Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This is what I've missed out on.......

So I was reading one of my fav websites today and read a very funny article that showed exactly what I've been missing out on whilst living outside the US. Man vs. Food, what doublex describes rightly as 'man porn'. The article made me chuckle. Then I looked up a clip on youtube of the show and not-surprisingly it was exactly as they had described. Disturbing. Then I asked my parents if they had heard of the show. They answered 'yes' as if everyone in the world would have heard of this show.... perhaps now they have.

Hello from America!

A quick update, for myself/ anyone who bothers reading this. I now write to you from America! I am back living at home for the time being. I've been back home since December 17, when my bf William and I traveled over for the holidays. Since we were very busy over the few weeks he was here (and because in the last days of me being in London I was equally swamped!) I haven't updated at all- I understand your sadness! Weep no more though, as I am back to give my opinion on everything happening in the world, books I'm reading, movies I'm watching, etc!
Update on my vegetarianism...
Happy to say, still going strong! 46 days, two major holidays and lots of bacon jealousy later, I'm still meatless! Been out to eat lots of times and am discovering its not too hard to find veggie options at all the places I would normally eat at home:) I got two vegan/ vegetarian cookbooks for Christmas which I am eager to try out:)
Update on what I'm reading...
Am reading lots of old Newsweeks in a vain attempt to keep up with things I've missed in the past few months- esp. because I love Newsweek (though I must say I hate the new format- they need to bring back the old format!). Read an article I obviously liked- on Fox's un-American news reporting. Talked about how biased they are and how they consistently defend their bias and how their bad reporting is making the other networks bad in an effort to compete with Fox. Obvi I liked the article. Any article that rips on Fox is delightful in my book.
Reading 'They take our jobs' by Aviva Chomsky (pretty sure the daughter of Noam) on the myths of why immigration is bad for the US. I may be researching this topic for a while- this book seemed like a good place to start. I'll update on things I like/ dislike etc.
Other than that, I'm home, and should have more time to write now! However I do wish my inspiration, my bf William, was here with me still. Sadly, he's now back in London- though I'm counting down the days til I see him!!!
PS- I'm also starting a new 'work-out' regimen to go along w/ my healthy eating (for lack of better word) regimen. I'm out!

Monday, December 7, 2009


Apparently I'm not the only one who see's the true evil of Rupert Murdoch. In the Guardian's weekend supplemental magazine, a provacative interview with George Michael revealed that he has the same feelings towards the man as I do. He refers to Murdoch as 'the devil'. Amen G.M., amen.

Day 23 and all's fine....

So, dear friends (or just Dana, re-reading her own un-inspiring words), I am on day 23 of vegetarianism. No beef, pork, poultry, fish or any other animal meat have I consumed in the past 23 days. I can honestly say it hasn't been hard so far. I don't know if that's because I never ate a ton of meat in the first place, who knows. I also have been trying to snack more healthily and consume less dairy. Soy milk is just fine for me, but I do love cheese, so that is a continuing struggle, but until I decide to go vegan, I'll just eat in moderation.

In my continuing quest of healthiness and need for further inspiration as to why being healthy is worth the extra time and money, I watched the documentary Food Inc and read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation.

Fast Food Nation was pretty good, and full of interesting albeit more small tidbits and factoids about the fast food industry than anyone would probably care to know. None-the-less, it definitely is an interesting look at what happens behind the scenes in fast food land. And has definitely inspired me to not eat/or eat very very limited-ly at the chains mentioned in the book, which shouldn't be had, as most of the offerings are meat products. Along with Food Inc, its just interesting to see how many government and food industry links there are. Another reason not to trust the government, as if I needed another lol.


In recent news, Obama has sent 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. At the same time he has set a deadline for the troop presence (I think in 2010 or 2011). Obviously he is trying to please both sides, but honestly, will this work? NO. Nothing will work- agression-wise that is. The only hope for the Afghan people is for non-governmental agencies to be a force of good within the country, building infrastructure and providing jobs so that young men won't be tempted to join the Taliban out of desperation for money. Obama's strategy won't 'save' the Afghan people. Bombs don't save people. They kill people.

I guess that's it for now. Sorry I've been in a non-blogging mode the past week and a half. It may be easier when I'm done with work, and/ or when I'm back in the US.

*PS included an interesting site I found... check it out.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Disturbing article of the day... and others.

