Arizona recently “refurbished” its gas chamber built in 1949 which has not been used since 1999. The plan is to execute prisoners with cyanide and other gases. This is the same gas combination (Zyklon B) used by the Nazis to murder more than one million men, women, and children during the Holocaust. Is this worthy of a democracy?
Lethal injection is the death of choice for Arizona prisons and the state has paid over $1.5 million on lethal injection drugs despite its Department of Corrections facing a budget crisis. Executions have been on hold in the state since the lethal injection execution of Joseph Wood was badly botched in 2014. Now the state plans to offer a choice . . . gas chamber or lethal injection.
Arizona last used its gas chamber for the execution of Walter LeGrand in 1999. At that time The Tucson Citizen reported “agonizing choking and gasping” during the execution. It took LeGrand eighteen minutes to die.
Frank Atwood and Clarence Dixon are the next people to be executed in Arizona and while their lawyers attempt to raise legal arguments the two men have a choice to contemplate. Which way will they choose to die if their appeals fail? In my opinion, both are cruel and unusual punishments for us to inflict upon other human beings.
I don’t read a lot of novels, except historical ones occasionally. Over two days earlier this month I read a really good one based on the recommendation of several friends. The genre is listed variously as Women’s Fiction, Southern Fiction, Coming of Age, Family Life, and Survival! Probably all of those apply to “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens.
I was a little puzzled by the title since I’m familiar with crawdads and I’ve never heard them sing. On Crooked Creek, we called them crawfish, but they are the same thing and they don’t sing. Nevertheless, it was a great read. I immediately wondered why the book had not become a movie, but I learned that one is in the works to be produced by Reese Witherspoon.
The book follows a small girl growing up alone after being abandoned by her entire family. She grew up in the marshlands in North Carolina learning to take care of herself. She only attended school one day because she was laughed at by the other students when she could not spell. Her only friend, a young boy, took the time to teach her the alphabet and she taught herself to read.
I’ll stop here before I tell you too much, but the story goes on until this little girl dies in her sixties. It has a very surprising ending. I recommend this award winning book if you like novels.
The state of Texas put Quintin Jones to death on May 19, 2021, without any media witnesses present to observe the execution. Since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its death penalty statute in 1976 Texas has put to death 571 individuals. This is the first time there were no media witnesses.
Officials blamed the problem on “miscommunication” by inexperienced members of the execution team. Some of the new personnel who had not been a part of an execution before simply forgot to summon the media into the waiting/witnessing area they said. My question is, why were inexperienced people in charge of an execution? What else might they have forgotten to do? No wonder we read about botched and painful experiences of those being executed!
According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), Texas law authorizes five media witnesses to observe each execution specifying that one witness must be from the Associated Press (AP). Later AP coverage of the event highlighted the importance of media witnesses in revealing problems such as have been seen in AL, AZ, OK, and OH where inmates were seen gasping for breath for several minutes or writhing in pain. Per DPIC Executive Director, Robert Dunham, “If the state with the most experience in executing prisoners lacks the competence to carry out this most basic execution function, what does that tell us about what else in the execution process states and the federal government can’t be trusted to perform properly?”
Photo by DPIC
Quintin Jones’ case had already attracted national attention because his was a resumption of state executions which had been on hold during the pandemic, but also because the victim’s family had requested clemency. That and a petition with more than 150,000 signatures didn’t convince Gov. Greg Abbott to grant clemency to Mr. Jones.
Are you familiar with the Enneagram Personality Test? I was not until I read a book by Richard Rohr. He referred to the Enneagram in his book “Falling Upward” and it raised my curiosity so I researched it further. https://crookedcreek.live/2021/02/01/falling-upward/
The Enneagram presents nine personality types with some overlapping. The book I just read, “What’s Your ENNEATYPE?”, talks about “triads” and “wings” and other combinations of the major types. I was disappointed that the book did not have a test where one could determine one’s type. As I read I decided that I was a number One type and yet I wanted to be sure so I found an Enneagram test Online. It confirmed that I was a number One as I had thought.
Most of you have probably taken the Meyer-Briggs Personality test either in school or on the job. I’ve taken it at least three times and have found the results consistent over the years. The Enneagram is similar and if you take both tests I think you will see obvious similarities.
The Enneagram book was interesting and I recommend it to those who like the Meyer-Briggs test although I am partial to it over the Enneagram. The book gives much information about making the most of life with your personality type. You can find out about your Enneagram personalty by taking the test at https://www.truity.com/test/enneagram-personality-test
Albert Woodfox was a teenager when he was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. The Louisiana prison was called Angola and those incarcerated there were treated like animals. They were strip-searched sometimes multiple times a day and were made to work for two cents per hour. Woodfox tells the story of his more than forty years in solitary confinement fighting for his freedom. This is a heartbreaking true story and it should surprise no one that Albert Woodfox is a black man.
I recommend this book particularly if you are interested in the correctional system in this country.
“East of Eden” by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck is a journal about several families and two in particular that become close in a dark way. One of the families, the Trasks, is similar to the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Steinbeck’s characters are fascinating in many realms, such as love, mystery and murder.
Most people have read this book. If you haven’t I recommend that you do. It has entertained readers for over half a century.
“A Promised Land” is an autobiography by Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States. It is a long, thorough account of the former President’s administration. Obama is honest and forthcoming about the trials, triumphs and failures of his time in office. He is very good at giving credit to those who worked with him. I found the interworking of the White House and all that is involved in leading this country fascinating.
This novel is not my usual read, but it has much to recommend it. The story is about a nurse who joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1941. She was happy to be assigned to a base in Manila and for a while all went well there. When the Japanese later invade the Philippines she is taken prisoner for three years. The tale of horror includes abuse and near starvation. Although there is some romance, actually quite a bit, it is still a realistic story of what those in the military endured in World War II and how it affected their lives forever.
“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand
This true story follows the life of Louis Zamperini (1917-2014) from his grade school years until his death at the age of ninety-seven. His was a life well worth the effort of reading this riveting, best selling book. In fact I have read it twice in seven years as well as seeing one of the two movies made of his life based upon this book.
Louie, as he was called, was a precocious young boy with a knack for getting into trouble. Somehow his family was always able to correct him without breaking his spirit for adventure. In high school he funneled his energies into running and while in college at the University of California he broke speed records which led him to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where he met Adolph Hitler and set a new lap record.
Leaving college to join the Army Air Forces he became a bombardier during WWII. He, the pilot and one other man were the only survivors after his plane went down in the ocean during a search and rescue mission. They survived Japanese attacks, sharks and near starvation aboard an inflatable raft for forty-seven days. Only he and the pilot remained alive when they finally landed on the Japanese occupied Marshall Islands where they were captured.
The account of inhumane treatment in two different Japanese prison camps was difficult to read. The beatings and humiliations endured by Zamperini and his fellow prisoners of war are beyond my imagination. In spite of being singled out for the worst treatment because of his Olympic fame, he managed to survive. After discharge from the military Zamperini suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder leading to alcohol abuse and a tormented life. He was, however, unbroken and through a spiritual encounter he recovered and found forgiveness in his heart for his transgressors. He then devoted the rest of his life to working with at-risk youth.
I recommend this book and would award it five stars out of five.
Erik Larsen has become one of my favorite writers of historical novels. I really enjoyed, and learned a lot, from “The Devil in the White City.” Both novels are about events I knew very little about. I knew that the sinking of the Lusitania was a reason for the US to enter WWI but I didn’t know much else. Larsen personalizes this tragedy by introducing us to the passengers of the Lusitania during the voyage. The reader can’t help but wonder who survives and who doesn’t. It was also interesting learning about our president and his personal challenges during the days leading up to the First World War. I would recommend this novel to history buffs and to those that love a good story.
Robin DiAngelo is an antiracist educator with years of experience. Her book, “White Fragility,” is thought-provoking on many levels but her main thesis is that all white people are racist. That is an explosive statement but throughout her writing, she gives examples of how the white race has maintained a culture of supporting racism as a structure of the social order.
Michael Eric Dyson, who wrote the book’s forward, states that it is a “ vital, necessary, and beautiful book.” DiAngelo not only points out how we, as whites, get things so wrong, but why and what we can do to overcome our fragility.
I highly recommend this New York Times bestseller.
Do you know how many people died in US wars since the Revolutionary War? It is around 1.4 million. That is fewer than Americans killed by guns in the last 45 years. Including accidents, murders, and suicides more than 1.5 million lives have been lost to guns since 1975.
