ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monthly Archive: May 2017

Sunday

28

May 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – May 28, 2017

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Horrific Legislation and Executive Action

“The probe found that the U.S. bomb triggered secondary explosions from devices clandestinely planted there by ISIS fighters. And the military says the secondary blasts caused the concrete building to collapse. It was likely the largest single incident of civilian deaths since the U.S. air campaign against ISIS began in 2014.” U.S. Airstrike Killed Over 100 Civilians in Mosul, Pentagon Says (by Coutney Kube via AP and NBC News)

White Supremacy

“The suspect left a gruesome scene on the Green Line train. He lashed out at three men who had tried to calm him down, fatally stabbing two of them and sending the other to the hospital with stab wounds, police said. The third man is expected to survive. The rampage at the start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, brought an immediate outcry from religious and civic leaders in Portland and across the country.” Man saw teenagers, one with hijab, and launched into racial tirade (by Eder Campuzano for The Oregonian)

Corporate Responsibility

“The NBA fancies itself a progressive sports league, but that reputation took a big hit on Wednesday when Commissioner Adam Silver announced the 2019 NBA All-Star Game would be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, despite the fact North Carolina still has anti-LGBTQ legislation on the books.” NBA betrays LGBTQ community by awarding Charlotte the 2019 All-Star Game (by Lindsay Gibbs for Think Progress)

Failures of White Feminism

“I once strongly identified as a feminist, but the hypocrisy of the feminist movement has pushed me away. My people, the Tsalagi, never needed feminism before white, christian men invaded our lands. We were matrilineal and matriarchal. Our women had power, safety, and love. It is only as a result of white invasion that feminism is supposedly needed; that is, ameriKKKan feminism is merely one more way in which the white settlers have forced themselves upon us. Native Women no more need feminism than we need colonialism and christianity.” How White Feminists Fail As Native Allies In The Trump Era (by Jen Deerinwater for The Establishment)

Criminal Punishment System

“ICE agents were in the restaurant, 216 S. State, around 11:30 a.m. and had breakfast before entering the kitchen area, where they took three people into custody, said owner Sava Lelcaj. She was not in the restaurant at the time. “They came in looking for one person, who was not on duty,” said Lelcaj. Instead, the agents started to question kitchen workers and apprehended three people who were taken to ICE’s Detroit office, Lelcaj said. Those people are now being released, she said Wednesday afternoon.” Ann Arbor restaurant says ICE agents ate breakfast, then detained 3 workers (by Jessican Haynes for Michigan Live)

“During his probation period, court papers show that he paid his restitution, attended every meeting, finished his community service and even kept himself employed. Unbeknownst to Chatman, he was identified as a suspect in a convenience store robbery in 2014. Although he was on probation, which means that he was required to submit his whereabouts to law-enforcement officials monthly, Chatman was never arrested for the robbery. In fact, according to him, he had no idea that he was a suspect.” Black Man Found Not Guilty of Crime, Still Sentenced to 7 Years In Prison (by Michael Harriott for The Root)

Saturday

27

May 2017

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COMMENTS

This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: People who like a good memoir.

In a nutshell: Actress / director Gabourey Sidibe share stories from her life, from youth through Precious and beyond.

Line that sticks with me: “I’m struggling to find the healthy balance between food, feelings, and actual hunger while people on social-media sites continue to make fun of me. Meh. Fuck ’em. I’m prettier than they are anyway.”

Why I chose it: I know very little about Ms. Sidibe, and also I love a good memoir.

Review: If you know who Ms. Sidibe is, it’s probably because you saw her in Precious, or you watch her in Empire or American Horror Story. She’s fantastic on Twitter, and seems to have a confidence about her that I dream of having. Her book gives us insight into her life, and how she got to where she is now.

A few things stood out to me. One is a bit of a parallel between her life and Anna Kendrik’s in that they both were in movies that were clearly going to be wildly successful and people thought of them as rich and famous when in reality they were still quite broke. Another is how Ms. Sidibe is able to explain, without sounding like an ass, some of the troubles she faces now that she has a successful acting career.

The sections I found to be most interesting, however, were the ones where she talked about her relationships with her family and her attempts to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. The story of her parents’ relationship with each other, her living situation, her attempts to figure out how she could be her healthiest, all let the reader in to knowing this person better. I’ve read some memoirs that seem to linger about an inch below the surface; Ms. Sidibe makes the reader think we’ve gone to the Marianas Trench with her. It’s possible she’s holding back; either way that’s some masterful storytelling.

