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review 2017-04-28 23:59
Drawing Autism, an art book compiled by Jill Mullin | #AutismAwarenessMonth
Drawing Autism - Jill Mullin,Temple Grandin

Over the last decade autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has become an international topic of conversation, knowing no racial, ethnic, or social barriers. Behavior analyst and educator Jill Mullin has assembled a staggering array of work from established artists like Gregory Blackstock and Jessica Park to the unknown but no less talented. Their creations, coupled with artist interviews, comprise a fascinating and compelling book that serves to educate and inspire anyone who knows someone diagnosed with ASD. Mullin's introduction and the foreword by best-selling author Temple Grandin provide an overview of autism and advocate for nurturing the talents, artistic and otherwise, of autistic individuals.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Now in its second edition, Drawing Autism is a collection of artwork compiled by NYC-based behavioral analyst Jill Mullin. Mullin explains in her introductory essay how one year her work had her cross paths with an autistic artist living in a group home who showed extraordinary joy and talent through his artwork. Her acquaintance with this artist inspired her to seek out other talented artists with autism across the world. Mullin lays out her end goal with this project:

 

"Commonly in the media, individuals with autism have been shown to have great talents in certain areas such as science and math. The intention of this book is to display another area where individuals with autism can have great abilities."

 

Within this opening essay, Mullin also reveals that this project ended up being so successful that it helped greatly propel the featured artists into global notoriety, many of them being asked to do art showings all over the world. Mullin's essay is preceded by a foreword written by none other than Temple Grandin, one of today's most famous faces when it comes to autism awareness! Also included in the art collection are a few of Grandin's diagrams of her inventions (designs for more humane deaths for cattle in meat processing facilities).

 

Mullin wrote up a list of interview questions that she submitted to each artist she asked to be featured in this collection. From those questions, she pulls some of the most interesting or revealing answers, placing them alongside the artwork, giving the viewer / reader an eye-opening look into the world of an autistic mind. The collection as a whole is broken up into themed sections that illustrate common characteristics of the autism spectrum as a whole. For example, "Getting From Here To There" collects art pieces that focus on fascination with various modes of transportation; "Interaction, Individual and Societal" gives artists a space to express how they perceive themselves from a societal point of view. Many pieces in this section illustrate feelings of isolation, not being fully understood or accepted, frustration with miscommunications, etc; "Art For Art's Sake" is a place for the artists to just create for the sake of joy and fun. There's no particular deep meaning to the works in this section necessarily, just pieces that have made the artists happy or at peace in their souls. 

 

 

Personally, "Art For Art's Sake" and "Bird's Eye View" (pieces focusing on nature themes) were my favorite sections. I especially loved the works of Shawn Belanger -- his autism leaves him predominately non-verbal -- whose work is featured on several pages of Drawing Autism. The colors and movement of his pieces shouted a joy of life to me!

 

 

 

 

My very favorite piece though, I think I'd give that to "The Death of Love #373" by Charles D. Topping. I could not stop looking at it!

 

 

Some of the images, several actually, have definite grit and darkness to them. Some perusers of this book might be shocked at certain pieces if the paintings are only taken on their own. I would urge that you read the accompanying interview answers explaining many of the pieces. There you will see that while perhaps initially a shock to the eye, there is a purpose and / or a story of hurt behind the inspiration that you should hear. 

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review 2017-02-27 01:14
League Of Denial by Mark Fainaru-Wada & Steve Fainaru
League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth - Steve Fainaru,Mark Fainaru-Wada

“PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYERS DO NOT SUSTAIN FREQUENT REPETITIVE BLOWS TO THE BRAIN ON A REGULAR BASIS.”
So concluded the National Football League in a December 2005 scientific paper on concussions in America’s most popular sport. That judgment, implausible even to a casual fan, also contradicted the opinion of a growing cadre of neuroscientists who worked in vain to convince the NFL that it was facing a deadly new scourge: A chronic brain disease that was driving an alarming number of players -- including some of the all-time greats -- to madness. League of Denial reveals how the NFL, over a period of nearly two decades, sought to cover up and deny mounting evidence of the connection between football and brain damage. Comprehensively, and for the first time, award-winning ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru tell the story of a public health crisis that emerged from the playing fields of our 21st century pastime. Everyone knew that football is violent and dangerous. But what the players who built the NFL into a $10 billion industry didn’t know – and what the league sought to shield from them – is that no amount of padding could protect the human brain from the force generated by modern football; that the very essence of the game could be exposing these players to brain damage. In a fast-paced narrative that moves between the NFL trenches, America’s research labs and the boardrooms where the NFL went to war against science, League of Denial examines how the league used its power and resources to attack independent scientists and elevate its own flawed research.

