Conclusion: There is NO pleasant history of humankind. So just get on with it and read Claudio Saunt’s West of the Revolution, An Uncommon History of 1776.

One minute book review:

Why is it that people on one side of the globe think they have a right to the land of the people living on the other side of the earth?

Oh right–they’re all a bunch of greedy egocentric egomaniacs who are only interested in how to turn a profit. Yeah, I knew that.

Of course there’s genocide, racism and missionaries spreading misery in spades–but, there’s also the beaver trade and the Cuban connection too in West of the Revolution wherein Claudio Saunt fills history buffers in on what was going on elsewhere in North America during that war for some colonies’ economic independence from merry old England. This is an darkly entertaining and easy read with odd maps, chapter notes notes and a very strange illustration depicting beavers in action on page 129.  Saunt offers some very disturbing stories about human behavior on the part of everyone and a decided lack of brotherly love. Yeah, forget all the first Thanksgiving propaganda, it’s a no go in Alaska with the Russians and Aleuts. And Jesus Christ, what is it with the damn priests and their bad habits on west coast and the southwest? Some things just never change no matter what century you’re digging around in. I suppose that’s because human behavior doesn’t seem to be evolving for the better anywhere. I could, and might do, an in-depth review of this recent new book–but right now I’m settling for two thumbs up review mind mode. Why? Because I learned a few things, like why the Creeks tried so hard to get some real trade going with Cuba. They understood their dire economic situation quite well.  As for the Indians doing business with the Hudson Bay Company and others ~~ well, they could teach Wall Street a thing or two about insider trading of a certain sort.

And then there are those beavers and their dams . . . .  

The Promise of Amazing~ Robin Constantine’s Glimpse Into the Young Adult World of Today

Ah spring is pushing up jonquils and young love is in the air. If images of fresh face youths courting fair-haired maids with handfuls of flowers comes to mind when you think of young love, well, Constantine’s young adult novel, The Promise of Amazing, will disabuse you of such daydreams. Contemporary teenage romance has little to do with June and Ward Cleaver scenarios despite some sharing of milk and Oreo cookies. Welcome to the world of boy and girl prep schools for the children of lawyers, catering business owners and real estate agents. These people don’t worry about having enough food or clothing for their families. Their concerns are with social status and money-making in the realm of suits and ties. Their teenage children are highly aware of clothing labels, drinking, drugs, and sex. This is the world of who might become who — or not. Enter quiet good girl Wren Caswell whose relationship self-confidence quotient has had a hard  knock from what she refers to as a “hump and dump” with a young lad with no interest in anything more than sex before he heads off to college campus and the rest of his life–without looking backwards. It doesn’t help her college dreams any when the guidance counselor unwittingly makes callous remarks about who is and isn’t Harvard material.  From stage left-wing comes talented bad boy Grayson Barrett who has been forced to face the music of academic misconduct for selling papers to other students–oddly enough none of the buyers seem to have suffered any consequences for creating a demand for Grayson’s product. These boys are working out their future manners of behavior for being successful in a corrupt mainstream world which rewards doing whatever you do to be successful as long as you don’t get caught. The lads of St. Gabe’s have more than plagiarism on their questionable efforts plates. Meanwhile, Sacred Heart’s lasses are mistresses of manipulation and serious verbal aggression. Some of their hearts and minds are very short on sugar and very high on arsenic.  Wren and Grayson are not exactly Juliet and Romeo material—or are they? There is serious potential for tragedy if some life lines don’t get straightened out with some positive choices. In today’s American mainstream culture they’re the kids with all kinds of opportunities — yet, they’ve got some very steep learning curves regarding relationships, peer pressure, family issues, values and sexuality which all children, and adults, encounter.

