Monday, August 31, 2009

Judy Bachrach on the Horrendous Treatment of Women in Islamic Countries

An extremely interesting article by Judy Bachrach in World Affairs Journal on the appalling manner in which women are treated in Islamic countries. The terrible treatment of women is yet another reason for this country to reexamine, revise and redirect our policy on Afghanistan. Below is a short excerpt:

[I]n Turkey, a nation often cited as “moderate,” wife beating is so common that 69 percent of all female health workers polled (and almost 85 percent of all male health workers) said that violence against women was in certain instances excusable. In April, a new epidemiological study in the European Journal of Public Health revealed that one out of every five homicides in Pakistan is the result of a so-called honor killing. . . .
It was only when our steadfast ally Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed legislation legalizing the rape of his country’s wives by their husbands that a powerful Western leader actually expressed a view on the subject. “I think this law is abhorrent,” President Barack Obama acknowledged when queried at a press conference in Strasbourg, France. Yet, our president had to be asked about the rape-facilitation law before daring to venture an opinion. Nor is he alone in his bashfulness. All over the world, Western leaders have proven uncommonly demure on the subject of women in Islamic countries.

Check out the rest of this article here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Laura Miller at Salon Reviews "Inherent Vice"

On the fence as to whether or not you want to read Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Inherent Vice? Check out Laura Miller's review of the book for Salon.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday in the Park

Abstain: "Dog on It" by Spencer Quinn

Into each reader's life some clunker-books must fall. Dog on It is a clunker that fell into mine.

The novel is narrated by a dog named Chet. In my opinion, this was not successfully executed. For example, the book opens with the reader learning that Chet has to pee, his favorite tree for doing so, and so on. This is content that I am not interested in reading.

Chet and his master, private investigator Bernie Little, look into the disappearance of a 15-year old girl. Sadly, Bernie is not interesting enough to redeem the book. He is both down on his luck and bereft of style or charm. No Travis McGee is he.

Perhaps the story-narrated-by-dog genre is one that I'm just not suited for, as I also did not enjoy The Art of Racing in the Rain.

As for Dog on It, I have to again say that life is short and there is a big, wide world of excellent books out there to read before turning to this one.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Martin Gayford on Why People Attack Art

In the news recently was the story of a Russian woman who tossed a teacup at the Mona Lisa. Why do people physically attack art? Martin Gayford, chief art critic for Bloomberg News, considers the matter here. My view? They are crazy.

(Via The Art Blog)

Hmmmm . . . is it art?

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Mystery From Steve Martini

Good news for Steve Martini fans: The author has a new book available called Guardian of Lies. This book is number ten in Martini's Paul Madriani series.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Health Care Histrionics: What's Behind the Angry Folks at Town Hall Meetings?

Some members of Congress holding town hall meetings on health care this month have been met with unruly, rude, and occasionally armed constituents. If this wasn't such an ugly scene, it could be a Monty Python sketch: An angry mob of Americans literally up in arms over . . . access to affordable health care.

A deeply disturbing part of watching hand-gun toting people shout angry words (and presumably some spittle) into the face of a member of Congress has been the racism on display during these theatrics. It is deplorable, intolerable and must be condemned on the spot by everyone, and particularly by any elected official in the room.

As to those who say they are motivated solely by displeasure with government policy, I understand deep dissatisfaction with government after spending eight years being very angry about the actions of George Bush and Dick Cheney. Among many nightmarish decisions, Bush and Cheney took our country to war - war, for gosh sakes - and the rationale given to Americans for doing so was a lie. In contrast, President Obama wants to provide Americans with health care; folks, health care reform is not a reason for mass public insanity.

What is the same between the two situations is that lies are coming from right-wing extremists, many of whom earn their living spinning fabrications and calling it truth.

Here is the truth people: There is no proposal for the creation of so-called death panels. There is no proposal to end the care of the critically ill to cut costs. Anyone who tells you a different story is promoting their own agenda, looking to line their own pocket, and using you as a tool to their own ends.

It's time to end the histrionics. This discussion about health care reform is important. Asking questions is good. But don't let the people motivated by racism, or their own ego and economic interest, derail something as important as making sure all Americans get the medical care they need.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Children's Books

A bored child creates unhappy adults. This is indisputable fact. Fortunately, there are books for children. Yes, books. Portable, affordable, quiet books. A child absorbed in reading a good book makes everyone, including that child, happy. This is also indisputable fact.

