Examining Republican Myths

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The Economy

Why are we still hearing the whine of Republicans like gnats buzzing our brains by way of our ears, saying things like they do not dare let Democrats get their hands on the economy and that they might be able to cast an extremely reluctant vote for Hillary if she moderates her agenda for the economy? I seem to recall that the Republicans were in office when this country went into the Great American Recession in 2008. I keep thinking (don’t you) that it was lack of regulation on banks and investment firms that created a housing bubble which was destined to burst and do real damage to millions of Americans. I have, with many other middle class Americans, waited for some of that “trickle down” to get into my bank account but that hasn’t happened. We have examined these Republicans myths many times.

So, my question is, why do Republicans still think that they should be put in charge of the American economy? Why do they think that the same policies that tanked the American economy are what we need to set it right? These are the same Republicans who obstructed the Obama administration so much that he was never really allowed to stimulate the economy as much as he would have liked and who then want to use the slow recovery meme against the Democrats in the 2016 election. I guess they think we have very short memories, or that they are so popular (or that their media brainwashing has been so effective) that the truth does not matter.

Thomas Friedman, who leans right, wrote about this in yesterday’s New York Times. He cites Hillary Clinton’s progressive agenda as being anti-business and he suggests that her policies will discourage, rather than encourage investment and innovation. Although Hillary may not have been addressing business interests lately, she knows that this country’s engine of growth is business, employment and a spirit of invention that keeps us striving to break new ground. He makes it sound as if she will replace industry with infrastructure, private with public, but she is not advocating any such dichotomy. She is saying that improvements in infrastructure will boost employment, but will also push economic growth and make it easier and less expensive to do business in America.

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Foreign Affairs

I also keep hearing a chorus, sort of like the chorus in a Greek tragedy, softly chanting a refrain that tells us the heroic tale of the mighty Republicans who are much better at foreign affairs and winning battles than those dumb Democrats who seem to think that we can rely on diplomacy, alliances, and hit and run soldiering. In this version of the Republican myths they blame the Democrats, especially Hillary, for the chaos in Libya and they tell us that Obama and Hillary are to blame for the upheavals in the entire Middle East as if we have already forgotten who took the lid off the pot in Iraq (43). As if the internet played no part in the events of the turn of this century.

They are caught in a narrative that suggests that complex world events have simple causes. According to Republicans people can’t cause climate change, but one person, acting on his/her own can topple empires and create global political chaos with well-intentioned but clumsy advice. Yes Obama backed off from the “red line” in Syria, but where would we be right now if he didn’t? I suppose in GOP-world we would be shut of Assad, the Syrian people would not be flooding Europe (so that their children can have some quality to their lives), and there would be no ISIS. But this is all hypothetical and we might just be stuck sending our sons and daughters into a situation that is still in flux and cannot be solved with powerful rifles and dead soldiers.

They insist that ISIS would not exist if Obama had never brought the troops home from Iraq and the rest of us insist that ISIS would not exist if Bush had never sent our troops to Iraq. By artificially speeding up an awakening that probably was inevitable but perhaps not quite so imminent chaos was loosed on the world in the sense of the conflicting sects of a religion that we once saw as monolithic but which was not, in the sense of how the Islamic religion, which has been left in a peaceful-seeming equilibrium will eventually either temper its fundamentalism with modern secularism or will wall itself off in an ecstasy of purity and either turn its back on the rest of us or force our foreheads to the floor. I think Bush would have done better by all of us if he had gone directly to Afghanistan and left Iraq alone, although the taunting of Saddam Hussein was hard to ignore. Once the Middle East awakened to the 21st century, some Muslims with disgust, some with interest, the changes we are experiencing there were probably inevitable.

The GOP shows no more prescience or military brilliance when faced with our current dilemmas than the Democrats and, in fact, because they do not like to approach the problems we face with any delicacy, their desire to stomp around using the dusty boots of America’s children, and their bombast would actually be harmful. Many people believe that Hillary Clinton is too hawkish to conduct our foreign affairs in these combustible times, but I like to think that Hillary is unlikely to turn Obama’s foreign policy approach aside and become an avenging Amazon. She has too much compassion for women and children to leave the effects of her decisions on them out of the equation.