Robin Constantine delivers a touching young love story set in what is now the normal context, with variations on degrees depending on location, that teenagers move through today. It’s a landscape rift with absent parents, underage drinking, rebellion, drug use, and sexual explorations often without any emotional attachments. Emotions are problematic for teenagers and the young people in The Promise of Amazing have emotional issues in spades.  There are a lot dysfunctional families across the spectrum of social economic class lines. Yes, there is a very serious class structure in America based on economics–the idea of a society where everyone is equal is an ideal, not a reality. This isn’t a The Catcher in the Rye world–this is post Salinger–the phoniness of the deluded game playing adult world is almost a cliché today.  The children mimic it to no small end.  With friends like his, it’s a wonder Grayson and his social peers are all not headed straight to jail before graduating from high school.  Yet, Constantine manages to avoid falling into a cynical narrative of all things troubling teens.  Wren’s practical step right up and deal with the problem nature sets things in motion when she meets Grayson by saving him from choking to death while everyone else stands around watching the show at her family’s catering hall– called Camelot. Of course, one thing leads to another as Constantine develops the plot via chapters alternating Wren’s and Grayson’s perspective. This is one of the things I enjoyed most about this young adult novel–the effort to present the perspectives of both sexes to tell their story. What goes through the minds of teenage boys and girls isn’t exactly the same–but they’ve got a lot more common ground regarding issues than they often realize when they’re struggling to communicate with each other even though texting seems to make it all so simple.

    I watched her disappear up the block, her plaid skirt swaying. When she was out of sight, I landed with a thud and walked back to the reality of the ER. I pulled Wren’s scarf up to my nose, inhaling her scent and getting dizzy all over again. I was happy to have my face covered–no one walks into the hospital with a grin that wide unless he’s heading to the psych ward. But I couldn’t help it.

She kissed me.

The Promise of Amazing is a an easy read writing-wise, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s about easy things. It’s not.  It offers a certain very dark slant on contemporary teenage world. This novel portrays a young couple’s efforts at dealing with family, friends and love relationships without any magic or supernatural elements to distract from real life issues. Constantine manages to make us care what happens to Grayson and Wren as individuals and as a couple with some definite potential for being a lot more than a “hump and dump” round. They both need and want more than that even though their hormones are certainly giving them a workout–complete with condoms. It’s the promise of sharing a genuinely caring relationship that gets these two together. What’s unsettling is just how hard that is to find despite all the musical hype about it. In a world of broken homes, second and third families, amoral role models and shallow values, experiencing and sharing some real love is no easy deal.

What’s the teen in your world reading?

~

Robin Constantine’s site –>>  http://robinconstantine.com/          http://robinconstantine.com/books.html

The Queen of Katwe ~ The Most Powerful Piece On The Board

Update: This is now a film. Yes!!!!!

 

 

The Queen of Katwe by Tim Crothers was a reading find on a recent expedition to my public library.  It’s one of those books that I’ve opened for some down time reading pleasure then spent the rest of the day reading until reaching the back cover. Tim Crothers traces the roots of several dots that come together to create Phiona Mutesi’s Ugandan world in Katwe. One very important “dot” is the life story of Robert Katende who brought chess to Katwe as part of a sports outreach program. Katende noticed that not every child wants to play soccer and decided to offer an alternative game, chess, for them. It is through Katende’s outreach efforts that Phiona discovers the inner mental and outter physical world of chess.  Tim Crothers presents Katende’s personal history of survival, endurance and talent in a manner that show the incredible impact of one person on the lives of others. One young man’s life decisions reverberate throughout his world in remarkable and unexpected ways. Without Robert Katende there would be no chess for Phiona Mutesi and the other children of Katwe.  In turn Phiona herself is having a positive impact on her personal world and the world of women in Uganda. Her story breaks out of the cycle of poverty and desperate struggle to survive for women and their children in places where living is far from easy. What’s at stake is creating a life based on choices rather than the need to eat and literally keep from drowning when it rains.  When a slum is built on/in a swamp things get dicey for everyone when water falls from the sky.

Crothers’ writing style is quick and engaging as he works with words to bring to life the physical landscape of the Katwe slum and Uganda. He creates a context that the people who can afford to buy his book–and read it with ease–may have some trouble relating to. This is a world of harsh poverty where women do what they must to stay alive and education is a luxury requiring payment.  Via Robert Katende’s story it’s clear that it’s not an easy world for boys and men either.  At first one wonders where Crothers is going –how far back in time–and how will we ever get to the story of the girl who dreams of being a Chess Grandmaster. Well, I assure you that by the time you are learning more about Phiona it will be very clear why Crothers pulls the narrative strings he does. In order to fully appreciate Phiona’s ongoing life story the daily context of her world is required.

