reason than emotion). I tend to be an ambivert but I'm OK scoring as an introvert. But I have always struggled with the P/J. In fact, I can never adequately even describe what they are. Not surprisingly, my P/J score is almost evenly split -- 51 to 49 almost every time I test. And that is the area of my life where I am most conflicted between how I think I should be and how I am.

Reading People gave me valuable new insight. Bogel described the cognitive stacks (how we process information and make decisions) that go with each different type. I'd never encountered this discussion of cognitive stacks, before. I read the descriptions before I looked at the stacks, and low and behold, my cognitive stack is definitely INTJ. And the two stacks (INTJ and INTP) are completely different. No wonder my results always left me feeling conflicted!

I can only say, thank you Anne Bogel. The book in general was delightful to read, succinct and friendly, informative without being academic. And you helped me come to terms, finally, with my Myers-Briggs. Worth the price of admission!!

Quote of the Day -- Carl Jung

Only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life.

-- Carl Jung


According to Wikipedia, Carl Gustav Jung (1875 - 1961), was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. Jung's work has been influential in the fields of psychiatry, anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, psychology, and religious studies.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Quote of the Day -- James Clear

You can't double your intelligence in one hour, but you can use one hour to write something twice as clear. And ideas that are easy to read and easy to understand will make you seem smarter. The better you communicate, the more intelligent you appear.

-- James Clear


James Clear is a widely respected speaker and writer who focuses on habits and self-improvement. His best-selling book Atomic Habits has sold over 5 million copies.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Quote of the Day -- Samuel Johnson

The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.

-- Samuel Johnson


According to Britannica, Samuel Johnson was an English critic, biographer, essayist, poet, and lexicographer who was one of the greatest figures of 18th-century life and letters.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Book Review: Wish You Were Here

People who write book reviews are careful about spoilers -- either avoiding them or warning about them beforehand. In the case of Jodi Picoult's Wish You Were Here, everyone who writes about it is very careful not to spoil it for other readers because the unexpected turn it takes is such an important part of the experience. So I won't spoil it, other than to say that the turn was huge and made all the difference for me.

In Wish You Were Here, Picoult provides a nuanced exploration of the personal impact of COVID-19 from several points of view. Although this book feels very different from most of her other work, that nuanced exploration is very much Picoult at her best. She looks at survivor guilt experienced by those who are largely untouched (like me) side-by-side with the daily trauma felt by health-care workers. She spends more time than usual, for her, in examining romantic relationships. At times, this book began to feel like a romance novel and I almost put it down. 

Parent-child relationships are central to the story. As she peels back the onion of the fraught relationship that Diana, the protagonist, has with her mother, Picoult takes her on a twisted, often painful journey of self-discovery. Forgiveness and redemption ultimately enable Diana to find her way in the world, but I confess to finding the outcome equal parts sad and uplifting. 

This isn't Picoult's best work but even her "above average" is definitely worth reading.  

Quote of the Day -- bell hooks

Many of us seek community solely to escape the fear of being alone. Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.

-- bell hooks


According to her New York Times obituary, bell hooks' incisive, wide-ranging writing on gender and race helped push feminism beyond its white, middle-class worldview to include the voices of Black and working-class women. Her work included over 30 books, and encompassed literary criticism, children’s fiction, self-help, memoir and poetry, and it tackled not just subjects like education, capitalism and American history but also love and friendship. She died in December 2021 at the age of 69.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Book Review: American Nations

I'm a sucker for a book that tackles a "big story," that synthesizes disparate information across time and space to develop a theory explaining the seemingly unexplainable. The book cover of In American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North American depicts the territorial and cultural divisions that Colin Woodard lays out in his book. He traces the history of how each "nation" was settled and describes the underlying values that motivate its citizenry. 

I'm a native and inhabitant of "Yankeedom," and Woodard's summary rings true -- emphasis on education, pursuit of greater good for the whole community, faith in the potential of government to improve people's lives. What I didn't completely understand is why other "nations" don't share these values; why their heritage emphasizes different, even diametrically opposed beliefs and moral virtues. 

Woodard provides a unique lens for viewing key events in our history and highlights the "life and death" battle that Yankeedom and the Deep South continually fight for control and for the ascendancy of their world view. Each considers the others' success an existential threat to their way of life. Each battles, with varying degrees of success, to form coalitions with the other nations to achieve that control.

Understanding the root of a problem doesn't necessarily solve the problem, but it goes a long way toward appreciating how we got here. I'm sure there are holes in Woodard's arguments that astute students of US history will find, but overall, his characterizations ring true and explain so much about the divisions we are experiencing today.

Quote of the Day -- Henry David Thoreau

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

-- Henry David Thoreau


According to Wikipedia, Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) was an American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher. A leading transcendentalist, he is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay "Civil Disobedience", an argument for disobedience to an unjust state.