My Name is Lucy Barton

by

Elizabeth Strout

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The poet, John Ciardi, wrote that good writing is like an acrobat who makes the difficult appear easy.

Maybe it’s contrivance at its best to produce a work that appears so uncontrived that it brings to life a narrative without sophistry, without artifice that tumbles off the page with such simple grace and unvarnished veracity.

There is something so achingly honest here that you wonder if the writer is telling her own life story, a memoir that flows back and forth through time the way memories do.

Lucy Barton recounts a time when she is in hospital and her story explores the events of her life before, during and after that time. There is something vulnerable in her candidness because it reveals so much about her and her relationships with family and people who help shape who she is and becomes.

It is often a harsh and lonely world for the different, living on the edges, hovering on the perimeters, embellished with the trappings of the needy, ridiculed and ostracised for their poverty.

The wonderful heart lifting quality of Lucy is not so much that she finds kindness but that she recognises it, accepts with grace and gratitude and remembers it.

Lucy wants to write. Her writing teacher tells her the purpose of a writer is to explore the human condition. Lucy’s memories do that in such a simple honest way we become part of them. The fact that the novel doesn’t garnish the hardships of growing up desperately poor and alienated makes it all the more moving and significant.

Maybe not so oddly or ironically, it’s the very alienation, solitude and cold that affords Lucy her escape…she finds comfort and refuge in learning and runs towards knowledge. Unlike her siblings who remain, Lucy can love without the bitterness and resentment that shackles her brother and sister.

At the end it is a book about the human condition about love in all its forms…the simple unvarnished need and nourishment of love that we as mammals need to establish meaning in our lives. It’s about the redemption of forgiveness, understanding and love. It’s about those who touch us as we grow and the freedom we find through education, knowledge and an adventurous soul.

It is a sometimes painful story beautifully told.

 

 

 

 

 

Thug Kitchen

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Welcome to Thug Kitchen, bitches.  We’re here to help. We started our website to inspire motherfuckers to eat some goddam vegetables and adopt a healthier lifestyle.  Our motto is simple:

EAT LIKE YOU GIVE A FUCK

“This is a fucking wake-up call. This is for that section of the grocery store that you avoid.  This is for drive-thru lines so long they block traffic.  This for ketchup and pizza qualifying as fucking vegetables.  This is for everyone who wants to do better but gets lost in the bullshit.”

Thus begins the mission statement and dedication for the vegan cookbook Thug Kitchen.  The writers, Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway, have established an audacious approach in an effort to achieve a difficult task.  They employ the use of a rough, tough and profane street vernacular in an attempt to encourage average punters to improve their health and eat more vegetables.

It’s no secret that our modern diet is killing us. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis and dental disease can be linked to modern diet.  According to government statistics in Australia of 63% adults are overweight or obese and, according to American government statistics, it’s even worse in the USA with a whopping 68.8%.

Sure, thanks to modern medicine we are living longer, but thanks to modern diet we aren’t living as long as we could, nor are we living as well as we could.  Being overweight or obese does have a tendency to slow us down and make us lounge blimps.

We should eat better.  We know that.  So, why don’t we?

One of the problems could be is that we are addicted to bad habits…and we really don’t quite understand how to break them.  We seem to be conditioned to plan our meals around animal protein. Steak…and baked potato.  Fish and Chips.  Chicken, stuffing and fries.  Hamburger and fries.  Barbecued ribs and cornbread.  Meat pies and chips.  Bangers and mash.  Hot dogs and relish.

Make-half-your-plate

Okay, sure many of us have improved on that…but still…we are meat focused.

Go to a restuarant, budget or top shelf, order your main, whether it be beef, lamb, poultry, seafood, whatever.  Odds on that you’re order won’t arrive with half a plate of vegetables.

And there is, of course, another problem.  Many of us have predisposed ideas about vegans and vegetarians.

