Archive for the ‘book review’ Category

Preface to Polyandress

January 23, 2020

From the Museum of Erotic Art in Barcelona Spain

The BACKYARD BREEDERS are, anyways. People who breed their pets for ‘fun & profit’, who sell to anyone with cash,  and don’t screen buyers to determine if they are ready for the dog they want, and don’t take any responsibility for the animals they breed…are filling our shelters.  The ‘do-gooders’ promoting ‘no-kill’ don’t count them as breeders. They are actually demonizing responsible breeders instead and are letting the bad ones totally off the hook.

They retort that no breeder is responsible. These people who influence ‘conventional wisdom‘ know nothing about animal husbandry, genetics. or animal behavior. Also, they don’t know the facts. They have a cartoonish, anthropomorphic view of animals. They hew a party line.

The facts are that over 90% of dogs in shelters were bred by backyard ‘I’m-not-a-breeder’ breeders, who deny they are breeders because they don’t have five breedable bitches, or they don’t have a kennel building, or they aren’t living off their dogs. In urban areas, most are Pit Bulls, or Pit-x, but some areas have a lot of Chihuahuas, Beagles, or shepherd type farm dogs, We’re not seeing rare breeds in shelters unless a dog has been lost. Let me take that back. Now we are seeing more Cane Corso in my metro area. I guess the foundation breeders didn’t make it clear to buyers that they should not be breeding if they weren’t going to be responsible for what they breed.

No matter. When you own the mommy animal at the time she gives birth, you are THE BREEDER.

They’ve also spread this idea that dogs are just bred for their beauty (conformation) and can’t do what they were bred d to do. That is laughably untrue.

We are ‘the fancy‘. That’s what purebred dog lovers—fanciers—call ourselves.  I’ve worked for hobby breeders for over 50 years. Most I work for are extremely concerned about genetic defects and strive to breed genetically sound dogs that can do what they were originally bred to do, and more. We call obedience, rally, agility, racing, lure coursing, hunting, dock diving, nose work, barn hunt, etc.: performance.

More important, these breeders love their dogs. They network to find homes for older dogs, often support their breed-specific rescue if a dog ends up in a shelter & the breeder can’t be found, and they will take back dogs they’ve sold if the buyer can’t keep the dog. They do not want to lose track of the dogs they’ve bred. This is why you don’t see rare breeds such as Glen of Imaal Terries, Borzoi, Clumber Spaniels,  in shelters. The breeders take them back. They also make clear to buyers why pet dogs should not be bred.

The do-gooders blame the hobby breeders, demonizing them for the situation the backyard breeders have caused.  We are losing breeds. I wonder if Bedlington Terriers or Affenpinschers have viable gene pools.

The reason I am a purebred dog fancier is predictability. A breed is considered a breed by the bona fide registry organization when the fanciers have a breed standard describing the physical dog, and dogs that breed true for three generations. With a degree of statistical certainty (with a standard deviation, I’m sure), you can tell what size, coat type, and temperament a purebred dog will have.

This is not so with mixed breeds/designer dogs. It would be amusing if it wasn’t infuriating how many grooming clients groomers have who bought ‘designer’ Poodle crosses and are disappointed with the size and coat type of the dog. If you would not buy a purebred Poodle, why would you pay more for a Poodle mix? I think the doodle breeders’ marketing must be very good. That and people don’t spend enough time researching a purchase.

Rarely do hobby breeders reach out to the public. They have too much conventional wisdom to dispell in a short amount of time. Veterinarians, who should know better, are not helping, either.

Now, due to ‘the economy’, where land rents might eat up over 50% of a household’s income, coupled with credit card debt and outstanding student loans, few people can even afford to own a dog, let alone breed them.

Ethical breeders are dying of old age. Younger people don’t have the time, money, or interest in breeding quality dogs. A veterinary dental for a dog hovers around $400 in my neck of the woods. The last thing people who have a lot of debt need is a high maintenance breed of dog, but pet buyers are naive and emotional.

When people try to guilt me about being a purebred dog fancier, I remind them that all dogs come from breeders, and I don’t want ignorant, dimwitted backyard breeders choosing the type of dog I should own. Humans ‘invented’ over 400 breeds for various reasons. it’s fine if you want to take any random dog, but we will not make a dent in irresponsible behavior; i.e. backyard breeders, if we ignore that they are the elephant in the room.

OK. So..what does that have to do with erotica? Nothing. But if I made one of the characters a dog fancier, and she explained why integrity is important, and she enjoys having mind-blowing sex…would you read that?

