Els' Rabbit Trails, Uncategorized

El’s Rabbit Trails: Delicious is Down Edition

This blog has been tiptoeing through the tulips a lot lately, but that’s what happens when a moderately slow reader is reading a big book. It takes a while.

Anyway, these links would normally go over on the Delicious links list but Delicious has been down a few days, so I’m putting them here. I find them interesting.

Lastly, a video link which follows up on the stuff expressed in the Driscoll/Trump article. Albert Mohler and John MacArthur get into what it means about the true spiritual state of the American church:

 

coming from where I'm from, Culture, Els' Rabbit Trails, real music

El’s Rabbit Trails: Prince and Niche Culture

My husband called around lunch time and told me that he got a text from his brother that Prince had died. As I picked up my daughter from class, she got into the car and said, “Prince died.” I asked her what she could possibly know about Prince, which she found humorous.

Since I have broadcasted my age here to anyone who makes a couple of curious clicks, I have no qualms saying that I came of age as Prince was at the height of his fame, and his earlier works which were released when I was a young girl were easily found in my older sisters vinyls when I was old enough to listen to them. In retrospect I don’t know if one is ever old enough to listen to some of that stuff, as I was recalling to my husband my favorite Prince song from back in the day.

When our older daughter came home (after hearing about this in her office from people of every age, race, and background) she offered another perspective on what in reality is a non story for those who don’t remember Prince’s albums as part of the soundtrack of their younger life. Whatever you thought -or didn’t think- about Prince as an artist, it is almost a forgone conclusion that his level of musical prodigy and exceptionalism is pretty much unheard of among the people being heralded as music stars today.

A virtuoso, highly accomplished playing guitar, percussion, bass, drums, synthesizer, and keyboard, he was reported to have played all 27 instruments on one of his albums. All that, besides a pretty decent vocal range. America’s got talent, and I would never assert otherwise, but it takes far less to be considered talented today than it did 40 years ago.

The other question my daughter asked is this: Is it even possible that 30 years from now an artist of today could inspire cross generational, cultural and widespread acknowledgment the way the deaths of the great names from the 60’s-80s’ do today? I think not.

We live in a niche culture. It is extremely easy to be exposed to what you like and only to what you like 99% of the time. Everything from television channels to clothing stores to Internet dating sites are pared down to accommodate every little quirk and preference we have so that in 25 years the idea of a name or song that most everyone has heard will be nonexistent.

It’s a smaller world in many more ways than one.

Sidebar: Prince had been a devout Jehovah’s Witness for the last couple decades, and this post is not about religion but nostalgia and a bit of commentary on culture and art (or lack thereof)  in 21st century America.

Gratuitous Prince song: She’s Always In My Hair, complete with a superb guitar performance:

 

Still reading Vanity Fair, and it’s taking a while but it’s totally worth it.

Els' Rabbit Trails, fatherhood memoirs

Fatherhood Memoirs

It was suggested that I might want to consider writing a memoir of
my father. The thought has remained with me. I could do it; for my own peace and the edification of my family even if, as is likely the case, it were never published.

As I contemplated the idea I started looking for fatherhood memoirs; books written as tributes to fathers from their children and very soon now I should be receiving at least a couple at my front door. But while I wait, I decided to dig a little more, and research reviews or obscure books that may not have been as well known which fit the genre.That’s when I ran across this Guardian article from 2013.

As I dug into the article and the synopses of the fatherhood memoirs which the author labeled among the “10 best”, I found that I was frozen with the idea of writing such a book. The glimpses of the books presented seemed to indicate that the children of the men explored felt compelled to tell all sides of the story, no matter how unpleasant their memories of their fathers seemed to be. I wondered where the admonition to honor your father fit into all of that. The author put it thus:

The concept of father memoirs is a fascinating one. Confronting fathers directly and publicly is not, and never has been, easy: the patriarch should judge and not be judged. To write about the father is to sit in judgment upon him, and for most cultures this was a taboo too strong to be overcome. The Greeks, despite their searingly perceptive stories about father-child interactions, did not attempt to do so – nor did the Romans, the Italians of the Renaissance, the Elizabethans or even the Romantics. Paradoxically – but not surprisingly, given the rigid paternalism of the age and the attendant psychological pressures – personal father writing, like radical feminism, is a product of the Victorian era.

In 1907, six years after the death of Queen Victoria, Edmund Gosse published Father and Son. Once the taboo was broken, writers were quick to take advantage of the new possibilities. The 20th century saw a steady increase in the number of father memoirs and, now that the boomers are ageing and seeking to immortalise themselves, such memoirs are becoming as ubiquitous as tattoos. As with tattoos, some are visceral works of art.

