Päntsdrunk (Kalsariänni)

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In the new books section at the library, a little book called Päntsdrunk (Kalsariänni) by Miska Rantanen beckoned. The illustrated book reminded me of The Little Book of Hygge so I took it home. Päntsdrunk is a Finnish word to describe the sloth and aimlessness of activities like hanging around the house after work drinking alcohol in your underwear. As that’s not exactly my thing even when I’m stressed, I didn’t love the book. However, it’s written with dry wit and is a quick read so I didn’t hate it either. It’s a gentle poke at Denmark’s hygge culture. It won’t make you laugh out loud and didn’t make me want to book a trip to Helsinki, but it’s cute.

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Dog-of-the-Sea-Waves

dog-of-the-sea-wavesJames Rumford’s Dog-of-the-Sea-Waves depicts early Hawaiian culture and manatees. With beautiful illustrations, we learn of how Hawaiians first encountered manatees, what they thought of these odd looking creatures and how they bonded with one. Yet manatees are not dogs and aren’t tailored to become pets so the story ends with a sad parting. This children books offers a poignant tale with lessons in culture and natural science. It’s be great in a primary classroom for a unit on the sea, culture, or animals. It’s also just a beautiful story to enjoy.

Brideshead Revisited

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Brideshead Revisited is one of my all time favorite novels. Great characters, plot and style. Evelyn Waugh is a masterful writer. If you’re not familiar with the story, Brideshead Revisited consists of Charles Ryder’s tranquil recollections of his college friendship with Lord Sebastian Flyte and his later romance with Julia Flyte. Every line and image is perfection.

When I saw the audio book, I had to get it. I was delighted to see that Jeremy Irons narrated it and even more surprised to hear how well he does all the characters’ voices, even the women’s. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Some Writer!

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E.B. White: Some Writer! is some biography. A book for children, say grades 4 and up, is well researched and well written. Barbara Gherman’s biography is based on White’s letters and papers as well as on interviews with his relatives.

The biography begins with an overview and then proceeds to describe E.B. White’s life from grade school onward. The tone is delightful and readers get a sense of White’s shyness, his sense of adventure (within the US – traveling abroad was too much for him), his family life, love of nature and writing career. White, whose friends called him Andy,

The book contains many photos of White, his parents and family, which helps readers get to know White in yet another way.

As Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and his essay’s are among my favorite writings, I enjoyed learning more about the man. He’s as sincere and caring. He deeply cared about his friends, family and quality writing. The book was a fun, insightful read, which I highly recommend.

Henri Duchemin and His Shadows

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I discovered this book via Literature-Map.com, which predicted I would like Emmanuel Bove’s writing. Boy, was that first prediction right. I’m now going to read more of the books it suggests.

A modern writer, Emmanuel Bove (1889 – 1945), has been described by Peter Handke as “the poet of the flophouse and the dive, the park bench and the pigeon’s crumb . . . a deeply empathetic writer for whom no defeat is so great as too silence desire.”

A collection of short stories, Henri Dechemin and his Shadows takes us inside the hearts and minds of the narrators. Each is down and out, but also very perceptive and wise.  The narrators navigate shame, homelessness, breaking relationships and infidelity painfully aware in a way that reminded me of Dostoyevsky of their own pain and motivation as well as that of their wife or friend who was causing it. This wisdom didn’t lessen the hurt.

Bove’s style is succinct. He has no verbose descriptions. The gets to the crux of what needs to be said and leaves it at that. I think it made for more powerful stories, though some may disagree. While Bove writes of characters in dire straits, he’s more positive than Sartre or Beckett. Though Bove’s characters have it hard, they often see the positive. They know that tomorrow may be better and there’s hope.

Partisan Journalism

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In his well researched book Partisan Journalism: A History of Media Bias in the United States, Jim Kuypers traces the history of American journalism back to America’s founding and shows the history of journalism’s connection to party politics. Each era differs, of course. The changes in media from newspapers to radio and television and now the Internet make a marked difference in journalism. After all, few disagree with McLuhan who told us “The media is the message.”

This is clearly shown in the impact of the decrease in newspaper subscribers, who’d at least glance through most sections of the paper, and Internet readers, who hop by clicking from one link to the next, perhaps never seeing stories unrelated to their core interests.

I know from my research into the 19th century that newspapers were clearly affiliated with political parties. It was customary for each paper to annually declare which party they were aligned with. Now that practice is no more, but it’s not hard to determine that PBS*, MSNBC, CBS, CNN, etc. lean towards the Dems and Fox News leans towards the GOP. Kuypers does spend a good chapter on surveys of journalists, which confirm what I’d heard about a slant in journalists vis-a-vis in membership in and donations to the Democrats. (Roughly over 85% of journalists identify themselves as Democrats. Even a majority of Fox News employees donated to Democrats in 2012.) There’s a lot of solid data, along with the sources so you can double check it all.

Rather than rehash every section let me share an excellent summary and review:

[F]ocusing on the warring notions of objectivity and partisanship [ . . . ] Kuypers shows how the American journalistic tradition grew from partisan roots and, with only a brief period of objectivity in between, has returned to those roots today. The book begins with an overview of newspapers during Colonial times, explaining how those papers openly operated in an expressly partisan way; he then moves through the Jacksonian era’s expansion of both the press and its partisan nature. After detailing the role of the press during the War Between the States, Kuypers demonstrates that it was the telegraph, not professional sentiment, that kicked off the movement toward objective news reporting. The conflict between partisanship and professionalization/objectivity continued through the muckraking years and through World War II, with newspapers in the 1950s often being objective in their reporting even as their editorials leaned to the right. This changed rapidly in the 1960s when newspaper editorials shifted from right to left, and progressive advocacy began to slowly erode objective content. Kuypers follows this trend through the early 1980s, and then turns his attention to demonstrating how new communication technologies have changed the very nature of news writing and delivery. In the final chapters covering the Bush and Obama presidencies, he traces the growth of the progressive and partisan nature of the mainstream news, while at the same time explores the rapid rise of alternative news sources, some partisan, some objective, that are challenging the dominance of the mainstream press. This book steps beyond a simple charge-counter-charge of political bias
For more, click here.

The best part of the book was how it shows readers how to look out for framing, selection and emphasis and the sort of questions to see how television journalists shape the news to fit their agenda.

I recommend people read Partisan Journalism and take the time to fact check as you go.

*My near daily source.
My other regular source since I believe in learning from all sides.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

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Moshin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia has a title that rings like Crazy Rich Asians, but the similarities end there. Hamid drew me in with his unique second-person narration. The book is set up like a self-help book that addresses the readers as “you.” This “you” is a young boy born into poverty in an unnamed Asian country, which reminded me of Thailand or possibly Malaysia.

The structure and p.o.v. engaged me from start to finish as did the realism that to get “filthy rich” in some places you probably need to study hard, move away from your hometown, cheat, pay bribes and use the occasional thug. In addition to the protagonist “you” the other main character is the sexy girl from “you’s” hometown. She’s referred to as “pretty girl” and she also leaves her hometown and makes the most of her looks to make it big.

The book not only shows the characters’ successes, but also their fall as their opportunities dwindle and they reconnect in their not-so-golden years.

The story is engaging and feels real. Being “filthy rich” isn’t necessary spending your time buying designer goods. It includes worrying about your family, drifting apart from your spouse, facing legal battle, begging kingpins for their help and ending up distant from your son. The book is beautifully written and tells a unique story.