Amazon.com

 

 

The Fainaru Bros. team up to deliver this in-depth investigation into the NFL's persistent denial that head traumas are a serious epidemic within the game of football, particularly on the professional level. With a whole team of journalists pitching in on this project to uncover the truth, investigating survivors of now-deceased victims, the Fainaru Bros. (ESPN journalists themselves) lay it out for even the most casual sports fan -- brain trauma is most definitely a thing in this industry and it needs to be more seriously addressed and managed. 

 

League of Denial focuses on the careers of some of the most high-profile NFL players, from the 1970s to the early 2000s, to be fatally affected by repeatedly unchecked incidents of brain trauma. The specifics of this brain trauma were first identified by neuropathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu after he found himself baffled by the odd results of the autopsy he did on former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike "Iron Mike" Webster. The Nigerian born Omalu admitted that he didn't follow American football, so he had no idea of Webster's celebrity status when assigned to do his autopsy. He was simply fascinated and perplexed by the case from a medical standpoint. 

 

Mike Webster played for the Steelers during the 1970s-80s. At the end of his rookie year, the Steelers won their first Superbowl. Throughout his career, Webster would take a number of hard hits to the body, mostly to the head. He regularly complained to his wife of debilitating migraines, describing it as an "icepick" kind of pain, but his official NFL medical records only show two instances where the team doctor noted Webster having a head injury. TWO. In a career that spanned nearly 18 years. And those two were largely written off as simply mild dizziness and a bit of low blood sugar. There was one record of Webster suffering a neck injury and being given an injected painkiller, but he soon had an allergic reaction to the medication and had to be rushed to the hospital. Fearful of losing his place on the team, Webster checked himself out of the hospital and played in a Steelers game the very next day. 

 

After Webster's death at age 50, Omalu and some of his medical colleagues looked into Webster's medical history beyond what the NFL had documented. Conversing with Webster's widow and still-living former teammates, it didn't take long for Omalu and his team to start documenting history of Webster struggling with depression, OCD, and paranoia, not to mention marital and financial strife. All key commonalities that would pop up in the life stories of future autopsy investigations of NFL players who had likewise died under mysterious circumstances. Further investigation aired stories of past and current players who admitted to playing through serious injury because they didn't want to let down teammates or they feared losing their NFL positions (which would threaten the financial stability those incomes provided for players' family members). 

 

Dr. Omalu put together all his findings and named the condition Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Prior to that, the condition was most commonly known as "punch drunk syndrome" and was most widely known to be found in professional boxers. 

 

But it's not just Webster that this book focuses on. The Fainaru Bros. also look at the cases of other players who have now been determined to have died as a result of CTE, a condition that, to date, can only be diagnosed after death. These cases include detailed histories of the lives & deaths of NFL players Terry Long, Justin Strzelczyk, Andre Waters, Merrill Hoge, Dave Duerson, and Junior Seau (You can read details on these and additional cases by looking at this CBS slideshow). If you're concerned about not being versed enough in professional football to enjoy this book, don't be. I'd recommend you to try it if the topic at all interests you. Though I enjoy watching football, I would not describe myself as a fanatic by any means. Yet I had no trouble keeping up with the topic at all. There are a few parts that got a little more on the technical / dry side than I enjoy, but for the most part I found this to have a nice pace for a non-fiction piece. I was also surprised at the gamut of emotions it pulled from me -- at times I felt that sensation of reading an action novel, other times I was enraged at the lax attitude of the NFL, even with clear evidence shoved in front of their faces, or sometimes moved to tears at the pain these families were put through. With Mike Webster's story in particular, it broke my heart to read how he was pretty much abandoned by the NFL after he stopped being financially valuable to them. 

 

After you check out this book, I would also highly recommend watching the film Concussion which covers much of the same information this book looks at, and stars Will Smith, who portrays Dr. Omalu. 

 

I still watched & enjoyed this year's Superbowl after reading this book, but I definitely viewed the game through new eyes, having this book in my mind the whole time! 