Another dot Crothers connects is that of the importance of education–like the Sport’s Outreach program–Tim Crothers’ takes a holistic approach to presenting Phiona’s and Robert Katende’s stories. Education plays a vital role in dealing with people in poverty. Hence, Crothers pulls in the story line dot of Andrew Popp all the way from Santa Barbara, California. How does the suicide of a talented young man have anything to with the life of girl living in the slums of Uganda? The scholarship memorial fund created by Andrew’s parents is what enables Phiona to attend school.  Personally I think that’s a wonderful thing and an incredible part of Phiona’s story because education is essential to breaking the poverty cycle and the people in the slums know this fact.

Andrew Popp Scholarship Fund    http://sportsoutreach.net/projects/teaching/andrew-popp-scholarship-fund/

So if you’re looking for a great human interest story, one which is far from finished, then get a hold of The Queen of Katwe. Consider the power of one piece on a chess board and the powerful impact one person can have on the life of another. Get some inspirartion. some ideas about teaching from Robert Katende,  and perhaps some motivation. Perhaps most importantly get some HOPE.

~

Author Tim Crothers’ site >>  http://www.timcrothers.net/

*

espnW

*

Phiona Mutesi–so far– >>  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phiona_Mutesi

*

theKeithFurr

*
Uploaded on Nov 9, 2011

This is a brief documentary on Fiona, a 15 year old Chess Prodigy from the slums of Kampala, Uganda who discovered Chess as a homeless child in search of food. I traveled to Uganda to cover this story through a non-profit organization called Silent Images. We were serving another non-profit called Sports Outreach, in which the chess coach discovered a special gift in Phiona for the game of Chess. I was accompanied by Tim Crothers of ESPN and David Johnson of Silent Images on the trip. Tim has now written a book on Phiona called “The Queen of Katwe” and Phiona has had recent top news stories on ESPN as well as CNN. Disney is currently planning to produce a movie on Phiona as well and I can’t wait to see Phiona’s dreams come true. She is a true underdog in every sense of the word and no person is more worthy of success in life than this special young woman.

Silent Images – http://www.silentimages.org
Sports Outreach Institute – http://www.sportsoutreach.net
Buy the Book – http://www.sportsoutreach.net/secure/…

*

Indie film site >> http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/disney-developing-feature-based-on-ugandan-chess-prodigy-phiona-mutesi-w-mira-nair-directing

A Quick and Dirty Review of Deborah Meyler’s ~The Bookstore~

*Public Domain Photo by Alexandre Duret-Lutz

Seldom have I ever been so on the fence regarding a book I’ve selected for a spot of easy reading than I was, and still am, as I’ve been with The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler.  After reading several pages at a random opening, I checked this novel out of my wonderful public library~ (side note: Everything under human control in the library is wonderful, though the departments ruled by computer intelligence are quite questionable of late. Artificial Intelligence is driving the staff a tad mad due to its distinct lack of common sense regarding book culling. For example, who would remove the second book in a young adult fantasy thriller series thus leaving a gap between volume one and three? What sense does that make? All it does is discourage the would be reader because the story is now incomplete. Okay enough of this developing issue.) Yeah, I promised a quick review for everyone on the cyber-space run.  Let’s get to the good stuff first: This is an easy-going read writing wise–you will not have to work through any deviously poetic complex sentence structures. The supporting cast of characters connected to the bookstore are very engaging creations–and mainly male. You get a decent sense of New York City’s never sleeping city atmosphere. There are interesting references and allusions to great art and great books. There’s a slightly developed commentary on the demise of independent bookstores being put out of business by corporate run big box book retailers. This is a nice big plus because it supports the assertion that Esme, our thoroughly modern young woman on the academic art history move, has a decently educated mind in good working order–except when it comes to the entire concept of pregnancy. She’s clueless like so many young people these days when it comes to her biological nature beyond sex for fun.  But I won’t hold that against her.  She does have many good qualities along the tune of -> Yes, ladies it can be very cool to be well read, intelligent and interested in much more than the moron box taking center stage in many living rooms. For the most part I like Esme very much. Hang on to “for the most part” –the not most part when I don’t care for–or comprehend–Esme is part of what still has me on the fence regarding this book.

