Up From Slavery (book review)

Up from SlaveryUp from Slavery by Booker T. Washington
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have a lot of respect for Mr. Washington and what he did, however “Up From Slavery” was at best a disappointment, at worst tragic if he really believed and thought the way it seems in the book.

The book itself wasn’t written as a book, it was written as a series of writings/essays/etc. He received feedback and criticism as he had them published and you could tell in the book how some of the tone and what he talked about shifted.

I liked the first portion of the book, recounting the life as a child slave and then how he went to get his education and the struggles he faced. I was a bit caught off guard about the rosey glow he gave that time of his life, but I didn’t think too much about it until I got further in the book.

The portions I didn’t like were more numerous.

First and foremost I disliked how he talked about other African Americans in general. There was a lot of innuendo that they tended to be lazy and how unlikely they would to get ahead without “hard labor”. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is value in labor, but it felt like he was infantilizing/putting down black people. As he got further in the book it was even more apparent, and my assumption is the later parts of the book were his views after criticisms from some of the white people he knew.

Second, I disliked how there was constant reference to the white people in his life and how they always saved the day. Never a negative word, and in places almost an unnerving obeisance to those people. He stressed the generosity of the white people far more than any positives from his own.

This all wraps up in Washington’s silence about the brutality and cruelty of slavery. He even at one point in time mentioned that the black man got as much out of slavery as the white man and made the black man more capable of himself. In addition the simplistic almost happy way he talks about his experiences as a child under slavery stunned me as an almost complicit about slavery feel.

He even mentions once that the Ku Klux Klan was gone forever. He never once mentions the disenfranchisement of his people, the lynchings and second class citizen status. I have a hard time believing that he never suffered from it himself since he didn’t come from money. That is until I got to the last half of the book.

The last half of the book gave me an idea of why he might have written all about this, in this manner. The last half of the book reads more like a person campaigning for donations for his school, and at that time the most likely place to get money would be from rich white people. If you take that pessimistic view, then the book makes perfect sense. It gives a little bit of background without offending the whites who he is seeking donations from.

That doesn’t make him a bad person. His drive to educate his people was unquestionable and if this was his way to try and gain more donations for them then I can’t blame him at all. That being said at best this book was a disappointment, and if he truly believed the stuff he talked about it was tragic.

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Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism

Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese MinimalismGoodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I listened to the audiobook, so I didn’t get to see the pictures the book used to underline Mr. Sasaki’s point, it was still great.

Mr. Sasaki’s personal journey through the idea of minimalism gives a lot of rebuttals to our capitalist outlook. How living simpler makes us happier, how reducing our expectations for what we should have and we will find happiness in what we do have. A lot like my early years.

What I really liked is that while there is a lot of similarities to what he says and Buddhism, it never becomes about religion, or any sort of personal pride in being a minimalist. He points out that even that kind of pride is once again feeding into the illusion of self. He even indicates there is nothing wrong with others owning stuff and being materialistic and it isn’t his place to judge. If only the rest of the world was like that.

The book is a short read (or short listen in my case) and definitely worth checking out. Even if you don’t become a minimalist, it might let you look at things differently.

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The Emperor’s Soul

The Emperor's SoulThe Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is far better then I ever expected. Originally I wasn’t sure how I would feel, I haven’t ever read anything that was a Sanderson original. My only experience with him was the Wheel of Time, which I think he did great.

The story starts in the middle and there isn’t a wasted moment. It was like one of those plays that involves three actors/actresses and it definitely shows that Sanderson is a good writer using dialogue and emoting with his characters, not just sweeping spectacles.

The magic in the world was a little weird for me at first. I wasn’t too keen on it. I realized though that it was a pretty cool way to handle things. It was my own preconceptions and expectations that made it rough in the beginning.

I definitely recommend everyone read it. It is a short novella, and worth the price.

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River (Series 1)

I have watched a lot of police procedurals, and among them several British ones. This is by far the most unique series I have seen, following Inspector River as he looks for his partner’s killer. The twist on this, his partner still talks to him, along with many other victims and/or influences on his life.

The second twist, this isn’t a supernatural show at all. River just has mental issues and his abilities at being a detective manifest that way. It also shows how that mental illness takes a toll, resulting in a downward spiral.

