logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: nun-politics
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-01-15 15:12
The Old-But-Not-Dead Club strikes again. A truly inspiring read, whatever your age.
On the Bright Side: The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 85 Years Old - Hendrik Groen

Thanks to Net Galley and to Penguin UK-Michael Joseph for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

A while back I read The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old (check my review here) and loved it. I was on the lookout for the next one, and when I saw the next one was available for download at NetGalley I did not hesitate. It has now been published and I could not pass the chance to share my review.

Hendrik explains what has happened since his last diary (yes, he is older now) and decides to write his diary for another year, as a way to keep his brain going. He is now 85 and he needed some time to get over some of the sad events of the last book. But the Old-But-Not-Dead Club is still going strong, with new members and plans, including regularly exploring international cuisine (more or less), a short holiday abroad, and an attempt at local (extremely local) politics. Hendrik’s voice is as witty and observant as it was in the first book, although there is perhaps a grittier and darker note (he is feeling low, everything is getting tougher and unfortunately, life gets harder as the year goes along). But not all is doom and gloom and there are very funny moments, as well as some very sad ones. His comments about politics and world events, always seen from an elderly population’s perspective, are sharp and clear-sighted and will give readers pause. Some of them are local and I suspect I was not the only one who did not know who many of the people where or what anecdotes he referred to at times (I must admit that although I know a bit about Dutch painters, I know little about their politics or music, for example), but even if we cannot follow all the references in detail, unfortunately, they are easily translatable to social and political concerns we are likely to recognize, wherever we live. Funding cuts, social problems, concerns about health and social care, crime, terrorism, global warming feature prominently, although sometimes with a very peculiar twist.

The secondary characters are as wonderful and varied as in the previous book. Some of them have moved on (physically, mentally, or both), and we get to know better some of the ones that only briefly appeared in the previous volume. We also have new arrivals at the nursing home, and a more direct involvement in the home’s politics (with anxiety-provoking news present as well. Is the nursing home going to close?). I loved some of the proposed and adopted rules (a complaint-free zone to avoid wallowing in conversations about ailments and illnesses, a high-tea facilitated by the residents, an art exhibition, even if the artist is not the most sympathetic of characters…) and the sayings of the residents. Of course, life at a nursing home comes with its share of loss and although I don’t want to reveal too much, I can say the subject of death is treated in a realistic, respectful, and moving way.

I shed some of the quotes I highlighted, to give you a taster (although I recommend checking a sample and seeing what you think. And, although it is not necessary to read the first book first, I think it works better knowing the characters and their journey so far):

The idea of using care homes to look after the comfort, control and companionship of the elderly is fine in principle. It just fails in the execution. What old age homes actually stand for is infantilizing, dependence, and laziness.

One in four old people who break one or more hips die within the year. That number seems high to me, but it’s in the newspaper, so there is room for doubt.

It’s always astonished me to see the wide support clowns and crooks are able to muster. Watching old newsreels of that loudmouth Mussolini, you’d think now there’s a bloke only his mother could love. But no, millions of Italians loved him.(Yes, I’m sure this can make us all think of a few people).

Difficult new terms that tend to obscure rather than clarify, especially when uttered by policy-makers. It often has to do with hiding something —either a budget cut, or hot air, or both at once.

Managerial skills alone don’t make for better care, it only makes for cheaper one.

And, a great ending (and one we should all take up this year):

A new year —how you get through it is up to you, Groen; life doesn’t come with training wheels. Get this show on the road. As long as there’s life.

The tone of the book is bitter-sweet, and, as mentioned, it feels darker than the previous one, perhaps because Hendrik is even more aware of his limitations and those of his friends, and is increasingly faced with the problem of loneliness, and with thoughts about the future. But, overall, this is a book that makes us think about the zest for life, about living life to the full, and about making the best out of our capabilities. As I said on my previous review, I hope I can meet a Hendrik if I get to that age, and I’ll also make sure to join the Old-But-Not-Dead Club and be an agitator and enjoy life to the end. Don’t ever settle for the easy way out.

A great book for those interested in the subject of growing old, in great characters, and in an out-of-the-ordinary setting. It has plenty of adventures and events (even trips abroad and international cuisine), although it is not a book I’d recommend to people who love fast action and high-octane thrillers. If you enjoy first-person narrations, love older characters, and don’t mind thinking about the long-term (ish) future, I recommend this very inspiring book.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-01-15 06:19
Rethinking School by Susan Wise Bauer
Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child's Education - Susan Wise Bauer

From the blurb"

 

"Our K–12 school system is an artificial product of market forces. It isn’t a good fit for all—or even most—students. It prioritizes a single way of understanding the world over all others, pushes children into a rigid set of grades with little regard for individual maturity, and slaps “disability” labels over differences in learning style.

Caught in this system, far too many young learners end up discouraged, disconnected, and unhappy. And when they struggle, school pressures parents, with overwhelming force, into “fixing” their children rather than questioning the system.

With boldness, experience, and humor, Susan Wise Bauer turns conventional wisdom on its head: When a serious problem arises at school, the fault is more likely to lie with the school, or the educational system itself, than with the child.

