581 Reasons

Jane Leavy’s biography The Big Fella is 581 page a tour-de-force about the life of Babe Ruth. Don’t let the number of pages or size of the book scare you. Once you start reading, you won’t want to put it down and the hours fly by.

Ms. Leavy not only brings Ruth to life but the people and the world around him. Unlike most biographies, Ms. Leavy includes the stories of the people who are in the pictures and film clips who met him. Ms. Leavy also isn’t afraid to tackle the tough parts about his personal life.

When you read this book, it is as if Babe Ruth is walking right alongside you telling his story. Additionally, you experience the people that he came into contact with and how his legacy in many different forms continues to reverberate even until today.

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Reading from the end.

Edward O. Wilson’s small work Genesis: The Deep Origin of Societies can be summed up nicely if you read from the last chapter to the beginning. Wilson argues that social interaction is related to the size of a species’ brain size.

I don’t know if I agree with this or not. Wilson provides a sketch of evolutionary biology, beginning with cells and ending with homo sapiens.

A nice, easy read for an introduction to evolution and biology.

Three Red Dots

On page 189 of Gerri Chanel’s work Saving Mona Lisa, there is a picture of an older man with a mustache standing next to a wooden container with three large dots on its’ side. Something in the man’s posture and the look on his face catches your eye. His left hand is placed gently on the wooden container. There is a proud smile on his face.

Almost 7 decades after this picture was taken, this unnamed gentleman holds his place in history as being one of the many people who watched over DaVinci’s Mona Lisa during her journey out of Paris before and after World War II.

Chanel provides an excellent overview of the journeys that were undertaken to protect the works of art that were in the Louvre before and after World War II. The many people who worked to make sure the treasures were safe and the people who lost their lives are highlighted in her work.

A must read.

Spetakkel

Spetakkel appears on page 162 of the book Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien. O’Brien quotes a woman from Kragnes Township in Minnesota. Spetakkel is defined as “rambunctious” in English, yet sounds better in Norwegian. This word was used to describe one of the first well-known and daring female pilots, Florence Klingensmith.

Have you ever heard of Florence Klingensmith? I am going to guess probably not. Neither had I until I read Keith O’Brien’s work. The only other person I had ever heard about in the book was Amelia Earhart.

O’Brien’s book is about the first aviatrixes in the United States beginning in the 1920’s. Earhart’s fame and untimely disappearance in the 1930’s overshadowed all of their lives, deaths, and accomplishments. O’Brien does a magnificent job of bringing them all back to life and the truth of their deaths.

These women accomplished the same and more than some men (sorry, fellas) yet history has forgotten them.

It’s Always Groundhog Day

I didn’t see the movie “Groundhog Day” when it first came out yet saw it years later and finally watched it again last night. I realized I missed a lot of the subtleties and the message the first time. Yes, Phil the Weatherman gets the girl but there is more going on.

Culturally, people always refer to this movie when they talk about things being the same and repeating over and over but the entire context and message is being overlooked. So was Phil the Weatherman really trapped for something like 12,000 plus days until he got everything right? Or did he just figure how to work the system he was in until he got everything “right” and changed his attitude? Or a combination of both?

We are all part of a “system” or many systems in our lives. Think about how many systems we come across daily. Our whole education system is set up to send us out into one of the many workforce systems. Our medical system, government system, debt system, financial system, religious systems. We can’t survive without them and wouldn’t have many of the daily services we rely on, like our electricity, plumbing, first responders, and roads.

People I talk to always complain about being trapped by “the system”. Some systems are not going to change because the people who work in them don’t want change or change comes slowly. Some people deal with the system in their own way, either by being negative or overly compensating. How many times have I gotten nasty responses and nasty looks when I say “just deal” because there are people and situations who are never going to change? Just wait until someone leaves because eventually change will happen. We each have our own situations like that. Just deal, ask for guidance how to change the situation, and keep going for now. Change will come but not in the way you usually want or can predict.

Phil the Weatherman had to figure this out and in the end worked it to his advantage. The people who were around him weren’t going to change, Phil had to change. There are some days none of us would ever want to be trapped in, myself included. Yet Phil went from being an awful jerk (sarcasm aside and sarcasm can be a life-saver sometimes) and trying to kill himself to understanding that he had to work with people on their level. Phil realized he had to understand them and find what made them happy and made them tick. Did he like all of them? Probably not. Yet it isn’t about liking, it’s about understanding. And when you can’t understand, at least try to work with them where they are now and then the future “nows”.

Will it get you the person of your dreams? That’s a Hollywood ending. Will it get you somewhere you never thought? I would venture to guess “yes”. So if everyday feels like Groundhog Day, take what you can, save it, learn from it, and make the best from it later on.

Be like Eliza….

I’ve never found history boring and have found the more one learns, the more there is always to learn. (The same can be said of science and other “subjects”, or areas of learning. Yes, math is included in this.)

Last night, even with a hockey playoff game going on in the background, I finished Tilar Mazzeo’s work Eliza Hamilton.  Eliza’s life was a Shakespearean type drama and Greek tragedy rolled into one. Eliza was born into the Schuyler family of New York, who were cousins to the Rensselaer family. Does this name sound familiar? Eliza’s father, Phillip, fought in the Revolutionary War and was one of George Washington’s top generals. This is how she came to meet Alexander Hamilton.

Mazzeo divulges into Eliza’s life before and after Hamilton and how her life afterwards was always under his shadow. Mazzeo also goes into how history isn’t always what we think it is and there is always much more to each story given. Mazzeo goes deeply into the Maria Reynolds affair: did it really happen and was it a cover up for something else going on? The whitewashed history books don’t talk about people’s fiances and back door dealings that all of the Founding Fathers partook in. Mazzeo’s biography of Eliza is only the third of fourth book I’ve read that tackles this subject. The two best history teachers I had were the only ones who discussed this and Hamilton’s link to the Crash of 1792.

Eliza not only lost Alexander in a duel. Her oldest son, also Phillip, was killed in a duel shortly before Alexander was. Eliza dealt with situations and events most people could not picture today yet she survived and preserved what she wanted to preserve of Alexander’s legacy. Eliza also took her grief and made it into something positive.

Be like Eliza.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

My reaction to this book: Wow, just, Wow. One of the librarians at my local library said she can’t wait to read this book. Now I understand why. This book is better than the local news.

The story of George Washington Black, known as “Wash”, begins in Barbados and ends in Morocco. The story begins with how he sees the world and understands of it through what he learns about himself and his past. Wash undertakes many journeys, both physical and emotional, due to what happened to him on Barbados. Wash’s story gives a very different perspective to the world of the early 1800s.

A must read for history and science fans.