Our viewpoint is tainted, coloured and prejudiced by generalisations, bullshit and vacuous stereotyping that depict health as red blooded carnivores sitting around a fire  eating a whole cow on a weekly basis and vegetarians as counter culture misfits living on the edge of some soft shelled wimpy fantasy .  Meh, hippies are so last century.

Cartoonist, Wiley Miller, recently lampooned these attitudes in his internationally syndicated cartoon strip, Non Sequitur.

Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller

Non Sequitur

This is where Thug Kitchen steps in with an attempt to shatter our preconceptions of vegans as the others rather than the brothers and sisters of sensible economic diet.

After a time, the language becomes a little jejune, repetitious and lacking in real street verisimilitude, but it’s done in good faith or at least in good irreverence.  And by the time you become sort of ho-hum with the language…the message kicks in and recipes seduce your interest.

It is a damned useful cookbook and a good solid step in the right direction.  The writers introduce us to a number recipes and strategies for increasing vegetables in our diet and that’s a good thing.   And you don’t have to be a vegan or a vegetarian to reap the benefits.

Many of us know that at least half our plate should contain vegetables, a quarter of the plate protein and another quarter a carbohydrate (starch, grains, etc).  Not only are vegetables a natural source of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients…they are low in calories, they help to fill you up and stave off hunger.  Filling half your plate with vegetables is a damned good way of reducing your intake of calorie heavy proteins, dairy and starch.

My wife and I are not vegans or vegetarians but we have reduced our intake of animal protein and sugar laden processed foods for our own health and the health of the environment.  It’s a start, it works and we feel better for it.

You can visit Thug Kitchen site at:

http://www.thugkitchen.com

 And the book is available at book stores and online.

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power…by Rachel Maddow

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(Reposted from Open Salon)

If you can establish the calibre of a person by the inanity, pettiness and stupidity of their critics then Rachel Maddow is top shelf, high gauge and first rate. And I have to confess it was the venom, vitriol and bile that accompanied comments regarding Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power that prompted me to read it. I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s no secret that Maddow leans left but this book is a fair an equitable treatment. No one escapes scrutiny here….she doesn’t shirk from exposing Johnson, Clinton and Obama right along with Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush 1, Bush 2 and Cheney.

Drift is astute, intelligent and meticulously researched. This is an important book about how apathy and ignorance of the clandestine machinations of US wars is shrinking our democracy and our freedoms, undermining our Constitution and pretty much making us an Evil Empire on par with the Death Star and the helmeted storm troopers from the Dark Side in Star Wars. It is written by someone who has not only read the Constitution but has studied it and who has not only studied it but understands it. This is as good as investigative writing gets. It’s not an hysterical rant from some paranoid ideologue or a mudslinging diatribe from a partisan hack. Maddow delves into issues crucial to our nation and exposes some very scary stuff.

Drift conjures up the old bayou folk analogy of how to cook a frog. You put it cold water and gradually turn up the heat until it’s blissfully unaware of the fact that it’s being boiled alive. And so it is with America’s involvement in war. I suppose it doesn’t even occur to us now that a war going on as long as ten years is unusual…until we stop and have a look at the wars before Vietnam.

World War 2 lasted barely four years and we fought it on two fronts. But we were all involved then. Women worked in the factories, and many who missed the draft, joined up. People willingly sacrificed and went without for the war effort. Gas and other commodities were rationed and few complained. Imagine that happening now days? We have fallen from grace since the Greatest Generation, the nobel war to squash Fascism and the establishment of the Marshall Plan. We’ve been in free fall since Vietnam and unless we do something about it we will hit bottom and splatter in the rotting ooze of our own mess.

An image from the book haunts me as a metaphor for the rampant greed, selfishness and immorality of the private sectors role in our wars….