The book ends a bit abruptly, but near the end, as she talks about why she chose the write the book, I was reminded of how the exercise of autobiographical writing — whether for millions or just yourself — can be illuminating and cathartic. I know some view ‘celebrity’ memoirs as cash grabs or narcissism, and I’m sure some are, but ones like this feel organic and honest, which is what I’m looking for.

Tuesday

23

May 2017

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COMMENTS

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: Anyone looking for a profile of an interesting man doing something unthinkable to most of us.

In a nutshell: Man lives alone in the woods for nearly three decades, uttering words to only one person. Gets arrested.

Line that sticks with me: “He parked the car and put the keys on the center console. He had a tent and a backpack but no compass, no map. Without knowing where he was going, with no particular place in mind, he stepped into the trees and walked away.” (p 77)

Why I chose it: NPR.

Review: Christopher Knight was 20 years old when he abandoned his car and walked deep into a forest in Maine. He was 57 when arrested for breaking into a camp to steal food. This is the story of the 27 years in between, a bit of what came first, and more of what came next.

Author Michael Finkel has written a book before; you might recognize his name from his being fired for essentially making up a story (he says he combined a bunch of people to make a composite without saying so). I was not familiar with that background, but even knowing that, I believe what he is sharing in this profile of Christopher Knight, aka the Hermit. Over 27 years, Mr. Knight lived just a few minutes from other people, but was so fully hidden and so committed to being alone that the only person who saw him for nearly 25 years was a hiker he accidentally crossed paths with.

This story is fascinating to me. On the one hand, this man desperately wanted to be alone, to be away from everyone else, ideally for the rest of his life. But he didn’t choose the strict survivalist route: he stole. And although he followed a strict code when stealing from others, never taking anything that appeared valuable, always going into what he thought were empty houses, for nearly three decades some families were terrified that this burglar would come into their home (and he often did repeatedly) when they were there.

Mr. Finkel does a great job telling this story, about a person it can be difficult to understand. He also provides some background and context to the idea of a hermit – people who leave all of society for years at a time, if not longer. He also provides room for all of us to contemplate what happens when someone like Mr. Knight is forced back into society. Is there space in this world for someone who wants to be all alone, forever? Should there be?

Sunday

21

May 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – May 21, 2017

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Politics, What I'm Reading

Fight Back

“An honest examination of your beliefs is a lot like cleaning house (I’m using creative imagination here because I never clean my house). You have a lot of stuff in your house and it can all seem like very necessary stuff. But if you buy every item that catches your eye and take it home with you, it will pile up, block your doorway, and cut you off from the rest of the world. But if you regularly hold each item up to the light and ask, “why do I really have this? Is it helping me? Is this meeting my needs? Did this ever meet my needs?” You Must Understand Why You Believe What You Believe — And How You Got There (by Ijeoma Oluo for The Establishment)

Horrific Executive Action and Legislation

“DeVos’ selection of these individuals, along with existing staff at the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), confirms what many suspected: that DeVos will push hard for school privatization from the beginning of her term as education secretary. This, in turn, could endanger the general success of the country’s K-12 education while creating even larger barriers to fair treatment in school for already marginalized populations.” Betsy DeVos’ Choice of New Hires Suggests She’ll Keep Her School Privatization Promises (by Alex Kotch for Rewire)

Media

“Many of Fallon’s famous friends show up to explain that Fallon just isn’t an edgy, political guy. He wants to provide silly humor for as wide an audience as possible. What we are meant to understand is that Jimmy Fallon just doesn’t pick sides, okay? No. That’s not okay. It wasn’t okay when Fallon ruffled Trump’s hair before the election, and it sure as shit isn’t okay now that Trump is president.” Sorry, Jimmy Fallon. We All Have to Pick Sides Now. (by Melissa McEwan for Shakesville)

““I used to say that I kicked down the door, but no one else came in,” Gayle Sierens told Richard Sandomir of the New York Times in 2009. “But I think that day is nearing. I really do.”
Mowins joined ESPN in 1994, and has since worked as a play-by-play announcer for NCAA Championships in basketball, softball, soccer, and volleyball, and according to ESPN Media Zone, has been the voice of the Women’s College World Series for over 20 years.” For the first time in NFL history, a woman will call play-by-play on national television (by Lindsay Gibbs for Think Progress)

Racism

“Across the South, communities began taking a critical look at many other symbols honoring the Confederacy and its icons — statues and monuments; city seals; the names of streets, parks and schools; and even official state holidays. There have been more than 100 attempts at the state and local levels to remove the symbols or add features to provide more historical context.” Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy (Southern Poverty Law Center)