The GOP, if you really consider the past seven or eight years and the mistakes of G. W., has nothing to offer us on either the American economy or our foreign policy, but Hillary will still take their stand on these issues into account because she wants to unify, rather than divide, America. The Republicans cannot be trusted to do the same if they are in control.

August Book List 2016

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From a Google Image Search

My August Book List 2016 is compiled from four sources: Amazon, Publisher’s Weekly, the Independent Booksellers, and the New York Times Book Review

 

Amazon

 

Wolf Road: A Novel by Beth Lewis

Dark Matter: A Novel by Blake Crouch

The Heavenly Table: A Novel by Donald Ray Pollock

Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio Garcia Martinez  (NF)

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

As Good as Gone: A Novel by Larry Watson

Pierced by the Sun by Laura Esquivel

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett

Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

Night of the Animals by Bill Broun

 

Mysteries and Thrillers

 

The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

Wolf Lake: A Novel by Ruth Ware

The Heavenly Table: A Novel by Donald Ray Pollock

The Castle of Kings by Oliver Potzsch

I Am No One: A Novel by Patrick Flanery

All is Not Forgotten: A Novel by Wendy Walter

How to Set a Fire and Why: A Novel by Jesse Ball

The Last One: A Novel by Alexandra Oliva

Dark Matter: A Novel by Blake Crouch

 

Nonfiction

 

The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese

 

Science Fiction and Fantasy

 

Just One Damned Thing After Another: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s, Book One by Jodi Taylor

Time Siege by Wesley Chu

The Dark Side by Anthony O’Neill

 

Publisher’s Weekly

 

Wintering: A Novel by Peter Geye (Sequel to The Lighthouse Road)

The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock

Problems by Jade Sharma

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Magnate: The Knickerbocker Club by Joanna Shupe

The Girls: A Novel by Emma Cline

One Hundred Twenty-One Days by Michele Audin (trans. by Christiana Hills)

 

July 25th

 

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

In Loving Memory by Winona Kent (sequel to Persistence of Memory)

The Unseen World by Liz Moore

 

Fall Books

 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

 

Mystery, Thriller, Crime

 

The Lost Boy by Camilla Lackberg

IQ by Joe Ide

The One Man by Andrew Gross

 

Independent Booksellers

 

The Rocks by Peter Nichols

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

First Come Love by Emily Griffin

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

The Cartel by Don Winslow

Last Words by Michael Koryta

A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George

Pond by Clair-Louise Bennett

A Hero of France by Alan Furst

The Singles Game by Lauren Weisberger

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Siracusa by Delia Ephron

LaRose by Louise Eldrich

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Lily and the Octopus by Steve Rowley

The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029 – 2047 by Lionel Shriver

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

Zero K by Dan DeLillo

The Trap by Melanie Raabe

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

They May Not Mean to, But They Do by Cathleen Schine

NYT Book Review

 

July 10

 

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

She Poured Her Heart Out by Jean Thompson

 

Crime Fiction

 

The Innocents by Ace Atkins (Bk. 6)

Another One Goes Tonight by Peter Lovesey

Fatal Pursuit by Martin Walker

Brighton by Michael Harvey

 

Editor’s Choice

 

The Sun in Your Eyes by Deborah Shapiro

The Drowned Detective by Neil Jordan

Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan Neil Jordan

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

 

July 17

 

The Mandibles A Family 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

 

Editor’s Choice

 

Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard

 

July 24

 

Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers

Chronicle of Last Summer by Yasmine El Rashidi

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock

Pond by Clair-Louise Bennett

The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel

 

Crime Fiction

 

Let the Devil Out by Sarah Crichton

Guilty Minds by Joseph Finder

Fall From Grace by Tim Weaver

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

 

July 31, 2016

 

The Devils of Cardona by Matthew Carr

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

The Death of Rex Nhongo by C B George

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Breaking Cover by Stella Remington

The Wolf of Sarajevo by Matthew Palmer

I Am No One by Patrick Flanery

City of Secrets by Stewart O’Nan

Missing, Presumed by Susan Steiner

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Paradime by Alan Glynn

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

Dancing with the Tiger by Lili Wright

Exposure by Helen Dunmore

The Kingdom by Fuminori Nakumura

The Crow Girl by Eric Axl Sund

Among the Dead and Dreaming by Samuel Ligon

Fever by Tim Baker

Judenstaat by Simon Zelitch

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

 

 

Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan – Book

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When I checked out what books were being published this summer I came across this novel, Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan. I wasn’t sure if it would be worth reading or not but the description said that the author had written in Singlish, a dialect of English used in Singapore and that this was a dialect that in no way would affect my ability to read and understand this story. I am a language and word lover so that was all I needed to get me to give the book a try. I was afraid it would be some fluffy chick lit, but like the chick lit I have read, it contains deeper thoughts and redeeming qualities.