Recently on NPR author Lesley Blume shared a list of ten classic books for children. Ms. Blume's recommendations are not only useful right now while summer vacation is still on, but also for future birthday and holiday gifts.

I've matched Blume's recommended book titles to various age groups. If you disagree with the match-ups, let me know.

Ages 4 - 8

The Devil's Storybook (Sunburst Book)
by Natalie Babbitt.

Ages 9 - 12

The Boxcar Children Books 1-4
by Gertrude Chandler Warner.

The Witches
by Roald Dahl.

The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer.

The Twenty-One Balloons
by William Pene du Bois.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
by E.L. Konigsburg.

The House With a Clock In Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt)
by John Bellairs

Ages 11 - 14

Daddy Long Legs
by Jean Webster.

Young Adult

Watership Down: A Novel
by Richard Adams.

Freaky Friday
by Mary Rodgers.

Friday, August 7, 2009

In The New Yorker: Malcolm Gladwell on "To Kill a Mockingbird"

In this week's New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell looks at Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and examines anew the status of race and class in the South during the Atticus Finch era. This excellent article is a must read for those who have read and studied the book, and particularly for those interested in progressive social change.

L.A. Times Looks at New Books on Golf

Nick Owchar, writing for the L.A. Times book blog Jacket Copy, looks at new books on golf: The Original Rules of Golf (Postcards from...) and What's a Golfer to Do?: 343 Techniques, Tips, and Tricks from the Best Pros.


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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Great Book for Teens: "The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks" by E. Lockhart

I, Frankie Landau-Banks, hereby confess that I was the sole mastermind behind the mal-doings of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. I take full responsibility for the disruptions caused by the Order - including the Library Lady, the Doggies in the Window, the Night of a Thousand Dogs, the Canned Beet Rebellion, and the abduction of the Guppy.
Thus begins a fun, smart book for teens: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. Frankie is a teenager with divorced parents. She is attending high school at her father's alma mater, the exclusive Alabaster. Dad is committed to the old boy network of friends he made while attending the then-all male Alabaster, and wants his daughter to get the Alabaster glow.

Frankie also wants the quality education and all fringe benefits that the prep school can provide, but after seeing some of the stereotypes and cliques at work, she wants them on her terms. Thus, we enjoy seeing Frankie determine who is a solid friend and who isn't, how to handle networks of people who attempt to exclude, and what type of person she wants to be. Under the guise of a fun story about secret clubs, pranks, and teenage relationships, smart advise is dispensed to teens, particularly teenage girls. And on a lazy August afternoon, this is a fun, smart book for grown-ups, too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Music We Like: "Recapturing the Banjo" by Otis Taylor.

On Recapturing the Banjo, bluesman Otis Taylor reconnects the banjo to its African origins and demonstrates the instruments versatility in music that ranges from original songs to traditional compositions and contemporary music (the disc includes a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe"). Cool stuff. The booklet accompanying the CD contains must-read information about the banjo's history.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Best Seller Round-Up

"There is no shortage of wonderful writers.
What we lack is a dependable mass of readers . . .
I propose that every person out of work be required
to submit a book report before he or she gets his or her welfare check."

- Kurt Vonnegut, The Paris Review Interviews, I.

I. The New York Times.
Published August 2, 2009.

Fiction Hardcover: The Defector, Daniel Silva.
Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger.
Nonfiction Paperback: Glenn Beck's 'Common Sense', Glenn Beck.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

II. Los Angeles Times.
Published August 2, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson.
Fiction Hardcover: Shanghai Girls: A Novel, Lisa See.
Nonfiction Paperback: Julie & Julia, Julie Powell.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers.
For the week ending July 26, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,
Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Fiction Hardcover: The Defector, Daniel Silva.
Nonfiction Paperback: Julie & Julia, Julie Powell.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Zeitoun, Dave Eggers.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List.
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending July 26, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows.
Fiction Hardcover: The Help, Kathryn Stockett.
Nonfiction Paperback: Glenn Beck's 'Common Sense', Glenn Beck.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Horse Soldiers, Doug Stanton.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Donald Westlake's "The Hunter" Now a Graphic Novel

From the New York Times:
[Darwyn] Cooke has turned his eye toward the guys and dolls that make up the world of Parker, the single-named, downright criminal antihero created by Richard Stark (the novelist Donald E. Westlake, using a pseudonym, who died last year). The result is a wonderfully engrossing graphic-novel adaptation of “The Hunter,” the 1962 book in which Mr. Stark introduced his frequent protagonist. (more)