Transphobia

“The possibilities, should I fly round trip from the United States to the Philippines and back again, are these: everything goes fine, but I am justifiably terrified of being publicly assaulted and degraded; I am, in fact, publicly assaulted and degraded; either of the above, plus I’m racially profiled. Traveling through a post-9/11 world while ambiguously brown has always meant a curious sort of luck when it comes to winning the random selection-and-arbitrary-detention lottery.” The ‘Trans Tax’: A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Leaving My House (by Nacasio Andres Reed for Rewire)

Misogyny

“Ironically, the Global Gag Rule isn’t associated with lower abortion rates. In some areas, it has been shown to actually increase the number of abortions, especially the number of unsafe abortions. After President George W. Bush reinstated the Gag, the U.S. cut off aid to organizations it said violated the policy in 20 developing countries, limiting women’s access not only to family planning but also to HIV prevention and treatment, maternal and child health services, and even malaria prevention and treatment.” Let’s Not Forget This Trump Policy Will Kill Women Around the World (by Lauren Rankin for Allure)

Tuesday

16

May 2017

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COMMENTS

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for: Anyone looking for a riveting read.

In a nutshell: 16-year-old Starr Carter is in the car when her friend is killed by a police officer.

Line that sticks with me: “Claim folks need to act peaceful, but rolling through here like we in a goddamn war.” (pg 211)

Why I chose it: I’ve been hearing loads of people talk about it.

Review: Holy shit. 444 pages. Started yesterday morning on the walk to work, finished it this morning on the walk to work. I wanted to read it everywhere, and was mildly annoyed that my job got in the way.

This young adult book masterfully covers about a million different topics, and covers them well. What’s it like to be one of the only Black students in a private white high school? What is it like to have rival gangs in your neighborhood? What is it like to have to navigate who you are depending on the company you are around? What is it like for a Black teen to date a white teen? How do you handle it when you see your friend shot and killed in front of you? Do protests work? What purpose do they serve, especially when they can damage those who are already so hurt?

There’s so much to discover in this book, and so many layers. Starr is a well-developed heroine, but so are all of the supporting characters. From her two brothers, to her friends at school to her friends in her neighborhood, her uncle who is also a cop. Everyone has depth and serves their own purpose, not just Starr’s.

I think I was most impressed with two parts: the evolution of Starr’s relationships with her school and neighborhood friends, and the handling of Starr’s sharing the story of that night. I don’t want to give too much away, but Ms. Thomas does a fantastic job of illustrating why people might act in a way that we think we wouldn’t unless faced with that situation.

I loved this book. Loved it.

Sunday

14

May 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – May 14, 2017

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Fight Back

““I’m so offended by this president that I think it requires me to speak truth to power, to say it like it is and to be as honest as I possibly can about what I think about him being the president of this country,” Waters told me. She believes Trump “colluded with the Russians, with the Kremlin … to undermine our election system and thus undermine our democracy.”” Maxine Waters: Jeff Sessions believes ‘it’s his job to keep minorities in their place’ (by Jonathan Capehart for Washington Post)

“Congress is on recess this week, but most House Republicans aren’t holding open town hall meetings in their districts. Seeing an opportunity to make hay over the unpopular bill, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat from New York’s neighboring 18th District, paid a visit to Faso’s home territory Monday evening for an event organized by Maloney’s re-election campaign and local progressive groups.” A GOP Congressman Wouldn’t Meet With Constituents, So A Democrat Came Instead (by Jeffrey Young for Huffington Post)

Horrific Executive Action and Legislation

“The session finally resumed around 3 a.m., and Republican Sen. Brent Jackson introduced a new budget amendment that he explained would fund more pilot programs combating the opioid epidemic. He cited “a great deal of discussion” about the need for more opioid treatment funding. Jackson didn’t mention where the additional $1 million would come from: directly from education programs in Senate Democrats’ districts and other initiatives the minority party sought.” At 3 a.m., NC Senate GOP strips education funding from Democrats’ districts (by Colin Campbell for The News and Observer)

“So does Ramona Africa. She was actually inside the targeted house at 6221 Osage as it was battered by police bullets and deluge guns and, eventually, brought down by a makeshift bomb dropped from a police helicopter. She managed to escape the burning building. Her fellow members of MOVE, the radical organization to which she belonged that was standing off against the City of Philadelphia, were not as lucky.” I’m From Philly. 30 Years Later, I’m Still Trying To Make Sense Of The MOVE Bombing (by Gene Demby for NPR)