See this helicopter mechanic provided by the Corporate Private Sector when our troops were in Bosnia. He weighs over 400 pounds and the pocket of his overalls is stuffed with a cheeseburger. He is so incompetent that at he falls asleep regularly while on the job. On one such occasion he falls asleep with a blow torch in his hand and burns a hole through the shell of a helicopter. While in Serbia he purchases a sex slave from the Serbian mafia. She’s a fourteen year old child. He loves to brag about his possession to any that will listen. If the child doesn’t behave, do what he wants her to, why hell, he’ll just trade her in on another. Fat Boy wasn’t alone. The Serbian mafia had a lucrative market with American civilians employed by the private sector.

Welcome to a whole new level of Ugly American.

This is our image. This is what we’ve become. This is the growing stench we carry as Americans.

Drift is a stone thrown in the still waters of a pond. Once read the ripples keep on coming. Let’s hope this book gets the readership it deserves and let’s hope those readers are as moved and as angry as I am. And that we are moved to do something about senseless wars we wage at the expense of our education system, our health system and our society and to the benefit of those private contractors who have become the only winners regardless whether America wins or loses.

The Evil Empire has emerged and it is us.

Hack Attack–The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch by Nick Davies…an Endorsement.

 

 

“When you allow global corporations to roam global markets, you make them more powerful than nation states; when you ‘roll back the state’ you reduce the power of the people in each nation; when you ‘cut back regulation’, you allow the biggest corporations to dominate and exploit their territories; when you break trade unions and tear up employment laws, you allow these corporations to ride roughshod over them. The simple’ beautiful idea that people should run their own societies disintegrates, allowing the few to rule and the many to follow.”

Nick Davies

Hack Attack

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This is not a review.  It’s an endorsement of Nick Davies’ latest book, Hack Attack, because I think it’s so damned important to understand the corporate abuse of power and also the sinister underbelly of the Murdoch Empire.  It’s also  a tribute to Davies’ perseverance and integrity and an acknowledgement to his editor, Alan Rusbridger and The Guardian,  perhaps the most ethical and important newspapers in the English speaking world.

Nick Davies’ expose` of the Murdoch’s stable of Fleet Street hacks unveils a culture of blackmail, intimidation, malice, invasion of privacy and toxic falsehood.   We know it’s a nasty, selfish and crooked world at times, but when those who practise such malice, bullying and corruption have such a strangle hold on our police and our politicians we should become concerned…very concerned. Davies has written a gripping account of this David and Goliath struggle with Rupert Murdoch and his Fleet Street hacks, bullies and thugs.

The whole idea that such a band of ethicless, ruthless, immoral, sharks and barracudas  has such influence on our police, our government and our politicians is not only abhorrent, it’s dangerous.  It’s dangerous to society.  It’s dangerous to people and it’s dangerous to democracy because the more control corporations have over our police, our politicians and our media…the less control the people have to elect and access their representatives to address their concerns and represent them.  Eveything becomes focused not the needs of society but the wants of corporations.

Davies claims only a pyrrhic victory but he does for a short period of time strip the veneer from the corporate monster and expose the rot and power that threatens our democracy. He’s a brave man and this is an important account of corruption and abuse of power from a corporation that wields enormous influence not only in Britain but the USA and Australia and threatens the very principles on which our governments were established.

“All of this exposure and brief humbling of Rupert Murdoch easily seduced us into thinking we had won a great victory, that truth had caught up with power. Very soon, however, as attention faded and scandal slipped into the past, the elite simply took back their power, as if we had never challenged it—as if the tide had stayed out long enough to allow us to build castles of sand, and now we watched as waves of irresistible force returned to wash them away.”

After eight months of trial in Britain there were a few casualties and those who were to sentenced prison…but as always, the heavy hitters and moguls at the top, while temporarily exposed and embarrassed, got off scot-free.  And it didn’t take them long raise their ugly heads and continue business as usual.