In last week's Observer (the Guardian's Sunday paper), there was an article on the new brand of female conservative 'firebrands' in the US. I only happened upon because in the most recent Observer a letter from a Texas woman said thats these women (Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Ann Coulter etc), represented a 'new type of American feminism' which values God, family, faith etc. Basically when I read the letter to the Observer, I cringed and thought, oh how embarrassing. Which is basically how I feel every time conservative American views like this are 'out there' for (what I presume to be) intelligent (as they are reading the observer) British people to read.

So after seeing the embarrassing letter, I went back and read the actual article by Paul Harris. He basically discusses how figures like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann are using their roles as religious female conservative politicians and mothers (who hold vicious views of liberals) to win over chunks of America's conservative population. Not as disturbing as when you read further and see what (for instance) Bachmann's actual political views are. 1. She doesn't 'believe' in global warming, so she disagrees with the US signing climate legislation (what??). 2. She's completely against health care reform. (just because she's been covered through her life, is she completely blind to the fact that others can't afford coverage and must suffer and sometimes die because of this?) 3. She thinks Obama is a socialist. (does she know what a socialist is? and btw, what's wrong with that?). ETC.

Anyways, on the flip side, I will say, I am impressed that these women can attract a following (albeit a bunch of ignorant people who don't want to hear the other side of the issue(s), and I do like the fact that they are not 'Washington-ized', my word for politicians who have been in Washington too long and have tailored their views and politics to follow a straight diplomatic line. Palin and Bachmann (though I think they are idiots) attract attention and admiration because they are not 'Washington-ized'. And I guess I have to respect that.

In any case, I just wish the same type of politician would emerge on the liberal side- one who has little Washington experience, but a lot of political and life experience (but who is smart, with worthwhile intelligent views). And if its a woman, all the better. Hillary, you say? I'm sorry but there are almost no people AS Washington-ized as Hillary. Moving on....


Another article in this past weekend's Observer discussed human trafficking of Mexicans into- you guessed it OHIO! and Michigan. What a red-letter day for my neck of the woods! lol. Basically this one was on how Mexican migrants are being forced into human slavery- work, sex, etc. And many/ most have no escape because they are afraid to (or can't because they are illegal) go to the police to tell them they are being trafficked. I think basically what this article reminded me of once again is how f***ed up our world is and how immigration rules/ restrictions that keep the world functioning as it is are a huge part of the blame. I really am thinking more and more about writing a research paper on the state of immigration and reforms and how they will all fail. Nothing besides a complete overhaul of our world system as we know it will allow people of all countries to be free and equal. Until a Mexican worker in the US is treated with equality and respect to an American worker or until an American student can stay in the UK and find work (hint hint) without restrictions, our world will continue to be f***ed up.


On the veg front, I have been a vegetarian now for 10 days. Though I did have a dream I ate meat last night.... weird.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Disturbing article of the day...

So yes, to many young women out there dreading their first pap test, this article may come as a relief, but to a person who, in the past, had pap tests that revealed abnormalities which could have led to cervical cancer, I don't see why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is making this big announcement now- which- as they even admit to, may cause the women that should still go frequently- young women who are sexually active- to think that pap tests are not a big deal and make them think that avoiding the test is okay. Also, this announcement comes on the heels of the announcement that women don't need to get mammograms as young or as frequently as previously thought. The NT Times article alludes to the ACOG insisting that its just a coincidence, but it just seems way too coincidental for this girl. So will I have less frequent pap tests than before? I think not, I will probably continue to go once a year as I have done since my first one. I think that an announcement like this should not be one that is given to all women in the US at once, but rather something personal than a woman's doctor could say to her in the privacy of his or her office. How many girls are being put at risk by the ACOG's big announcement?? I guess time will tell.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A book review and a life change...

So! As I mentioned last time, I have become quite the addict to healthy food blogs, which went as far a to tempt me to purchase the book Skinny Bitch last weekend. It definitely was not was I was expecting.

