Friday, October 24, 2014

Beginning ~ with a television news crew

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet ~ by Jamie Ford, 2009, fiction (Seattle, Washington)
"Old Henry Lee stood transfixed by all the commotion at the Panama Hotel.  What had started as a crowd of curious onlookers eyeballing a television news crew had now swollen into a polite mob of shoppers, tourists, and a few punk-loooking street kids, all wondering what the big deal was.  In the middle of the crowd stood Henry, shopping bags hanging at his side.  He felt as if he were waking from a long forgotten dream.  A dream he'd once had as a little boy."
My friend Joan, who is married to a man of Japanese descent, handed me her copy of this novel.  Here's the story:
Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown.  It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery:  the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II.  As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.  This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American.  While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student.  Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship – and innocent love – that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors.

After Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left with only the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.  Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko.  In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure.  Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice – words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.
I'm really getting into this novel and like it so far, except for one thing.  It's 1986, and "Old Henry Lee" was twelve years old in 1942.  That means he was born in 1930, making him 56 years old in 1986.  "Old"?  I'm 74 now, so I guess old is relative, but ... really ... do you think of a 56-year-old man as "old"?


Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Title wave of books

“I love walking into a bookstore.  It's like all my friends are sitting
on shelves, waving their pages at me.” ― Tahereh Mafi

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Library Loot ~ October 22-28

Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces ~ by Radley Balko, 2013, sociology
The last days of colonialism taught America’s revolutionaries that soldiers in the streets bring conflict and tyranny.  As a result, our country has generally worked to keep the military out of law enforcement.  But according to investigative reporter Radley Balko, over the last several decades, America’s cops have increasingly come to resemble ground troops.  The consequences have been dire:  the home is no longer a place of sanctuary, the Fourth Amendment has been gutted, and police today have been conditioned to see the citizens they serve as an other — an enemy.  Today’s armored-up policemen are a far cry from the constables of early America.  The unrest of the 1960s brought about the invention of the SWAT unit — which in turn led to the debut of military tactics in the ranks of police officers.  Nixon’s War on Drugs, Reagan’s War on Poverty, Clinton’s COPS program, the post–9/11 security state under Bush and Obama:  by degrees, each of these innovations expanded and empowered police forces, always at the expense of civil liberties.  And these are just four among a slew of reckless programs.  Balko shows how politicians’ ill-considered policies and relentless declarations of war against vague enemies like crime, drugs, and terror have blurred the distinction between cop and soldier.  His fascinating, frightening narrative shows how over a generation, a creeping battlefield mentality has isolated and alienated American police officers and put them on a collision course with the values of a free society.
The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century ~ by Joan Chittister, 2010, religion
This new edition of a classic religious text combines the timeless wisdom of Benedict of Nursia's Rule with the perceptive commentary of a renowned Benedictine mystic and scholar.  In her new introduction to the Rule, the author boldly claims that Benedict's sixth-century text is the only one of great traditions that directly touches the contemporary issues facing the human community — stewardship, conversion, communication, reflection, contemplation, humility, and equality.   Tracing Benedict's original Rule paragraph by paragraph, it expands its principles into the larger context of spiritual living in a secular world and makes the seemingly archaic instructions relevant for a contemporary audience.  A new foreword, updated content, an appendix, and a recommended calendar for reading the entries and commentaries make this an invaluable resource for solitary or communal contemplation.
My Beloved World ~ by Sonia Sotomayor, 2013, memoir
The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor has become an instant American icon.  Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.  Here is the story of a precarious childhood, with an alcoholic father (who would die when she was nine) and a devoted but overburdened mother, and of the refuge a little girl took from the turmoil at home with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother.  But it was when she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes that the precocious Sonia recognized she must ultimately depend on herself.  She would learn to give herself the insulin shots she needed to survive and soon imagined a path to a different life.  With only television characters for her professional role models, and little understanding of what was involved, she determined to become a lawyer, a dream that would sustain her on an unlikely course, from valedictorian of her high school class to the highest honors at Princeton, Yale Law School, the New York County District Attorney’s office, private practice, and appointment to the Federal District Court before the age of forty.  Along the way we see how she was shaped by her invaluable mentors, a failed marriage, and the modern version of extended family she has created from cherished friends and their children.
Twelve Years a Slave ~ video adapted from the 1853 slave narrative memoir by Solomon Northup
Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom.  In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.  Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity.  In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon's chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) forever alters his life.

