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review 2017-04-12 16:55
Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living - Nick Offerman  
Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living - Nick Offerman

Offerman is a lucky guy would had a good childhood, a good and meaningful college time, followed by the rest of his life, working hard at work and crafts he appreciates (which is mostly being silly, but also involves building canoes). He has a good work ethic and a seemingly kind heart, as well as a seriously advanced sense of humor. It's delightful to read a memoir by someone who understands that his life is very good and that he's lucky to have so many sources of pleasure.

On the downside, he has a very strong personality which won't appeal to all readers and which can become rather much of a muchness. Everyone's mileage is likely to vary a great deal.

Library copy

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text 2017-04-02 13:44
Wringo — A Story of 3 Readers Who Wanted to Read and 5 Writers Who Wanted to Write for Them

 

 

 

 

It all began when we were slogging through yet another round of Bingo. The dice was rolled at work and the category, Out of Your Comfort Zone, caused us much discomfort.

 

While reeling from having received the news that we’d be reading a book that we won’t normally choose, Qurat, thought she’d share an idea with us.

 

The idea was for us to combine writing and bingo where 5 of us who loved telling would write a story based on the genre dictated by a dice roll. Read this post for details on who you’d find on the writers’ team and the ladies who’d be reading their work.

 

Go here to find out more about how Wringo (Writing Bingo) works. So far, we have made it through four rounds. I have been a part of 2 of them.

 

One of my stories was an unusual “Romance” while the other was for the “Philosophy” round. They can be found here and here. Since we decided to keep the length of the stories between 300-1000 words, it won’t take long for you to sample them.

 

If you have any questions about #wringo or want to join in on the fun, let me know in the comments.

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text 2017-04-01 15:29
Children's Book - 'The Frightened Little Flower Bud'

To self-publish ... or not to self-publish - decisions ... decisions.

 

I'm almost finished with this book. Co-written and illustrated with G R Hewitt, which has been fun. It's a lovely little 39 pager in full colour. Its messages are simple; don't believe everything you hear and don't allow fear to control your life. With these messages in mind the illustrations show the life cycle of a Goat's-beard plant (Tragopogon - for the botanically minded) so there are some lovely nature lessons in it too. Target audience - age 4-99.

 

 

 

All the best

 

Renée

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review 2017-03-26 17:36
Excellent Analysis of the Public Square
The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse - Steven D. Smith

The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, by Steven D. Smith ****

In the wake of last year's election, it appears that discourse in the public square is breaking down completely.  Invective and name calling have become the rules of the day I cannot imagine a more propitious time to read Steven Smith’s “The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse.” It is a brilliant look at the current state of discourse in the American public arena.

By way of introduction, Mr. Smith lays out for us the problem as it is typically described by pundits of different stripes. We live in the “age of American unreason” they say, characterized by a “new species of anti-rationalism” where our “politics are now so debased that they threaten our standing as a genuine democracy”. He lists the usual suspects: an under-performing educational system, media outlets interested more in entertaining than informing, “the Internet, video games, text messaging”, and especially evangelical or fundamentalist religion, all of which contribute to a dumbed-down society of those “eager only to browse and skim, but without the patience actually to read and think”. 

Though he is deeply concerned about the appalling state of affairs, Mr. Smith finds these sacred cows to be less than satisfying, as the same symptoms can just as easily be found in the academy, and even on the Supreme Court, as on the street or on talk radio. If, then, these are merely symptoms, what is the true cause? The answer he suggests is surprising and can be paraphrased as follows. In a reaction against the failure of Reason to fulfill the promises of the age of enlightenment, we have evicted from the public arena our “deepest convictions about what is really true and consented to work only with a scaled-down set of beliefs or methods that claim the support of an ostensible ‘overlapping consensus’”, understanding that “no one’s truth is going to prevail over its rivals”. In other words, in order to “keep [public discourse] from drowning in the perilous depths of questions about ‘the nature of the universe,’” we have discarded our worldviews and created a public arena that can be nothing but shallow.

The problem does not end there. The shallowness prescribed by the rules of public discourse cannot provide satisfactory answers to the most vexing problems that face society. Therefore, those who participate in the discussion have had to resort to the practice of “smuggling” their deepest convictions in to the discussion under cover of a number of disguises. We have become a society of well-meaning hypocrites, claiming to have abandoned our convictions about first principles, all the while smuggling them in the back door in the worst disguises. 

All of the above is laid out in painstaking detail in the first chapter. The balance of the book is spent providing evidence to support his formulation of the question of what is wrong with public discourse in America today. He examines the most common vehicles used for such smuggling, showing how they are used in the most contentious and divisive arguments that occupy contemporary society: among them right-to-life issues, church/state division, and a non-metaphysical source of first principles. 

All of this might be a laborious yawn-fest, but Mr. Smith writes with conviction and a wry sense of humor that occasionally borders on sarcasm. It is a winning combination that engages the reader and encourages him to hang in there even when the going gets a little rough. Having a good teacher can make learning even the most tedious subject enjoyable. Mr. Smith appears to have all the makings of a very good teacher. Given that his subject is one of vital importance to the life of our nation, we do well to listen to what he has to say and learn as much as we can.

