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review 2017-06-27 18:59
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate - Al FrankenĀ 
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate - Al Franken

It is terribly important that the most trusted figures in American politics right now are comedians: Al Franken, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert. It is important that our newest president has only ever actually been professionally successful as a television character.

 

Don't get me wrong: I don't think actors, performers, and certainly not writers are somehow less valid as elected officials. While the primary business of senators and congress people is lawmaking, I recognize that they themselves don't (possibly ever anymore) write the laws; federal laws are written by interested parties, think tanks, and congressional staff. So it isn't necessary to be a lawyer in order to shape laws. What is necessary: I think a broad, general interest is good; literacy is useful; the ability to listen is huge; one has to judge sources, because I'm sure there's never less than two sides to any issue, and all of them purport to have data backing them up, of which some must be less valid or useful than others; a willingness to admit ignorance and to learn is key, because no one is an expert in everything, and hastily-formed judgements are unlikely to result in successful solutions to complex problems. And of course, one has to be able to work with many difficult people, but that's true of all work, isn't it? That list of qualities leaves previous work experience pretty open.

 

It's important that our emperor is naked, and that as many people as possible are pointing at the bare ass he's waggling at us, and laughing. It's not possible to bring him down by arguing with him or fact-checking him: he's a shameless liar, he just makes shit up, most of his shtick is just childish insults. You can't argue with him. He doesn't believe in the idea of a fair fight. But you can point and laugh: he has no defense against mockery.

 

Franken is a mensch. I would give that man an organ I can't spare, secure in the knowledge that he would use it only for good. He is everything one could hope for in an elected representative, just once I would like to vote for someone who was so progressive and also so pragmatic. Harvard has gone up in my esteem by being Franken's alma mater. If you've never read any of Franken's political books you're in for a treat.

 

Library copy

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review 2017-06-24 16:47
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Wishful Drinking - Carrie Fisher

This was a fun and quick read albeit a bit disorganized. It was probably geared more to people who knew more about Carrie Fisher and her hijinks over the years, however. It was funny but not laugh out loud so and it made me hate George Lucas a little for the whole bra thing.

 

I’m counting this as my Free Friday #2 read for booklikes-opoly, so that’s another $4 to add to my bank (page count: 159), bringing the total to $140.

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review 2017-06-24 03:04
[REVIEW] The Letters of a Portuguese Nun by Mariana Alcoforado
The Portuguese Letters: Love Letters of a Nun to a French Officer - Gabriel Joseph De Lavergne Guilleragues,Mariana Alcoforado
“[…] you gave me evidence of a great passion for me. I was overjoyed at it, and I gave myself up to love you to distraction. You were not blinded as I was. Why then did you let me fall into the state in which I now am?”



The text was very hard to read at the beginning. The "f"s that were really "s"s confused me 98% of the time.

However, I immediately felt for Marianna and her plight. I was not annoyed or exasperated by her mad attachment to her unworthy lover. I believe she was a victim of love and considering that she had been living in a convent at a young age, it is sadly unsurprisingly she was taken advantage of.

She was not properly prepared by anyone on what to do when it came to falling in love and the artifices of men. Her love is genuine, honest and even manipulative once her lover disappeared from Portugal. I was moved by her lament and the sincerity of her words. To throw your life away for someone who is unworthy of you is terrible and to see Marianna come to terms with that in her own letters was heartbreaking.

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review 2017-06-19 03:38
Hidden Figures - The Movie

 

Our number came up on the hold list for the movie Hidden Figures. I don't watch a lot of movies (since I'm too busy reading instead) but I'd been curious how they were going to condense 20+ years into a movie that wasn’t a documentary.  There were quite a number of changes because of the limitations of creating a reasonable length movie.  Primarily, the movie only covering a few years in the early 1960's, years which occur in the middle of the story told by the book, and by creating several composite characters.

 

I generally think the movie was well done. I liked how the coffee pot in Katherine Goble/Johnson's lab stood in for the repeated tensions about the sign on the colored tables in the lunchroom. While a bit overdramatic, I think the bathroom “runs” to the other side of the campus – work in hand – were a nice touch to show both inconvenience and dedication. I liked the visual of how the "girls" in their brightly colored dresses popped out of the sea of caucasian engineers in white shirts.  And while a stock Hollywood trope, I liked the march of the former West Computers to their new lives in the IBM mainframe lab.

 

I didn't like how the movie turned Katherine's checking the numbers for John Glenn's Freedom 7 trajectory into a last minute nail-biter. While the time shifting of the true request to have a human check the numbers generated by the IBM computer, for the sake of the movie they felt the need to raise the stakes and add a false crisis. 

 

In the book, the focus was clearly on the women and their accomplishments and while the sexism and racism of the day was ever present, I felt like it wasn't the focus of the story.  In the movie format, with the need to center the composite characters played by big stars Kevin Costner and Jim Parsons, I almost felt like the movie was too much about racism and sexism and not enough about how the women developed and what they accomplished.  But some of that may just be the time limitations of a movie.

 

In closing, I'm glad I took the time to watch Hidden Figures soon after I read the book, but I'm also glad that I waited to watch it at home for the cost of a trip to the library to pick up the DVD rather than paying theater prices. 

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review 2017-06-18 04:26
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah - My Thoughts
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood - Trevor Noah

First off, I really enjoy Trevor Noah on The Daily Show and any guest interviews I've seen him do over time.  I also enjoyed his stand-up special Afraid of the Dark and will be looking to find his other specials.  I'd heard many good things about this memoir of his, so when it was on sale, I snapped it up!

The book deals with Trevor's childhood in South Africa, growing up first in apartheid and then after the fall of apartheid.  The written word sound just like him talking in my head, which I think is good, seeing as it's a memoir, right?  Anyway, it's filled with lots of laughter and love, but there is also a lot of insight into apartheid and racism and bigotry of all sorts woven into the tales of the boy Trevor.  I thought I knew about apartheid, but I learned so much more reading Trevor's story.

It's also a love letter to his mother in many ways.  A fiercely independent woman when the times were not ready for independent women, she was obviously the light of his life.  They didn't have it easy.  There was abuse, emotional and physical, from Trevor's stepfather, but he tells the stories in the same tone that he tells the rest of his story that I didn't find myself getting upset, just quietly horrified.  I don't know if that makes any sense, but there you go.

So yes, I loved this book and have been recommending it all over the place even though I wasn't finished reading it!  *LOL*  And now that I've finished, I shall definitely continue!!

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