This is the first video I've ever gotten from a library, and so I've never written about videos on my blogs.  If the video quits working, view it on YouTube.

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Linda @ Silly Little Mischief that encourages us to share the names of books we checked out of the library.  See what others got this week.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Readers' Workouts ~ second week of my exercise class

Readers' Workouts is hosted by Joy's Book Blog.
Yesterday morning, I took a friend from my neighborhood to my exercise class.  Much later, after a long day together, she marveled at my stamina.  She was exhausted, and I was still bouncing around in my seat across the table from her over a meal.  I asked myself if that's because I have a whole week's advantage over her, meaning two extra one-hour exercise classes.  Okay, I'll quit patting myself on the back and tell the WHOLE truth.  We had spent a couple of hours visiting her husband in rehab where he's been since early July after chemo for acute leukemia and a stroke that took away the use of his left side.  Her lack of energy has more to do with emotional exhaustion than anything else.

Nevertheless, I have to say that I'm enjoying the classes and feel energized by doing the exercises.  Next time, on Friday, I'll try to remember to take a picture of either our exercise area or get someone to photograph me.  At least it would "prove" I'm working on this exercise stuff.

TWOsday ~ two books by Freke and Gandy

A couple of months ago, I wrote about The Laughing Jesus by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, published in 2005.  Even though I have not yet read that book, I bought another one by this writing team, one which was published a few years earlier:  Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians, published in 2001.  Here are summaries of the two books I have on my bookshelves:
The Laughing Jesus: Religious Lies and Gnostic Wisdom (2005) ~ What if the Old Testament is a work of fiction, Jesus never existed, and Muhammad was a mobster?  What if the Bible and the Qur'an are works of political propaganda created by Taliban-like fundamentalists to justify the sort of religious violence we are witnessing in the world today?  What if there is a big idea that could free us from the us-versus-them world created by religion and make it possible for us to truly love our neighbors — and even our enemies?  What if it is possible to awaken to a profound state of oneness and love, which the Gnostic Christians symbolized by the enigmatic figure of the laughing Jesus?

Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians (2001) ~ Why were the teachings of the original Christians brutally suppressed by the Roman Church?  Because they relate the myth of the Christian goddess Sophia.  Because they portray Jesus and Mary Magdalene as mythic figures based on the Pagan dying and resurrectingn Godman and the fallen and redeemed Goddess.  Because they show that the gospel story is a spiritual allegory encoding a profound philosophy that leads to gnosis — mythical enlightenment.  Because they undermine all external authority by directly revealing the Christ within.  Because they have the power to turn the world inside out and transform life into an exploration of consciousness.
It appears this set includes two more books, which I have not (yet) bought.
The Jesus Mysteries: Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God? (1999)
The Gospel of the Second Coming: The Long-Awaited Sequel (2007)
Until I have these last two in hand, I won't try to write about them.  However, I may have to acquire them — or at least the older one — before I start reading this series.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mindfulness meditation

The assertion below is from an article about personality and health.
"Retrain your brain with meditation. Harvard research shows that only eight weeks of mindfulness meditation — which is as simple as sitting and focusing on your breathing  — can physically change the gray matter in your brain in ways that may help you manage your emotions better."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Readers' Workouts ~ my new exercise class

Readers' Workouts is hosted by Joy's Book Blog.
Last week, I joined one of the exercise groups here in the senior apartments where I live.  We exercise an hour on Mondays and an hour on Fridays.  They took each of us into another room and put us through a "test" of our abilities so there would be a baseline to judge any improvement in strength, balance, endurance, and whatever else they measured.  I presume they'll test us again at the end of the 20 sessions we signed up for.

Part of our routine included the use of a stretchy resistance band, also called an exercise band.  I didn't take any pictures during the sessions, but I did find this photo online. The bands are different colors, indicating different strengths.  Mine is blue and says "8.0 lbs" on it.   Except for one person in a wheelchair, we were standing and twisting and stretching the bands out to each side and behind our shoulders.

The shoulder exercise really made me feel the muscles where my shoulder was broken in December 2012, even though I faithfully did all the exercises in physical therapy in 2013.  I bought the pulley that hooks over a closed door so I could work on my range of motion, and I also used my tension cord for stretches to the side, from an angle, lifting up, pulling down, and pulling from behind me.  All of that gave me almost complete use of my right shoulder again.  Now I'm working on it with this class.