I rest my case.

Why I Write Erotica

January 18, 2020

From the Museum of Erotic Art in Barcelona Spain

Me—from a pose in the 1980s. Justin Goh did the background.

I’ve always been a decent writer.  I wrote to my boyfriend before he became my husband (he moved away 8 weeks after we started going together), I wrote to a guy who I wanted to be my boyfriend, who, in spite of the sex, never was.

Then, when I decided I had some actual ideas, I started writing about dogs.  Not stories, more journalistic nonfiction stuff.  I even got paid, which was encouraging.

I’m a girl and was raised to seek approval. I was never good enough. That might be generational, to raise girls to not have an ego & think they are not as worthy as boys. I’m not sure.  Encouragement is always appreciated.  I got the most encouragement grooming dogs.

I was in my 40’s and I suddenly had to start dealing with bullies.  Oh, we didn’t call them that about 20 years ago.  If it wasn’t sexual harassment, it didn’t really count (men are supposed to be assholes to girls).  But it DID count.  It’s just that we still allow men to decide what counts.

So, I was in my 50s when I started working for Bruce Blaine, at Best Friends Chicago, who was really condescending and verbally abusive.  In fact, before I started working for him, a friend who trained dogs with a dog trainer at this business told her she wouldn’t want to be caught alone in the building with Bruce.

I sucked it up, but finally complained to human resources. They sent another manager to keep an eye on him, and he’d behave for a few days, then go back to being a bully.  Nothing was ever done, so I quit working for Best Friends Pet Care.  They ultimately sold their entire business rather than deal with managers.

Because this bully Bruce would not give me a reference, I could not account for over a year of my employment.  I had trouble finding other work. In fact,  some people lured me to a new business, claiming they had enough to employ me. They didn’t.  It’s legal to lie.  I was desperate. I applied for a job I saw posted on Craigslist, offered by a guy named Dan London. His business was “Doggie Bath House’.  His only dog experience was walking dogs at a kennel, but everyone wants to be in the pet business and thinks there is nothing you have to know. There isn’t. Entry to the industry is easy.  I am not changing his name because he is still out there. I refused to work for him because he didn’t have enough dog experience and I knew he would not be in business long, He lasted about a year. but during that time, he decided that if I wasn’t going to make money for him, I’d make money for nobody. He had my resume & started harassing other businesses, & posting fake reviews on Yelp! He’d post that he toured (a business) & saw me beating a dog!  Now, how would he know my name?  But Yelp! let him do this. That’s Yelp!  You can’t trust Yelp!  He’s posted that I am mentally unstable.  Totally legal.  & he’s a guy, so he must be credible.

On the internet, ‘nobody knows you’re a dog (or an asshole…)’.  I actually met other groomers who had worked for him and whom he had not paid. They told me he hated me. He might not have had dog experience, but he had internet & bullying experience.  He posted all over the country, on Craigslist—-which you can do for free—and told people to call my employer (at the time, it was Paradise4Paws, an  up and coming dog care business) and have me fired. They got so much harassment, they did fired me.  Even though Saq Nadeem knew who was doing the harassing.

Friends told me to blog.   For over 10 years I have—–  about my ‘disparate interests’.  I am not widely read, but much of what  I’ve written has been shared.

Along the way, I stopped being sexual with a man I had been very attracted to, both physically and socially.  He had made it very clear that I was just not worth any sort of respect or commitment.

At the time, I was thinking mediocre sex was better than no sex at all.  I’ve since changed my mind.

There could be many reasons for why the sex was not better, but the bottom line is really that if the man doesn’t care, there is nothing you can do. HE IS NOT INTERESTED.

Actually, it wasn’t a conscious decision to give up sex.  It was conscious to stop seeing a mediocre sex partner who was totally unreliable.

I wasn’t meeting any worthwhile men, either. My grandmothers told me to find a man to keep me in the style to which I would like to become accustomed.  For a woman to put herself out there and risk pregnancy and disease, I just couldn’t see it.

Worse,  in my industry—-the pet industry—-the few men who are out there are gay.  What about other aspects of my life?

When I was in the Peace Corps most were younger, and the ones my age had the same issues with me:  old, fat, loud, opinionated.

Freddie Mercury, can you find me Somebody to Love?

I started looking at Match & Plenty of Fish (and even a few sites aimed at Jews). Guys my age either look like my grandfather or are looking for ‘a nurse and a purse’, or are Christian (I am a secular Jew and have a moral compass, thank you), or can’t keep me in the style to which I would like to become accustomed.