 

 

----------

 

Extras:

 

PBS Frontline did an episode which accompanies the book League of Denial, which I have linked below for anyone interested:

 

League of Denial documentary

 

 

Also, while I was going over my notes for this write-up, I came across a news article on SI.com that gives a surprising (or not) little update on the work of Dr. Omalu that you might be interested in... looks like he's still struggling with the professional sports industry accepting the seriousness of his findings, this time with professional wrestling:

 

Boston University rescinds award to Concussion doctor Bennet Omalu

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review 2016-09-19 00:20
A Magician Among The Spirits by Harry Houdini
A Magician among the Spirits (Cambridge Library Collection - Spiritualism and Esoteric Knowledge) Reissue edition by Houdini, Harry (2011) Paperback - Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini and his exposure of the fraud spiritualist, spirit photography, spirit slate writing, ectoplasm, clairvoyance, and other quakery and cons perpetrated on the gullible, by the likes of the Boston Medium Margery, the Davenport Brothers, Annie Eva Fay, the Fox Sisters, Daniel Dunglas Home, Eusapia Pallandino, and other con artists of their ilk.The whole country got excited by Houdini's campaign against faking spiritualists. He careened through the country, offering money for spirit contacts he couldn't duplicate by admitted magical chicanery. It was a heyday not only for Houdini but for the spirit-callers and there was an equally famous protagonist who thought the spirits could indeed be contacted, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A photo at the front records a meeting between Houdini and Doyle and Houdini gives Doyle his own chapter. There's an earlier chapter on Daniel Dunglas Home, the English engineer of spectacular paranormal effects. Houdini raises hell with spiritualists who were giving their (usually paying) clients a vision of heavens to come, and shares the methods used to practice "fake" and sensational spiritualism. Houdini was nothing if not unrelenting. As a taste of things to come, he ends his introduction with the words: "Up to the present time everything that I have investigated has been the result of deluded brains."

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

After reading the nonfiction work The Witch of Lime Street by David Jafer, I was curious to know more about that story, particularly the details behind the strain in the friendship between magician Harry Houdini and Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I was surprised to discover that they were even friends, let alone had a bit of a falling out over the topic of Spiritualism! Recently I came across a copy of A Magician Among The Spirits, written by Houdini himself in which he not only gives his own version of what went down between him and Doyle but also how Houdini came to be such a force in bringing down the Spiritualism movement as a whole. 

 

As I advanced to riper years of experience I was brought to a realization of the seriousness of trifling with the hallowed reverence which the average human being bestows on the departed, and when I personally became afflicted with similar grief I was chagrined that I should have ever been guilty of such frivolity and for the first time realized that it bordered on crime. 

 

Houdini is quick to affirm that he most definitely believed in a higher power and an afterlife. His issue was with the lengths supposed mediums went to dupe grieving people into believing that their loved ones were trying to reach them. Houdini admits that if he could have found anything, anything at all, that would've struck him as irrefutably paranormal then he would've enthusiastically become the movement's greatest supporter / advocate. In this book, originally published in 1924, Houdini discusses the project he carried out, spending the year of 1919 sitting in on over 100 seances, hoping for anything definitely otherworldly. Instead, he says, he realized he was able to explain virtually everything he saw in terms of distraction and slight of hand tricks magicians employ all the time. It infuriated him that these so-called spiritual mediums were making quite comfortable livings off the grief of people desperate for any connection with their lost loved ones. 

 

Houdini points out that the popularity of Spiritualism cannot be dismissed as just something uneducated suckers fell into. In fact, quite a few of the era's great scientific and literary minds fell prey to the hope that these mediums could put them in contact with friends and family who had passed over. Houidini says he himself had arrangements with 14 different people, including his wife and his personal secretary, to give the agreed upon sign (handshake or code word) if any of them should pass. Fourteen people and not one of them (of the ones that had passed away by then, that is,) came through any of the 100+ seances Houdini attended. Houdini also points to his friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, clearly a man of great intellect but swayed by the deaths of a son, brother and brother-in-law during WW1, making him desperate for contact.  There's also the story of poet couple Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning -- Elizabeth initially became quite taken with the movement, but after one particularly off reading came away feeling very much duped and dismayed.