What’s got me on the fence? Esme’s love interest, Mitchell. For the life of me I can’t figure out what this young woman finds to love in this cold-hearted bastard.  Being handsome is not enough–statues, male models, actors and non-famous dudes on the street can be very good-looking–but women don’t fall for them just because of the outer packaging–or do they?  I guess some do. Maybe Esme is supposed to be one of those ladies? Perhaps it’s because she’s twenty-three and has a libido in good working order? I’m serious here, folks. if  Meyler had given Mitchell a character profile beyond handsome economics professor from a wealthy family –I’m sure some of you are arguing that’s plenty, but it’s not in this context. Esme has too much going for her to be picked up by a handsome sexual predator running amok in NYC. Or does she?  Maybe there’s something amiss with the young Miss? I’m still not sure after finishing the book–which I nearly gave up on several times because I had such serious trouble buying this particular woman and man connection.  All the good things, bookstore, homeless people, Stella, George, Luke etc. kept me reading though–and the hope that Esme might get a clue or two regarding the man using her for nothing more than satisfying his own very manipulative dysfunctional ego. It’s not like she doesn’t have plenty of other men to compare this asshole to in order to see the light.

Mitchell’s character is a cliché in the extreme. Hence, I dislike him immensely. Disliking him is probably what Meyler had in mind. Problem is, he’s so dislikeable that it’s hard comprehending why Esme loves him. There’s nothing even remotely loveable about this guy as he is portrayed. If there’s some unwritten or edited out part of this novel that is loitering with intent to explain Esme’s feelings for this man, then it needs to get edited into the novel. Yes, women–and men–fall for the wrong sort of people all the time. True enough. But stating this guy has charm and giving him none at any point in time makes Esme come off as a complete dunce.  It would help matters considerably if the reader got some glimpse of what lures Esme into loving this man. Yeah, the slam dunk sex foreplay in the women’s restroom fails to do that for me.  It works for sexual attraction, but not for emotional attachment and involvement. Hmm. Maybe that’s Meyler’s point–that people confuse physical sexual attraction with emotional love attraction? Maybe.  I’m not sure.

Oh–yes, Esme does have alternative love interest choices which appear to operate on a more positive level–or could. There are hints which I won’t spoil here for any interested might be readers.  In many ways this is story about dealing with such relationship scenario. Perhaps it’s a modernized version of a very old cautionary tale for young women.  It certainly works in that regard. Hmm, maybe this review is getting me off the fence as I air my concerns here. Maybe.

If anyone has run through The Bookstore’s very accessible pages and cares to comment on my fencing–please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts about any chapter or verse in the novel. So, was this quick and dirty enough? Oh a little short on the dirty–hmm–consider a toothbrush standing in for a vibrator. How’s that for a little dirty?

*

Meyler’s author page at http://authors.simonandschuster.com/deborah-meyler/408315626

What’s really up with Zits? Time travel Sherman Alexie style in Flight.

Hehehehehehe. Okay, if you have no appreciation of dark humor stop reading right now and stay far away from Flight–far far away. Got it? I’m warning you. This is no sweet flight of fancy tome.  Our hero is an angry fifteen year old male of Irish and Indian origin with some serious grief and father issues–among other things. Now sit back and sip your hot tea, latte or bloody mary and think about a young man who refers to himself as Zits. If you can’t relate then it’s probably in your best interests–and mine (yes, I do fear homicidal repercussions from unhappy readers)–to go nowhere near this particular Sherman Alexie book.  That said, last night I stayed up very late reading Flight via flashlight outside on the front porch–much to the dismay of anyone who had their doors or windows open to receive my hooting laughter when I turned to page 146.  Some folks do not find boiled birdies funny–and I do understand that such minds exist. On the other hand, there are minds, such as mine and apparently Alexie’s, which find self boiled birdies absolutely hilarious–especially in the context of a potentially violent encounter between a homeless Indian man and the usual well-heeled white dude. If by some means, like using your local public library, you garner a copy of Flight you too will be in serious need of comic relief by the time you turn to page 146. Though, hopefully, you’ll have found other darkly comic things to chuckle loudly about before page 146. But you’ll also have encountered several incidents of mayhem, murder and molestation along the way.  The lives of foster children are not all filled with sugar mommies and daddies. Nor do many events in American history since 1492 recount pleasant Thanksgiving din dins between Europeans and Indigenous folks.