Ok, so, say we do get a guy past the hurdles: he’s got full dentition, not Christian, has a quick wit, likes dogs, can keep me in the style, blah blah.  Great. But what kind of chance do I have to take to find out if the guy is a decent lay?  Decent? I need better than decent.  You can’t write erotica without knowing what you’re talking about.

How did this actually happen?

The truth is, I wanted to write about integrity.  I am a dog fancier.  There are a lot of different breeds of dogs out there.  The reason there are so many distinct breeds is because  people want dogs to meet certain needs,  To get consistency, you need predictability, and to get predictability, you need to have the INTEGRITY to choose only the best dogs to breed.

In 10 years, there probably won’t be any Doodles, Pomskys, or Puggles, but there will be Whippets, Gordon Setters, Borzoi, Briards, and Dandie Dinmont Terriers…because of breeders with integrity.

So wait—-what? what does dog breeding have to do with erotica?

Not a thing.  But who wants to read about integrity?

Nobody. But dog lovers do want to read about good sex. So, I had my first character be a dog groomer who had good sex, and turned it into a storyline.

All the erotica/love stories are fantasies. They are contrived but made plausible.

There was another reason I did this. At the time I started thinking about how to do this, my father, in his 90’s, was badly injured in a fall.  He broke his neck and his femur. He was lucky he wasn’t paralyzed.  He did recover if you could call it that, but it was the end of his freedom because he refused to NOT walk, and continued to fall as soon as he could get up.  He had to go into a nursing home.

It was more complicated, because, my father had been bankrolling my brother’s drug addiction. He had been doing this for over  30 years.  Suddenly, the ‘bank of Dad’ was closed, and my brother was making his situation worse. He rented a car and had an accident and fled the scene. He hadn’t paid any of his utility bills and was living without running water, heat, electricity, or a phone, He lied to my sister about all this.

Rehab is a joke.  It’s a scam the way  it is marketed in this country. Families want it to work, but doesn’t unless the addict is motivated. Why should people get clean  as long as the families refuse to let them die?

That’s as far as I will go on this tangent.  It was really more interesting, but we were dealing with the stress of family dynamics. My father, in spite of his three daughters begging, nagging, cajoling him to NOT give my brother money, continued to because 1 son is worth way more than 3 daughters.

Michael Douglas also gave his son Cameron money to be a drug addict. That is what fathers do.

Face it, everyone. When someone decides to take opioids not because a physician prescribed them for physical pain, but because they are lazy, self-indulgent entitled assholes (like the flakes with untrained emotional support animals—the reason I think psychologists/psychiatrists have too much sway) nothing will fix them.  Only 30% of addicts ever totally recover  (meaning stay sober over five years), and that is because they are motivated. It usually takes them several tries, too. Most are not motivated.  They can’t live alone or be trusted with money.  I wish we could expatriate them to less developed countries where they’d have to learn a language and work or die.

I won’t go into the gruesome details of how bad it got, but my sister did get him involuntarily committed to rehab (for at least the 4th time)  This is a guy with an RPh and a DVM who chose self-indulgence.   He continues to tell us he is smarter than us all.  But…because my sister didn’t want my stepbrother or sisters judging us if they read my blog, they asked me to not write about my brother.

I had a lot of stuff on my plate.  This situation with my brother is terribly discouraging, and my father’s situation is terrible. So, that’s why I decided to write erotica.  I mean, who cares what anyone thinks?

But several people have asked me now how I came up with the sex scenes.

The short, true answer is you write what you know.  I did not have very much mind-blowing sex, but apparently what I did have made a vivid impact.  That’s what good sex is.

What I am writing about are issues that concern me, and that I confront often. That’s the other reason I decided to write.  It’s good therapy to actually express my ideas and beliefs, and as you get older, time is of the essence.  Is is true to the genre…each book has a story.  But this also looks like this is the closest I will come to the topic of sex for a very long time.

 

Book review: Candy Girl, by Diablo Cody

October 31, 2019

 

 

If you saw the movies ‘Juno’ , ‘Tully’, or ‘More’, you know this woman can tell a story. She can really set a scene, and it’s easy to see how her description of a somewhat sleazy undertaking became a launching pad for her.

Candy Girl is about her foray into the world of ‘exotic dancing’: stripping. She claims she was bored with her job at a marketing agency. Although she was well-liked and promoted, she felt unfulfilled, so she decided to try stripping at local clubs in Minneapolis.

