differences in material demands

A few weeks ago, my husband and I visited L.A.’s The Last Bookstore on a date. I left with an armful of books, only a handful of which had been on my radar before I entered the store.

One of the books I’d picked up was Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider. I’d read about Lorde many times before, and always had the sense I’d read her someday. The STAFF PICK sticker on this book’s cover bumped that up to “in the next couple of days.”

Continue reading “differences in material demands”

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the antidote

I just finished Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.

Two weeks ago, everything I knew about the U.S. epidemic could’ve fit a single paragraph.

A week ago, I could’ve told you a little about the Florida pill mill American Pain thanks to a book of the same name.

This morning, though? I could tell you plenty of things about the epidemic, but I’d rather just say one  thing about the book.

The best books feed head and heart. This book fed both for me in ways that could keep me running for a long while.

I had goosebumps for the last half-dozen pages of the book. While I can’t excerpt all those pages, there’s one short passage that says much, beautifully:

I believe more strongly than ever that the antidote to heroin is community. If you want to keep kids off heroin, make sure people in your neighborhood do things together, in public, often. Form your own Dreamland and break down those barriers that keep people isolated. Don’t have play dates; just go out and play.

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Wisdom By Book

I first encountered Political Economy professor Mark Blyth on February 2017 The Dig episode “How Austerity Brought Us Donald Trump.” I expected to endure boredom for a better sense of how things fit together. Instead, I found myself laughing almost immediately; Blyth made even this subject entertaining!

For a few months, I listened to every Blyth presentation I could find. I was tickled when I learned Mark Blyth and one of my two favorite authors, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, are friends, but didn’t listen to much Blyth after last April.

A few weeks ago, I got a hankering to hear some more Blyth. I found him on a podcast called Mixed Mental Arts (“Not So Austere“). And, oh! What luck that turned out to be for this bookworm! Continue reading “Wisdom By Book”

Origins of an epidemic

2016 U.S. presidential election coverage disabused me of the idea that corporate media is neutral. Over and over again, I saw supposition presented as truth based on assertions of outcome-invested “experts”; often, entire NYT and WaPo articles were built on false foundations, with retractions almost never posted. Instead, when anything correction-like was said at all, it’d be a one-sentence blurb buried at the bottom of the original article.

Fundamental truths impacting every living human were glossed over in favor of juicy tidbits that impacted … virtually nobody, discernibly. Soon enough, I happened to read Neil Postman, who wrote so keenly about the advent of meaningless “news” that it seemed funny I’d ever not seen the biases implicit in much corporate reporting.

Earlier this week, I found a great example of selective reporting. Quest Software is suing Nike for alleged software piracy. I discovered this via a post on LinkedIn; searching for more articles on the matter, I found … nada.

But then, why would I expect to find more? It’s bad form to bite the (advertising) hand that feeds you. Continue reading “Origins of an epidemic”

Scarcity, the invisible

A few years ago, a blogger I didn’t know offered to snail-mail me their copy of Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much. I tried reading the book at the time, but it didn’t really capture my attention.

A couple months ago, I happened to hear Scarcity mentioned on a podcast. I found the book on my shelves and moved it to my active to-be-read shelf.

I finished Scarcity this week. Upon finishing, I spent a moment feeling thanks for the blogger who’d sent me this book. It wasn’t what I needed when I first received it, but it was absolutely what I needed now; to have it on hand, then, was a blessing.

I grew up in scarcity. My mom, a single mother of four, experienced–to name but a few examples–scarcity of money, time, sleep, and support. She was constantly forced to juggle potential catastrophes, hoping she could juggle just right so that none of the potential catastrophes converted into actual ones. The act of juggling itself was profoundly exhausting; even as a child, it seemed a kind of miracle that she could keep going at all. On the days where she couldn’t keep going, where she had no energy to even get off the couch, it was hard–to impossible–for me to fault her. Continue reading “Scarcity, the invisible”

What “Qualified” Means

At the library with two tired little boys yesterday, I happened to see Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower. While I hadn’t heard of it, the title alone caught my eye. That was enough; I wasn’t about to try assessing readability while my younger son toed the line between holding-it-together and meltdown.

I read the first two chapters early this morning. They made for compelling reading, and helped me answer some questions about my own childhood as a poor white girl. I told my husband, a Black man, “Thanks to this book, I actually kinda get why you say I grew up a poor Black girl!” (I usually argue this with him; my white skin still served me well in some situations.) Continue reading “What “Qualified” Means”

The Authors Who Wrote Me Back

This morning, nausea compelled me to do something I almost never do: put everything down, close my eyes, and just rest. Soon enough, I recalled an email exchange I once had with author David Brin. The memory made me chuckle … and then think about the authors who wrote me back.

In middle school English, we read many books. Of all those, I recall only one by name: Bette Greene’s Summer of My German Soldier. The book moved me, but the book stands out for other reasons.

Instead of writing a book report on Summer, Ms. Heyerly had each of her students write a letter to Ms. Greene. I wrote that I wanted to be a writer, turned in my letter, and forgot about it … until a big envelope from Greene arrived at my home several months later. In the envelope was the cover of her then-new book, The Drowning of Stephan Jones, signed with a note encouraging me to keep writing. Continue reading “The Authors Who Wrote Me Back”