Ever wonder how to diffuse the building anger of teenager? Well, Sherman Alexie offers one way–history lessons of the “not me” and the “me?!” variety. Yep, direct confrontations of some dark sad truths of reality provide the fodder for the adolescent mind to chew heartily on and time travel, complete with out-of-body experiences, is the medium.  From the Battle of the Little Bighorn to the grief ridden friendly skies of a private flight instructor Alexie takes us on a journey through history. Along the way he’ll shred your heart, sew it back together without anesthesia, and then shove it back into your chest.  You’re going to need every last piece of humor to endure the operation.  If you’re not laughing when Harry Potter takes a swan dive–then you might be dead and gone. Or you’ve abandoned Alexie’s exploration of time travelling adventures as an instruction manuel. Each episode serves as a short story with ethical issues galore. FBI agent Hank Storm may not get your heartstrings trembling–but Gus, Bow Boy and Small Saint could very well lay you flat on the floor demolishing an extra-large box of kleenex–or soaking an extra-large cotton hanky.

Zits experiences violence in many forms via his out-of-body time travelling–and this makes him seriously consider his pains of loss, abandonment and identity. Children NEED fathers–preferably decent men who care about their welfare. That lacking, one must find family where one can. Sometimes the concept of ‘family’ has not a damned thing to do with genetics and biology. It’s got to do with who gives a damn.

I’ve been a fan of Alexie’s work ever since reading his collection of poems and short stories The Business of Fancydancing. Yes, there’s a film by that title too– and it’s a great film. But–it was the text that had me wanting to scream and laugh from one page to the next. Ever felt bushwhacked by a writer? Well that’s how I felt while reading The Business of Fancydancing. It was great. Disturbing at times, but great nonetheless. I will never forget the story of the man, Eve and the post office. Hell, I’ve never entered a post office since and not thought of the story. The same holds true for Flight. It will not numb or bore you to tears. Not sure you can relate yet? Okay, who has had bad acne? Raise your hands now.

The Official Website of Sherman Alexie–be forewarned–it’s a tad off kilter:  http://www.fallsapart.com/

Lydia Millet’s Ghost Lights —

I picked up Lydia Millet’s Ghost Lights at a time when my brainpan needed serious distraction from stewing in its own juices.  “Pulitzer finalist” on the book jacket caught my eye and I wondered what sort of contemporary work of fiction would fit that bill.  Hence I decided to give the tome a chance even though the first pages concerning a three-legged dog did nothing to capture my interest.  Now perhaps I’m missing something here as this is touted as the second book of a trilogy. Hmm. Okay well I am going to continue missing that  special something that comes from the second book in a trilogy of which I have not read the first installment. I’m going to continue the ‘missing’ because I’ve no intentions of reading the first part of the trilogy,  How the Dead Dream, in order to get up to speed on whatever I’m missing. Nor do I have any plans to read part three. Why not? It’s not because MIllet can’t write–she can. The prose flows easily across the pages requiring no effort from the reader at all.  I’m not going to read any further backward or forward because there are more interesting books to read and for the following reasons directly related to Ghost Lights:

I do not care about middle-aged men who work for the Internal Revenue Service.

I do not care about middle-aged men who are upset to learn that their wives are being sexually active with males other than themselves.

I do not care about a wife having sex with a younger man than her husband.

I do not care about a middle-aged man who learns his crippled daughter is making a living doing phone sex.

I do not care that a crippled woman has found that phone sex is the most lucrative way to support herself.

I do not care about a middle-aged Tax Man who goes off to find a man he doesn’t even like just to get away from his issues.