Her boyfriend is all for it, and very supportive. She walks into a club, says she is interested in dancing, and is hired. Just like that. She meets women from all walks of life, and learns how the system works, which she explains in detail. If you’ve seen the Jennifer Lopez movie, ‘Hustlers’, you get a sanitized version of the life. Most women do not do that well. However, they are making more money than they would as elderly companions, cooks, or child care workers.

She explains this, and how she saved enough money for a car and a down payment on a house. This is not erotica. It is a description of work for a better income than she could make from what her college education prepared her for.

I’d like to think of myself as a writer, but this Cody Diablo really paints a picture. This should be a classic. I’m sure you can find it on Amazon. If you’ve ever wondered if this is a possibility for you, read this book. Even if you say, “I could never do this, you will find a brave writer here vividly describing what she and others did.

Two book Revues: Erotic Romance

April 11, 2019

This blog is a review of two books I’ve read recently: “Pretty Boy Problems,” by Michele Grant, and “Huntsman and Eve: Joining Forces Security Series Book 1” by Annette Stephenson.

These books are both of the ‘Erotic Romance’ genre. It goes without saying that both stories are contrived fantasies—but what fiction isn’t contrived? In reading drafts of my own book, the issue my early readers had was that this is fantasy. No man could be this good. That is romance: the guy meets all the heroine’s needs and desires. He’s always perfect. Rarely, if ever, does the main female character give a described blow job. She is always the receiver.

Our guys are always handsome with great smiles. We never fall in love with alcoholics, drug addicts, deadbeats, two timers, trouble makers, guys who are in debt, guys who turn out to be gay, or, of course, guys who aren’t experienced lovers.

In addition, the guys are always masculine and self-assured, have money, clean up after themselves, and will do whatever they can to please the heroine. If this is not for you, move on. However, if you’ve never had mind blowing sex, and aren’t aroused by visual pornography, but want a description of what it is…and want a good story to go with it, consider the genre.

Michele’s book is of the ‘urban erotic romance’ genre. Her main characters work in the fashion industry and are former models. Her main male character, Beau, is known as a player, and her main female character, Belle is very cautious. But Beau turns out to be a talented guy in many ways. Lots of white Americans don’t know there is a black middle class, and this is a realistic story. Beau is Cajun, and Michele includes a glossary at the back of the book.

Annette’s book is about a young widow, Eve, traveling around the country. She starts a blog, writing under the nom de plume ‘Dawn Early’, and a print magazine with a girlfriend. It turns out her blog is read widely by currently serving military personnel and is very popular. Eve sort of stumbles into Dean’s arms, and there is an interesting side plot. Women who are particularly patriotic will like this series.

I know who I want to read my book, but are they the same people who read the genre? I started doing some research, and according to Sources: Nielsen, Bookstats, PEW Research Center, RWA, Entertainment Weekly: Author Earnings’ (July 2014 Author Earnings Report, Harlequin )
Top 10 Fiction Genres.1 $1.09 billion, Thrillers 2.$1.08 billion, Romance 3.$811 million, General4.$548 million, Literary5.$442 million, Mystery & Detective6.$377 million, Fantasy7.$185 million, Comics & Graphic Novels8.$156 million, Historical 9.$143 million, Contemporary Women10.$113 million, Action & Adventure Reading.

Behavior : 29 percent of romance readers usually carry a romance novel with them. Romance readers typically begin and finish a romance novel within 7 days. On average, romance readers read more than one book: A Week —25.5 percent. Every Week —20.9 percent. Every 2-3 Weeks —17.8 percent —16.1 percentRomance Vs. All Adult-Fiction Purchases: PaperbackRomance: 51 percent Adult Fiction: 46 percentE-Book*Romance: 38 percent Adult Fiction: 30 percent: HardbackRomance: 10 percent Adult Fiction: 21 percent AudioRomance: 1 percent Adult Fiction: 3 percent
At A Glance: Age30-54; EducationCollege-educated; Average Income: $55K. Relationship Status :59 percent are coupled, 84 percent are women, 16 percent are men .

Since E.L. James published 50 shades of Grey, are more men reading romance?

The favorite sub genre is historical romance, but other genres are catching up. Who reads this stuff? According to Kristian Wilson:

Despite being pooh-poohed as lowbrow literature for middle-aged women, romance novels comprised nearly one-third — 29 percent — of the 2015 fiction market. In 2013, romance novel sales exceeded $1 billion, according to Romance Writers of America. There are even entire bookstores devoted to romance novels!