Far from the generic and typical advice I expected to read, this book actually was very informative and well-referenced. The flaky title definitely tricked me. Within a few pages I was intrigued to learn all about how bad certain things were that I ingest on an almost daily basis. First they discuss sugar and aspartame and how both are bad (i.e. don't drink don't soda or diest soda). A bit later they discuss meat and dairy, which were the chapters that hit home for me.
I have been thinking for a while now of trying to go veg (just meatless for now) and I think this book pushed me to finally do it. They basically give many reasons and excellent resources which explain the many benefits of a veg diet, including 1. health 2. cruelty to animals in the agri/ dairy business in the US (at least) 3. enviroment 4. feeding the hungry. I won't give the long-winded version. Let's just say their book (and the other veg resources, such as were very convincing). Alas I have started a thirty day trial of a meat-free diet. I'm on day 5.
I'm not going to say its easy (although I am still eating some dairy, so it isn't as hard as going vegan yet (although one day I might)), but as a person who has never really felt an overwhelming need to eat meat (and has purely eaten it out of convenience), it hasn't been extrmely hard. But I'm only on Day 5 and Thanksgiving is next week. A Turkey I can't eat staring me in the face has never happened to me before.

I hope if there's anyone out there who actually reads this, you don't think it's flaky of me to discuss my personal health or eating habits in a blog mostly dedicated to intenational/ UK/ US social and political issues because for me (as I've said before) the personal is political.

Health, feeding the hungry, cruelty to animals and the environment are all issues that should be front and center in every politically aware person's mind on the planet. So vegetarianism is definitely a relevent topic of discussion for this blog (my continuing education) I feel.


Health care for one, may be changing in the US fairly soon, with Harry Reid (Senate Majority Leader) coming up with a new bill, which will insure many of the uninsured and will (supposedly) protect people from vulcherous insurance companies. The bill will soon be up for debate and a vote... which needs all democrats and two independents in Senate to get passed.... let's keep our fingers crossed, because at this point even an inch forward is still better than being stagnant or going backwards (as happened when Bush was in office).
Anyways that's it for today, I will update as to how the veg diet is going:)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Murdoch, welfare systems, healthy food blogs, and 'the personal is political'

So a big article in last night's evening standard was about how Gordan Brown is indirectly punishing Rupert Murdoch for saying derogatory things about him in The Sun (UK paper that Murdoch owns) by not giving exclusive rights to Sky (UK TV network Murdoch owns) to show The Ashes (which is apparently World cricket tournaments?). I found the extensive nature of the article pretty amusing- ES went as far as to show pictures of the two men and give descriptions of both (age, politics, where they are from etc) as if they were about to have a dual with swords or something. Clearly, there is no battle here. In the world we live in, Murdoch has won and will continue to win if nothing changes. As much as I would try to keep from making conclusions and painting the world in black and white, to me- Rupert Murdoch is Mr Potter from It's a Wonderful Life. He owns everything and anything he wants and is not concerned about the welfare of indiviual humans. Surely his monopolization of the communications industry has cost numerous people their jobs and numerous businesses their existence. I read an article last year about how he wanted to start charging people to read the news online. And the author of the article basically concluded that paying to read the news online would be the way of the future, just because of Murdoch saying it. And in saying all this about why I am against any person/ business having this much power (Murdoch in this case)- it makes me not even want to trust anything I read because if one person controlled all communication, how would anyone know what they were reading was the truth? Surely we can't. (Re: US government propganda etc etc). I simply know, every time I see or read something about Rupert Murdoch, chills run up and down my spine.


Just a general comment about one difference I've noticed between US and UK papers. It seems that in the UK papers, a lot more attention is given to social problems in the UK than similiar problems in the US in US papers. It seems that every day I read about 'broken Britain' and how this party will make these reforms, or this went wrong on this housing estate etc. And last night, there was an article on how some households on benefits are making 20,000 a year. Another the other night, David Cameron talked about his plans to channel government funds for poverty through charities that work on social improvement and tackling poverty. As sad as it sounds, I feel that the US papers don't gve very much coverage to social issues and you never hear about 'broken America'- though it most definitely exists. I saw people every day who were jobless, homeless, living in government housing etc. But I never read about them. Their existence always seemed ignored in the US. If anyone talked about welfare in the US it would simply be to complain about how those on benefits 'mooched off the system' etc. My attitude on this has fluctuated a lot over the years. And I do believe that people should be taken care of by a govenment/ some other body rather than being left to fend for themselves on the street somewhere. I think the issue will only become bigger as the world grows- it's completely interlinked with immigration issues as well. The current solutions to poverty, joblessness, and immigration make so little sense- and it seems like groups with power- national governments and big businesses don't give two ****s. Sorry to go off on a tangent, but my point being is that the US papers SHOULD discuss social issues like UK papers seem to, but both countries (as well as everywhere else in the world) need to work towards new solutions for problems that will NEVER go away if not addressed properly.


