Friday, March 27, 2009

The Other Side of the Coin

Blonde Roots Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Interesting take on slavery: what if Europeans had been enslaved by Africans. The main character was interesting and, while ultimately, slavery is horrific regardless of the origin of the enslavers, perhaps whites who are marginally sympathetic to the horrors suffered by blacks can become more apologetic and sorrowful for atrocious deeds done by one human being to another. I fear, however, that these marginally sympathetic types will only have greater antipathy toward blacks by seeing them in this role.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shame, Shame on the South African Government, again

So, the ruling ANC denies the Dalai Lama a visa to attend a Peace Conference on the grounds that it will disrupt the soccer tournament planning??! Please. Methinks this is an appeasement tactic to keep Chinese infrastructure investment projects coming. Desmond Tutu is appalled and throws his hands up in disgust (see photo). De Klerk is appalled. Madiba himself must be frothing in disgust. The economic investment role of China in Africa is tremendous; along with money comes political influence. South Africa's moral authority continues to be eroded by behaviour such as this.

Art. Fashion.

Last June, there was an article in Pacific NW, a Sunday publication of the Seattle Times/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, about the reinvigoration of life and art in the village of Tieton, Washington. It is the story of one man's vision art (he publishes art books that are works of art), an artists' community, and bringing life and work back to a community whose economic base had departed and was home to new immigrants. Be sure to read the article and look at the photos. Eastern Washington is home to many things, but particularly to beautiful vistas. Susan Bennerstrom has painted remarkable landscapes of the Palouse. Her work can be seen at Davidson Galleries.
And now for the latest fashion commentary from FT Weekend. The article is all about some of the most interesting new fashion ideas showcase "grown-up" clothes. The catch is, that these look best on younger women and make older women appear dowdy.

And from today's NYT section on Health:

To the Editor:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls for antibiotics and condoms to halt the rise in sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers (Vital Statistics, March 17). I have another suggestion.

I am 17, and I commute to Fordham Prep daily through Penn Station in Manhattan. What do I see? Exploitation of young women on magazine covers and billboards; promiscuous behavior encouraged by media banter. We need to stop acting like animals and put human behavior back in humanity.

John Lyttle III
Oradell, N.J."

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Great Idea

Ballet dancers face a unique situation: because the dance discipline and field require that most dancers peak at an age that is relatively young for most people, they postpone their formal education until they retire from dancing. Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) started a great program ten years ago called Second Stage: setting up a fund for dancers to get a formal education when they retire from the stage. Seattle University is to be commended for their support of this great idea. One show each year, the PNB dancers donate their salary to the fund and hope that the audience also makes donations to support their efforts. The current PNB show at McCall Hall is just a great example of the versatility of the company. If you live in Seattle: support PNB; if you live elsewhere: support your local dance company: these people bring joy into our lives. Also, Angela Sterling's photos of PNB dancers are just stunning. See the photo of Jeffrey Stanton in "Take Five....More or Less"

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Getty Center & The Getty Villa

Visits to the Getty Center in Brentwood and the Getty Villa in Malibu are worth the time and effort. Both campuses of the Getty Museum are visitor- and the general public-friendly. Admission is free, you pay for parking, they are open late on Saturdays, they a have courses, lectures, concerts. We saw such a variety of people, seemingly all engaged and enjoying the experiences. The restaurants offered reasonably priced and interesting food. There were picnic spots, gardens to stroll in, places to just hang out. It is hard to imagine the wealth it took to build these two places, maintain them, create a conservation institute, run training programs,etc. The Getty Center focuses on Western art form the Middle Ages to the present. The Getty Villa focuses on Roman and Greek ancient art and life.

The Impostor

The Impostor The Impostor by Damon Galgut

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Very interesting book....problems and quandaries in the "new" South Africa, interesting character growth and development. And lots of questions about who exactly is the impostor.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

FedEx, the Baltic Dry Index, & Prognostication

Just in case you did not know, here are two sources of very important information used by those in the know. The Federal Reserve Bank keeps very close tabs on activity levels at FedEx as a way to measure what firms are doing, how much, and any changes in behaviour in various sectors of the economy. Similarly, by tracking activity on the Baltic Exchange Dry Index, known as Baltic Dry or BDI for short, analysts can get a sense of "when the world economies are starting to perk up and when trade conditions are really starting to ease.". Two other sources of economic and political analysis are (unfortunately, you have to subscribe to them) The Economist magazine's Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) and International Currency Review.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Political Risk and the Risk of Writing

An interesting confluence of topics today: an interview on KUOW with political risk analyst Ian Bremmer and a review in Weekend FT on the political risk of writing in Pakistan. Of particular interest was Bremmer's take on the future of globalisation: it has peaked and will flatten out (there was also an interesting reminder, on a different program, of the economist Paul Samuelson's view that anyone who says that globalisation will not reduce wages globally, is either an ignoramus or a liar). Back to political writing risk in Pakistan: according to William Dalrymple, "Until two or three years ago, Pakistan seemed to be a literary desert in both Urdu and English. Now, quite suddenly, it has produced a cluster of remarkable bright young novelists able to match anything coming out India: in fiction, Nadeem Aslam, Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif and Kamila Shamsie; and in non-fiction, Ahmed Rashid and Ayesha Siddiqa." Dalrymple's review of In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
By Daniyal Mueenuddin
makes for a compelling reason to add another book to my stack of to-reads.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Post Rascist, Not Post Racial

The Tavis Smiley Show from PRI heard on KUOW Friday showcased excerpts from the
State of the Black Union. The theme this year was "Making America as good as its promise". This was the tenth anniversary and was held the last weekend in February in Los Angeles,hosted by Tavis Smiley, and featured President Obama addressing the event on 28th February. Speaker Michael Eric Dyson commented that the term "post racial" is very un-useful, as it assumes beyond race/no race/no differences. This observation speaks to the discomfort that Americans, in particular, have in discussing race, the assumption being that if you discuss race you are racist. It is always refreshing to discuss racial issues in South Africa with people of different races: the distinction there being described as between racism and racialism. Accept, honour, and enjoy difference. Do not tolerate discrimination and offense to human dignity.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

News, Newspapers, Other Info Sources

Last Wednesday I traveled to Chicago to prepare for my mother's life celebration and to begin the lasts legs of closing up the home that she and my father created in 1963. During this last week, I did not read a newspaper, listen to NPR, or watch TV news (which I only do when away from home). I did go online to check email, read a few headlines, check a few blogs. Since this was not a vacation, not a hike in the middle-of-nowhere, this news-blackout became dislocating. It was the lack of newspapers that really disturbed me. Morning coffee facing the computer screen just did not have that languid sense of being lost in a different world; no serendipitous discovery of an item that quirkily caught my eye; no sharing with other people pouring over their section. No sitting back and flipping the page back to reread something for clarity or discussion. I know that all of the above can be done by two people each with their laptops, but I do not find it satisfying. I also know that I cannot read every newspaper in paper form and therefore appreciate being able to read and dip into foreign papers online. But I so enjoyed my cup of coffee while perusing the Seattle P-I and the New York Times today. My day began with a serenity not found clicking on my keypad.

Song Yet Sung

Song Yet Sung Song Yet Sung by James McBride

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Since I had lots of other books on my bookstand and this was not at the top, I reluctantly read it for one of my book groups. And what a thrill! I could not put it down. The tension, the characters, the scenes on the Chesapeake.....McBride nailed them all. And it made me want to look further into the sources that gave him inspiration.