So why does romance — and the people who read it — have such a bad reputation? I’ll give you a hint: the answer starts with sex and ends with ism . Seriously, there’s a giant, gendered pock mark on books women write and read.

And believe me, romance is women’s fiction. Male authors who write romance novels are encouraged to publish under female psuedonyms to help their sales numbers — making romance the only corner of the industry that doesn’t have women writing under male names.

The whole erotic romance genre is relatively new. Not even 30 years old. Most books are self-published, at least at first, and the writers have a formula. Many start out writing fan fiction and evolve from there. They are able to succeed because they have a fan base, and they work to develo[p the base by encouraging interaction with fans via their blogs and on social media—-usually Facebook.

I want to encourage readers to check out these writers. Ask at local bookstores and , of course, they are on Amazon.

My own book is in production, and if you are interested in dogs, dog grooming and training, performance events, recent African history and development issues, that fantasy rock star (yes, that’s also a genre, as is the billionaire…), what it’s like to be ‘other’ in a dominant culture, good sex, and issues of integrity, I hope you will seek out my book (‘soon to be published’: ‘Polyandress) .


Book Reviews: Lower River by Paul Theroux & 3 Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin & Greg Mortenson

November 2, 2018

I love Paul Theroux as a writer, and he served  in Peace Corps in Malawi (where I also served about 40 years after him). Thus, I was interested in  this book, which is a bit of a horror story,  His main character, after a divorce and selling his business, chooses to go back to the village he served in  to  support the school he helped build.  Unfortunately, it is merely a shell, & other misfortunes befall the guy.  I know it is fiction, but I also know the story is plausible.  If you’ve never ben to Malawi, his description is accurate.

I recently picked up “Three Cups of Tea,” as it is ubiquitous in the book bins &  resale stores.  For those who don’t know the gist, Mortenson, who was actually raised in Tanzania, became a mountain climber, attempting K2,  and got lost.  A villager in a very remote area in Pakistan found him, and he promised to build  the village a school. That he did.    He networked among other climbers to help find  donors and sponsors,  and in the end, in the  1990s, Th Central Asia Institute (https://centralasiainstitute.org) was founded.  Now, their board is mostly Asians who oversee fundraising  and project development.  You can go on Wikipedia and learn Mortenson was charged with mismanaging funds and taking liberties with the truth.

That said, you  DO get the gist of what Mortenson did and what he was up against, and some of the history of what was going on at the time.  Both books are worth the read if you are the typical American ‘do-gooder’ type.  You learn  that nothing gets done without local ownership of the project.  You also learn that, as we Americans have allowed our government to  give foreign aid to both countries among others, and  what a waste it is.  Should we have to give up Social Security and Medicare to fund corrupt governments in the name of democracy? What a joke!  Should our military veterans have to wait over a week for care, or be homeless, so we can  give weapons and training to  militaries that rip off their citizens (and even brutalize them)?  Yet… that we do.

Both books are great reads.

Book Review: The Marriage Bureau for Rich People, by Farahad Zama

December 9, 2017

I  live in a culturally mixed community, and have many friends who are either from  the Middle East and India, or their parents are.  If you’ve seen the movies, “Meet the Patels,”  or “The Big Sick,”  you know that  parents are heavily involved in choosing mates for their children. Their parents did it for them, it worked, and ‘love matches’—that is, children finding their own spouses, is strongly discouraged.  Marriage is not so much about love as  maintaining communities. Obviously, it  does happen that people meet  and fall in love, and  that’s why there are ….stories.

This delightful, charming book is about a re8ired man who decides to start a match making  service, and  the nuances involved in helping people find partners.  It might help to know something about the caste system in  India, but Zama  describes this  well enough that you get  a good idea  of what people consider, and how they go about finding partners.

This is a great story.  Zama is not overly wordy, and the story is tight.  He describes his characters well.  The Ali family, Muslims, hire Aruna, a Hindu girl, to assist with office work.  She is supporting her parents and younger sister because her father’s  pension got screwed up and he can’t work because his health is poor (this is so very typical in  India).  Aruna is educated, and was supposed to marry, but her dowry was used to pay her father’s medical bills. This  dowry issue is still very much a fact in India.   As a subplot, the Alis’ have 1 son, who is an activist,  and this distresses his parents.  The dialogue is very  interesting, and  you get a better understanding of  how life in modern India is for educated people.

For  people who want a  nice read, who are considering a trip to India,  I’d  recommend  going on Amazon and searching for this book.