I've been very into reading healthy food blogs lately. My friend A just started her own and it's great- as are the similiar blogs to be found out there in cyberspace. I love the food pictures, descriptions of weight loss, etc. I just wonder, where are the blogs like mine? Maybe I'm not looking hard enough. But surely there must exist other blogs where people discuss politics/ social issues without making themselves sound smart (which I hate). In the meantime, I shall admire the healthy food blogs for everything mine is not- entertaining on a wide scale.
I have been thinking about re-naming this blog, to 'the personal is political' as the recent blogs have been purely about political and social issues and my opinions about them. However, I may venture back into the pure book/ movie review format so we shall see. Ta ta for now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'Wall Fall'

Another day, another ... day of hating on Gordan Brown by the British people. As if the man wasn't despised enough already for various reasons already (war, economics etc), now a woman named Jacqui Janes, whose son died in Afghanistan, has given the British public a new reason to dislike the PM. According to Mrs. Janes, the letter the PM wrote to her saying how sorry he was for her son's death was full of spelling errors which Janes called "disrespectful." So because she made a big deal about this he called to apologize to her. And she refused to accept his apology. I'm sorry but I'm afraid I'm on the side of the PM here. She is blaming him for the death of her son clearly. She seems to be taking out her frustration out on him and involving him in her grieving process. I'm not a psychiatrist or anything, its just what it seems like to me. But in the British papers, it seems like Brown can't catch a break. So though I feel terribly sorry for Mrs. Janes' loss, I also think she should stop with the media war against Brown because-sadly- it won't bring her son back.


The Fort Hood shootings have been in the news a bit here, more in US news sources obviously, and I'm still a bit confused as to the logistics of the situation, just that at a US army base an army major declared he was anti-American etc and killed 13 military personnel. I'll have to find out more details on everything to give you my opinion on this other than it seems like a terrible tragedy.


I watched an interview with economist Niall Ferguson who claims the US's most important economic relationship is with China. When asked if he thought there would be a switch to China's currency as the reserve foreign currency he seems doubtful however. He predicts that the dollar's vallue will drop in the future (unfortunately for yours truly). I guess this would be along the same lines as what I've been reading elsewhere- that the US is not/ will not recover from the recession as quickly as UK and EU. Which does not bode well for this girl- as I am headed back to live Stateside in December.


The recent issue of the Ecnomist gives a brief overiew of the fall of the Berlin Wall (on the 20th anniversary of the event). It's kind of funny, I haven't really read the Economist for about a year (mostly for my global political economics class anyways) and it realy struck me how much the article on the fall of the Wall was a glorification for capitalism in disguise. One section talked about how the Eastern European countries had to struggle at first with competing with Western Europe but concluded basically that the countries are so much better off now w capitalism than they would have been under communism. Also there is an article on Gorbachov and perestroika (sp?) saying that Mr. G was influenced from an early age from grandfathers who described to him some of Stalin's regime 'necessary evils' of his communism and it stayed with him his whole life. Well obviously telling a little kid about Stalin's evils will scare them out of their wits lol. But basically that section also praised the goodness of capitalism. I'm not going out on a limb and saying capitalism is evil, but this article on the 'Wall Fall' made it seem that capitalism is perfect in all its glory- which many enlightened people today know is not true. (However there are many many still in the dark). Anyways, bad job Economist on giving out a nice overview of the events surrounding the Wall Fall but 'good job' on telling me (in other words) why I should love capitalism.


The end... for now.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Disturbing article of the day...

'"Men's Rights Groups" Have Become Surprisingly Effective'

While browsing one of my fav websites- - I came across this article on men's rights groups and their activism. The article described how men's rights groups such as "RADAR" have been successful recently in gaining attention in congress and courts etc for men's rights regarding custody rights, rights in divorce and recognition of domestic violence against men by women.

Most of these groups are completely anti-feminist, and openly oppose any gains made by feminists. They also argue that half of all domestic violence is committed by females against males (even though stats show that the figure is around 5-10% female violence against males).