The acting is great with Stellan Skarsgard as the center of the show (yes he is the father of all the young acting Skarsgard including Alexander). His acting is magnificent, and is in direct relation to the decades of acting he has put in. The rest of the cast are spectacular as well with the stars being selected for their acting ability and not because they fit into some weird young Hollywood attractiveness. This is one of the reasons I love British tv, they do have attractive young actors, but their shows starts seem much more relatable, real.

There wasn’t really any negatives I had with it, except of course the short season always throws me off (being American and used to 13-22 episodes a season, 6 episodes is always quick). I truly think though that is where British TV has American TV beat. It is about telling a story, if that only takes four episodes, that is ok. They don’t have to stretch it out to 22 episodes, thus making the show lose both pacing and heart.

Pros: In the top three for cop shows I have seen, and just a generally great series.

Cons: The fact there is no confirmed season 2, although honestly it might be good to leave it finished as an excellent show.

 

The Tao of Pooh

The Tao of PoohThe Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a horrific observation on Taoism using the Pooh characters.

It very much feels like a book from the early 1980s. The inability for the author to go into any true detail of Taoism. There is no reference to the culture, the history or the socio-political situation means you get the typical Americanized whitewashing of a religion/philosophy.

I am not a religion expert, but I am buddhist (casual) and I have taken several classes on non-Western religions including Taoism, Confucianism, and other religions. It is so much more detailed then this book. Without having the details around the philosophy it becomes misleading.

The worst part though, it is boring as hell and though might have been a best seller in 1982 that doesn’t really count for interesting or accurate.

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Mad Dogs (Entire Series)

Mad Dogs was given a single season before Amazon decided to not renew. While I did like the show, it is probably for the best.

A pretty dark comedy that is following 4 forty-somethings who go down to Belize for a reunion that evolves into a nightmare of lies, deception, and murder. Based on a British show of the same name.

Overall the people were pretty good in it, Billy Zane (of a dozen movies including The Phantom) and Michael Imperioli (of Sopranos) were the ones I specifically recognized and were my favorite characters in the show. 

It was an entertaining show, each of the ten episodes they would make the absolute worst choice, people would die, strange people would wander into the show (one example, a little person dressed in a cat mask). Unlike a lot of other shows like this, it didn’t let itself get too dark either.

The biggest problem was ten episodes was too long for the situation. The original British show (which I hear one of the other actors in this Mad Dogs played the Billy Zane part in the original) was four episodes the first season (and two additional seasons for a total of 10). Meaning this season was two and a half times longer then the British first season and had too much filler.

Pros: Funny and surprising regularly with decent acting.

Cons: The material isn’t enough for ten episodes, they should have cut it down a bit.

Maybe I will try the British version now.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Astrophysics for People in a HurryAstrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is absolutely the best book I have read or listened to in years. I could just listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson read a laundry list, but he makes astrophysics and the history of the universe so smooth.

I have read up a lot for a layman on a lot of the things he covers, yet with just this short book lasting less then four hours made it so much clearer.

While I hate the whole schtick of “we are made of stardust” that is liberally spread everywhere on t-shirts and memes. However, the way he explains why that is true makes it a lot easier to accept and actually does a lot to give you that wonder of the universe.

This book is good for whatever your religious or non-religious belief. He makes no attacks on people, only explains what science has uncovered.

I cannot urge people enough to read/listen/whatever this book. I think it would be great to start with all kids in high school. It would take less then a day and it might open up some eyes, or at least some minds.

I just saw that he has a Great Lessons course called the “Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries”, I think I need to pick that up ASAP.

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Deadwood (Entire Series)

This is for the whole series.

I really do wish the series lasted more then three years, but then again maybe it would have declined and been a mockery of itself if it had.

Set in the town of Deadwood in 1876 where it tells the tale of the town going from open frontier with gold strikes, and how the people living there got along. Fun side note, many of the characters in the series were there in real life (and by default are real people).

No, it isn’t a documentary, yes it is full of violence and sex (and let’s be honest, it doesn’t stay too close to the truth either). It starts with following Timothy Olyphant (of Justified fame) as he arrives in town. Then it truly becomes a full ensemble cast with Brad Dourif playing the Doc, Ian McShane playing Al Swearengen, Molly Parker as Alma Garrett and even Keith Carradine as the doomed Wild Bill Hickok.

There are a ton of other famous or semi-famous actors and actresses you will see, but there are so many I can’t really list them all.