A gun is not inherently bad. They become bad when used improperly or in emotional settings. Guns for hunting are generally safe in the hands of experienced users and when locked up away from children when not in use. The same is true of handguns used for target practice. Automatic rifles like those used by mass murderers belong only in the hands of the military.
I’m not a gun expert, but I know guns kill about 80 children under four years of age annually and that is more than police officers killed in the line of duty. Those statistics don’t require an expert.
The United States has to do better. We have more guns (~400 million) than people (330 million). It is not about CONTROL. It is about the SAFETY of innocent people.
Citizens need to rise up and speak up. Call your state and federal legislators, protest, be a voice for gun safety today!
“The Longest Ride” by Nicholas Sparks is sweet, tear-jerking, and readily forgotten. If you have read even one book by this author you know what you are in for. For this reason, I can only blame myself for recently listening to the audible version of “The Longest Ride.” I have a trove of books on my Kindle that I have not listened to and so I’m going through them now in no particular order.
This Sparks book is about a sorority senior named Sophia and her new boyfriend, a rodeo bull rider named Luke. It is also about Ira who is ninety-one years old and his wife Ruth who has been dead for nine years. The book goes on and on with a sweet tale about each separate couple and you know they will somehow become connected in the end. They do, in a slightly unexpected way and the young couple lives happily ever after.
If this is your genre you will love it. I think you can tell that it isn’t mine, but then I’ve been told I read a lot of “dark” material.
From the Civil War to today, “White Rage” by Carol Anderson Ph.D.defines the powerful forces opposed to black progress in the United States. Anderson wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in response to talk of black rage. She proposed that the problem was instead white rage that brought about the unrest in this country at that time, 2014. Her book, “White Rage” followed.
Our cursory study of the Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment would have us believe the struggles of African Americans ended in 1865. The author details how Blacks were met at every crossroads to be turned back by powerful Whites.
Every American should read this award winning book, no, should study it, to finally understand what Black Americans have faced and why the struggle continues to this day.
Solomon Northup, a black man, was born free in 1808. He lived in New York State with his wife and three children. He worked and supported his family and loved playing the violin. One day he was kidnapped and following being sold multiple times he ended up spending twelve years as a slave on a Louisiana plantation. During this time he was brutally beaten and existed working on little to eat and sleeping on a dirt floor. He had no idea whether his family was still alive when he was finally freed.
Published in 1853 this detailed and true description of life as a slave became a best seller. This true story is spellbinding and heartrending. It was eventually made into a popular motion picture. I recommend this book.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be in prison? In solitary confinement? On death row? Now you can know those things and much more about a prisoner’s life by reading what prisoners write at https://prisonwriters.com. “Prison Writers . . . . Where Prisoners have a Voice” is an internet site of writings by people who are currently incarcerated. The articles are about all aspects of life before and after imprisonment. They are edited by professional volunteers and writers are paid $10 for each piece that is published on the website.
Please check out this link and read such articles as these popular ones:
I Was Repeatedly Raped in Prison
Best Prison Slang Words You (Hopefully Won’t) Need to Know
Love in Prison: 12 Tips to Dating A Prisoner
Remember Amy Preasmyer? She Writes Us From Solitary
Life Behind Bars As A Convicted Sex Offender
Authors’ photographs and sometimes a bio accompany many of the articles written by inmates.
Like most of you, I have read “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee more than once. And, of course, I’ve seen the movie based upon this extraordinary book multiple times. I decided to listen to the audio version while riding my Beast. I’m sure you remember this contraption but in case you do not please check it out: https://crookedcreek.live/2021/02/25/the-beast/
I am so glad that I made this decision. The book is narrated by Sissy Spacek and she does Scout’s Alabamian accent perfectly. As I listened to Scout tell the story of her life with her brother Jim, I forgot completely that it was Spacek speaking. She was an eight year old girl full of curiosity and full of spunk.
Unfortunately, the court scenes with Atticus Finch were what I had remembered most clearly. After listening to the audio book, however, I will always remember Scout and her adventures in a small southern town.
I recommend this wonderful book, but also suggest you hear its narrated version if you have not.
Like most of you, I imagine, I read “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London years ago. I remembered the short book to be about a sweet dog who returned to the wild and lived happily ever after. This week, while riding the Beast, a.k.a. my Cardio Strider, I decided to listen to the audible version of the book. How could I have forgotten the cruel abuse this dog endured?
Buck was a one hundred and forty-pound St. Bernard and Scotch Collie mix who lived on a nice estate in California. A worker there stole the dog away from his owners who loved him and sold him to be used as a dog to pull sleighs in Alaska. Buck knew nothing about what was expected of him but he finally learned through many beatings by multiple owners. He eventually ended up in the Yukon area of Canada where the Klondike gold rush was taking place.
Again Buck learned cruel lessons from both the dogs he was forced to work with and from various men who owned him for a time. Finally, mercifully, he was rescued by John Thornton, an experienced frontiersman, who had a heart and a fierce love for Buck. They traveled the frozen country-side for a few years until Thornton was murdered by Native Americans. Buck was furious and savagely attacked the people until many of the Yeehat tribe were dead. Buck then followed his primordial instinct which had been calling him for some time, and he joined a wolf pack to live out his life in the wilderness and his wolf heritage.
The author, Jack London, published this animal fiction tale in 1903. He realistically gave this magnificent dog human traits and thoughts that were easy to accept as authentic. “The Call of the Wild” has been adapted into over one dozen films and remains an all-time favorite.
It has been a year since the pandemic began here in the United States. At that time, none of us knew what we were in store for. We were innocent and naive thinking we’d be inconvenienced for a short time. Now we know the hardships COVID19 is capable of causing. We wear masks, try to maintain a safe distance from others, don’t hug our loved ones and avoid shopping or eating out. People are working from home. Children have been trying to learn through virtual lessons. People we know and love are sick or perhaps even dying. Nothing is normal and we miss everything that we took for granted.
Most of us are aware that we are changed. We are not ourselves in many ways. Our feelings are not unlike those of grief when experiencing a specific loss, such as in divorce, a loss of a job or home, the death of a loved one or our own approaching death. In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross first described what she called the five stages of grief. Looking at these stages now may help us to understand some of our current feelings and moods. Those five stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.
It is easy to see that our first reaction to the pandemic was denial that it could possibly be this serious. As time went on and we realized our lives were severely altered it was natural to feel anger. Anger at being told what we could and could not do, anger at those who refused to take those necessary precautions and anger at the inconvenience of it all was a frequent feeling. Bargaining may be harder to recognize, but at times we surely promised mentally that we’d follow the rules and that would bring an end to this curse sooner. Depression, including suicide, today is a significant problem according to mental health professionals. It is hard to fight when one is depressed and the condition becomes a vortex of despondency and a feeling of inertia that makes each day hard to face. Acceptance is having hope and in the case of COVID a feeling that normalcy will return and that life will be joyous again.
These stages of grief do not always come in this order and it isn’t unusual to switch back and forth among these stages. There are no exact parameters. Some degree of each stage will probably linger and overlap other stages. After twelve months of this experience you can probably identify these stages of grief in your life. Hopefully this recognition of the process and an understanding of the stages will help us to go forward with hope.
This book attempts to explain the spiritual life during two halves. The author sees this as young adulthood where life’s priorities are strict, organized and goal driven, but a time of making many mistakes. He sees the second half of life, beginning at approximately the fifties, as being more stable, peaceful and enlightened. These stages he relates to organized religion.
The author is a Catholic priest and explains his theory based on spirituality but not necessarily from the Christian point of view. He includes other religions such as Islam, Judaism and the Buddhist faith in his examples and references. This book and Rohr’s theory would probably be of little interest to those without any spiritual or religious background.
As a person well into the “second half” I could identify with some of his points but still found the book a bit confounding. I believe his main point was that we grow upward by falling down, i.e., making mistakes and being hurt. There is wisdom to be had in this book, but a plethora of analogies made it a bit hard for me to stick with it until the end.
PBS has called Richard Rohr “one of the most popular spirituality authors and speakers in the world.”
In July of 2020, President Trump reactivated capital punishment for federal crimes. This declaration was in spite of a lack of public support for the death penalty. There had not been a federal execution for 17 years, but he made up for lost time by executing more than three times as many as the federal government had put to death in the previous six decades.. Thirteen people have been executed in these few months, three during the lame duck period of his administration. For the first time in history the US government executed more citizens than did all states combined.
Twenty-two states do not have the death penalty. They are: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia.
An average of 3.5 prisoners on death-row have been proved innocent. Since 1976 more than 171 people have been exonerated. Those statistics alone should be enough to stop the death penalty in this country. The number of executions since 1976 is 1,531. How many of those people were innocent?