Book Review: Start Something That Mattes, by Blake Mycoskie

October 12, 2017

Blake Mycoskie, is the founder of TOMS shoes.  The company motto is, “for every pair we sell, we donate a pair.”  This is a very  quick read, very well edited, about how he started TOMS, and  how other people started businesses to make the world a better place.  I thought the book would be  hokey, but it isn’t.  Thing is, starting a business is really not as easy as chronicled.  Mycoskie had been a serial entrepreneur, and he had the capital to experiment when he started TOMS.  He acknowledges that he got lucky very fast, and his family was very supportive.

He doesn’t say how long it took for him to develop a working prototype, but he does say he had capital to live on while he was working on getting his shoes developed and manufactured.

I found this book very uplifting, but  I am not sure what value it would be  for the  entrepreneur who doesn’t have access to capital,or who has never even drafted a business plan.  I am really amazed at how many people  make a good pitch on  social funding sites like Indigogo or GoFundMe.  I have been supporting Prosper for over 10 years, where you can ask for a loan for any reason.

If you have an idea for a business,  you can look up  business plan outlines on the internet, and  find a business in your industry where you can  possibly intern, but be realistic and know the amount of money you will need to keep afloat until you break even.  I  want to open a resale store, but I estimate, with rent and overhead, I would need at least $30,000 and at least a year before breaking even.  Is that doable?  Mot for me…. unless I was given rent for free.

One of my favorite TV shows is “Shark Tank,”  where  entrepreneurs make a pitch  for funding and technical assistance to  ‘venture capitalists’ to grow their businesses. The Capitalists ask tough questions, and won’t fund an idea just because it is  ‘good’.  If you really think yo have a money making idea, write it down and  put down on paper  how much it will cost  to  either  manufacture your product or provide your service.

2 Great Autobiographies About Young Jewish Men Coming of Age With Special Circumstances

September 28, 2017

When you’re a Jew in America, you are always an ‘other’.  Even if you grow up in a neighborhood filled with Jews,  as you mature and go out in the world, you meet people with a totally different  belief system, mindset about what is right and good and moral, and  you are always challenged about what you believe.

When Jews pray, we glorify God. We don’t  pray for things or events.  We don’t really worry about an afterlife. Our  commitment is always to community. However, that is not clear to a young child. I know Passover is our most dramatic even involving children, as we have ritual ways to eat, we have the  four questions, and we  explain , in our dinner  ritual, why we do what we do.  But that is not  like getting candy and toys on Easter and Christmas (even though it is a gift giving holiday for children—-by ritual).

I found these books pretty much  around the same time at book swaps.  “My Sense of Silence” is  by Lennard J. Davis ( University of Illinois Press, 2000) is probably out of print, but can be found on Amazon.  It’s mostly about growing up with deaf parents, not  necessarily about being Jewish.  However, because they were Jewish—Orthodox, that somewhat added to  his complexities. For those who don’t know , Deaf Culture is a culture. American Sign Language is not universal, but it is a complex language. Also,  in most families, the children interpret for adults.  Many people are born deaf,  some become deaf, and, amazingly enough, even though Jews are a minority, there is a minority of deaf Jews.  Davis describes his frustrations and how he coped, and  how difficult is was. Then, in retrospect, he realizes that his parents did the best they could…although he also understands that he has a lot of responsibility as a young child.  This is a short book, very well written, and  would be a good read for young adults dealing with  maturing and parents, deaf or not.

The other book was a best seller:  “Choosing My Religion,” By Stephen Dubner  (Harper Perennial 1998). Dubner was raised a devout Catholic by parents who converted from Judaism to Catholicism.  He writes very well about it—not really discovering his Jewish routes until he was a mature adult.  His childhood was fine, considering that he was  one of 8 kids and his parents could barely support themselves without farming.  He hardly met any of his relatives.

It was a girlfriend who encouraged him to learn  more about his family’s history, and why his parents converted from Judaism to  Catholicism.  As a  Jewish woman whose sister decided to become Christian, I m somewhat familiar with the dynamics of what went on.  Judaism is  full of questions.  Catholicism is  full of answers …as well as absolutes.  It’s impossible to get straight answers about faith from  our scholars. Forget asking your parents.  But we  Jews are such a minority, it is  a big blow when  one leaves our flock  and chooses to join another.  Dubner  does a thorough  job of researching his family, as well as exploring his own beliefs,  returning to Judaism in the end, for personal reasons.  If you have ever pondered why you believe what you believe, this book chronicles how  one man made  decisions.