I do not care about Tax Man going agog over a beautiful German woman and her husband and two boys.

I do not care about Tax Man having his dream of ‘sex on the beach’ with beautiful German woman come true.

I do not care about Tax Man having no clue what mess he’s walked into by his weak efforts to find the missing T-man.

I do not care about ignorant man befuddled by German woman’s ignorance of the issues of the Indigenous Guatemalan population.

I do not care about any of these characters because Millet provides absolutely no reason why I should care about them. Beautiful breasts of German women do not engage my interest. The three-legged dog seems to have been some sort of red herring. The crippled daughter operates as a sort of sympathy plea. The adulterous wife is so much shallow contemporary American woman that the character construction isn’t worth the effort to sneer at her.  The Tax Man — is–well he’s the Tax Man nursing a Tin Man’s heart of sorts.  Did I miss something of vital importance between the hardback covers of Ghost Lights? Did I? If so and you know what it is please drop a line and tell me. I’d really like to know. –Oh and NO the concluding pages of the book will not suffice. I’m NOT buying that at all. Btw, if any of this book was supposed to be funny–I didn’t laugh. There are many types of humor–but I don’t recall stumbling over any form here. Perhaps I need to update my humor catalog?

Ghost Lights– link to excerpt  http://www.lydiamillet.net/ghost_lights.html

Grist

Working toward a planet that doesn’t burn, a future that doesn’t suck

RevolutionResource.org

Agitate, Educate, and Organize ~OO~

Deceleration

Climate Change: Mitigation. Adaptation. Justice.

Lgambill48's Blog

a place for reflective expression.

Shechaim's News of the Day

I write without an apology; Because of the end time Evil in our land lately! Also my friends, I write from my ancestors teaching.

Free Alabama Movement

National Movement Against Mass Incarceration and Prison Slavery

Books Can Save A Life

"Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive." Barry Lopez

The Greenery

Ideas That Grow and Bloom

The Case for Global Film

Discussing everything that isn't Hollywood (and a little that is)

LRInspire

Wellness Leadership Education

Tales from the Conspiratum

Warning: This site may contain conspiracies

Make No Bones About It

The Quest for the Truth

Beyond Extreme Energy

No new permits for fossil fuel infrastructure. Renewable energy NOW.

Mugilan Raju

Prime my subconscious, one hint at a time

ipekseyhanpoyrazkarayel

Asla İdeallerinden Vazgeçme Asla! Never Give Up Your İdeals Never!

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness

Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Cynthia Reyes

The blog of Canadian author Cynthia Reyes

1EarthUnited

Uniting the world, One Love at a time. :D

The Stay-at-home Scientist

Science, Gardening, Work-Life Balance

People Powered Machines

Our business is committed to saving energy, reducing emmissions and waste.

drwilda

Just another WordPress.com site

Tubularsock

". . . first hand coverage, second hand news"

Espen Stenersrød- From Pen To Heart

Jack Kerouac with a scent of Henry Vaughn

Army at Wounded Knee

A blog dedicated to documenting through primary sources, the Army's actions at Wounded Knee

yadadarcyyada

Vague Meanderings of the Broke and Obscure

Ekostories

Essays on nature, culture, self

Red Wolf Journal

A literary compass for finding your voice..."You turn toward me, your lips move, wanting to speak."--Stephen Dobyns, "Wolves In The Street"

poet4justicedotwordpressdotcom

The poet can reach where the sun cannot. -HINDU PROVERBThe greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

"OUR WORLD"

Working together to make the world a better place to live! A fine WordPress.com site

Spirit In Action

Change IS coming. WE can make it GOOD.

CreekWaterWoman

Simply a spot for this mid-lifer to dump some words, a poem, an essay.

Rezinate's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

Through the Peacock's Eyes

Insights for Spiritual Living

Heila

My Cats say Life is Simple

the zen space

a space for zen words

We Write Poems

a community of people reading & writing poems, moving words

shelbycourtland

Bringing Social Issues To The Forefront

R. L. Culpeper

Sapere Aude

THE ONENESS of HUMANITY

Earth | Peace | Truth | 2019

InkPaperPen

You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.