According to the ACLU which obtained documentation through the Freedom of Information Act, the first two months that the death penalty was re-instituted the expenses were over $4.7 million. This included all expenses for staff brought in from other federal prisons so they could learn how to carry out lethal injection. I was surprised to learn that the federal government pays all expenses for victims’ families to travel by air to witness the execution. In addition their hotels and food are covered as well as any expenses while they are in town. Other expenses include security for protestors who gather at the time of the execution.
“The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck, published in 1931, is a story of hardship, love, riches and death set in China in the early Twentieth Century. Buck grew up in China, the daughter of US missionaries and then moved back there after college. She knew the culture of that era and after reading this book you will too. I found some parts hard to read because of the lack of worth and respect ascribed to female children and women, but it was enlightening.
Being a well known classic I thought that I had read this long ago. Recently, I picked the book up off my shelf and upon review saw nothing familiar. I always write the date I purchase a cook inside the cover and I saw that I had owned this book for sixteen years. It is dogeared and had a boarding pass inside which I often used as a book mark while traveling. It remains a mystery as to whether I had read it before and forgotten the whole story! Regardless, I am very glad that I have read it now and if you have not, I recommend that you do.
Pearl S. Buck has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. By the time of her death in 1973 she had published more than seventy books. It is available in audio and also graphic adaptation editions.
What is your opinion of “The Good Earth?” I am sure that most of you have read this story of a family that depended upon the earth for sustaining their life and lifestyle.
“Land of the Lost Souls, My Life on the Streets” by Cadillac Man
This book was originally written by Cadillac Man in spiral notebooks over a period of sixteen years. He covers the perils, freedoms and uncertainties of a man living on the streets of New York City. No matter how many homeless people you’ve seen, perhaps even known, I am sure that you know little about what their day-to-day life is like. I know that I did not. This book gives an intimate and frightening view of what that existence is like.
Cadillac Man got his street name from being hit by a Cadillac and afterwards bearing the imprint of the car’s logo. He has a way of telling much of his story humorously, but there is also fear, fighting, death and even romance in his life. If you are offended by foul language then perhaps this isn’t a book for you. I found the gritty verbiage more believable than if it had been sanitized.
This book is illuminating and probably should be read by most of us who have a safe environment and place to call home. There are many reasons why there are folks living on the streets and we should be more aware of them.
Attorney Wedekind writes about violence in Kentucky’s history beginning in 1742 and through the end of the twentieth century. His purpose is to demonstrate that as the state has transitioned from the days of lynchings, duels and family feuds abolishing capital punishment should naturally follow.
The reasons most often given in favor of the death penalty are:
Executions will deter murder by others in the future
Society’s sense of justice demands executions
Victim’s families loss and grief requires executions for justice and closure
It is a waste of taxpayers’ money to keep a murderer locked up for life with free room and board
Rehabilitation of a murderer is unlikely or impossible
The author addresses each of these and gives both examples and statistics to disprove each. He is for the abolishment of capital punishment and presents a strong case.
Because this book is dated (copyright 1999) I started to not review it here, but after more thought I changed my mind. It is still relevant to the discussion of capital punishment and the history of Kentucky is similar to that of other states. The truths apply universally and over time.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject of capital punishment whether for or against. It will also be of interest to any Kentuckian.
“The Sun Does Shine, How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row” by Anthony Ray Hinton – with Lara Love Hardin
In 1985 “Ray” Hinton was a twenty-nine year old man living with his beloved Mother and working a full time job within the community. He wasn’t perfect. He had written a few bad checks and had once stolen a car, but he was not a murderer. That did not keep him from being arrested, tried and convicted to be put to death in Holman Prison in his home state of Alabama. Hinton was innocent and for three years he could only think of that and of getting even with those who put him in prison. During this time he did not speak except to his Mother and his best friend who visited him. After those years he realized that anger and hatred were not helping his cause and he began to make a life where he was even though he never gave up believing that one day he would be proven innocent.
For thirty years he lived, ate and slept in a cell that was 5X7 feet and during these years he had only one hour per day of exercise in an outdoor chainlink pen. Somehow he made his life worth living. He knew he was innocent and he had hope. He started a book club on the cell block and for the first time prisoners had something more than the Bible to read. They were only allowed two books and they had to share them up and down the rows of cells, but after everyone had a chance to read, there would be a discussion of the book. The men now had something to think about other than their approaching executions.
His incompetent trial attorney half-heartedly appealed his case without any success. Justice was hard to come by as a poor black man but year after year he continued to hope. During the time he spent on death row he knew each time there was an execution because his cell was only feet away from the room where this took place. As the generator kicked on for the electric chair the lights in the cell block would dim. Then he smelled the burned flesh of his fellow prisoners, men he got to know over the years they were contained in close proximity. Fifty-four men were killed during the years Hinton remained on Death Row.
When the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) learned of his case an attorney was sent in to seek a re-trial. After a few years there was another attorney and further attempts were made to fight the legal system and to obtain justice for Hinton but to no avail. Finally a miracle occurred in the form of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the EJI, (and author of “Just Mercy”https://crookedcreek.live/2020/11/23/just-mercy/ ) who made a surprise visit to Holman Prison. He informed Hinton that he was taking over his case. More years of legal proceedings took place until Stevenson finally took Ray Holman’s case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2015 he finally walked out of prison a free man.
This story of courage and forgiveness is well worth your read. I highly recommend it for better understanding humankind as well as the Justice System or what stands for justice in the United States.
This New York Times bestseller, “Separated – Inside an American Tragedy,” was published in July of this year. The author, Jacob Soboroff, is a TV journalist who won the 2019 Walter Cronkite Award for Individual Achievement by a National Journalist and the HIllman Prize for Broadcast Journalism that same year. Soboroff witnessed firsthand in Texas, Arizona and California what the United States of American did to thousands of families seeking asylum in the US. In short, families were separated and often placed in chainlink cages similar to dog kennels. Parents were held having no idea where their children were and usually that was thousands of miles away.
Much of this separation was done in secret before it was known to be a US plan to deter those seeking asylum from coming across the southern border. Soboroff went the shelters and tent cities and interacted with both Border Patrol and particularly one father son family from Guatemala. The author’s observations and his sharing of his own horror are memorable.
If this is a subject that interests you, and it should interest all of us, I recommend this book for a better understanding of what was done and to some degree is still being done to families who seek safety in this country. Of necessity, this book contains the names of numerous government agencies and their acronyms and this can impede what would otherwise be a fast read.
Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), has been called America’s Mandela and after reading this book I think that is fitting. The book has been awarded many honors and is a #1 New York Times bestseller.
Stevenson, a lawyer, has spent his entire professional career representing those who had no one else to defend them. He and staff at the EJI took on the cases of individuals who had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole as children. He defended the innocent on death row. Many of his clients were people of color, all were in poverty and could not afford legal fees.
The book is chocked full of individual cases, but one is followed in detail, that of Walter McMillian. McMillian was arrested for a murder that he was in no way connected to and spent years on death row before Stevenson managed to win his release. All the court proceedings along with the obvious prejudices against this black man are very enlightening.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a just Justice System for all citizens of this country.
Please read about the Equal Justice Initiative at https://eji.org You will find it very interesting.
Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer winning author and “Paradise” is one of her many bestselling books. That being said, it is not an easy book to read, especially at first. Each chapter is named for a different woman who is a pivotal character in this convoluted tale.
The book starts out with violent murders and the reader has no idea where it is taking place or why. Eventually the story winds around to a town settled by black Americans who hope they are building their paradise. It turns out to be anything but that.
Many of the names are difficult and characters blend together in a stew that eventually goes from simmer to boil. This book has racial tension, social issues and sexual intrigue.
Overall all I give it a 4.5 score out of 5. I believe that a writer as talented as Morrison could have told this fascinating story with less frustration for the reader.
Monarchs hatch on milkweed plants in North America and then spend the winter in Mexico. Twenty years ago, there were at least a billion Monarchs in North America and now there are ninety-three million thanks to herbicides*. Shame on us.
Since we as humans are responsible for this loss we need to do something about it. First, stop spraying poisons! Second, save a little space to plant milkweed, which is the only plant that monarch caterpillars eat, and other native plants for nectar. If we all do a little bit it can make a big difference.
Many flowers are terrific sources of nectar for monarch butterflies. They include purple and yellow cone flowers, sunflowers, marigolds, poppies, daisies, verbena and many more. This is a good time to make definite plans for spring. My daughter, Dianne, has a butterfly garden each year that includes milkweed and native flowers.
