Review: Between the World and Me

Between Me and the World
Ta-Nehisi Coates

#readingisresistance

Title: Between the World and Me
Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Published: 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0-8129-9354-7
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Hate gives identity.  (p. 60)

I rarely say this about any writer I read.  Clearly, I enjoy many authors and have learned quite a bit from reading.  But I rarely say I think their work is important to anyone but me.   Ta-Nehisi Coates’ work is important, and it should be read by everyone.

Written in the form of a letter to his son, Coates explains what it means to be a black male in America.  The fragility of a black man’s body, based on the need to know how to navigate the physical world without incurring the wrath of anybody along the way.

It was hard to for me to imagine how fraught life could be for someone like Ta-Nehisi Coates.  How could I?  My experiences growing up white in mostly safe neighborhoods where I could concentrate on enriching my life would never have prepared me for understanding what it’s like to be black, and male, in America.

To yell ‘black-on-black crime’ is to shoot a man and then shame him for bleeding.  (p. 111)

There’s a lot to think about here, and Coates does it so elegantly and eloquently.  Between the World and Me changed my understanding .  Having to explain to his son what to it’s like to grow up black and male in America, to explain why his parents are hard on him, or why their reactions often seem overly harsh, is to be uncommonly self-aware.

Never have I read such a powerful work.  Never.  His description of navigating his Baltimore neighborhood was rife with literal boundaries and secret codes, any violation of which could get him beat up.  Ta-Nehisi Coates attempts to make sense of the senseless.   While explaining to his son, it becomes clear that there is a sort of sense in the chaos, but only to those who are so invested in making sure the “other” oppressed.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ work is important, his words are important.  They’re important because they point to the nonsensical and say, “How can this make sense?”

#readingisresistance is a collaboration between readers and book bloggers who believe in the activism of reading; especially in the current political climate.  Reading enriches, teaches, and allows us to experience the lives of others.  It leads us to understanding.  It forces us to confront the hard questions, and asks us to engage with the world in a way which leads to change.  Join the resistance, read.

 

 

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Personal Log: 2017’s Wondrous Start

Proud Auntie Trying on Jeans

Wow …Apparently publishing weekly was just too much for me.  My ambitions for a close look at my transformation, including recipes and menus, became too big.  At the time I stopped writing I hadn’t realized how intimidating my vision was.  Mostly, I think getting used to the work involved of setting new habits and a new lifestyle took a lot of my energy.  After hours of planning, cooking and prepping meals for the week I didn’t have much left in the tank.

And, of course, I beat myself up for this.  I’m not sure exactly who I thought I was letting down.  My stats show I have a fictitious ravening horde drooling to get their eyeballs on my latest missive all about me, and my journey.

It’s January 2017 and 0130 on a Saturday night.  This is my favorite time.  Everything’s quiet.  I’ve puttered around, run errands, had a nap and feel energetic.  I don’t have nights like this a lot anymore.  Truth be told, I miss it.

So let me catch you up.  I know you’re simply dying to  read the latest stats.  Over nine months and 70 pounds.  BP has remained in the normal range for three months, so the meds can go away.  Before mid-December I was walking 1.5 miles four days a week.  My food is still healthy.

Healthy, but not tracked as tightly as I once did.  I’m trying to figure out if it’s something I should go back to.  This was my first holiday season without binging on comfort foods and grabbing for the cookies, lusting for a really good fudge.

Mom made candy for Christmas.  Fudge, penuche, divinity.  I never got the hang of it.  Don made a mean fudge with the recipe from the back of a marshmallow creme jar.  I can still taste the brown sugar, the walnuts, the buttery chocolate.  Bit I didn’t even seek any out this holiday season.

The first week of January got thrown to the planning wolves.  I was sick the entire weekend and got no meals prepped.  Safeway and its good selection of salads, and prepped fruits and veggies kept me going.  Not what I had in mind at all.  Grateful to know there’s an easy, if expensive, solution for the times I just don’t get it done.  There were several times I ate out as well.  I did okay there too.

Which brings me to my stress level.  Major changes going on at work.   Major life-altering, overwhelming changes.  In mid-December, a co-worker in the Development team left and I was given a lot of his job to do.  Combining our jobs makes complete sense.  But December is the busiest month of the year for fund-raisers and I went from being able to keep up to inundation.  At this writing I’m still working on getting all of December’s work done.

Membership has also moved into Development and I’m now reporting to a VP who treats me like the adult I am.  No longer am I the temp sitting in the corner doing data entry, I’m now truly the Membership Manager with her own place at the grownup table.  I couldn’t be more excited.  Last week was my first 40-hour week in over 17 months.  I’m still a temp, but that’s likely to change down the road.