“Billy Koehler eventually got a job delivering pizzas, but the position didn’t offer health insurance. When his implanted defibrillator’s battery ran low, Koehler couldn’t afford the thousands of dollars a replacement would cost. He died on his way home from work in March 2009. “He drove two blocks, came to a stop sign, put his car in park, and slumped into his steering wheel,” Georgeanne Koehler testified.” Yes, People Die When They Don’t Have Access To Health Care (by Arthur Delaney for Huffington Post)

Racism

“Public figures have condemned the gathering, which some, including the city’s Mayor, say echoes the practices of the Ku Klux Klan. ‘[The event] was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK,’ Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer said.” White Supremacist Richard Spencer leads a KKK-style mob of torch-wielding protesters chanting ‘you will not replace us’ in fight to keep a statue of Robert E. Lee in Virginia park (by Timonthyna Duncan for The Daily Mail)

Xenophobia

“A man was caught on video delivering a long anti-Muslim tirade against a family vacationing last week on a Texas beach, repeatedly screaming at them about sharia law, ISIS, and Donald Trump. Fourteen members of the family were on weeklong reunion in South Padre Island when the man, who was identified in a police report obtained by BuzzFeed News as Alexander Downing, of Waterford, Connecticut, approached them.” This Guy Yelled “You’re A Fucking Muslim” And “Donald Trump Will Stop You” At A Family (by Talal Ansari for Buzzfeed)

Accessibility

““I simply began to cry,” Webster told BuzzFeed News. “I am a thick-skinned person, but after a very stressful week this was another reminder that society continues to make my life frustrating and difficult as punishment for a faulty body. “No one should be made to feel that their body makes them unworthy of the treatment afforded to everyone else. I was also just unspeakably angry.”” A Disabled Woman Was Trapped On The Tube Despite Being At An “Accessible” Station (by Rose Troup Buchanan for Buzzfeed)

The Only Review of Ivanka’s Book You Need to Read

“The worst thing is that this is not just a dross self-help book. Anyone can write a dross self-help book. Anyone could write this dross self-help book simply by searching the #wellness tag on Instagram and copy-pasting until they hit sixty-thousand words. The stores are full of such things, but few of them are actively fascist, unless you have a particularly rigorous attitude to the cult of self-help as a means of diverting the anxiety of the atomized individual from social change. No, this is a whole different class of charlatanery—a manifesto for aspirational capitalist self-actualization with the gall to call itself empowering, a prosperity gospel for post-Trump patriarchy chewed up and regurgitated as a set of smirking pull-quotes and suggested hashtags, like a sort of despotic Barney the Dinosaur, except with a duller colour scheme, all slimy socialite salmon and sterile beige.” Our Lady of Complicity (by Laurie Penny for The Baffler)

Monday

8

May 2017

0

COMMENTS

Eggshells by Caitriona Lally

Written by , Posted in Reviews

2 Stars

Best for: People who like a whole lot of randomness in their novels.

In a nutshell: Woman who was likely abused when a child believes she’s a fairy and travels Dublin searching for her real home.

Line that sticks with me: “A politician is calling on another politician to do something. I would like to call on someone to do something but I don’t know if anyone would listen.”

Why I chose it: On independent bookstore day in Seattle, I visited 19 bookstores. Many were giving away mystery books wrapped in brown paper. These were galleys they’d received to determine if they’d carry a book. This is one of three I picked up throughout the day.

Review: The reviews on the back of this book trouble me a bit, as I feel like they are treating the main character, Vivian, as though she is simply quirky, when in truth she appears to instead be experiencing some form of mental illness that could likely benefit from some assistance. So much of her time is taken up searching for entrances to the fairy world to which she belongs. She was also likely abused by her now-deceased parents and treated very poorly by her living sister, but this isn’t explored deeply as Vivian is our narrator.

Author Caitriona Lally is talented with her prose and invokes very specific images – and smells – in the reader. As someone who has visited Dublin a fair number of times I did enjoy the recognition I felt in many of the places Vivian visited. There were certain aspects of Vivian’s personality and thinking that I could relate to, and all of it I could to some degree understand; I just don’t think the book as a whole worked well for me.

I almost gave this book three stars, but I think it needed either much more or much less; it didn’t work for me as an average-length work of fiction.

Sunday

7

May 2017

0

COMMENTS

Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for: People looking for a personal growth book that wraps all of the big ideas into one fancy-feeling book.

In a nutshell: Different ways of looking at how to treat yourself well – body, mind and spirit.

Line that sticks with me: “Think about whether the choice will matter to you in a year.”

Why I chose it: I was in one of those stores that sells a lot of cool-looking things for the home (pillows, candles, clever cards), and this book looked and felt like a fun read.