On the surface the narrator, Jazeline (Jazzy) and her friends, Imo, Fann and Sher seem quite superficial. They have been girls, like many girls in America, who go to work all week and then head out clubbing on the weekends. They are modern girls so they drink a lot, dance a lot, and they sleep around a bit. The dialect they speak in uses many references we think of as sexual and this fact alone means that this book will not suit all readers. In truth, there is no subtlety to be found in the Singapore bar scene that the Sarong Party Girls move in, which caters to every taste that men, if allowed, will indulge in, so I caution you again not to read this novel if you don’t want to learn about their world.

The story line reminds me, however, of an old American movie with the title How to Marry a Millionaire except these girls are already sexually active and they want to marry white guys (ang mohs). Still, like the women in the movie,  it is easy to like Jazeline, and to wish her well despite the rather materialistic project she is currently pursuing. Every once in a while Jazzy shows some real insight into certain realities about the treatment of women in modern Singapore (and elsewhere) by men, especially obvious if you go clubbing every weekend in a bar scene where wealthy men like to keep an entourage of young pretty women around them while they party.

The author, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, manages to stay in dialect, using the hip cadences of Singlish almost all of the time. The dialect thins out a bit when Jazzy/Cheryl shares with us her insights into things she is starting to be critical of in relation to the male-female dynamic as she begins to think about finding a partner for life, rather than just living to enjoy the weekends. She is getting too old for the clubs and she is feeling pressured to find her ang moh right now.

Here’s Jazzy/Cheryl in almost full Singlish mode:

“Aiyoh—mabuk already?” Charlie said, blinking at us one time while she pulled out her cigs from her handbag and threw them on the table. This woman was really damn action! Her eyes are quite big and pretty, so she knows that when she acts drama a bit with them, men confirm will steam when they see it. Some more she always outlines her eyes with thick thick black black pencil, so it makes them look bigger and darker, a bit like those chio Bollywood actresses. This type of move – yes is quite obvious drama, but that night, I thought to myself, Jazzy, better take notes. If you can pull this off well, it can be quite useful.”

Here’s Jazzy/Cheryl losing some Singlish as she makes a deeper point:

“The truth is, even if I felt like I could speak honestly, I didn’t know how to explain everything – or anything, really. How to tell him about a society where girls grow up watching their fathers have mistresses and second families on the side? Or one in which you find out one day that it is your mother who is the concubine and that you are the second family? A society that makes you say, when you are twelve or seventeen, ‘No matter what, when I grow up, I am never going to be the woman that tolerates that!’ But then you actually grow up and you look around, and the men who are all around you, the boys you grew up with, no matter how sweet or kind or promising they were, that somehow they have turned into men that all our fathers were and still are.”

I enjoyed this novel even more than I thought I would because it is even more like that old movie How to Marry a Millionaire than you might think. Movies of that classic film era generally contained a message, a practical moral message that passed on some wisdom from the elders in a form that was palatable to a younger generation. I did not really expect to find this in Sarong Party Girls, but it is there, along with a lot of shocking descriptions of what “fun” is like in Singapore, and it made the book worth more. It made it as Jazzy would say, quite shiok — and it is quite feminist also, without leaving men out.

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith – Book

 

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Alexander McCall Smith has been writing The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series of books for more than a decade and I love them all. These stores remind me that there is still sweetness in this chaotic and sometimes wicked world of ours. Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi Radiphuti rarely have dangerous crimes to untangle. They are often called upon to clear up domestic difficulties, misunderstandings, or familial treacheries. Mma Ramotswe and her cohort (although somewhat eccentric) generally solve these delicate situations and sometimes set other things straight along the way.