So holiday season; blood pressure stayed normal and I didn’t gain any weight.  Huge wins.

Adding to the excitement is Grace, my 1997 Honda Civic which replaced Car, my 1995 Honda Civic with the crunched up hood.  Grace drives like a dream and has working heat.  And a clicker.  I love having a clicker.

Before I close, I want to mention a collaborative project I’m working on with my dear friend, Richard Derus (@ExpendableMudge).  He’s decided to make 2017 a year of activism by reading, and reviewing,  around a monthly theme.  And I get to join the fun!  It’s called #ReadingIsResistance.

And so it goes.  Gratitude and positive energy work have brought such enormous changes to me.  How can I not be grateful?

Oh, and the picture up top?  That’s what I look like today.  70 pounds lighter, wearing a brand-new 2X t-shirt which is BAGGY, trying on size 18 jeans.  Life is great!

 

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What’s Auntie Reading Now: The Water is Wide

The Water is Wide
by Pat Conroy

#ReadingIsResistance

A great, sad story about a white teacher and his year teaching the black children on Yamacraw Island off the coast of South Carolina in the 1960s.

One of my nieces and I have begun a book exchange by sending each other books we have enjoyed.  This is her first gift to me and, she explained, “[Pat Conroy’s] kinda big deal around here [Charleston].”  It’s one of my books for January’s Social Consciousness theme for a year of #ReadingIsResistance.  Full review here.

#ReadingIsResistance is a collaboration between readers and book bloggers who believe in the activism of reading; especially in the current political climate.  Reading enriches, teaches, and allows us to experience the lives of others.  It leads us to understanding.  It forces us to confront the hard questions, and asks us to engage with the world in a way which leads to change.  Join the resistance, read.

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What’s Auntie Reading Now: Foy – The Road to Lost

Foy

“If there’s a sea turtle flapping around on the table you have to deal with it. (p. 150)”

Gordon Atkinson’s writing has always resonated with me. There’s such a deep honesty and thoughtfulness in his work. All of his books now reside in my library and I am so pleased to add Foy to it.

Truth is hard. It can be cold and jagged. Foy faces a truth which is similar to each of our truths in ways we may not expect. His struggle with the hard questions is a fascinating story which opened my heart more, both to myself and those who flail trying to find meaning in our lives.

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Review: Lock In

Lock In by John Scalzi
Lock In
by John Scalzi

Title: Lock In
Author: John Scalzi
Published: 2014
ISBN-10: 978-0-7653-7586-5
Publisher: Tor

Lock in is what happens when a flu pandemic turns weird.  Some lucky survivors become carriers.  Even more lucky survivors have a paralyzed central nervous system, keeping their minds alive but unable to move.  Millions die from Haden’s Syndrome.

FBI agent Chris Shane is a Haden.  He’s also rich enough to be able to afford top of the line “threeps,” an outer shell which connects to a neural network in the brain and allows for movement.  A Haden’s body remains in a sling being taken care of.  Hadens don’t actually move their bodies, their brains move the threep, and can do other high tech wizardry.

This is a murder mystery, police procedural, sci-fi thriller.  With over tones of inequality (on several levels) and political maneuvering to give non-Haden sufferers access to the same high tech.  Then people can make even more money.

I have a running debate with a friend who does not read science fiction.  In this debate, she thinks things like threeps are just too weird.  She can’t relate.  And that’s okay.  My side of the debate is that none of this, of course, is weird.  It’s just different.  Neither of us can decide if it’s because I’ve read a lot of science fiction/fantasy, or if it’s just my easy-going nature.

Either way, John Scalzi’s world-building always seem real and credible to me.  Even if the bodies of old people are genetically re-engineered to be younger and more powerful (Old Man’s War), or it’s people adapting to being locked in to a body with no functioning central nervous system.

I wouldn’t mind if there was a series featuring agents Chris Shane and Leslie Vann.  It would be very interesting to see what happens in this world created by John Scalzi as it evolves and adapts to new laws, and new attitudes.

Apparently, there was a big kerfuffle over something in the book I didn’t even notice until I read about it.  And when I thought about it, I spend more time thinking about the automatic assumption I had made, rather than the thing being kerfuffled.  But you’ll have to figure that out on your own.