Move on? Resist? What’s the Plan? 2017

February 24, 2017

Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, in 1992,  the country was  undergoing a big shift. There had been a president, who had named himself  life president, and had served, at that time, 26 years:  Hastings ‘Kamuzu’ Banda.  He was s dictator:   he terrorized the country.  He was supported by the Europeans & the USA because he was NOT a communist, and  he  supported apartheid in South Africa. About the only good thing he did for the Malawians was build a  decent road infrastructure.  The school and health care systems were virtually nonexistent.  It was a country run by elites. who went for medical care out of the country.  Malawi was socially stratified:  if you had a decent job and were literate, most likely you employed an illiterate servant to clean your house & probably cook for you. There was no way to improve your lot unless you were (or are) particularly ingenious.

Of course, I worked with elites.  They  two I worked with were honest, and had integrity.  Things were the way they were.  Pick your battles. but I explained to them that  democracy did not bring good government, but representational government.

And here we are, over 30 years later, and our  representational electorate has elected  a guy who lied, who had no plan, who  disrespects women, minorities, the handicapped…. people who are not white Europeans.  It will be interesting to see how  his Orthodox Jewish son-in-law works with the white supremacist  Bannon, who is a close advisor.  Really interesting….but I think they are sell-outs. I have some friends who I really lost respect for.  It’s one thing to think your friends are  uninformed—but to see they voted for the white guy because they believed ‘fake news’ (what we used to call lies….as ‘toxic assets’ were liabilities) and just didn’t like  or trust Hillary.   Was it because she was a woman?  Doesn’t matter—she actually got the popular vote. She won!  But due to the political mumbo jumbo of the electoral college, these former friends who voted for Trump think—really, that HE won!  It’s like saying 5-3=10!  So this is the new reality.

I fear for the environment.  Even the Clean Air & Clean Water acts were signed by Nixon—a Republican.  It is proven that when you offer free birth control and family planning information—the unplanned birth rate goers down, and the community prospers….but our rulers  really have a mindset that women should be punished for having sex—the punishment being raising  children, and this will lead to a surplus in labor.  Our economy can no longer absorb uneducated people—as it can’t absorb the educated ones! What other explanation can you  come up with for  defunding  Planned Parenthood or making abortion illegal?  It’s not like the people who make these laws are fostering or adopting orphans or kids in the child care system.

I also think  the Democratic Congress made the banking industry more accountable. Trump thinks it is too much regulation.  Education would  fix this, as kids would understand more, but with DeVos, they have demonstrated that  making sure kids learn math & science is not a priority.  it’s up to us…in the states…to work this out.

So, as a result of all this, I am much more in touch with my elected officials.  I let them know how I feel about everything.

But  are there  citizen movements emerging to develop strategies to  change it all back….or…?

While   I have big issues with the Affordable Care Act, the problem is with insurance companies, and it is time for Single Payer.  If Trump wasn’t flitting off to Florida every week, there’d be plenty  of money  for  people of all ages to buy into Medicare. You wouldn’t have to—you could still pay for private insurance if you really believe you’d get a better deal….but, having had to  deal with  health insurance a lot recently (Bursitis, and I was bitten by a dog), I can tell you, the government couldn’t make a bigger mess out of what things should cost & how hospitals get paid than the insurance companies have!

If we are going to ‘resist’ and make things better, we must educate ourselves, so we have talking points.  I want everyone who wants to make a difference get  4 books and read them.

  1.  The First is, “Lies My Teacher Told me, ” by James Loewen  You really have to understand American History, first, or you will be ‘condemned to repeat it.  It’s outrageous, what we learned in school and  what we think is real;

2. “Charlie Wilson’s War,”  by  George Crile.  Aaron Sorkin made a pretty funny movie by manipulating facts.  All of what Charlie did, and why,  is sort of ‘funny’ in an ironic way.  It’s important to understands what he did and who influenced him, as he changed history.  You will learn  that he actually armed what became the Taliban, ISIS, and all the others who hate  freedom;

3.  You ought to read a book on economic history.  “The Big Short,” by Michael Lewis, again, was a funny movie.  Not so funny  is that is our history, and he documents it and writes about it in a way you can understand.  Bottom line:  because we are  an innumerate nation, and so few of our schools teach  people real math and budgeting, our neighbors trusted the banks—even thought the numbers were right in front of them. We all lost, big time.