In this current novel, The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine, Mma Makutsi forces Mma Ramotswe to take a vacation. When a case comes in and when it seems to have been placed in the lap of the perhaps-too-softhearted part-time pinch hitter Rra Polopetsi, Mma Ramotswe almost puts her friendship with Mma Makutsi in jeopardy. She proves that she is not good at vacationing. But her vacation gives her time to think some very good thoughts that remind her about her blessings:

“She gazed at her husband, Being loved and admired by a man like that – and she knew this man, this mechanic, this fixer of machines with their broken hearts, did indeed love and admire her – was like walking in sunshine; it gave the same feeling of warmth and pleasure to bask in the love of one who has promised it, publicly at a wedding ceremony, and who is constant in his promise that such love will be given for the rest of his days. What more could any woman ask? None of us, she thought, not one single one of us, could ask for anything more than that.”

Perhaps we don’t all agree with this sentiment and we might be inclined to want this and still want more, however, the emotion of this expression of marital love gives us hope that goodness will win out over evil and that we still inhabit a moral universe.

Even though this is the sixteenth novel in the series I don’t think I will ever tire of visiting my fictional friends in Gaborone, Botswana.

The Last Great Conspiracy Theory?

 

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Have we reached the last great conspiracy theory? We have been watching a conspiracy theory tennis tournament play out between the Democrats and the Republicans at least since 2012. The Benghazi tennis ball has been smashed back and forth for ages because the damning revelations were supposed to be timed to interfere with the 2016 election. Finally the anticlimactic report of the last Benghazi investigation (we hope it is the last because it’s costing the American people big bucks) concludes that all evidence suggests that Hillary Clinton was not guilty of any wrongdoing in this devastating attack in Libya. There was no assistance that could have arrived in time to save our people in Benghazi and Hillary Clinton was not, as many stated, asleep at the most crucial moments.

The fact that Hillary Clinton used a private server while at the State Department was the one juicy piece of info that came out of the Benghazi investigations. The Republicans put the Benghazi investigation to rest because they gleefully imagined that Hillary would be indicted by the FBI for something, treason, I guess. This seems a rather hyperbolic outcome to wish for given that it would suggest that Hillary is a seer who knew that the attacks in Benghazi would happen when she became Secretary of State and planned in advance to cover her tracks. But it sort of fits the Lucifer label that Republicans tried to attach to her at the RNC last week. (Republicans have a thing about Lucifer – they are so paranoid about the UN that they speak of something called the Luciferian Church of the UN, which does not exist.) I suspect they are saying that if Hillary is Lucifer on earth she could have known about the Benghazi attacks in advance. If you have to use this kind of bizarre reasoning to get where you want to go wouldn’t it seem that it is time to backtrack and start over, or just be quiet?

So now the GOP is left with just one more tennis ball to bat around and they must try to make the volley last until Hillary is tarred and feathered just before people go to the polls because Republicans cannot win this election without sliming their opponent, considering the caliber of their own candidate. This final round of our conspiracy tournament involves the Clinton Foundation and the arms deals made by the State Department while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. It is possible that these are two separate spheres that simply look like they overlap (a simple conflict of interest), or it is also possible that there was collusion between Bill and Hillary and that her arms deals while in the State Department were actually tied to the donations made to the Clinton Foundation. I have spoken before about the difficulty with seeing simple cause-effect relationships in complex matters. You must carefully connect the dots to prove that the money given to the Clinton Foundation was indeed used to influence arms deals in the State Department. The optics are bad, but is there actually any connection?

I don’t recall a time when we have had a husband and wife team where each partner had aspirations for the Presidency of the United States of America. Had the times been different for women would Eleanor Roosevelt have made a great Presidential candidate? Possibly. But that moment did not happen. But we are fifty plus years past those days. We now have a past President, Bill Clinton, doing his post Presidential best to help save the people on the planet from poverty and exploitation. And we have Hillary Clinton who believes she can do a good job as our first female President. I assume Bill Clinton’s goals are altruistic. Others assume he is using the Clinton Foundation to increase his personal wealth and bankroll his wife’s election campaign. People who hypothesize about this know that such activities are illegal and yet they believe that Bill and Hillary Clinton are so powerfully connected and privileged that they will not only steal from a charitable foundation with the family name right on it but also that their guilt will be covered up by powerful people. That all sounds pretty diabolical. But is it true?