The media has always held an important function in democracy and it is a sad state of affairs when that function is exploited and used simply to make money and impose power.  It is a sad state of affairs when the media lowers itself to phone tapping,  computer hacking, bullying and misinformation.  If the media is to be a watchdog on politicians, government and democracy, then perhaps there needs to be a watchdog established to ensure they don’t abuse their own powers.  The news has an obligation to report the truth without bias.  The news has a code of ethics and behaviour and  should they contravene that code they have their licence revoked.  The news should represents the public interests and not distort and fabricate to suit private interests and profits or pander to those who they wish to position in seats of government and power.

While Britain took Murdoch’s Fleet Street enterprises to court, worlds away the mogul was exercising the same biased, partisan misinformation in the USA and Australia, aiming the content at the lowest common denominator, at the gullible, the angry, the misinformed.

 

War is Peace

Freedom is Slavery

Ignorance is Strength

In the USA, Murdoch Media continues its attack on President Barrack Obama till this day for the most petty and childish of reasons.  In Australia they ran a smear campaign against the Labor Government of both Kevin Rudd and then Julia Gillard that was so vile, vitriolic and venomous it managed to influence people to vote into office the most backward and repressive right wing government in Australia’s history.

It was media slanted so heavily, so beat up and repeated so often with avalanches of misinformation that it managed to convince those less discriminatory in their news.  For those of us with a modicum of awareness and intelligence it becomes a blatant satire and parody of the equity supposedly exercised by the Fourth Estate.  Sadly, there are significant numbers who accept it as truth and are only too eager to swallow the bigotry of a network that preys on their ignorance.

“Fair and Balanced” is the Fox News slogan.  Many of us know that Fox is anything but that.  Such outrageous techniques and claims can’t help but conjure up  George Orwell ‘s ideas from his book written in 1948.

Below are front pages from Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph in Australia and the New York Post in the USA, front pages so biased, so hyperbolised, so unprofessional they’d be laughable if they didn’t actually succeed in targeting their significant audience of naifs, rednecks and gullible malcontents who continue to vote against their own interests.

 

 

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Hack Attack did not slay the dragon, or stay the beast.  It may have temporarily embarrassed the beast…but I seriously suspect that this kind of power and arrogance is beyond any feelings of embarrassment or shame….after all, their actions prove that time and time again.  If, as the American Supreme Court ruled, Corporations are people then they are people without the decency to feel compassion or embarrassment or shame…

The effect and warning of Davies work is only ephemeral if we let it be.  We must keep it alive…and keep the pressure on.  We must continue to express our outrage at the abuse of an ethic-less media bent on invading the privacy of others, bent on making up toxic lies of others, and being duplicitous in their own morality.

Do we really want our leaders to be influenced and controlled by those with off shore accounts,  tax havens, and who are obsessed solely by profits?

We did not vote for Rupert Murdoch or James Murdoch. We did not vote for David and Charles Koch. We didn’t vote Gina Rinehart, James Hardy or the Moguls of Big Coal and Big Oil. Sure corporations have their role in our societies…but it’s not dictorial role based on their profits and self interests…in fact their interests are often narrowed down to simple bottom line of profits and to hell with morality, decency, the environment or even people….they need to be watched, regulated and kept in line.

Hack Attack is an important book.  Buy it.  Read it.  Tell your friends.

 

http://junkee.com/tracey-spicer-and-a-rational-fear-are-here-to-teach-you-how-to-tax-avoid-like-rupert-murdoch/42468

http://www.smh.com.au/business/government-senator-says-corporate-tax-avoidance-threatens-services-20140929-10nq8y.html

http://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/big-business-shirks-fair-share-of-tax-load-20140928-3gtm2.html

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jun/24/andy-coulson-rebekah-brooks-phone-hacking-trial

https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2013/november/1383224400/robert-manne/why-rupert-murdoch-can-t-be-stopped

http://www.smh.com.au/business/rupert-murdochs-news-corp-confirms-880-million-tax-office-payment-20140218-32×76.html

http://www.smh.com.au/world/model-malin-sahlen-shocked-after-being-exploited-by-tabloid-sting-targeting-mp-brooks-newmark-20140930-10nusx.html