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Monthly Archive: October 2018



October 2018



L’art de la Simplicite by Dominique Loreau

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Two Stars

Best for: People interested in some fun home and beauty tips (but only if you skip the section related to health and food, because it is awful). If you’re really interested in a fun minimalism book, just get the Marie Kondo one.

In a nutshell: French author has ideas on how to live a minimalistic life, mostly borrowed from her view of Japanese culture.

Worth quoting:
“Life is far more enjoyable when we cultivate the habit of losing ourselves in our own thoughts: this is a precious gift that brings great happiness.”

Why I chose it:
I love shit like this (usually). I like organizational tips.

This book is equal parts useful and dangerous. On the one hand, Loreau offers some great points about being present in the moment, about minimizing our possessions, and about the need to focus on one thing at a time. Given the fact that I’m currently writing this review while listening to a podcast and eating breakfast, I can obviously use some help on the latter at least. If that were the entirety of the book, then this would probably be a three-star book for me.

But it’s not. Loreau also jumps into the discussion of physical and mental health, and hoo boy, does she get it super wrong. I mean yes, of course, less sugar is probably a good thing (for most, but not all, people), but her obsession with getting the reader to want to be slim (skinny) is just bizarre. There’s a whole section of affirmations focused on this idea, as though one cannot be fat and happy or “overweight” and healthy. It’s insulting. And if someone had a history of body image issues or disordered eating, it could be triggering.

And then there’s her flippant ideas about mental health and human relationships. She literally says that we should “swap our therapy sessions for a case of champagne.” The fuck? She also thinks we should never be critical of others or complain. Her solution is we should write a lot (good!) but never share our writing. Yes, I’ve seen and understand the thinking of, if you’re upset with someone, writing them a letter to get it all out and then burning the letter. But this feels different. I think that if Loreau were in charge of the world, there would be no negative or critical analysis of anything.

So, this book failed as a Brain Candy read because it wasn’t just fun and fluffy. But I chose it for that, so I’m stuck with it.



October 2018



Wicked by Gregory Macguire

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Two Stars

Best for: People who like fantasy. So, apparently, not me.

In a nutshell: It’s billed as the back story of the wicked witch of the west. Instead it’s a convoluted mess of a book that I could not follow.

Worth quoting:
“Galinda didn’t often stop to consider whether she believed in what she said or not; the whole point of conversation was flow.”
“I don’t dress for your approval, boys.”

Why I chose it: I initially tried to read the Audrey Hepburn book Alabama Pink reviewed, but after about 80 pages it still felt like homework. I thought this would be a fun read.

(Narrator: It was not.)

I think this solidifies my thought that Alabama Pink and I would not have belonged to the same book club. I absolutely hated the Cannon Book Club pick by Craig Ferguson (seriously, it’s so bad), and of the remaining dozen books to review for this square, none really caught my eye. I tried the Audrey Hepburn biography and it was as dry as a desert and just as monotonous. I realized that Wicked was an option, and given how popular the musical is, I assumed this would be a fun, interesting read.

Sadly, I assumed incorrectly.

I think part of this is because I just don’t enjoy fantasy that much. I don’t like having to learn a new vocabulary, or new worlds. Having to memorize the geopolitical landscape of a fictional world just isn’t generally my favorite thing to do. So clearly this isn’t the book for me.

I also think that it isn’t particularly strongly written. I mean, I’m sure my opinion is wrong, and someone out there could explain to me how it is factually a masterful book, but clearly I missed something. In fact, when I finished, I went back to read the Wikipedia entry about the book, and holy shit. Plotlines were discussed that I didn’t even recognize.

Books shouldn’t feel like chores. At least, I don’t think they should. And I don’t mean they shouldn’t be challenging, or tough, or interesting. I’ve read many books that are slow reads, that I need to concentrate on deeply, and that have many layers to explore. But those books don’t feel like things I’m trying to get through so I can get to something better. Sadly, this one did.



October 2018



What I’m Reading – October 14, 2018

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I’m visiting California, where it is way too warm for mid-October.