The article brought to mind a book I read for my thesis, Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? by James Sterba and Warren Farrell. In this 'enlightening' book, Farrell makes a long winded argument on how rape is charged unfairly against men, because women are not held accountable for (in short) 'making men believe they wanted to have sex with them.' Farrell argues that such things as kissing, going on a date w/, saying encouraging things (about how much they like the guy etc) all make men think that the girl wants to have sex, therefore she should be held accountable if the guy (in short) 'can't help himself.' Because apparently, according to Farrell, if the woman gives that much encouragement she is saying 'yes' even if she says 'no' to having sex. I'm sorry, I don't know about you, but at this point I was cussing and fuming- in the middle of the library- as to who the h this Farrell guy thought he was!!??! It still pisses me off to think that anyone could think such things.

I guess that some men's behaviour is so bad that to accept all of the responsibility themselves would be too much to handle (thus they push responsibility on the woman). Even when I try to get myself to see the other side of the picture, it is difficult when it comes to a subject like rape. However, I do acknowledge that men are raped also- which is an equally tragic occurrence. But for Farrell to go on and on as to why rape is the female's fault just blows my mind. And represents a similar argument to the men's rights groups.

On parental custody, however, I would argue that it should not necessarily be the mother who gets priority in custody all the time. I feel as long as the father has been a provider, and a good father to the children and has not shown any abusive tendencies in the past, that he should be entitled to equal time with his children as the mother does.

Back to men's rights groups- the article also talked about men that went on shooting rampages against women because they 'had been rejected by so many desirable women in the past.' And apparently on one 'Angry Harry's blog, he canonized these killers saying that basically it should be a warning to all women. WTF???!!!! So you shouldn't reject a guy because he may go kill a bunch of people, and if he does, it was your fault (women) because you rejected him? If that is not the most insane thing I've ever heard, I don't know what is. I just have an overall feeling about men's rights groups that they don't want women any where near to an equal status with men, so they will try any silly argument to make themselves seem like the victims. Playing devil's advocate- I'm sure some women's rights activists have done this too but not to this ridiculous extent.

To all men's rights groups out there- we will never be in a place again where women accept complacency. Please leave the 1950's behind and enter the modern era.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In the news... 5th November 2009

In the news....

I liked Nicholas Kristoff's op-ed in the NY Times this morning on health care in the US and why our system isn't the greatest: Unhealthy America . I am always a fan of reading/ seeing how the US's ridiculous health care system does not work. I guess it may work for about half the population who have jobs and those who care afford expensive premiums, but for the other half, the answer is usually going without insurance, meaning without treatment usually- is it right that the US government willingly allows its own citizens to be sick and even die in some cases? I have always thought that the system was ridiculous and needed reform way back from my college days, I think its just interesting now because its become such a big news item that people are finally paying attention to it. It really amazes me how many small minded people there are in my own country, arguing that reforming health care is going to destroy its good aspects. Do you think that all the people in the US struggling to find work- esp. new college grads (of which I was one, uninsured and looking for work)- deserve to be without healthcare? To me it makes no sense. And after living in England for over a year I would most definitely say I prefer the NHS to our privatised b.s. healthcare system.


Ny Times article today describing protests occurring in Tehran on Wednesday- the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the US Embassy in Iran. Yesterday the government sponsored Anti- American protests, but at the same time, the strong Iranian opposition movement- which saw a huge defeat in the last election- held their own protests against the government ones. It's obvious to see why they protest- even taking religion culture etc out of the picture, the Iranian government is working towards nuclear deals with the US and West, yet at the same time still holds Anti- American protests? Not making much sense to this small-town Americano.


Also, in both the Evening Standard and NY Times I read articles on the 'Rogue' Afghan police officer who shot and killed five British military officials the other day, while they were having their tea within a military compound in the Helmland province in Afghanistan. The E.S. said authorities have said that the officer was probably high on heroin and went on a shooting rampage or he may have been an undercover Taliban. Hmm. Moving on, but the bigger issue here is that the British are now properly freaking out about more of their troops being killed- this year sees the highest UK death toll in Afghanistan since the first year of fighting. But unfort for the Brits, they don't exactly have the option of pulling out and leaving the war to the Americans because the Afghan/ Pakistan area issues are as much of their problems as it is the US's problem, if not more. I would go on a limb and say that much of Pakistan's political structural problems began with England's map-drawing of India and Pakistan (former Muslim League) back in the first half of the twentieth century. Since then, Pakistan has been a volatile place- whose volatility has infected its neighbors quite a bit- namely Afghanistan (and India). Anyways, I may be wrong and on a limb but just my opinion. I just don't see the British as pulling out troops before Americans do.


The end for now....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Take off in Latin American Spanish..