The show is as good as it sounds. The acting is superb. By the third season the actors play off each other with just a word or a motion. There was so much put into each character that you could read what they were thinking and they could sometimes have conversations with each other that were in depth without more then a few words.

The filming was good, and the direction as well obviously. I am saddened that so many people have not seen it. I was especially impressed that rape didn’t play a bigger role, after all that is what most westerns are unfortunately built upon. Not saying that some things didn’t happen, but for what the show was (the Sopranos in the old west) it stayed away from that most of the time.

The only thing I thought hurt the show was bringing in Powers Boothe and his whole crew. Not that there weren’t good stories, and definitely not because of Mr. Boothe (he is great), but it took away from main characters in the beginning. While I started watching the show for Mr. Olyphant, I ended the show with Ian McShane (Swearengen) as my favorite character.

Pros: Great acting, directing, story and sets.

Cons: Perhaps too many secondary stories and plots and too many characters by mid-second season.

Now to find some more Ian McShane work.

Just an update

Well here I am, 2am and awake. I have been fortunate though, lately my insomnia hasn’t been waking me up this early (yesterday I slept until 5:15am which is unheard of) so it is probably a little expected I get some today.

Things are going really well honestly. In gaming I had the most productive group game in years (see the game at https://silkandspices.wordpress.com). We have three new players joining my hubby and Torie. It was a character making session with a bit of role-play, but even so I got more feedback and more submissions from my three new players in one game then I got in years from some of my older players. It felt really nice to be appreciated.

Work is still just work. My hubby might have some good news coming up, we will see. I am very proud of him no matter what. As for my work it is a train wreck (yes we work at the same place). I am watching an audit we are doing just starting to nose dive, although I don’t feel too bad because I have told management repeatedly what the problem is and they don’t want to pursue it, so it isn’t my problem.

I am getting my arm sleeve tattoo worked on, its starting to look really nice. The hubby got his done so he is good to go for now, I still have a few more sessions. This time though I think I am going to go a little slower, only a couple of hours at a time. It is cheaper in the short term, and honestly I just don’t want to sit under the tattoo gun for more then a couple hours at a time.

Brandon put a background around my poor lonely angel.

Personally I am doing ok. Hubby’s surgeries are over and he is recovering so that is a relief. I am starting to work on my own health but that is a bit problematic. Evidently my foot is still fractured and it is officially a Jones Break. Means it may not heal on its own. It has been since October 3, 2017 when I broke it originally, we are going to give it until the end of March and see the orthopedic surgeon again. A boot or cast won’t help so I just have to take it easy.

More health news, I am halfway done with my first crown this year, they have to put the new crown in next week. Then I have a second crown and a bridge to get, with a final touch up of fixing a cracked tooth. Also today I will be going in to have my hearing checked along with the holes in my eardrums (I had tubes put in about 7 months ago, my hearing still sucks) and we will see how that goes.

Finally I am getting a CAT scan for the hernia/stomach problems. Been trying to get that for more then two years. Overall this year is about getting my health back in shape, that way if our job situation changes I can move on healthier.

My anxiety is also doing ok. Obviously I am still suffering from insomnia, but it isn’t as hard as it was last year at this time. the post-holidays (actually pre-holidays as well) is always  more difficult and my dad passing’s anniversary is pretty soon. All that being said though the hubby’s health has improved as has my anxiety because of it.

The rest of life is a bit slow and steady. I am reading (or listening to audiobooks) a lot, working on gaming stuff and just enjoying being with my husband. Oh and realizing how old I am getting when half my post is health issues. Is this what my future holds? LOL.

 

The Jungle Book: The Mowgli Stories

Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book: The Mowgli StoriesRudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book: The Mowgli Stories by Rudyard Kipling
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The audio production of this is very good. I lately have been complaining about productions but not this time.

In addition I have never read the stories themselves. I have only seen the Disney movies and I was pleasantly surprised by the richness of the story. I had assumed they would be somehow less. Even so though there was a thread in the writing that bothered me when comparing the animals to Mowgli and then it dawned on me.

My problem being is how Rudyard Kipling himself and his writings are inexorably interconnected with racism and the superiority of the white man. Reading just the Mowgli stories reduces my exposure to the other portions of the Jungle Book, but I have read parts of the other stories such as “White Man’s Burden”.

I realize some people say to separate the artist from the art, or that some of the art can be salvageable and I don’t think I can do that with this story. I will give it 2 stars, but that is because of my connection with Disney.

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