 

" I heard of your remarkable feat in Bristol. My dear chap, why do you go around the world seeking a demonstration of the occult when you are giving one all the time? "

 

~ from a letter Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote to Harry Houdini

 

Houdini also notes that it was also highly suspect how these mediums often lived the lives of celebrities, winning themselves the patronage of members of society's elite. They would be draped in the finest clothes and jewels, put up in lavish residences, enjoying the benefits of a nicely padded bank account. If the day came that their popularity was showing signs of waning, these mediums would often quietly announce their retirement before the truth behind their act was sniffed out. In the instances where mediums were taken to court on charges of fraud, oftentimes there would be only light penalties put upon them even when it was PROVEN they had duped clients out of money. 

 

In the end, Houdini chalks the whole thing up to largely being a case of what he calls mal-observation. In essence, it's not that people are kidding themselves necessarily, or willfully in denial. Houdini is saying "I believe you believe what you saw, but what you saw is not what you think." Clients of these mediums were just not versed enough in carnival-like showmanship to recognize telltale signs of trickery. They can't explain it, so they see no other explanation other than paranormal. One pretty funny example he gives is a reprint of an article someone wrote about one of his performances, claiming that Houdini couldn't possibly be human to pull off the feats he did. After the article, Houdini responds with a verbal "this is what was really going on" peek behind the curtain of his shows. 

 

While I didn't always fully agree with Houdini's personal thoughts on the topic, this was one highly fascinating read. I think it is important to keep in mind the time in which he was writing this, take into account that he's saying that in his time he had yet to see anything he could not explain. These are the days before EVP, spirit voice box technology, all that stuff that we commonly see paranormal investigators use now. I honestly do believe there are things we (or at least I, I guess I should say lol) have experienced that don't easily have scientific explanation. Then again, I (like Houdini) remain skeptical of 99% of the professed psychic mediums out there today. 

 

One thing I did particularly like about this book were all the photographs of Houdini with the mediums and other Spiritualists he got to know during this project. He also includes interesting diagrams where he lays out the "okay, this is how the medium did that" behind such things as spirit knockings, rappings, slate writings, etc that were commonplace in seances of the time. Some sections, such as some of the stuff on slate writing, rappings, and spiritual photography, did run a bit long for me but there are so many other worthwhile historical tidbits Houdini offers up that I would definitely recommend this to any fans of paranormal or even sideshow history. 

 

 

 

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review 2016-09-18 02:39
Bad Girls by Jan Stradling
Bad Girls - Jan Stradling

The most powerful, shocking, amazing, thrilling & dangerous women of all time. Breathtaking, at times inspiring and always riveting, this book takes the reader into the lives and times of 32 of history's most ruthless and ambitious women.

~from back cover

 

 

 

This lovely little history book, decked out in french flapped-goodness, gives readers a little glimpse into the lives of 32 women throughout history who, in one way or another, have been deemed infamous "bad girls". Stradling covers the classic tales such as those of Elizabeth Bathory, Madame Mao, Mary I, Messalina, Typhoid Mary ... but she also throws in a few lesser well-known names such as the pirate Shi Xianggu, New Zealand's cross-dressing conwoman Amy Bock, Phoolan Devi or Leila Khaled. Not all the women here have tales that are clear-cut evil, some are more a matter of making poor choices based on circumstances, or some were just consumed by a desperate need for attention and respect. Then again, some are most definitely, mind-boggling disturbing. Makes one shake their head in disbelief, but also makes for fun reading! Just some of the topics covered:

 

* Boudica --- Celtic warrior queen who was beaten, left widowed and forced to watch her daughters being raped... can't blame a mama for snapping a bit, right?

 

* Mary I aka "Bloody Mary" -- first daughter of Henry VIII, mostly ignored and desperate for attention... so she went to desperate lengths to get what she wanted...

 

* Empress Catherine of Russia -- stuck with an incompetent, insensitive dolt for a husband. Compelled her to snag his throne for herself, sometimes by whatever means necessary, "for the good of the country"

 

* Belle Starr -- known as a female Jesse James, married twice to two different outlaw men, got arrested with 2nd husband. Both sentenced to 1 year but both out by 9 months. She also had a tendency to choose Cherokee men for lovers; even if the relationship went bust, she was always desperate to keep a portion of their lands for herself.

 

* Imelda Marcos -- First Lady of the Philippines, attitude similar to that of Marie Antoinette, believed she was "giving the poor something nice to look at" while ignoring the fact that she and her husband were running the country's finances into the ground.

 

 

There were a couple stories in here that I didn't know much about but after reading about them here I am definitely curious to know more! I couldn't believe the story about Roman Empress Messalina and the prostitute Scylla allegedly bedding 25 men in one night! Dang, ladies!