I look forward to reading and reviewing at least two of the fatherhood memoirs listed as the summer months unfold, as well as this one which I find particularly intriguing.

The twists and turns of life have opened me up to a genre of writing I never would have considered 3 months ago.

That is the power of the written word.

children's books, Uncategorized

Jumanji

jumanji book

Jumanji, by Chris Van Alsburg, originally published in 1981. A Caldecott medal winning book.

Jumanji is a children’s picture book, one that I chose to use this spring in our class of 2nd and 3rd graders. The art work in it is certainly worthy of the honor bestowed on it, but more than that, it’s a very entertaining book.

If your only familiarity with Jumanji is what you’ve seen or heard about because of the motion picture, you don’t know Jumanji. A standard 32 page children’s picture book, this is much more captivating to the imagination of young readers than the motion picture, because it offers them the opportunity to imagine, “What if…”

When Peter and Judy’s parents leave them at home for the afternoon with strict instructions not to make a mess of the house because company is coming later, the brother and sister begin searching their toys for amusement. It isn’t long before they both lament their boredom and decide to go play at the park.

At the park they find an old and mysterious looking wooden board game which they take back home to play. They aren’t convinced that it will relieve their boredom any more than all their other toys, but at least it’s different. As most reading here are no doubt aware, the jungle adventure game turn out to be much more than Peter and Judy bargained for. What’s worse, they can’t escape the adventure until one of them wins the game!

While I usually try to choose picture books with a rich historical context built in, this is one I chose purely fr the fun and imagination factor and it didn’t disappoint.

We rarely read picture books at home, but this one inspired me to mix a few more into my 2nd grader’s rotation rather than shut them out in my zeal to ensure that she is reading quality books. There are fun picture books that can pique the imagination and which are not twaddle. Jumanji is one, which is why I am reviewing it and recommending it here.

Grade: A

Content advisory: A bit of mayhem and thrill moments as the children dodge lions and snakes while trying to finish the game.

 

 

Uncategorized

El’s Rabbit Trails: Things you see when you get outside.

There are people in parts of the country (the world even!) for whom getting outside isn’t particularly prudent right now. But I’m not in one of those places!!!

78 with mostly sunny skies and a delightful breeze has meant for a week with lots of time spent outdoors. We spend a lot of time outside in spring because when the summer hits down here, the humidity and mosquitoes make spending hours out of doors pleasant only in the morning and evening.

Here are a few of the sights from the mid-morning walk. The first is the trail the girls and I walked:

trail

Given that I live in what can only be referred to as the concrete jungle, it was exciting to be able to take pictures of wildlife. A snake sunning itself:

snake

What I think is a Florida blue heron:

bird

And a turtle (of what variety I haven’t the slightest idea):

turtle

So…if you’re in one of those places where spring has sprung, go ahead and get outside. It’s rejuvenating!

Inspired by Jenny and Hearthrose, even though I don’t think I gleaned any profound spiritual wisdom during my trek.

Uncategorized

End the Fed

This review originally ran on an old blog of mine back in the summer of 2011. Given that we are in the thick of the political season and very little is being said by anyone about the financial mess our country is still in (circuses rarely reveal anything of substance, do they?), I thought I’d re-run it.

End the Fed by Ron Paul, originally published in 2009.

end-the-fed

I recently finished reading Ron Paul’s End the Fed, which details the legal and political reasons why the congressman think we should end the Federal Reserve system.

It was an interesting and informative little book. Paul confirmed what most astute observers have long known: that the economy we Americans frequently describe as a “free market economy” is anything but and hasn’t been for quite some time. The unfunny joke of course, is that those most likely to benefit from this current “free market” system know full well that it isn’t.

We have a system in place where interest rates are manipulated, money is inflated, and encouragement of consumer debt is supposedly the path to prosperity.

Paul spends lots of time explaining why Austrian economics is superior to the Keynesian model.  I am still in the elementary stages of my study of economics and monetary policy,  but the bit I do understand makes it difficult for me to see how writing checks from a bank account that is already in the red can produce prosperity.

Paul looks at the case for dismantling the Federal Reserve System from four vantage points. He makes a philosophical case or ending the Fed, followed by a Constitutional case, economic case, and libertarian case.