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What’s Auntie Reading Now? The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin

What's Auntie reading now? The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin
What’s Auntie reading now?
The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin

This was a fascinating read about the Supreme Court of the US before Rehquist died, when Scalia and Alito were the new judges on the bench.  Before Sandra Day O’Connor resigned.  Before so many things and yet, still we find the court fighting the things today that were fought then.  Abortion, immigration, affirmative action, abortion.  For the historian in me, a lot of fun reading and thinking, “Oh yes, I remember when that happened.”

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Personal Log: October 31, 2016

Full of Awesome
Full of Awesome
Pacifica, CA

I don’t look like this anymore. And that amazes me. The spirit is still there, probably even more present as my body changes and I find I can do more things now.

I am, at last count, 50 pounds lighter.  That astounds me to say.  FIFTY pounds.  Me.  I did this.  I asked for a healthier body and I am doing the work required to get one.

There are small events which come as a complete revelation to me.  I often ask the question, “Who am I?”  But maybe the question should be, “Who am I now?”

Love People Cook Tasty Food
Love People
Cook Tasty Food

Last weekend, I drove my poor battered Car to Menlo Park for a Penzeys run.  Their coupons are fabulous, it’s hard to resist.  I’m continuing to explore spices and blends, so my swag included a ground brown mustard seed, Bavarian Style Seasoning and Berbere Seasoning Blend – which I was warned would be extremely spicy since its first ingredient is Cayenne pepper.

My point in bringing up Menlo Park is I did a thing which still astonishes me.  I walked.  Parked a couple of blocks away – not by choice – and walked to Penzeys.  Then, I walked a couple of blocks more and discovered TJs.  And then … then, I walked those blocks back to my car in time to see the community Hallowe’en parade filled with families dressed in costume following the marching band.

I walked past restaurants, two of which had been old haunts when I worked in Menlo Park.  I walked past them.  At no time was I tempted to stop and get something to eat.  It is amazing to me that I willingly walked, and felt really good about it, and didn’t stop at any number of places to have a nice meal.  Because, I don’t treat myself with food any more – most of the time.

And that’s another thing which I’m still trying to get used to.  Emotions.  Or rather, feeling my emotions without compensating with food.  And these past two weeks presented me with ample opportunity to use food.  In all reality, since I’m an addict, every day gives me a choice to use to get through.  And every day, for almost seven months I have chosen not to.

It isn’t easy.  A friend told me when Car and I had our accident, he was surprised to find me eating the food out of my refrigerator, instead of sitting on the floor gnawing on the bones of a pizza. If there was ever a time for comfort, bashing up Car and worrying about saving money for the new one would have been it.  But I didn’t.  And I’m amazed it almost didn’t occur to me.

This journey isn’t easy for other reasons, including I am tired.  Exhausted.  Haven’t had a day to just screw around in for seven months.  I made this choice fully aware it was going to be tough.  And every time I am tempted to just skip prep for a day, I think about my options.  And I remember that even though I would rather curl up with a good book for a long afternoon, if I don’t prep I don’t have anything healthy to eat for the week.  And I’m not about to go that route.  So tired, and often cranky it is.  And the results make me happy.

My body moves better.  I walk faster and keep up with people.  A walk around the block no longer intimidates me.  I’m a long way from a walk sounding like fun, but I do it because I can feel the effects.  The lack of lower back pain nearly overwhelms me.  After years of chronic back pain and bi-weekly visits to the chiropractor, I can now go once a month for a tune-up.  Because I eat healthier and my body is changing.  I like that.  I like it a lot.

Review: Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility
by Jane Austen

Title: Sense and Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
Published: 1811
ISBN-10: 0-141-43966-1
Publisher: Penguin Classics

Jane Austen’s tale of the family Dashwood, and their prospects after husband and father, Henry, dies is a commentary on the class system in England.

Austen really does not like the way in which the society she lives in sets expectations for each other, most especially, the young, unmarried women.

While first published in 1811, Austen’s themes resonate across two centuries.  Women are held to impossible standards, and always found wanting.  Austen’s main theme is that of sense vs. “sensitivity.”

Is it better to be sensible and logical where emotions, and love, are concerned?  Better to not show emotion and to explain hurt by others away by the use of logic?  Or is being sensitive to others’ feelings and wearing one’s heart on the sleeve a better approach?

While reading Sense and Sensibility, I kept wondering about “the middle path.”  One in which both sisters are allowed to be both logical and show their emotions, rather than this tug of war of trying to measure up to society’s expectations.

Which, of course, is the point.  There is no “middle path.”  Women must pick a path and stick with it in order to please both those of her class and any potential suitors.  Things are better in some ways now, but it’s still difficult for both men and women to live up to the expectations laid upon them by rigid societal mores.