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review 2017-03-26 12:11
A Story of a Man and his Barrel
Diogenes: An Anecdotal Biography of the World's Greatest Cynic - George Pavlu

When I was up at my parent's house I saw this book sitting in my Dad's workshop, so being somewhat intrigued I borrowed it. The thing is that I like the concept of the cynic, and I also liked the concept of Diogenes, who in some way is a homeless beggar, but he is also a philosopher. However, after reading a few pages of this book I also came to realise that despite him being a homeless beggar, he is also an exhibitionist. In a way he argues against the conventions of society, and the imprisoning nature of wealth and luxury, but he also lives and behaves as if he is an animal, which a part of me feels undermines that part of us by which we call ourselves human.

 

The thing with Diogenes is that, as I mentioned, he was a homeless beggar, but not by circumstance but rather by choice. Here is a painting of him sitting in his barrel:

 

http://nibiryukov.narod.ru/nb_pinacoteca/nb_pinacoteca_painting/nb_pinacoteca_waterhouse_diogenes.jpg

 

 

The interesting thing is the idea of him being a cynic. In my mind we have the optimist, who sees the glass half full, the pessimist who sees it as being half empty, and the cynic, who basically makes the statement that no matter how much water you drink you are only going to be thirsty again so you might as well just throw the water back into the river and simply remain thirsty. Okay, maybe that is a bit of an extreme, but in some ways taking the mind of a cynic is actually quite beneficial as it enables us to see through the fabrication that is society.

 

 

The interesting thing is that despite the fact that he was poor, and lived in a barrel, he was still a famous philosopher. I suspect that it had something to do not so much with the fact he was poor – there were lots of poor people in Athens – but rather that he was an exhibitionist. Also, he had some pretty harsh things to say about society, but despite the fact that he did say some pretty harsh things he still ended up building up a bit of a following. However, like a lot of people who build up a following, while what he says may sound good in principle, when it comes to putting things into practice then people will suddenly turn around and go back to doing what they were always doing.

 

 

In a sense there seems to be some similarities between Christ and Diogenes, in that both of them not only walked out of a comfortable life to become itinerant preachers, but they also have a lot to say about wealth, greed, and conforming with society. However Diogenes, unlike Christ, had a much more naturalistic approach. In a sense Diogenes saw us as little more than sophisticated animals, and the fact that despite our perceived civilisation we still basically behaved like animals, we might as well cast off our trappings of civilisation and simply become animals.

 

 

This book contains a series of anecdotes, that is sayings that have come down to us about Diogenes. The thing is that while Diogenes did actually write some stuff, we don't have anything remaining, so all we have are these anecdotes, sayings that are attributed to Diogenes, but not necessarily having any real truth about them. In fact all that we seem to have is a story about this guy that lived in a barrel in Athens, that eschewed wealth and comfort, and simply went around challenging people and their lifestyles. For instance it is said that he walked into a rich man's house, and because you couldn't spit on any surface in the house, he chose instead to spit into the face of the rich man.

 

 

These itinerant beggars are actually quite fascinating because we don't seem to actually have people like that these days. Okay, we might just do, with people who seem to drift from house to house, taking food and looking for a place to sleep, and then moving onto the next house and the next house, without actually paying their way. I remember a time when I was young that this Vietnam Vet appeared at our door looking for somebody who was no longer living there, stayed with us for a couple of days making all these promises, heading off with one of our friends, and then disappearing. My friends all referred to him as a conman, but he never took anything from us – he simply spent a couple of nights at our house and then moved onto the next one.

 

 

However I wander through the city and see all these homeless people sitting on the street with signs asking for money, yet none of them seems to stand on the corner sprouting philosophy. You do get people doing that, normally waving an issue of Red Flag (which is a communist newsletter) around, but they all look reasonably well groomed, and they are definitely not dressed like a beggar. Mind you, while we all talk about how Diogenes eschewed a wealthy lifestyle, and money and possessions, we still notice that he begs, and even asks for money off of his pupils. This makes me wonder if he actually has fully done away with money, or possessions. The fact that he owns clothes, and even owns a barrel, goes to show that he does have some possessions.

 

Anyway, I will finish off with another picture, and this time one of him speaking to Alexander the Great. It was said (as is the case with everything about Diogenes' life) that when Alexander asked who his king was, Diogenes says that he had no king because he was a citizen of the world, that is cosmopolitan. As such, Alexander realised that it was not enough to simply conquer Greece, but that he had to conquer the world, which is what he did. The other thing was that it was suggested that Alexander either takes everything, and thus becomes king, or takes nothing, and thus becomes Diogenes. In the end it would have been better that there were two Diogenes than two Alexanders, because to have two Alexanders would have not only been insufferable, but would have split the world asunder.

 

http://www.rebresearch.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/alexander-and-diogenes.jpg

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1950948381
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