“In her dissent, Ginsburg pointed out that the risk of voter confusion is severe, and that the Court’s order runs counter to something called the Purcell principle—taken from the 2006 case Purcell v. Gonzalez—which says that courts should not issue orders changing voting rules in the period close to an election. “The risk of voter confusion appears severe here because the injunction against requiring residential-address identification was in force during the primary election and because the Secretary of State’s website announced for months the ID requirements as they existed under that injunction,” Ginsburg wrote. “Reasonable voters may well assume that the IDs allowing them to vote in the primary election would remain valid in the general election.”” The Supreme Court Just Ensured That Thousands of Native Americans Won’t Be Able to Vote in November (by Imani Gandi for Rewire)

““As he has done for years, Brian Kemp is maliciously wielding the power of his office to suppress the vote for political gain and silence the voices of thousands of eligible voters ― the majority of them people of color,” Abrams spokeswoman Abigail Collazo told CNN in a statement. Collazo added Kemp should step down immediately “so that Georgia voters can have confidence that their Secretary of State competently and impartially oversee this election.”” Stacey Abrams Calls For Opponent To Step Down Amid Claims He’s Attempting To Suppress Tens Of Thousands Of Black Votes (by Rickey Riley for Blavity)

Sexual Assault

“The first accusations against Ronaldo were made in London in 2005 after his first few seasons with Manchester United. He was arrested, but the woman involved decided not to press charges. In 2009, another woman, Kathryn Mayorga, went to the police with a harrowing story of being raped by a powerful man in a Las Vegas hotel. Mayorga agreed to drop criminal charges against Ronaldo after they settled on a $375,000 payment. The story remained outside the public eye until 2017, when the German publication Der Spiegel gained access to documents related to the case.” Sports Media Is Finally Covering One of the Biggest Stories of the Year. Why Did It Take So Long? (by Shireen Ahmed and Brenda Elsey for Rewire)


“Political participation of the poor is overall lower because of poverty, bad health and many other factors, but millions of impoverished Americans across the country also die prematurely. For instance, in 2015, research funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Social Security Administration revealed that, since 1990, among the bottom quarter of Americans with the least education, life expectancy has either stagnated or decreased. That’s for well over 40 million people. Add to this negative trend the fact that mortality among the poor increases during middle age — which is when citizens generally get more involved in politics. The premature disappearance of the poor, then, occurs precisely at the moment when they would be expected to reach their “participatory peak” in society. But they don’t live long enough to achieve that milestone.” Seniors Are More Conservative Because the Poor Don’t Survive to Become Seniors (by Ed Kilgore for Intelligencer)



October 2018



What I’m Reading – October 7, 2018

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I ran a half marathon this morning! I’m tired.

Horrific Action by the Trump Administration

“The memo states: “As of 1 October 2018, same-sex domestic partners accompanying or seeking to join newly arrived United Nations officials must provide proof of marriage to be eligible for a G-4 visa or to seek a change into such status.” G-4 visas are granted to employees of international organisations and their immediate families.” US ends diplomatic visas for UN same-sex partners (BBC)

“In a policy memorandum, the agency explained that under the new guidance USCIS will give “adequate notice” to individuals denied the immigration benefits for which they are applying, such as a green card, and upon denial, if the individual is no longer authorized to remain in the United States, or never had authorization, USCIS will issue a Notice to Appear (NTA). The NTA will instruct them to appear before an immigration judge, an indication that removal proceedings are underway.” Federal Policy Change Part of Coordinated Effort to ‘Limit Immigration’ (by Tina Vasquez for Rewire)

“To deal with the surging shelter populations, which have hovered near 90 percent of capacity since May, a mass reshuffling is underway and shows no signs of slowing. Hundreds of children are being shipped from shelters to West Texas each week, totaling more than 1,600 so far. The camp in Tornillo operates like a small, pop-up city, about 35 miles southeast of El Paso on the Mexico border, complete with portable toilets. Air-conditioned tents that vary in size are used for housing, recreation and medical care. Originally opened in June for 30 days with a capacity of 400, it expanded in September to be able to house 3,800, and is now expected to remain open at least through the end of the year.” Migrant Children Moved Under Cover of Darkness to a Texas Tent City (by Caitlin Dickerson for New York Times)