* Source: “Late Migrations” by Margaret Renkl, New York Times contributor
“Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren is a book that covers it all and does it brilliantly. Jahren is a serious scientist whose excitement about her work is infectious. She studies soil, seeds, plants, and especially trees and it is hard for the reader to not become involved in her work in the lab and in the field.
The author has many challenges including being raised without affection or the assurance that she was loved. This, as well as her bipolar disorder, made her relationships complex. She honestly shares her life’s story professionally and personally.
I recommend this true story which is a national best seller.
If you have not already voted, please plan now on voting tomorrow, your last chance. This is an important election and if you care about the future of our country now is your chance to have you say.
Appropriate Poem by Pat Bush
Tuesday morning, I will vote.
I’ll go by land, or go by boat.
Whatever it takes, I’ll have my say.
Wouldn’t consider any other way.
I’ve studied hard, seen where they stand.
(It’s always good to have a plan).
No more questions or second-guessing.
The choice is mine. I’m not stressing.
It takes less time than running amok.
Always vote. Don’t be a schmuck.
John Lewis was a United States Congressman and Civil Rights leader. While peacefully demonstrating he was beaten and arrested forty times and this books draws on these experiences. Throughout this autobiography Lewis, who died earlier this year, stresses how the US protests and demonstrations of the 1960s were peaceful. The demonstrators never fought back and never pressed charges for the violence that they experienced. He uses the lessons of that era to inspire changes to America today. His insights have never been more relevant.
Women were granted the right to vote with the 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution ratified in 1920. That victory came after over 100 years of fighting lead by strong American women, called suffragettes, who were tired of being overlooked. Those women risked their lives for the right to cast their vote and no doubt expected many changes that have been slow to come, such as improved healthcare and personal freedom of choice.
Today women have twenty-five percent of the seats in Congress. Considering that women are 50.5 percent of the U. S. population that is not enough. The fight is not over for women and we need to support one another in our daily lives as well as in the voting booth. How much longer should women wait for equal pay and recognition? No longer!
Another older book that won the New York Times bestseller prize. Another book made into a movie, this one by Sony Pictures. The author has written five other books, none that I had heard of before picking up this one.
This review will be quick. If you are a fan of Jane Austen, you’ll probably enjoy it. If you are not a fan, don’t bother. Two stars at the most in my opinion.
This is another book borrowed from a friend, that I would not have chosen to buy, but which I thoroughly enjoyed. I keep wanting to call this a “feel good” book, but then I recall that it contained some painful stories of disappointment and loss. Somehow the author manages to make these comforting along with all her accounts of kids, birds, and butterflies.
“Late Migrations” is a compilation of short stories and that makes it easy to pick up and put down at leisure. I recommend this book which is filled with love.
Margaret Renkl is an opinion writer for The New York Times where her essays appear weekly.
This is an old book that I borrowed from a friend. It was published in 1985 and made into a movie with A List actors. It’s a New York Times bestseller, so it has to be good, right? Actually it was a pretty good read.
It is about a quirky family that sticks together a little too closely after they reach adulthood. That dynamic affects their relationships with others, especially their spouses. I would have preferred a different outcome for one particular couple, but then it would not have had the surprise ending.
Anne Tyler is a prolific and entertaining writer. I’ll give her 3.5 stars for “The Accidental Tourist.”
“Domestic violence” describes a range of situations from emotional and physical threats to injury or even murder. There is nothing “domestic” about “violence.” “Relationship Violence” is sometimes used in media reporting and I strongly support this more accurate terminology. Some prefer “intimate partner violence,” but in my opinion this comes up short. First, it obviously leaves out victims whose abuser is someone other than a partner. The abuser could be any relative or friend with whom one has a relationship.
Statistics indicate one in three women will be the victim of intimate partner violence, but including other types of relationships would most certainly increase the statistic greatly and there is no reason to limit attention to a particular type of relationship or gender.
Be aware and report violence whether experienced or witnessed.
There are many books out about the current President of the United States. One, written by President Trump’s niece, was reviewed a couple of days ago and it seems this is a good time to follow up with another bestseller.
“Rage” is written by the well-known and respected writer, Bob Woodard, who has forty-nine years of experience. Woodward, of Watergate fame along with Carl Bernstein, is a respected journalist who has written or co-authored twenty books. His style is clear and the content is well documented with source notes for each chapter.
I knew this book would have actual quotes of the President, taken from recordings of interviews but I did not expect all the additional behind-the-scenes reporting. If you are interested in learning more about the chaotic history of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and his nearly four years of governing I recommend you read this book.
This Pulitzer Prize winning author gets five stars for holding my attention and providing inside information about the current president.
“Too Much and Never Enough – How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” by Mary Trump, PhD
Mary Trump is the niece of the President of the United States. In this book she writes about her family in detail and claims to know what makes Donald J. Trump the kind of leader that he is. She doesn’t hold back while sharing her recollections and opinions of this well known and powerful family. Her account of the toxic dynamics involved is hard to discount based on her training and work as a clinical psychologist.
If you are interested in the subject I recommend this book. I found it well written and easy to read.
This book was a gift from my sister-in-law. When I first saw it I wondered if it was about religion or about saving the trees. It turns out that it is about both. I have read the Bible my whole life, but I never read it thinking specifically about trees. As it turns out trees are mentioned in the Bible more than any other living creation except for humans.
The author is a medial doctor who used to be a carpenter. He has become a minister and now lives in Lexington, KY. His book makes the case that trees are essential to everyone’s understanding of God. Sleeth points out trees from Genesis to Revelation in a very conversational way. After finishing this book I will never look at trees or read the Bible in the same way.
“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.” John Muir
These are unprecedented times of pandemic, wild fires, hurricanes, racial tension and political uncertainty. We experience so many emotions at the same time and we wonder how to deal with any one of them. Perhaps one way to sort out our feelings is to realize that we are enduring profound grief. We are Grieving the loss of normalcy that is missing in our lives.
Most of us are familiar with the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Do any of these sound like what you are feeling? I believe we are encountering profound grief at this time. We do not have to experience a loss through death in order to undergo these emotions. https://crookedcreek.live/2018/12/10/grief/
Any loss can cause some or all of these emotions in any order. It is not unreasonable to feel anger when unable to go out to eat in a restaurant or to enjoy a big family get-together. If is very natural to be depressed when unable to hug your loved ones for months on end. These are normal feelings and we are normal having them, but it does not mean it is easy.
Hopefully just recognizing the grief for what it is will be of some help. Acknowledging rather than denying may help us to feel more normal. Accepting the abnormal might mean realizing that it is temporary and that there will be normalcy once again at sometime in the future.
In the meantime, explore your feelings by making a list of that has changed. This may put things into a different perspective. We may realize that there have been gains as well as losses.
“Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.” Marcel Proust
An eighty year-old woman in New York City in 2015 receives a box of letters from long ago and seven decades of secrets spill forth. The shock of learning about her past was devastating both physically and emotionally.
At this point the story switches to her childhood in Germany in 1939 and the way her Jewish parents had saved her and her sister from the Nazis. The amazing journey takes the mother and her two daughters to the South of France where they become separated. One daughter ends up in Cuba and the other in the United States.
This story is based on true events and is an unforgettable account of love, sacrifice and survival. I recommend it.
“The Internet has been this miraculous conduit to the undeniable truth to the Holocaust.” Steven Spielberg
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit Indigenous communities in the United States the hardest. Just weeks ago, the Navajo Nation had the highest per capita rate of cases in the entire country. Yet in the midst of this unprecedented global crisis, the current administration is seizing the opportunity to open more fracking and drilling in the Greater Chaco region in New Mexico. The Chaco area contains the most sweeping collection of ancient ruins north of Mexico. The park preserves one of the most important pre-Columbian cultural and historical areas in the United States per Wikipedia.
This plan could add up to around 3,000 new oil and gas wells to the area, threatening the safety of the local air and water — and pumping out exactly the kind of catastrophic pollution that makes people even more susceptible to dying from coronavirus. During this pandemic, corporate polluters have been handed free rein to move forward with dangerous fossil fuel extraction on public lands — including those around the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Please let your Congressional representatives know that this would harm communities and destroy lands forever. Tell them you want them to stop this destruction!
SOURCE: Natural Resources Defense Council Environmental Advocacy Group
If not, please consider registering now so that you are prepared to place your vote in November. There have been few times in the history of the United States when a vote was more important. Do your duty as an American, PLEASE.
Shamefully in the last election (2018) nationwide turnout was only fifty percent (50%).
The Arctic Refuge in Alaska is home to polar bears and migrating caribou. It also promises wealth from oil. After over sixty years of protection, the current administration has just finalized plans to open the area to drilling and fracking. “I do believe there could be a lease sale by the end of the year,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said.