Review: There is nothing wrong with this book. In fact, I think that 22-year-old me might have gained a lot from reading it. I like the author’s focus on being kind to yourself and not focusing on a lot of things we cannot do (there’s no “don’t eat after 10 PM”-style rules). I like that she doesn’t just look at food and movement, but at feelings and even our values.

I just didn’t feel like there was anything new in here save for the fact that it’s all together in one book. If you’re relatively young, or have never read any sort of personal growth book but are having some struggles with your life, you could certainly do worse than this book.

Sunday

7

May 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – May 7, 2017

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

It has been a bit of a week, so I know I’m missing some critical events from the last week.

Horrific Legislation and Executive Orders

“Under the amendment, states would have the all-clear to waive the ban preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to patients based on pre-existing conditions. That means companies could also deny preventive health care services, like mammograms and gynecological exams, to these patients, which many sexual assault survivors in particular rely on following an attack.” Under the GOP’s health plan, sexual assault could be considered a pre-existing condition (by Marie Solis for Mic)

Fight Back

“The phone banks began lighting up almost immediately. But to the great dismay of DHS officials, it appears many callers took the agency’s words at face value, and are making use of the hotline to report encounters with criminal aliens…of the extraterrestrial variety.” Homeland Security is not happy with your calls about space aliens (by Esther Yu Hsi Lee for Think Progress)

“St. Louis police did not initially share many details about Crawford’s death, his father, Edward Crawford Sr., told the Post-Dispatch Friday morning. But he does not believe his son’s death was intentional. ‘I don’t believe it was a suicide,’ he said, adding that investigators were ‘being hush-hush.'” The Protester [Edward Crawford] From The Famous Tear Gas Photo In Ferguson Is Dead In An Apparent Suicide (by Tamerra Griffin for Buzzfeed)

Poverty

“Other reported incidents of shaming include a child in Alabama whose arm was stamped with “I need lunch money”. Canteen workers have been instructed to throw out the meals of youngsters unable to pay. That children from poorer backgrounds have to deal with such degrading tactics speaks volumes about wider attitudes and a toxic political climate around poverty.” Lunch-shaming in schools has no place in the battle against child poverty (by Mary O’Hara for The Guardian)

Schadenfreude

“The collapse of the festival became a national punchline. Those involved believe McFarland and his co-organizer Ja Rule started out wanting to deliver on their promises — an ultra-lux experience on a private island formerly owned by Pablo Escobar, with famous models dancing on yachts, bottle service at beachside concerts, and hidden treasures accessible only by jet-ski. But all agree they knew or should have known well in advance it wasn’t going to work.” “Let’s just do it and be legends, man” (by Gabrielle Bluestone for Vice)

 

 

Sunday

7

May 2017

0

COMMENTS

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for: Those who have been sucked into the Hamilton zeitgeist; those who are interested in learning more about creative genius.

In a nutshell: Annotated lyrics to Hamilton interspersed with stories from the development of the show and spotlights on original cast members.

Line that sticks with me: “I think it’s unfair o ask actors to go onstage and expose themselves with anything less that what he calls ‘ultimate support.’”

Why I chose it: Because it’s Hamilton.

Review: I enjoy musical theater. I’m not a fanatic, but I have been known to sing along to On My Own from Les Miserables in my car more times than I can count. I put the Thoroughly Modern Millie soundtrack on in the background when I’m working. And I own the original cast recording of Hamilton on vinyl (along with Patty Lupone’s Evita).

I came to the Hamilton phenomenon a little later than most, but before some others. I’ve still not seen it, but I have tickets for the tour when it arrives in Seattle in February 2018 (on Valentine’s Day, actually). I ran around giddy when the Mixtape ended up released at 9PM instead of midnight (yay west coast!), and of course I watched the PBS special.

This book was a delight to read. I started it on Saturday afternoon and finished it up after lunch on Sunday. I didn’t want to put it down. The notations on the lyrics provide lovely insight into the choices an artist makes, but the real story lies with the chapters that follow the development of the show, from a concept album through the full-blown Broadway blockbuster it is today. The stories about the original stars provide some insight into people who all of a sudden are household names in a way that many stage actors never are.

But what I think I found most interesting were the stories about the nitty gritty – the costume design, the stage production, the choreography. My husband has maybe listened to the soundtrack once, but even he didn’t mind when I kept interrupting him with a new amazing nugget I’d learned about the behind-the-scenes world. And the section about “It’s Quiet Uptown” – devastating.

I can’t imagine that anyone who is interested in the musical hasn’t at least added it to their to be read pile, but if there are any holdouts, there’s no need. Check it out.