Austen is worth reading, both for her commentary and for her sharp observations into human nature.

Review: Masculinity in Breaking Bad

Masculinity in Breaking Bad edited by Bridget R. Cowlishaw
Masculinity in Breaking Bad
edited by Bridget R. Cowlishaw

Title: Masculinity in Breaking Bad
Author: edited by Bridget R. Cowlishaw
Published: 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0-7864-9721-8
Publisher: McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers

Watching Breaking Bad was one of the most entertaining times in my life.  Such fantastic story-telling about a wimpy high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer and needs to find a way to support his family after his death.

Walter White goes from chem teacher to badass drug kingpin in the course of the series.  There are no truly likable characters in Breaking Bad, but there are sympathetic characters.  Characters with which we can identify in some way because of their circumstances.  Sympathizing does not mean liking, it’s the simple recognition of, “Yep, been there.  Understand what you’re doing bro.  My choice was different, but you be you.”

Masculinity in Breaking Bad is what happens when a bunch of liberal arts Ph. D.s, each with a particularly granular specialty, look deeply at the male characters.  It can be a dense read.

This is not to say it’s not an interesting read.  There are multiple ways of exploring the themes of Breaking Bad, and masculinity is an obvious one since the story is male-driven, and centers on one man who is forced to redefine himself because of his diagnosis.

Eight essays, and two round table discussions, cover the topics from Walt’s fatherhood, manhood, business acumen, and legacy to my favorite, “Men in Control:  Panopticism and Performance.”  Basically, Jeffrey Reid Pettis uses French Philosopher Michel Foucault‘s theory of panopticism (in Discipline and Punishment) to the use of surveillance, and reactions to surveillance, in Breaking Bad.

Panopticism is a fascinating concept in which a prison is built in such a way that everyone (including staff) can be under surveillance at any time.  When there is no way to know when an individual is being watched, he begins to perform as though being watched.  Here, Pettis delves into the performance art which comes out of the knowledge each character has that he may be watched.

It is a rich essay, dense and chewy.  But the concept of always being watched is one of which none of us is completely unaware.  How does Walt react to knowing this?  What lengths does he go to show those he imagines watching that he is “the one who knocks?”

While I did find Masculinity in Breaking Bad interesting in many ways, I can only recommend this book to those truly interested in this type of close reading  and, who don’t mind working for their read.

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Food: Menu October 17 – 23, 2016

Menu: October 17 – October 23, 2016
  • (New recipe) Tangy Pulled Chicken
  • Roasted Onions: white, yellow, purple, cippoline (Italian) with red wine & white wine vinegars (no oil)
  • Roasted Cabbage: purple & green with red wine vinegar
  • (New recipe) Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • (New recipe) Roasted Garlicky Mushrooms
  • Fruit: mandarin oranges, Granny Smith apples
  • Veggies: cucumbers peeled and soaked in balsamic vinegar,
  • Pumpkin Energy Balls
  • 1/2 cup 2% lowfat cottage cheese

Menu Commentary
Tangy Pulled Chicken
I didn’t exactly botch this so much as put in a pan far too big.  This came out dry, and extra crispy on the bottom.  No harm done.  The solution is to make sure there’s a smaller pan clean and ready.  Worth trying again.  (Probably next week)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
I’m not keen on the honey/savory combination.  This recipe calls for 2T of honey, which overpowered the tangy bits of the sauce.  Next time, no honey.

Roasted Garlicky Mushrooms
This recipe was meant for putting whole mushrooms on kebabs and cooking them on the barbecue grill.  First thing to go, parsley.  1/2 cup of olive oil?  I don’t think so.  1T brushed on the top is enough.  2 garlic cloves became 10 roasted garlic cloves.  Not bad at all, could have used just a pinch of salt.

General menu commentary
I continue to enjoy the roasted onions and cabbage with vinegar.  There’s no added oil on the onions, and 1T brushed on each head of cabbage.  Add my favorite vinegar, happy mouth and tummy.

The biggest challenge I face is how to make sense of the nutrition information based on the ingredients for any given recipe.  The uncooked serving sizes don’t come close to the reality of cooked food.  I know I will never have these calculations down perfectly, but I’m still working on figuring out a more accurate solution.

New ingredients:
None

New Tools:
None

Resources:
Clean Food Crush – Chicken
Bon Appetit
Martha Stewart
Clean Food Crush – Pumpkin Energy Balls
One Green Planet
Penzeys
7 Stillwell Pinterest Food board