Republicans since Ronald Reagan have worked to claim the fossil fuels in Alaska’s coastal plains. The current Democratic presidential nominee does not favor drilling, but if it passes now, undoing it will be difficult if not impossible once the lease rights have been auctioned to energy companies.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge spans 19 million acres in northeastern Alaska. Alaskan lawmakers support drilling. Because of its likely effect on climate and wildlife environmental activists including Native Americans are strongly opposed. In this time of pandemic and civil unrest, it is easy to miss such actions that will affect our children and their children. We need to be vocal about our concerns by contacting our lawmakers whether we are for or against this and other actions.
Haven House Mission which I have discussed here on Crooked Creek several times https://crookedcreek.live/2019/07/07/haven-house/ has undergone significant changes this summer. As of this month the Park Memorial United Methodist Church in Jeffersonville, IN has become the new owner. Haven House is now Catalyst Rescue Mission.
The Mission Statement is: “to help end homelessness in Southern Indiana by Providing shelter, case management, life skills training and social services that propel people into housing permanency.”
I’ve wanted to read this New York Times bestseller since I first heard Kendi interviewed on TV. I have now read it and I am disappointed. I had hoped to learn specific actions that I could take as an antiracist in more than name only. I did not clearly find those actions. To me the book was confusing. It is full of definitions that used the words antiracist and racist in them. It did get more readable in the last few chapters when the author became more personal.
I don’t want to turn anyone off regarding this book. It was worth the read albeit a struggling one. It may be me and you may have a different experience with it. If any of you have read the book, I’d love to hear your opinion.
Kendi is a professor at the American University in Washington, D. C. He has written two other books which won various awards. He is the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center.
I don’t read a lot of novels, but I am very glad that I did not miss this one. The author, a Harvard graduate, has woven the lives of two disparate families into a web that is forever binding. The story involves teenage love, adult secrets and subtle racism.
This book is utterly engrossing and its story lines are complex leaving one considering important issues of life. I recommend it without hesitation.
“Little Fires Everywhere” has won many awards including the #1 New York Times bestseller. It was made into a Hulu series starting Reese Witherspoon.
America has lost a true hero, Rep. John Lewis has left us to carry on his fight for equality in America. It is not enough to grieve his loss. We must stand up, speak up for justice for all Americans.
He said it best: “Do not get lost in a sea of despair.Be hopeful, be optimistic.Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime.Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Rob Bell is a bestselling author and international teacher and speaker. I was first introduced to his writing by a friend who never steers me wrong when it comes to books. I have read two of Bell’s books and plan to read more in the future.
Since the subtitles tell one exactly what the books are about I’m going to list both of them for you in their entirety.
“Love Wins” – A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived
“What is the Bible?” – How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything
There you have it! This is what these two books are about and I recommend them both. Regardless of how many times you have read the Bible I promise you that you will be enlightened or at least encouraged to look at the Bible in a different way.
If you have questions about life and/or death this book is a must-read. Paul Kalanithi, MD was a brilliant neurosurgeon and scientist who strove to meet his patients’ needs emotionally as well as physically. He had many questions about death while he held the life of his patients in his skilled hands.
At the zenith of Paul’s career while in his fourth decade of life, he learned that he had terminal cancer. During his final months, he wrote this book about facing and accepting that reality. He honestly tells us his fears, doubts, and hopes in the most sensitive way. It is a beautiful story about an extraordinary yet humble life.
His wife, Lucy, completes the book via an epilogue about his final days.
This book is a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Dianne Bynum is the most prolific reader I know currently. I like to include some of her book reviews to give you a look at different genres. She reads a wide variety of books and I think you will enjoy hearing from her from time to time. Here’s the latest:
“Carter Beats the Devil” by Glen David Gold
Only 480 pages? I could have sworn it was a least 700 pages. So many characters and subplots! When I was about half way through Carter Beats The Devil by Glen David Gold, I remember scanning through to the end to see if I could make It. I wasn’t bored as much as overwhelmed. I felt like this book would have made a wonderful series of books. There are so many good stories revolving around Carter the Great. Charles Carter was a real magician in the early 1900’s but this story has little to do with the real man. President Harding is an important character in the book as well as the creator of the first BMW and the creator of the first electronic television. All of the characters are extraordinary. You won’t find any “everyday people” in this book. This book had a larger than life feel to it, it’s almost like the author was winking at us saying, “I know these characters are over the top, but isn’t it fun?” – there’s a damsel in distress that doesn’t need our help, a villain with a black cloak and a blood thirsty dog and our magician that truly can get out of any scrape with the tools up his sleeves. It’s fun but very involved. I’ll remember the characters long after I remember what they did.
This book is about Virginia Hall, a woman of great importance who rarely received recognition for her accomplishments as an American Spy. She was born of privilege but spent her entire adult life fighting for peace during World War II and the years that followed. In 1942 a transmission from the Gestapo termed her “the most dangerous of all Allied spies” saying that they “must find and destroy her.”
Details of Hall’s exploits are riveting and I found this book hard to put down. She fought in France for the Resistance and then in many other countries for the Allied forces. Her assignments were as dangerous and physically demanding as those of any male’s and she carried them out with precision despite having an artificial leg. Many of those she worked with were not even aware of her disability.
I have read extensively about WWII but I had not heard of Virginia Hall and had no idea that women were used as spies on the frontlines of armed conflict. In fact, few did, but Hall fought bravely and saved many lives by her efforts. She should be a hero to us all. I recommend this thrilling true story.
A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER
Chosen as a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, PopSugar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookBrowse, the Spectator, and the Times of London.
Tara Westover’s memoir is both enlightening and frightening. She tells the story of her life growing up within a large family of children who were “homeschooled” in name only. They actually had no education at all except what they taught themselves. The author was seventeen-years-old the first time she entered a classroom. Amazingly she earned a PhD from Cambridge in 2014. This is her first book and I recommend it.
Westover recounts growing up in the shadow of a beautiful Idaho mountain on which her father owned a junkyard. Her mother was a midwife who helped support the family by selling medical remedies made from herbs and oils. The children received no immunizations and never saw a doctor through illnesses and serious injuries that children should never have to endure.
The father of this family was a religious zealot and all decisions were made by him based upon his interpretation of the Bible. To make matters worse he was mentally unstable as was one of the sons. The result of these factors made growing up emotionally as well as physically dangerous.
Tara Westover’s journey to become “educated” is troubling but very inspiring. Her memoir is a #1 New York Times bestseller.
Do you follow your gut instincts and if so are they usually right?
I believe we are given instincts for a reason and I do try to pay attention to what my “gut” tells me. If I am in a place that is potentially unsafe and I have the feeling I should not take a certain direction, or elevator perhaps, then I don’t take that way. It has never failed me.
“It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct.” Sigmund Freud
It’s no accident that:
We learned about Helen Keller instead of W.E.B. DuBois
We learned about the Watts and L.A. Riots, but not Tulsa or Wilmington.
We learned that George Washington’s dentures were made from wood, rather than the teeth from slaves.
We learned about black ghettos, but not about Black Wall Street.
We learned about the New Deal, but not “red lining.”
We learned about Tommie Smith’s fist in the air at the 1968 Olympics, but not that he was sent home the next day and stripped of his medals.
We learned about “black crime,” but white criminals were never lumped together and discussed in terms of their race.
We learned about “states rights” as the cause of the Civil War, but not that slavery was mentioned 80 times in the articles of secession.
Privilege is having history rewritten so that you don’t have to acknowledge uncomfortable facts.
Racism is perpetuated by people (and systems) who refuse to learn or acknowledge this reality.
You have a choice.
Tonight, the President of the United States will hold a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Many believe the rally should not be held there because of the city’s history of violence against African Americans almost 100 years ago. Tulsa was only one of many cities wherein Black Americans were tortured, beaten, burned, or hanged during the so called “Red Summer.”
Red Summer occurred in 1919 and lasted from late winter through early autumn and took place in over three dozen cities in the United States. The NAACP and other activist groups organized peaceful protests that were soon overrun by white supremacists leading to the months’ long riots that burned Black-owned businesses, homes, and families.
I wonder what city might be exempt from the history of such events and therefore appropriate for political rallies.
I wonder how many of you readers learned about this time in American history during your years in school. I know that I did not. I don’t think it is by accident that we were not taught about this and other times of conflict between White and Black Americans.