This quote from his chapter on the philosophical case resonated because this is ultimately a problem not just of the politicians and of the Fed, but of the people:

The moral argument against the Fed should be simple, and it would be in a moral society. (p.149)

Congress though, is a reflection of the people. If the problem were seen as a moral problem and people were to demand morality in money from their representatives in government, the process would end. But the people endorse the system because they have requested and expect government to provide benefits that can’t be provided any other way. (p.150)

When times are good and the benefits are being enjoyed, no one is much interested in breaking up the party or worrying about morality in money. The Fed encourages irresponsible accumulation of personal debt. People live beyond their means with the help of an expansionist monetary policy. They trade their futures for the present, neglecting the need to save in order to spend more and more. In this sense the Fed is the ultimate promoter of consumerism and living for the present. This amounts to a terrible cultural distortion in which short-term thinking wins out over long-term planing. (p. 151)

There were sections of the book that I found cumbersome, such as the word for word exchanges when Paul goes head to head with various Fed chairmen down through the years. It was one of the few times that I saw Paul as a typical politician; using 100 words to ask a question that could be asked in 10.

Even then however, Paul’s argument for the ending of the Fed becomes stronger.

For the Ron Paul fan, and I am one, this is a good book for enjoying a detailed and in-depth look at Paul’s stance on economic policy and how he arrived as his conclusions. He outlines the economists who influenced him as well as the history of his quest to understand the principles of sound money.

I give it a B-.

Uncategorized

The Color of Water

the color of waterThe Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, by James McBride. Originally published in 1995.

For the most part, I almost never read books written by black authors which were published later than the 1970’s. I make exceptions for Christian authors or political writers with whom I am in general if not lockstep agreement. But unless I know a bit about the author, I assume that any similarity I share with them begins and ends with our common hue and that the book is going to be filled with ideology that makes me want to scream.

As it turns out, I have a white friend who has clued me in to two recent books written by black authors that I found engrossing and worth my time to read. I am not sure how she finds herself so informed about black authors, although I think I know why. This book by James McBride was one she handed me off of her bookshelf during a recent visit, and I am glad she did.

A memoir, The Color of Water covers the lives of two people: the author, James McBride and his mother, a woman raised as an Orthodox Jew. Ruth McBride Hunter was declared dead by her family in 1942 when she converted to Christianity, and fell in love with and married the black man who exposed her to the gospel. The narratives were so interesting and compelling in this memoir that it completely overrode anything reservations that I may have had when I first cracked it open.

Despite her white skin, McBride’s mother clearly came of age at a time when Jews were something separate and distinct from White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Not only culturally, but racially. She routinely referred to “white people” as a separate entity, and so much that McBride didn’t realize that she was what people today would consider white until he was over 10 years old.

James McBride was one of 12 children, eight born to his mother’s marriage to his father followed by four born to the man she married after her first husband died. He describes a harsh life, yet a life filled simultaneously with material lack and his mother’s relentless commitment to her children’s educational and cultural enrichment.

Although glad to be free of the oppressive and abusive life she experienced growing up in her Orthodox Jewish family, Ruth McBride took pains to ensure that her children attended public schools in Jewish communities rather than those in the black communities in which she lived.McBride described his parents’ philosophy this way:

My parents were nonmaterialistc.They believed that money without knowledge was worthless, that education tempered with religion was the way to climb out of poverty in America.

McBride’s mother was odd, zealously private, very strict, frugal, and mistrusted outsiders of every race, although she  considered the black community her home and its church the first place she ever truly learned about real love.

The chapters in the book switch back and forth between his mother’s recollections of her youth and life, and his own recollections. This works and flows well. McBride’s mother offered some interesting perspective and insights to her children as well. When he asked her what color God was, she told him that God was a spirit. He asked what color God’s spirit was, and she answered:

“God is the color of water. Water doesn’t have a color.”

When he asked her what it meant to be a “tragic mulatto”, she was outraged:

“Don’t ever use that term.”

“Am I black or white?”

“You’re a human being”, she snapped. “Educate yourself or you’ll be a nobody…if you’re a nobody, it doesn’t matter what color you are.”

The book is full of such quotes as this devout Christian mother raising kids in a time where her family was ridiculed and derided at every turn (and when the “revolution” was calling out to them at various times) struggled to figure out how to instill in those children that their identity and worth  was rooted in God.

Whatever your ideological bent, this is a compelling and well written book. McBride’s story is fascinating, his mother’s even more so and I enjoyed reading The Color of Water.

Grade: B+

Content Advisory:

  • Ruth McBride recounts stories of her childhood sexual abuse, although in very benign terms.
  • Severe (by today’s standards) corporal punishment was common in the 1930’s-1960’s, so fair warning that it is included in the book
  • Racial slurs (that should go without saying)