In five illuminating sections, Bauer teaches parents how to flex the K–12 system, rather than the child. She closely analyzes the traditional school structure, gives trenchant criticisms of its weaknesses, and offers a wealth of advice for parents of children whose difficulties may stem from struggling with learning differences, maturity differences, toxic classroom environments, and even from giftedness (not as much of a “gift” as you might think!).

As the author of the classic book on home-schooling, The Well-Trained Mind, Bauer knows how children learn and how schools work. Her advice here is comprehensive and anecdotal, including material drawn from experience with her own four children and more than twenty years of educational consulting and university teaching.

Rethinking School is a guide to one aspect of sane, humane parenting: negotiating the twelve-grade school system in a way that nurtures and protects your child’s mind, emotions, and spirit.
"

 

This book provides a well-written, interesting and informative assessment of the American school system, how children do not necessarily fit into this system, how parents can help their children better deal with the school system, or by "flexing" the existing system to better accommodate their children.  This book offers a great deal of practical advice in a situation where homeschooling is not an option and where the child does not fit into the school system.  I recommend this book to every parent that has a child still stuck in the current education system.

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-01-09 07:37
I read it for the First Amendment ;-)
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - Michael Wolff

I won't lie. This was a hoot; so long as I treated it like pure fiction.

 

It's hard not to fall into the trap of almost enjoying the craziness of this story and its characters, until you remember these people are real and in charge of the largest nuclear arsenal, a powerful military, not to mention our country. Then it's just terrifying, despite the juicy bits. The whole Jarvanka v Bannon subplot is delicious. Jared Kushner comes off like a little boy, with a low IQ. Trump does too of course. Most of them do. Probably because this tale is clearly Steve Bannon's tale, and as such, we should take it with a big dose of salt and probably some Valtrex.

 

It's a fast and easy read showing a horrendous reality -- even only 1/10th of this is true.

Once I picked it up, it was like rubbernecking a traffic accident. It was hard to look away despite the horror. I finished it over a day or so, staying awake far into the night because after reading any of this, sleep is even more impossible than it was before. There's not a ton of new important information here. It's all fairly obvious (no reading, no curiosity, no ability to listen to anyone or think or stay tuned in to anyone but the TV and his own image, defensiveness, anger and bile...)

 

The revealing parts are that everyone around 45 thinks the same things we do.

I'm really torn on this one because if it was fiction, I think I'd feel it was pretty low-brow, absurd yet really funny. I would think it was satire. Since it's not fiction, the whole thing is making me nuts. I wouldn't say it's a "must read" beyond the part where the President of the US is trying to have the book banned. So let's just say I read this for the First Amendment -- yeah, that's the ticket!

 

I do hope that some of the players in this drama will get honest with the country sooner rather than later. I very much doubt that will happen though.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-12-31 15:40
16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square #2 - Guy Fawkes Day
Blind Ambition: The White House Years - John W. Dean

A book about political treason.

 

I've had the paperback edition of John Dean's book for a bazillion years, started it several times, never got very far.  Then it showed up as Kindle bargain -- either free or 99 cents or something, so I grabbed it with the intention of reading bits and pieces when I had the chance.  I take the Kindle with me when I run errands because I never know when I'll get stuck in a line.

 

I had such a line at the post office a week or so before Christmas.  I always use the self-service kiosk when I can, and that particular day there were three people ahead of me, none of whom had ever used the kiosk.  By the time they had finished and it was my turn, I was completely engrossed in Blind Ambition.

 

The events were fairly familiar.  The rise and fall of Richard Nixon occurred during my adult lifetime, so there were no real surprises here.  But I have to say I found Dean's writing much more engaging than Woodward and Bernstein in All the President's Men, which I'm reading more or less concurrently.  As one of the actual participants in the Watergate cover-up, Dean doesn't spare himself, and certainly isn't particular kind to most of the others in the Nixon White House.

 

For inside background information on Watergate, Dean's account is probably one of the best and earliest.  Very much recommended.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-12-26 03:48
Reading progress update: I've read 96 out of 454 pages.
Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right - Arlie Russell Hochschild

This is a very distressing and disturbing book, but it's not giving me any new insights.

 

The first part, which I've now completed, is mostly about the people who live around Lake Charles, Louisiana.  Louisiana is one of the poorest, least educated, least healthy, and most polluted states in the country.  Yet the voters remain staunchly right wing, conservative, anti-regulation, anti-government, and pro-petrochemical industry which is the source of the highly toxic pollution that has virtually killed their environment and is slowly killing most of them.

 

They want jobs, even if those jobs are in industries that will kill them.

 

They are anti-abortion, even if the babies born will be poor and have few opportunities.

 

I really want to feel sorry for them, but somehow I just can't.

 

I know that it has long been a policy for companies to take dangerous operations into communities that are least prepared to defend themselves.  It wasn't news to me that the petrochemical companies of the Lake Charles area exploited a population that was poor and under-educated and desperate. 

 

But by exploiting these communities, the corporations have turned the victims into supporters, and now the rest of us are suffering.

 

I know I should feel sorry for them, but . . . . . . .

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?