The size of this big book might be off-putting but if you are interested in how your body works I suggest you read it. Being a Registered Nurse I wondered if this would be of interest to me since I expected it to be just anatomy and physiology with which I’m familiar. But, when I realized that the author was the same witty Bill Bryson who I had read before, I wanted to give it a try. Read more about this prolific author here: https://crookedcreek.live/2019/07/04/bill-bryson-book-review/
This fascinating book is twenty-three chapters long, beginning with the skin and hair and ending with the end, i.e., death. Each system of the body is described along with its functions. There is much history included regarding discoveries and photos of those who made them. Anecdotes included are purely Bill Bryson showing off his dry humor from time to time. Borrow or invest in this operator’s manual for your body!
This book has won much acclaim including The New York Times bestseller and The Washington Post book of the year.
Here’s a book that I recommend for all citizens of a democracy. It’s cheap, it’s small but it is loaded with information that we need.
“On Tyranny” by Timothy Snyder
In the twentieth century, many Europeans saw their democracies yield to fascism, communism, or Nazism. Twenty years into the twenty-first century we have the advantage of this knowledge but we must be aware and mindful. Timothy Snyder, an Oxford graduate, presents twenty lessons we can learn from the last century.
We need to be prepared for the uncertain years to come and this little book can help us in that effort. I recommend that you read “On Tyranny” soon.
“Mr. Snyder is a rising public intellectual unafraid to make bold connections between past and present.” —The New York Times
When I borrowed this book I was expecting a silly cat story. Boy was I wrong! This is truly a chronicle of a cat who traveled. In fact he traveled all over Japan. The cat is the narrator and he is very funny and wise. His relationship with his master was one that made me smile page after page. This small book is packed full of interconnections of small boys as they grew into adulthood and the emotions run the gamut. I recommend this book for anyone who is an animal lover, especially a lover of cats.
A book that “speak[s] volumes about our need for connection—human, feline or otherwise” (The San Francisco Chronicle),
I just read this book for the second time and still found it very interesting and uplifting. Professors often give a “last lecture” at the end of their illustrious careers. Randy Pausch, a tenured professor at Carnegie-Mellon, gave his when he was in his late forties and dying with pancreatic cancer. He had many reasons to give this lecture to an overflow crowd of over 400, but his real audience was his three young children. His talk covered things he wanted his children to know one day because they were too young to remember him and all the love he had for them.
It is a beautiful true story that I think any of us can learn important lessons from, but if you aren’t inclined to read the book you can hear and see Pausch give his Last Lecture on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7zzQpvoYcQ
If you could sit down with any influential leaders from any country living or dead; who would it be and what would you say to them?
These are my top three at the moment and they need no name tags. What I would say would be unimportant because I would be so interested in hearing what they had to say, but I would probably have a question to get the discussion started.
Photos from Wikipedia, Pixabay and Bing in the order above.
So much fun, a great escape…It’s April of 2020 and the world is in the throes of a pandemic. I’ve been sick for a month with a virus that no one fully understands. I needed a book like The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. When my fever broke and I began to feel like reading but I was too feeble to walk about, I’d pick up this book and I’d be transported. Transported back to the time when I was a little girl that looked for evidence of fairies. A little girl that was intrigued by witches and wouldn’t have minded it at all if one crossed my path. It was a beautiful book of rolling Celtic hills, herds of sheep and farmhouses where fine butter is produced. But don’t think that this story is a mere fairytale. I found some First Sight while reading this book. I’ll let the Kelda, queen of the Wee Men explain, “First sight is when you can see what is really there, not what your head tells you ought to be there.” There was a lot to think about in this book. I love this line from Granny Aching, “Them as can do has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voice.” I found strength in those words in a time of such unknown. I’ll have to warn you, there’s lots of “it’s a dream in a dream” stuff that may turn some readers off. You really need to enjoy fantasy before you can earn that Second Thought I spoke of earlier. Also if you’re a fan of Discworld, a series written by Pratchett, you won’t recognize this author. It has some of the same silly humor but this book is deeper and more traditional than the other books that I’ve read by him. I’m lucky to have found this book and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re looking for an escape.
Here we are sixteen months later and the EPA has finally begun to acknowledge what research has shown for years: that neonic pesticides pose serious risks to bees, birds, other wildlife — and even human health. But, rather than taking sweeping measures to crack down on neonics, the EPA is pushing to continue allowing widespread neonic use all over the country, including on food crops.
Bees in particular, are necessary for successful food crops and their numbers have been reduced by over 90% in large part by the neonic products listed in the above referenced post. During the current corona virus pandemic many are worried about our food supply chain. We need to be more aware and concerned about how the lack of pollinators and neonic use will affect our agriculture in the future.
What Can We Do?
We can plant flowers for the pollinators
We can refrain from the use of insecticides
We can contact the EPA and complain about their lack meaningful action
We can call our US Representatives and Senators’ offices and express our concern about the EPA’s inaction
I cannot explain why this book has such a hold on me, but I have read it four times. It was copyrighted in 1962. I was introduced to it by my psychiatric nursing instructor in the early 70s. I saw the movie and re-read the book a few years later. Finally I read it in 2010 and again in 2020. Seeing the movie influenced me because in subsequent readings I always pictured the main character, Randall McMurphy, as Jack Nicholson.
If you like a good story, if you are interested in psychiatry or if you are just curious and haven’t yet read “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” I recommend that you try it. The psychiatric ward is running smoothly under the direction of Nurse Ratched until McMurphy lands there. Nothing is ever the same. The wards are full of competition, gambling and testing the boundaries for a time. Then it comes to a stop and you need to read it to see who wins, Nurse Ratched or Randall McMurphy.
I recommend this book for an inside look into psychiatric care in the sixties and before.
“The personal ego already has a strong element of dysfunction, but the collective ego is, frequently, even more dysfunctional, to the point of absolute insanity.” Eckhart Tolle
This year’s Kentucky Derby will be the 146th running of three-year-old thoroughbreds. Known as the fastest two minutes in sports this horse race attracts people from all around the globe. Beginning in 1875 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY the Derby runs on the first Saturday in May. It is preceded by the Derby Festival with steamboat races, world-class fireworks, and many other special events.
Due to the coronavirus, things will be different this year. The Kentucky Derby along with all of the festivities have been rescheduled for September. It will be exciting, but it will not be the same. The change is unavoidable and the jockeys will still give it their best, the ladies will wear their fancy hats and the Kentucky Derby will run to the cheers of excited fans. At the end of the one and one quarter mile race the winner will be draped in a blanket of over 400 roses and we will sip mint juleps and dream of next May.
“You can’t win the Kentucky Derby unless you’re on a thoroughbred.” Joe Torre
People tease me about being too interested in death and I do see the subject as something to be explored. After all, it is the last and greatest mystery of all time. We won’t know what it’s like until it’s our death and then we won’t be able to share details. Therefore, I wonder about the subject.
While “The Bright Hour” subtitle is “A Memoir of Living and Dying” I saw it as much more about living. Nina Riggs faces death from terminal breast cancer while she is witnessing the death of her Mother from a blood cancer. Riggs is in her late thirties with two children. She and her husband face cancer with strength and even humor.
The author manages to find beauty and truth because she looks for it. She is brave and she shares her most personal hopes, fear, and treatments. I recommend this book. It will make you smile and maybe shed a tear.
“It’s mostly just normal human drama, negotiating life with your kids, your parents, your partner, your friends, you job, your home, your pets, etc. It’s life.” Nina Riggs
Earth Day began as a response to oil spills, smog, and polluted rivers. On April 22, 1970, over 20 million Americans protested the crisis and demanded changes to protect the environment. This first Earth Day launched The Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Other countries followed suit and eventually, the United Nations signed the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The theme for this 50th anniversary of Earth Day is climate action. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of life on planet Earth. We all can and must be involved to make a difference. Our children’s and grandchildren’s lives depend on us.
“Earth Day 1970 was irrefutable evidence that the American people understood the environmental threat and wanted action to resolve it.” Barry Commoner
Imagine that a calamity came along that would wipe out every song in the world except one and that you had the power to choose the one that would remain. All musical compositions would continue, but there could only be one song. What would be your choice to hear for the rest of your life? One song, that’s all, what would you choose?
This question, and my answer, came to me while watching Andrea Bocelli perform in a deserted Milan on Easter Sunday a few days ago. His twenty-five-minute solo concert included my pick for the eternal and solitary song for the world. As I listened to his awesome tenor voice, I recalled another heart-stopping time I had heard this song.
Several years ago while in Nova Scotia I was walking near Peggy’s Cove when I heard music that wafted across the rugged terrain and rode the wind with great effect. That music was from a bagpiper standing alone upon a hill of stone. There were no words, but I knew the words by heart.