Furthermore the argument goes on to say that Hillary drummed up contributions for the family charity while she made her rounds as Secretary of State and that she traded State Department arms deals for those contributions. There are the charts hanging out on the internet that look pretty damning.   http://www.ibtimes.com/clinton-foundation-donors-got-weapons-deals-hillary-clintons-state-department-1934187\

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Yikes! I can see why people get all exercised over this. But just because events are contiguous does not prove a cause-effect relationship. If there is a true cause and effect connection between these two sets of data then perhaps Bill and Hillary Clinton should be in jail. But, even though Hillary’s judgment was called into question on the email server decision, it would take some pretty stunningly unrealistic rationalizations for the Clintons to sell arms through the State Department in exchange for campaign contributions from foreign governments and make those funds look like charitable donations. Why would anyone expect to get away with something so blatantly illegal when contemplating a run for the highest office in our nation? I still do not accept that the Clintons are corrupt enough to plan and execute a scheme like this. I believe that the Clinton Foundation is Bill’s project and does have charitable goals. I also believe that Hillary did not go around the globe trading ostensibly charitable contributions from foreign governments for arms offered to foreign nations by the State Department. Connect the dots if you can. If you can’t retire the ball and get off the court and end this third round of the great conspiracy tennis tournament.

 

 

Donald Trump is Deranged: The Details

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Once again I argue that Donald Trump is deranged. His derangement takes several forms. He is, first of all, a certifiable megalomaniac (see narcissistic personality disorder). People with this disorder are sometimes leaders because their ego drives them to destroy all obstacles in their path, but they are usually too selfish to share power with anyone. While Julius Caesar began his governance of Rome by heading a republican form of government, he soon became disillusioned with the Roman senators and he felt that he towered over them in every way. He became “dictator in perpetuity” and the Fall of Rome began. (By the way, he was also assassinated,) Donald Trump is just such a man. He does not have equals, only underlings.

He is not the right person to head a Democracy. He does not even believe in free speech unless it praises him. This should be frightening to all who love America and what we stand for. If he gets elected I will be scared to speak against him. Is he just a verbal bully or is he a true thug who will use power like a weapon? We don’t know, do we? I was only ever nervous about speaking out against two other Presidents – Nixon and G W Bush (because of his henchmen) – both Republicans.

The Republican Party seems to think that in order to keep order in America we must flirt with fascism. (Donald Trump acts like a fascist.) They don’t like people who speak softly even if they do carry a big stick. They want to be sure the world knows that any leader they back will talk tough and use that big stick, with malice, at the slightest offense. The problem with this is that our biggest stick is actually a nuke, which Donald Trump refuses to say he will only use under the most dire circumstances.

Donald Trump is a deal maker, which in his case, means that he will do almost any sleazy old thing as long as it is marginally legal. So he tells Americans, who think our government is taking care of so many undeserving people that it can no longer take care of them, that he will build a wall – that he will kick out all the freeloaders. And he will bring back all the jobs. But if he can’t do these deals, he will not mind disappointing his followers and he will do different deals which they may or may not like. That is the true “Art of the Deal.”

Trump seems to have the emotional maturity of a child. Name-calling, cheap taunts, foolish nicknames, these things may look like they send opponents scurrying but his targets only disengage because if they fight back they have to lose any gravitas they might ever have in the future. Donald is a junk yard dog who will keep throwing dirtier dirt until his temper tantrum gets him what he wants. He may seem to win but he really just sets his “phaser” to stun and those he vanquishes decide to walk away and live to fight another day.

I understand that the things he promises look appealing to some. He seems like he can bring back simpler times when Americans were predominantly Christians of European origin who spoke English. His followers seem to yearn for this and believe that he will basically give them back the America of their childhoods. The world has moved on however, and it will most likely prove impossible for Donald Trump to produce an American future that corresponds to his fantastical promises. The 21st century is what it is and that is what we must learn to participate in and we must prove that we know how to thrive even as our world changes. As for Donald, if he is President I hope he gets good meds. If he is not elected he can be as eccentric as he pleases. He is wealthy enough to get away with it.