 

There was also the story about Ranavalona, who started as a servant to the king of Madagascar. Ranavalona's father once tipped off the king to rumor of an assassination attempt. As a thank you, the king adopted Ranavalona, had her richly educated and trained in court life. When she reached the age of 22, the king had her married off to his favorite son. The son had 12 wives but Ranavalona was immediately bumped to #1 position. When her husband came to power, Ranavalona turned out to be quite the traditionalist, ordering the execution of anyone who was for Westernized ideas or Christianity. She ended up wiping out 1/3 of Madagascar's population! 

 

I found this book most helpful with the information it provided about Mata Hari, as I was reading a number of books about her and appreciated the supplemental info this particular one offered up. It talks of how, as a child growing up in the Netherlands (when she went by her birthname Margaretha Zelle), she had a naturally olive complexion and dark eyes in a land of blonde-haired, blue-eyed folks. Her father called her "an orchid among the buttercups". Sadly, her beloved father later abandoned the family. Once grown, she tried to attend college for a teaching degree but after taking up with the college director she was forced to leave. Scandalous! :-P She later met Captain Rudolph MacLeod (or Mcleod, depending on what book you read about her), 40 years old to her 18.

 

After they marry and she becomes pregnant, she discovers her man is an alcoholic but reasons that as a military wife she does get traveling perks, so she decides to stick it out. Through her travels she reaches the land of Java and immediately becomes enamored... so starts the first tricklings of the legendary "Mata Hari". Strangely though, while she was living there, both children fell victim to poisonings. Her daughter survived, her son did not. After the family moves back to Europe, Margaretha suffers beatings from her husband. She applies for and is granted a divorce and awarded custody of her daughter. Sadly, her ex refuses to pay child support so Margaretha is forced to leave her daughter with him until she can come back rich. It's shortly after this custody battle that she gets the inspiration to take up life as a dancer, officially taking the stage name Mata Hari or "Eye of the Dawn" in Malay language.  She tours Europe for 10 years as a dancer / striptease artist, making that money but depressed because her lifestyle is not suitable to have her small daughter around. But she can't give up the life because the money is good and she loves the fame. 

 

By the start of World War 1, she is nearly 40 years old. It's harder for her body to keep up with the dancing so she decides to become a courtesan to high class clientele, one such being a high ranking German official. This liaison is rumored to be her start in the spy game. Mata Hari later gets an offer from the French govt. to spy for them, which she accepts, but she is later caught by MI5 in England (who believe she's still working for the Germans). She tries to schmooze her way out of trouble by attempting to seduce another German official but he seems to see through it right away, giving her false info which gets her in trouble yet again when she passes it on. 

 

Mata Hari ends up being executed in 1917 but in 1999 her case was reopened and MI5 decided there wasn't enough evidence to warrant a death penalty (lotta good it did her at that point!).

 

This history book is great fun for new and established history buffs alike. If you're just now getting an appreciation for history books, this is a perfect book for beginners since the sections are short and are written in an engaging and easy to understand style. Not overwhelming yet enough to peak one's curiosity to read even more on these ladies. Longtime history buffs (like myself) can also have fun with this as you are reminded of stories you may have forgotten over the years. The book also features a ton of gorgeous photos and illustrations throughout. 

 

 

 

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review 2016-07-03 12:01
Rain: A Natural & Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History - Cynthia Barnett

Cynthia Barnett's Rain begins four billion years ago with the torrents that filled the oceans, and builds to the storms of climate change. It weaves together science—the true shape of a raindrop, the mysteries of frog and fish rains—with the human story of our ambition to control rain, from ancient rain dances to the 2,203 miles of levees that attempt to straitjacket the Mississippi River. It offers a glimpse of our "founding forecaster," Thomas Jefferson, who measured every drizzle long before modern meteorology. Two centuries later, rainy skies would help inspire Morrissey’s mopes and Kurt Cobain’s grunge. Rain is also a travelogue, taking readers to Scotland to tell the surprising story of the mackintosh raincoat, and to India, where villagers extract the scent of rain from the monsoon-drenched earth and turn it into perfume. Now, after thousands of years spent praying for rain or worshiping it; burning witches at the stake to stop rain or sacrificing small children to bring it; mocking rain with irrigated agriculture and cities built in floodplains; even trying to blast rain out of the sky with mortars meant for war, humanity has finally managed to change the rain. Only not in ways we intended. As climate change upends rainfall patterns and unleashes increasingly severe storms and drought, Barnett shows rain to be a unifying force in a fractured world. Too much and not nearly enough, rain is a conversation we share, and this is a book for everyone who has ever experienced it.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Though this pluvial microhistory is not all that long -- just under 300 pages -- there is certainly a wealth of history and social commentary packed into this book. There's so much info packed into the prologue alone! Barnett starts pretty much from the birth of our planet and takes us right up to modern times. The fact that she satisfactorily covers this much history in so few pages is quite the feat! 