I have no musical talent but I love all kinds of music and especially enjoy rock from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The songs that stir my heart the most though are hymns I remember from my childhood. I can see my grandfather leading the singing in the little country church. You can hear my favorite song in all the world and the one I’d pick for forever here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRciWwLXctQ
What song would be your pick for the world?
The 25-minute live-streamed “Music for Hope” concert by the Italian singer reached more than 2.8 million concurrent viewers in the largest simultaneous audience for a classical live stream in YouTube history. You can hear and see Bocelli’s entire concert here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huTUOek4LgU
“A good song takes on more meaning as the years pass by.” Bruce Springsteen
This is such a beautiful story and a joy to read. Circe is one of my favorite books and I was anxious to read Miller’s second novel, A Song for Achilles. I was surprised that it was a love story. I’m also surprised that the book wasn’t narrated by Achilles but by his lover and companion Patroclus. I’ve never heard this part of the myth and I thought it added some humility to the story of one of the world’s first super heroes. Achilles wasn’t a god, his father was human, but he had the air of entitlement that comes from knowing that royalty runs in your blood. You will love both of these young men because you meet them as young boys before Achilles is spoiled in battle. Young boys play together and learn together. You know that they are in love before they do and you’re happy when they finally discover it. There are a lot of surprises in the book so I don’t want to ruin it for you. Now whenever I hear the name Achilles, I’ll remember his loyal Patroclus, a mortal that taught the gods about love.
These are unprecedented times. No one living has experienced such a pandemic in their adult lives. Restrictions depend upon where you live, but almost everyone is restricted in some way. Each country’s precautions are a little different and in the US it is up to each state to decide how much we must restrict our movements.
Regardless, we have all had to adjust to a new normal and there is nothing about it that feels, “Normal.” We must remember that physical distancing, masks, gloves and stay at home orders are designated to protect others as well as ourselves.
So-called social distancing is hard for me a hug loving, social being. I miss my friends. I miss my family. I miss going to the grocery and volunteering and driving and everything else that made up my daily life before COVID-19 dropped in on us.
I am trying to cope by taking one day at a time. This isolation is so open-ended at this point that it is depressing to think of the month or months stretching ahead. I try to have a goal (or two) for each day and when I achieve those I feel energized. The goals are too mundane to share, but of course, include such chores as reorganizing a closet.
This is also a wonderful opportunity to read. I have many books on my shelves that beg to be re-read and I have about fifty on my Kindle that I have not read. Reading is always informative and it swallows up a lot of free time.
This final coping mechanism should have been listed first because I think it is probably the most important. Here in Kentucky, I feel very fortunate that this pandemic has occurred in springtime. The sun shines bright almost every day and there are flowering trees and plants sprinkling color all around. Each day I go for a walk in the neighborhood and I am grateful that this virus did not visit in winter.
One last thought: Many people are making it possible for us to live during this trying time. Let’s remember those working in hospitals, grocery stores, law enforcement, and other essential capacities.
As our governor, Andy Beshear, reminds us each day, “We will get through this together.”
How Are You coping?
“Think first of the action that is right to take, think later about coping with one’s fears.” Barbara Deming
I’m struggling with the rating for this book. It was fun and I enjoyed the characters but the writing really got it the way. I’ve read the expression, “This book could have used a good editor.” and I’ve never understood it until now. The plot was imaginative and interesting, the characters – quirky and fun, but I caught myself wishing that the book had ended long before it did. So many elements of the plot were spelled out so literally that I wanted to scream, “I get it!” Dante is the important but never present character in the book and it is obvious he’s revered by the author, Matthew Pearl. He didn’t miss a chance to glorify the man and his writing until the reader begins to tire of hearing his name. There are too many incidental characters that aren’t important to the story and they muddle the fun. I’ve been curious about Dante ever since reading Dan Brown’s Inferno but they’re both 3-star books. So “Abandon hope” if you enter this book, it’s not worth the trip.
Experts on the Coronavirus have warned that we need to remain six feet apart when we interact to prevent viral spread. This has been dubbed “Social Distancing” but I believe a better term would be “physical distancing.” We need to be socially close perhaps more than ever before.
Our social contacts may be by phone, texting or email. Maintaining the six feet of separation we can even be present together if neither has symptoms. I am so grateful to those who have reached out to me. Some just ask how I’m doing. Others are able to offer specific help like grocery shopping. Besides my immediate family, these are friends, neighbors, and relatives. One friend provides food, another dropped off pink azaleas! While I am in one of those high-risk groups health-wise I am also over the age of sixty (>70), but so are some of those checking in with me. It is not that I am in need or dependent. It is that people care.
Let’s all try to do better in remaining socially close during these unprecedented times.
Kindness, Helpfulness and Support – ALWAYS ACCEPTABLE
One of my readers made an important point in a personal discussion we were having today and I feel it is worth mentioning here.
During the current COVID-19 pandemic many more patients are being put on respirators (ventilators) to assist in breathing. Many, if not most, will recover and are again able to breathe on their own. They are discharged to fully recover.
For some, this may be a reason to re-think one’s Living Will or written instructions for a health care surrogate. If your legal document(s) currently says, “no ventilator,” is this still your desire?
This is a valid point and I present it for your consideration.
All the world is experiencing unprecedented challenges. We are in a state of shock at what is happening and we have no idea what is next. Global pandemics like the one we are dealing with today are once in a lifetime phenomenon.
Can We Still Laugh?
Even though people are losing their jobs and lifetime savings; Even though people are dying is it okay to still laugh? I say we must. Laughter is good medicine and right now we need some good medicine. As we are restricted in our movements and activities we need to see humor wherever it exists and I believe it is good to manufacture it, too.
We are a family of huggers. We give big hearty hugs when getting together and when saying goodbye. A week ago before things were quite as strict, we got together to celebrate my daughters’ birthdays. Via text Dianne, the oldest reminded us that we needed to keep more distance and not hug. I thought no more about it until Allison, the younger, arrived. She got out of their car and walked to the front door like this:
Silly? Yes, but her isolation get-up produced howls of laughter that partially took the place of our usual hugs.
Maintaining our ability to laugh at life and at ourselves in no way minimizes the seriousness of our time. COVID-19 is not funny, but life still is. Let’s smile each day and laugh when given the opportunity.
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” Mark Twain
What is the one thing that you don’t eat that you really wish you could and why?
I really wish I could eat shrimp. Unfortunately I am allergic to crustaceans (shrimp, lobster and crab) as I learned in the 1980s while in Charleston, South Carolina. After eating shrimp all week I went into anaphylactic shock. It was a frightening experience!
If I was sentenced to die and offered a last meal before the lethal injection, I would request shrimp, fried and lots of it!
Some officials and other “experts” who hold press conferences about COVID-19! While they announce emergencies and give out advice regarding social distancing and other precautions they stand shoulder to shoulder and shake hands like they are at a political gathering. This is a pandemic and it should not be too much to expect those providing vital information to model safe behaviors.
According to Webster a bucket list is “a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.” That’s a more positive way of saying things I want to do before I kick the bucket.
When I think of this I see an actual written list to be achieved. The experience may be to own a particular item like a diamond or a special home. Achievements might be to complete a certain educational degree or to open a non-profit organization to help others. Regardless, I see a bucket list as being a tangible record of things to be marked off when attained rather than just ideas that come and go in one’s mind.
The truth is that I resist writing such a list for fear of not accomplishing it and feeling like a failure. Also, I can think of nothing worth striving toward more important that what I already have in terms of family and friends and the joy they bring to me.
I admit that I may be all wrong when it comes to bucket lists, so please tell me what you think and share your own bucket list if you have one.
“I don’t keep a Bucket List. I’m open to anything.” John Scalzi
For me, it’s hard to get excited about International Women’s Day. In the United States, women have barely advanced in the past few years, if at all. While other countries have had women as leaders for years, the U.S. seems unable to accomplish this. How many more years will little girls here have to grow up to vote for old white men as President regardless of party affiliation?
This is how I feel today. If you live in a different environment I am happy for your country’s enlightenment. Maybe one day here . . .
A novel form of coronavirus originating in China late last year has spread globally. There is no vaccine for this particular type of corona, named COVID-19. I won’t list the morbidity and mortality statistics here because they are changing by the hour and news coverage is widespread and nearly constant. It is important that we listen to and read reputable news sources. Social media and even some government representatives can be misleading. We need scientific statistics, not hunches.
I have known for some time that there are a few things that should be on hand at home if we are to be prepared, but I have not followed through. Today I plan to at least be sure I have some extra food and over-the-counter remedies available in addition to the gloves, masks, and disinfectants that I already have in stock.