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler – Book

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While it is fun to imagine writing a modern version of The Taming of the Shrew, there are some cultural differences between the 21st century and the 18th century that offer challenges to an author that may be insurmountable. Not the least is Shakespeare’s title. The actual word, shrew, must have been invented by men. Even Shakespeare’s female contemporaries when speaking among themselves most likely expressed anger at the term or, possibly a tolerant sort of humor (rolled eyeballs) provided the males in their lives were not actually abusive. In our times men in Western cultures who call women shrews had better be ready for some serious pushback.

We see the humor in the situation though – a woman with a sharp tongue is softened by love for a man who uses his wits to defuse her opposition and we believe he will offer her the respect and affection she needs to take off her armor. Since even someone who seems like a scold deserves love, a happy ending is satisfying and offers hope. Kate, however, is not quite enough of a scold in Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler to have the same impact as Shakespeare’s Kate.

Anne Tyler may have had the idea to do this modern novel based on Shakespeare’s play in the back of her mind for many years. It is not a bad read, but not, I think, as strong as most of Tyler’s other novels. It lacks detail and it is not as witty as the acid give and take of the original. The novel seems more like a writer’s outline than a fully fleshed out offering. In this case Vinegar Girl, although interesting conceptually is a bit lacking in the execution. Of course Shakespeare is formidable writer to take on. If you don’t make your expectations impossibly high, you will enjoy the story. Anne Tyler still has skills that have been polished by a long career as a bestselling author.

Donald Trump is Deranged

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Donald Trump is deranged. It is covered over right now with engineered speeches, teleprompter puppeteering, suave political management, and a boring running mate, but the crazy is still in there. We already got to listen to it for an entire primary season. The Republican National Committee now has Donald Trump tied down like Gulliver in Lilliput (Jonathan Swift). Donald Trump will either break free at some point and invite us to his rave once again or his children will be running our government with the able (that’s sarcasm) help of another intolerant throwback to the 50’s, Mike Pence, his VP.

Media

How did he, Donald Trump get this far? I blame all of the media, currently very busy denying they had any part in this. And even more, I blame their bosses who, I am sure, insisted they televise every move Trump made in the primaries because the ratings were through the roof (today’s version of the events the Roman Coliseum was designed for). We know this happened because the print media and the broadcast media have both kept us informed about the money Donald didn’t have to spend. Commentators on every network got to relax and let Donald script their shows for them in his shockingly unscripted way.

What does it matter now who is to blame? We are apparently stuck with this nightmare scenario. However, it does still matter. The media, even the liberal-leaning media, likes to paint Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as being somehow equally awful. Sometimes Hillary even has a slight edge over Donald. I don’t know what your favorite channel choice is, but mine is MSNBC. At least once in almost every hour of every day someone on Morning Joe, and Meet the Press Daily, and Andrea Mitchell’s show, or even the new Bloomberg offering goes on and on about Hillary’s unfavorable and untrustworthy ratings and sums up, ad infinitum, the (unproven) sins she committed that have earned her the low ratings. I have never seen anyone so maligned for so little. Even Donald Trump is not so consistently assigned to the suddenly proverbial burning dumpster and he has done and said some truly reprehensible things.

So, although it seems clear to rational folks that Donald Trump should never be the President of the United States of America here we are watching a week long pretense in the form of the Republican Convention that seems to say that what we are witnessing is a normal and traditional election, when we could actually be witnessing the end of America as we know it. The entire charade is shameful and without the endless media circus might never have happened. Do you job, media people, and make sure that you find a way to repair the damage you have done before it is really too late, if it isn’t already.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant – Book

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How often have you wondered what traits and habits turn someone into “an original” – someone who succeeds in some way that makes them stand out, or even just someone who pursues their own interests without being concerned about what is considered as “normal”, or “cool”? How often have you wondered if you might be an “original” if you only did not have to work? This nonfiction offering, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant, attempts to study individuals or businesses that cultivate new ground either successfully or not. There is, quite logically, an attempt to create a matrix of characteristics which might help you analyze whether or not you might be an original, and traits which might explode some myths about people we respect as originals. He includes examples from current culture to back up his points.

Originals may not have the traits you would expect them to have. For example, the author tells us, originals are often procrastinators who put off delivering their final product until the last minute, which gives them time for late developments. They do not accept failure but they often fail many times before they find an idea that works. Grant tells about the ups and downs of the Warby-Parker site creators of the online eye glass site. People thought buying eyeglasses online would never fly but this site is now quite successful. The authors tells us that these originals and, in fact, most of these risk-takers often do not give up their day jobs. It seems that leaping in one aspect of your life while maintaining stability in others areas seems to be the rule rather than the exception.