“In her speech Saturday in the Senate gallery, Collins perfectly mimicked the worst of Trump and the GOP: She gleefully rubbed our faces in her decision to vote “yes,” all the while trying to justify it with a litany of lies and self-serving revisions of Brett Kavanaugh’s record. She told us we don’t matter. And she was as calculated, cruel, and indifferent as any male senator had been this past month.” A ‘Titanic Fraud’: Susan Collins, the ‘Moderate’ Who Never Was (by Jodi Jacobson for Rewire)

“Women across the world have watched, shaking with recognition, as men find ways to disbelieve Ford’s testimony. For me, watching her life picked apart by the allies of a man who allegedly assaulted her has felt like being trapped in some awful snow-globe that a thoughtless child keeps rattling, just when I’d thought the last flakes had finally settled. They told me I was malicious, that I was seeking feminist celebrity, that I was deceived by my own false memory. I knew I was not. In the end, a government inquiry agreed with me.” What to Expect When a Woman Accuses a Man in Power (by Kate Maltby for The New York Review of Books)

“Notably, even if one of Ford’s friends witnessed an assault, conservatives would discount that too. Ford’s friend might be lying to protect her, after all. What conservatives reportedly want is a dispassionate, neutral third party, one with no political or personal motivation, who can step forward and say, “I saw Brett Kavanaugh assault Christine Blasey Ford.” Without that clarity, conservatives maintain this is a smear job—and they’re using that argument as an excuse to deny the mounting reasons that Brett Kavanaugh should not be on the U.S. Supreme Court bench.” Yes, There Is Plenty of Corroborating Evidence for Christine Blasey Ford’s Allegations (by Imani Gandy for Rewire)

“This statistic, while deeply troubling, is by no means a surprising turn of events. A majority of white women voters went Republican for the better part of three decades. Last year, 63 percent of white women voters in Alabama pulled the lever for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who was accused of sexually violating girls as young as 14. In 2016, 53 percent of white women voters went for Donald Trump, who himself had been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by at least 20 women.” Why So Many White Women Don’t Believe Christine Blasey Ford (by Julia Sharpe-Levine for Rewire)

Women in Science

“And a major study published in 2012 in the US scientific journal PNAS showed that science faculty members rated identical job applications more highly when presented to them with a male name rather than a female name. Scientists reacted to Prof Strumia’s presentation on social media, complaining about discrimination they had suffered in the course of their work.” Cern scientist Alessandro Strumia suspended after comments (BBC)

“Donna Strickland, from Canada, is only the third woman winner of the award, along with Marie Curie, who won in 1903, and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, who was awarded the prize in 1963. Dr Strickland shares this year’s prize with Arthur Ashkin, from the US, and Gerard Mourou, from France. It recognises their discoveries in the field of laser physics.” First woman Physics Nobel winner in 55 years (by Paul Rincon for BBC)

Freedom Of and From Religion

“As Project Blitz strategists saw it, they could gain political advantage by getting opponents on the record, so their votes and statements could be used against them. But in this instance, they tried to bully the wrong pol. In a subsequent appearance on Fox, Marty defended the integrity of his faith and his stance against the In God We Trust amendment. He insisted that posting of In God We Trust in the public schools is “offensive” to both religious believers and the non-religious. And, speaking as a Christian, he said that the “government sanctioned motto does not strengthen our religion, but it demeans, devalues and cheapens our religion.” Apparently, rather than continue to give Marty a platform, the smears stopped.” Christian Pol, Attacked for Opposing ‘In God We Trust’ in School, Talks Church and State (by Frederick Clarkson for Rewire)