If this seems too convoluted, get a copy of Robert Reich’s book, “Aftershock.”  We could have saved ourselves, but Hillary didn’t make it engaging enough (that, and the Russians and FBI director Comey put the final nails in her coffin);

4.  Finally, how do we actually  get the hearts & minds?  You have to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point.”  We’re not going anywhere in a hurry unless we know the dynamics of social change.  In simple language,  this book tells us how it’s done.

Book Review: Charlie Wilson’s War, by George Crile.

June 3, 2016

The movie (created by people I would call the ‘dream team’:   director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts), came out in 2007… about 9 years ago.  This is the Wikipedia link to the review:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Wilson%27s_War

I came across the book (which I didn’t know existed) while traveling.  Crile was an amazing writer.  This is an absurd, almost unbelievable story. It’s actually a story about how ‘democracy’ works.

Do you remember where you were in the late 1980s?  I was in undergraduate school, working part-time grooming dogs,  and modeling for artists.  I had had a roommate who had volunteered with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.  Related to that, I had an FBI file.  That’s another story, which I blogged about previously: https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/how-i-got-my-fbi-file/ .

The reason  my roommate volunteered to work for the Sandinistas was because of our ‘covert’ was in Nicaragua.  President Reagan wanted to  help the ‘contras’—a really ragtag group of’ anti-communists’ with no real strategy to govern the country, fight communism.  Unfortunately for them, in spite of  Reagan and the CIA pouring money into training and paying soldiers, they  really weren’t getting support of the Nicaraguans.   They did not exist at all, but were a contrivance.  Apparently, not only were there  several other political parties besides the  Sandinistas, the Nicaraguans did not fear communism or socialism the way we Americans had been led to.

This only matters because the war was not ‘covert’:  the news media knew of it, as did many Americans, who  pressured Congress to cut off funding.  We all knew Reagan was not a deep thinker, and he allowed key players  in the Republican Party to set policy.  What this has to do with the story of Charlie Wilson, and the war in Afghanistan (also covert—and a secret to us), is that, at one point,  Oliver North/the Reagan Administration asked the CIA and the Appropriations committee to hide money for the Contras in funds earmarked for the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.  :”Wait!” you  shout.  “The mujahedeen?  Aren’t they the people  waging  jihad against us now?  Haven’t they been since…?”  Yep, You got it.

The movie  was written  as a comedy.  Charlie Wilson was a playboy congressman from Texas, whose constituents didn’t ask much from him.  Having served in the navy, and grown up during the cold war, he was  strongly anti-communist.  On the advice of a vivacious socialite, Joanne Herring, who had met the  president of Pakistan ( Zia ul-Haq…who had his predecessor assassinate…), Charlie, who sat on the Appropriations Committee in  the House of Representatives,  got money  appropriated for arms for people in  Afghanistan fighting Russians/Soviets.  The Russians were in Afghanistan to prop up a  socialist government.  As we believed at the time—and it could have possibly been true—according to the domino theory:  if the USSR got a foothold in  south Asia, they could dominate the world.  The reality was—and is—that Afghanistan —as a country—is a contrivance.  It is a geographic parcel of land within a border.  It will probably never be a country with a viable economy.  It is a failed state without ever really being a state.

Who writes our history?  Is it what we get in primary school history books?  Is it journalists who write news  reports and turn them into books?  No matter. At the time the CIA was  buying and providing arms for the Afghan rebels, I was a student working part time.  What I DO remember is that very suddenly, the Soviet Union fell into chaos, and the Berlin wall came down.  I don’t think many Americans understood why this happened.  All we really knew of the Soviet Union was that it was a dictatorship with no press freedom, and only of consequence to us insofar as their influence on other countries.  Crile  gives us a better understanding  of what really happened.

We have to  understand what we  did in the rest of the world.  While the do-gooders took to the Afghanis, who were not united in any way, and have proven to not be unitable, what the do-gooders did—with out tax money, was ignore their human rights record, ignore how they treated  each other—let alone women, and gave them the power to  terrorize us after they finished with the Russians.  As I write this, in early 2016, we have Syrian refugees fleeing the middle East, and a bunch of right-wing politicians calling them all terrorists…meanwhile ignoring the fact that  they supported the cause of all this.

Worse, the front-runner, Hillary Clinton,  the former Secretary of State, continued to allow the Pakistanis to hold us hostage, along with President Obama, so we could kill off Osama bin Ladin and temporarily slow down jihad leaders.  We are not going to stop how foreign aid is doled out unless we  organize for a radical shift in leadership (which is another reason I support Bernie Sanders). The   countries receiving it hire lobbyists, and the  companies manufacturing weapons also have a huge stake in  continuing the status quo.