The author goes through many studies that have been conducted by business experts trying to discover what makes businesses succeed or fail. The Segway and the Polaroid camera are both examples of business products that lost ground because the creators did not want dissenters and hired only admirers who could not break the “bubble” that would have allowed the business to respond flexibly to cultural trends or be aware of market trends that should have been heeded.

I don’t know how exhaustive our knowledge of “originals” is as a result of what this author shares with us. Any attempt to quantify complex and many-faceted intangibles; to produce a list of causes that will produce a desired effect in order to bring about such a non-concrete outcome, is bound to be oversimplified. Adam Grant does not actually give us a list of methodologies to become originals, rather he attempts to explode the myths we already have about what conditions it takes to be such an inventor, creator, prime mover. However there is plenty of encouragement In Grant’s book for people who think that all Originals are uniformly productive and consistently confident. It is also interesting to see what areas are the focus of those who study businesses.

You can find my reviews at Nancy Brisson at http://goodreads.com/

 

The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton – Book

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In The Excellent Lombards Jane Hamilton is doing a Jane Smiley-style farm family story for us. Jane Smiley hasn’t always write about the same farm but she usually writes about a similar era, the era when family farms are no longer profitable, or the children don’t want to continue being farmers, or the suburbs crowd out the farms as developers convince farmer after farmer to sell off parcels of land for housing developments or malls or a Walmart Superstore, a Seven-Eleven. There are always a few farmers who are not ready to sell, who cannot imagine any other way of life or who have a child (in this case, a daughter, Francie) who is in love with the family land and the family business. Jane Hamilton gives us such a tale in her new novel.

There are two brothers, the Lombard brothers, who live on the family land with its 3 houses, 3 barns, four hundred acres of forest, sheep pastures and the prize, the apple orchard. This orchard and the surrounding land has been in the family for four generations. In this generation Sherwood and Dolly Lombard occupy the main house with their two children, Adam and Amanda. Mary Hill, an adopted cousin lives upstairs in the big old farmhouse. Sherwood is not a true farmer, he invents things. Adam and Amanda are being groomed for college. They do not like the outdoors and are unlikely to want to run an orchard.

On the other side of the road Francie lives with her Mom and Dad, Jim and Nellie Lombard and Francie’s brother William. Francie is the narrator. We hear her voice through several years as she changes from child to teenager but the book is not childish. In this generation Francie is the Lombard who loves the farm, cannot imagine any other life and is thrown for a loop whenever she glimpses what the probable fate of the orchard and the estate and the lifestyle will be. Does it still matter in modern times that Francie is a girl? You will have to see for yourself what you think about this.

What I always loved about Jane Smiley was the way she immersed us in a farm family, and we experienced the tortuous inheritance decisions, the romance of a life lived close to nature on owned land, the anxieties of the economics of farm families, so dependent on uncontrollable variables like weather and world events and markets. Jane Hamilton brings to life these same elements that have eventually led to fewer and fewer family farms in America. We have all watched farms disappear from the near hinterlands around our cities. We all see the poor Canada geese trying to conduct their natural lives on tiny manicured wetlands near car dealerships. We have watched them cross eight lane highways with their ducklings – well at least I have. Every day I ride on a road that ran through farmland and now runs through senior housing.

Francis never says this but we can see that she worries. As much as she loves the farm she sees that she would have to learn the things that May Hill knows and she does not want to become May Hill. May Hill is a genius when it comes to fixing farm equipment but she is also a rather scary recluse. Francie says this about May Hill, “She did not like anyone – she did not want to see you on the path.”

Jane Hamilton and The Excellent Lombards made me long to inherit an orchard, at least before the realities began to outweigh the romanticism, but she, like Jane Smiley, made me wish that family farms had never become too culturally irrelevant to survive, or too labor-intensive for modern sensibilities and too lacking in economic stability to be attractive. I fall for this sort of farm tale every time. It is always the same, like a familiar litany, but different enough to captivate me, like an old photograph that gives me such enjoyable nostalgia that I don’t mind seeing it again and again. It would be sad if this way of life did not leave a trace, but as long as people read the books about farming written by these two women, it will live on.