Fight Back

“Open to all, the March for Black Women grew to be something even bigger when it converged with the March for Racial Justice. Although the two marches started their actions at different times, they met up before heading to the U.S. Department of Justice headquarters and the National Mall.” ‘March For Black Women’ Brings Out Hundreds Of Activists To Remind The World That Black Women Matter (by Melinda Janay for Blavity)

“Brixton McDonald’s worker Justine said she was inspired by the support. “The reason I am on strike,” she said, “is that workers deserve better wages. “I think we can all agree that it’s pretty crap right now. “What is particularly inspiring about this campaign is that we were previously regarded as workers who could not be organised – people who were just in and out of work.”” Low paid workers picket Brixton McDonald’s (by Alan Slingsby for Brixton Blog)

“The public service loan forgiveness program, created by Congress in 2007, was supposed to ease the financial burdens of those who chose to work in a wide range of jobs, including military service, law enforcement and public museums. But when the teachers’ union investigated why more of its members weren’t using the program, it found that many were being misled or blocked by Navient, said Randi Weingarten, the union’s president.” Teachers Sue Navient, Claiming Student Loan Forgiveness Failures (by Stacy Cowley for The New York Times)

Something Good

““The Good Place” tries, improbably, to fulfill both functions at once. It wants to sit at both ends of the control knob simultaneously. Like any good modern comedy, the show is a direct IV of laughs, but the trick is that all of those laughs are explicitly about morality.” The Ultimate Sitcom (by Sam Anderson for the New York Times)



October 2018



Fear by Bob Woodward

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for: I’m not sure. I guess, anyone from the US who wants a little bit more of the story?

In a nutshell: A bunch of people who have worked in (and possibly still do work in) the White House tell their tales of a completely inept President and some horrifying policies.

Worth quoting:
“In the car, Trump described his advisers, ‘They don’t know anything about business.’”
“Trump gave some private advice to a friend who had acknowledged some bad behavior toward women. Real power is fear. It’s all about strength. Never show weakness. You’ve always got to be strong. Don’t be bullied. There is no choice.”

Why I chose it: This seemed like a sad, appropriate choice for the BINGO category, and also something I should probably read.

Meh. I don’t think this book was that interesting. I mean, from a historical perspective, it’s an important book. And the fact that the journalist was able to gather such detailed insight into this presidency and administration is amazing and necessary.

But it’s not a good read.

It’s basically like reading a diary. There’s no real through line at all. I guess maybe that’s what happens when you write the story while it’s still unfurling itself? The main point is that Trump is just woefully inadequate and obviously completely unqualified to do much of anything, let alone run the government of a nation of 350 million people. Also, he’s a racist. And very, very lazy. And a great example of why you don’t want a business leader running the government.

There! You don’t have to read this.

A couple of complaints I have, and why I chose the title to this post that I did. Obviously Bannon was a source, as was Porter. You know, the white supremacist and the wife beater. And I get that they had insider information that Woodward wanted to tell the story; there were just moment throughout the book where I almost forgot what horrible people they are. And while some people might think that’s a good thing, to get the full story, I think that’s a bad thing. Because I think we need to recognize that everything Bannon does is colored by his white nationalist views. His motivation is clear, but other than his introduction and a couple of sections on ‘globalization,’ it could be easy to forget what a horrible person he is. And I’m not okay with that.

Additionally, the last chapter focuses primarily on Mueller, and seems to be arguing that Mueller has nothing (at least, that’s how I read it). It obviously comes directly from Trump’s attorney Dowd, who is trying to portray himself positively. Whatever, it’s not surprising that someone might have some selfish reasons for communicating with Mr. Woodward. But what frustrated me was his repeated claim that Trump “doesn’t have time” to participate in the Mueller investigation. A claim that isn’t refuted, but is clearly wrong. Trump DOESN’T DO ANYTHING. I mean, he does a ton of horrible things *cough* Kavanaugh *cough*. But it doesn’t take him any time at all. He doesn’t even start his day until 11 AM. He’s golfed something like 200 days that he’s been in office. He has plenty of time.

As I said, the book is likely very important, but you’ve probably gotten as much out of it as I have if you listened to the evening MSNBC shows the week it came out.