 

Much of the early part of this book focuses on the historical significance of rain (or lack of it). Barnett examines events such as Waterloo, hypothesizing how the outcome might have differed had there been less rain on those pivotal days. She also speculates at the correlation between the end of major civilizations such as Mesopotamia, the Mayans, and the Sumerians and how their departure lines up with times of an extreme drought that spanned 300 years. In the 1300s, too much rain ushered in the Great Famine and the Black Death that ended up taking the lives of millions people across Europe, Asia and parts of Africa. Then that period was followed by yet another period of extreme drought. Barnett also suggests that a period of strong rains might have helped push through the first Homestead Act (1862).

 

Rain's temperament can mean the difference between food and famine, health and plague, social unrest and national content.

 

It's not just the rain itself Barnett investigates though. She also looks into the development and history of waterproof clothing and accessories, with a special focus on umbrellas of course :-) I especially enjoyed the look at Jonas Hanway, an 18th century British social reformer who tried to get Brits to quit drinking so much tea. Clearly that idea didn't really take, but Hanway also became known for being pivotal in popularizing the use of an umbrella, not only for function but also fashion. Prior to Hanway consistently rockin' one with his outfit every day, most men of the era found the idea of having to hold their own umbrella too effeminate to even consider. Hanway's influence was bolstered by the publication of Daniel Defoe's novel, Robinson Crusoe, where the main character, stranded on an island, crafts an umbrella to protect him from the sun and claims it as the most important tool he has next to his gun. Guess put next to a gun, it didn't strike men as quite so girly and therefore okay to openly embrace the use of the umbrella. :-P

 

Barnett also gets into the somewhat controversial topic of the government experimenting with developing technology -- known as "seeding" -- to control and even create weather, some of these tests carried out by brothers Bernard and Kurt Vonnegut (yes, that Kurt Vonnegut) at GE's research lab in Schenectady, NY. It's not only the US who's experimented though, seeding has also gained popularity in Thailand, China and Indonesia. Even though many of the test results of seeding (in general) have proven largely inconclusive, the Indonesian government is still using the technology to try to get the worst of monsoon storms to fall over the ocean, to avoid the death and millions of dollars of destruction that can often follow a monsoon season.

 

Probably no surprise, but my favorite unit in this book was "Writers On The Storm" which looks at how rain has been featured in music, movies and literature throughout history. It was interesting to learn that both actress Raquel Welch and tv journalist Diane Sawyer both started out as weather girls -- Welch in San Diego, CA, Sawyer in Louisville, KY.

 

Being quite the pluviophile myself, this was one of my most anticipated reads this year and I was SO wanting this to be a solid 5 star read for me. Alas, it was not, BUT! it was a 4 star read for me! I couldn't quite make it a 5 as there were a few sections that did drag for me a bit, mainly the bit on the development of meteorological technology and some of the sections on drought periods vs flood periods in the American West. The reading of these sections just seemed more slow-going for me than much of the rest of the book. Though with the section on the American West, I was moved by the story of Uriah and Mattie, their story of struggle.

 

Since author Cynthia Barnett is an environmental journalist by profession, one could possibly argue that there is a slight agenda to this book, as she often mentions "cringing" or "wincing" whenever she hears someone say they don't believe in climate change / global warming. I'd say though, whatever your stance on that topic is, there is still, as I said earlier, a wealth of entertaining and thought-provoking history to be found in this book. If you happen to be a fan of the books of Mary Roach, you may want to try Barnett's work out. I could see similarities between her writing style and Roach's, as far as the easy, conversational way of sharing a topic. That said, though Barnett does have a subtle humor to her work that had me grinning from time to time, I do tend to get stronger laughs from the works of Roach. Laughs or no, read this and you're bound to come away infinitely more informed on an important topic. 

 

FTC Disclaimer: BloggingForBooks.com and Broadway Books kindly provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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