Prepare For What?
Isolation – staying at home to protect yourself from others
Infection – staying at home to protect others from yourself
There is no dearth of good information available regarding what to do to protect ourselves from this virus. It includes masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, and new greetings to take the place of handshakes. I’m not going to outline them here.
We know that should we become ill with flu-like symptoms we should isolate ourselves from others and treat the symptoms. If developing a fever or in the case of more serious symptoms we should go to a healthcare facility where they may or may not have test kits for COVID-19. Regardless, the more serious symptoms and complications can be treated by health care professionals when the virus is too serious for self-treatment.
Older individuals and those weakened by other diseases are most susceptible to more serious complications. Some thought should be given to who would care for such individuals in your family should they contract COVID-19.
At this point, we do not know how much worse this situation will become, but we have all the information necessary to plan and make the most of what could be a horrific pandemic. Test kits are lacking, there will not be a vaccine for 12-18 months, but we have information that is crucial even if it sounds too simple, like “do not touch your face.”
Are You Prepared?
“Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I’ve just finished reading a book that was very informative and inspiring. The title is “The book of Gutsy Women” by mother and daughter Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. When I first heard of the book I wondered how they would mesh their writing but it worked very well. Each take turns discussing the women they had researched, admired or known.
The Clintons review the lives of well over one hundred individual women plus groups such as the Suffragists. The women profiled are both current and historical figures and each is worthy of the spotlight put on their life. The women are grouped in chapter categories such as Explorers and Inventors, Healers, Athletes, Storytellers and Groundbreakers.
This big book (450 pages) is well worth your time and I recommend it to everyone who wants to be better informed about the contributions made by women. I promise you will learn about lives you were not aware of as well as new details about the more well-known women. These are stories that every girl, in particular, needs to learn.
One of the things I might change about this book is the title. I was a little put off by the word “gutsy” which to me was a little too earthy, but when I looked up the word, it was me that was wrong. It means “showing courage, determination, and spirit” and the women covered in this book met that definition. The photo on the jacket is not particularly appealing to me either, but once I got past these personal opinions, I was so glad that I took the time to read and learn about the remarkable women profiled on the pages.
Of my nearly four hundred readers I know there are all ages. While this post is about old age, please read on even if you are young. I’d like to hear from all demographics.
At what age are you old?
I’ve heard that 70 is the new 50. I’m not sure what that means but I believe it refers to a change in the way people think of old age. I remember many years ago when Medicare started to cover heart transplants they would only pay if the recipient was 55 or younger. After a while, it was determined that this was unfair because the rule was based upon chronological not biological age. Some people at sixty or seventy were actually younger and more likely to have a good outcome than other people at fifty. The rule changed.
I think this is a good example of the dilemma we face when defining old age. I recently read an article about a man who drove a red Mercedes convertible around his community in Florida. He often took his fiancée along on these drives. Does this make you think of an old person? Probably not. What if I told you he uses a walker? Does that signify that he is old? Perhaps, but the fact is that this man is 107 years old and his fiancée is 100!
What do you call old people?
This has become an important question and there are polls which indicate there is little agreement on a suitable moniker. Let’s look at a few choices. How about “retiree?” Some people have never had a job to retire from such as Moms who worked at home their entire lives. Thanks to changing Social Security rules people no longer retire at sixty-five as they were apt to do in the past. Many people are very healthy and active after retirement, are they old?
“Older?” Older than who? “Senior?” Isn’t that a person ready to graduate high school? “Aging?” Aren’t we all from infancy?
“Elder?” “Sage?” “Mature?” “Perennial?” You can see the problem with each of these so what do we call old people? One term I read about that has potential is “Super Adult!”
So that we don’t go through our golden years without a suitable title academics have come up with some terms used in research and publications. Some use “Young old” (60s & 70s) and old old (85 and up). The most formal are “third age” (retirement) and “fourth age” (infirmity) and I do find these more accurate.
Please tell me your opinion regarding which of these terms is most suitable for those of us who are definitely not young.
This book was a fun surprise. My friend got me interested in this book when she asked me if I’d ever heard about the Blue people of Kentucky. I had, of course, I’ve lived in Kentucky my whole life. We’re known for moonshine, young brides and horse racing. The Blue people were another odd piece of our crazy quilt history. I knew that they had existed but they were just another cringe causing claim to fame for my home state.
I live in Kentucky and have spent some hot summers in the Appalachian Mountains. My family helped with several church ministries in the mountains. I’ve driven on narrow roads created by heavy trucks burdened with dirty coal. I’ve seen tiny houses tucked in dark hollers. I know the suspicious eyes of people that didn’t trust anyone but Mountain people. Those summers taught me a respect for these proud people that lived difficult isolated lives. It was my first experience with real poverty, but it was a financial poverty, not a poverty of spirit. Their beautiful voices, meticulous gardens, and pride in their beautiful mountains were things I never forgot. I was curious to learn more.
The author tells a beautiful story of a strong woman sprinkled with some interesting facts about the Blues. She is respectful of the subject with reliable documentation and photos. I’d never heard of the Book Women and I was touched to know that was a part of our Kentucky heritage. I’m glad I was curious enough to give this book a try.
Recently I attended three funerals in one week. Each deceased person was different in so many ways, e.g., age, interests and family unit left behind. But one thing was consistent, each left a hole in the hearts of those surviving. When someone we know dies we are usually shocked. We use words that mask the reality of death. He or she has “passed, gone on or left us” when in fact the person is dead. How we fear that word and that reality. Why is it so hard to accept that we are all born terminal. We will all die. This is no way negates the loss and pain of losing a person we care about but if we could at least acknowledge that life ends for each person surely we would be better prepared for our own death as well as that of others.
We need to move beyond “if something happens to me” to “when I die.” It is inevitable.
“What TV show, past or present, do you wish your life was like?”
I guess it would have to be “Mayberry RFD” mainly because of the innocence of the characters. Life was simple then, but there was also Barney and other foolish folks to keep things amusing and imperfect.
I recently read this book and found it very interesting. I will remember this as one of my favorite historical novels.
Here is an excellent review from Goodreads by Dianne Bynum:
There is value in examining a life well led. The hero of our story leads a full and important life although he is punished by his government to live his life exiled in an hotel. On the surface this plot doesn’t seem to be very interesting but there is a lot to learn from this gentleman. I couldn’t help but think of this book as a very sophisticated Seinfeld episode. Nothing happens, but it’s funny and it’s meaningful and it’s entirely worth reading. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov was exiled by a tribunal in modern day Russia. He’s well read, he knows exactly what wine to drink with dinner and he has secrets. Secrets that are tragic, romantic and funny. That’s a lot of life to fill the walls of a small hotel room.
The coronavirus is all over the news today. It is important and it is wreaking havoc in China, but I wonder why it is of more interest in this country than plain old flu. Many people refuse to be vaccinated against the flu for various personal reasons. I think seasonal flu needs more respect in view of these statistics:
Roughly 200,000 people are hospitalized with the flu each year in the United States, and about 35,000 people die.
My close friends, family and regular readers know I have a fascination with death which includes careful reading of obituaries. I don’t see it as morbid. I see it as a window into life, but be that as it may, it is no surprise that I received the book “Mobituaries”for Christmas this year. The book by Mo Rocca was just published and it is a delight to read. It really is not about obituaries, but about people and things that Rocca believes did not receive the sendoff they had coming. Some examples are dragons, Medieval science, Lawrence Welk and the station wagon.
I recommend this book for easy, fun reading. It is over three hundred pages of humor and history. I learned new information and was guided to look at old information in a different light. The book is well researched with all consulted works documented.
Mo Rocca is a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning and host of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation. He is a frequent panelist on NPR and has done acting on Broadway and writing for TV including The Daily Show.
Years ago when I traveled in my job, I was a frequent hotel “guest.” Like everyone I collected those little individual use toiletries. There were plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion and sometimes body wash. There was always more than one could use, so I’d cart them home in my suitcase. Pretty soon I had too many at home and I’d donate them to homeless shelters, as I know some of my friends do today.
It took a while for me to realize what a waste these plastic pieces were and how they were destroying our planet. Our world is drowning in plastics of all sizes and shapes. Thank goodness some hotel companies are waking up to this problem and are doing something about it.
Hyatt, Marriott and Holiday Inn are three of the companies phasing out these little plastic bottles in their hotels and replacing them with large multi-use pump bottles. In addition some hotels are no longer routinely providing plastic bottles of drinking water. They are encouraging the use of personal refillable bottles by providing fresh water dispensers in their lobbies.
Hopefully this trend will continue. We should support these efforts. We all can do better.