So as part of my continuing education, I am attempting to learn Spanish. I've made attempts at starting various Spanish language courses (cds, books etc) several times, but have always fallen behind and given up. This time I'm hoping to stick with it. I downloaded tracks onto my i-pod and am listening while on the Tube. My reason for learning Spanish is two-fold, I would like to have a bit more foreign language knowledge than high school French and in many job vacancies I've been looking at in DC, Spanish is a required/ desired skill. Therefore hopefully I will (in time) gain this skill... we shall see:)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In the news... 3rd November, 2009

So, Afghan elections. After the IEC showed that the presidential elections wee fraudulent and a second round of elections could be held, Karzai's main rival Abdullah Abdullah has decided to step down from the second round. He gives his reason as basically knowing the elections will still be far from fair the second time around- with corruption abounding. So basically the international community and UN are screwed, as they all thought that this election would show Afghanistan as being democratic- with fair and free elections. Obvi not.

So looks like Karzai will continue on as president. Most likely continuing as nothing more than a figurehead as mass corruption, poverty, and injustices swell around him. Hilary Clinton said that even though Abdullah Abdullah has left the race, that the second round of elections will still show Afghan democracy in action. (Or should we say inaction.)


In other news, Venice has a new trouble that doesn't have to do with sinking. Apparently, the Venitians- people of Venice are moving out of this expensive touist trap of a city. There was even a 'funeral' held for the city as the population of Venice falls below 60,000. According to the article, the cost of living is too high and tourism does not bring in the money that one would think it does (i.e. people only come for a day trip- half don't spend the night in Venice). I guess we shall see what happens there.

Five days of formal negotiations in Barcelona among the countries of the world are the precursor to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December. The conference is supposed to bring about a treaty in which all the world's countries will work together to combat climate change. The Guardian calls this the 'most complex international agreement in UN history.' To read more about the conference, see the website. More to come on this one I'm guessing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In the news....

In response to my last post which was complaining about the Guardian's lack of concern for the people of Afghanistan, well they actually in the same day's paper did have an article on the people in the Taliban areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan being run out of their villages because of fighting between the Taliban, the Pakistan militia, and Nato/ American bombings. These people have fled to a town in Pakistan, but NGO's warn that this town cannot possibly sustain all of the people fleeing there. Anyways the article was kind of a relief to me, showing me that the paper wasn't completely focuses on the presidential race (which in my mind will not make any sort of difference in the lives of Afghan people)....

There's been a lot of articles in various papers here recently about London squatters. Apparently they have taken over a number of empty mansions in areas like Belgravia, and Leicester Square. The squatters tend to be artists, homeless people, etc-people who feel that the number of mansions in London that sit empty is shameful and that they are making political statements showing that it is wrong for there to be homeless people in the city while these mansions sit empty. I guess a long time ago I would have thought that the squatters were just lazy and didn't want to get jobs and pay rent/ mortage like everyone else but after my social enlightenment over the past year, I now feel that they have a point. Why are there so many abandoned or empty buildings, mansions, flats, etc and homelessness at the same time? Every human deserves a good quality of life. Until there are no restrictions on immigration and every person in the world's health and well-being is protected there will never be peace. And there will ALWAYS be violence, poverty, homelessness, starvation, destuction, etc. Until people of the world become more equal and recognize each other as equal (and not as competitors) and work together to protect humanity (and the environment) our species is stuck in this rut. Just ask any person who lost their homes, jobs, etc in the recession.... (sorry that was off in a tangent a bit).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Books I'm reading and the Afghan presidential election...

So I have no books to review at this point, but I am currently reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and The World Since 1945 by T.E. Vadney. I guess I'm just in one of those moods when I'm really into knowing why everything happening right now in the world is actually happening (for example- corruption in Africa etc) so I chose to get into The World Since 1945 (I've previously read from it, but this time I'm going cover to cover)... it's definitely good for getting an overrall sense of background about a lot of issues that mass media tends to gloss over for the general public. I'm not sure that every person would find the book interesting but in my humble opinion I don't think it's the hardest to read history book ever written:)

On the note of things going on in the world, I'm so annoyed with the media's portrayal of the Afghan presidential elections. All they keep saying over and over is that a third of the votes are fraudulent. And they are focusing way too much on Karzai, when its other people in Afghanistan controlling him and his moves. He is just the frontman for a whole slew of warlords. Ugh.... it's as if the US government is completely controlling the media's reporting of the elections. They are ignoring the people- what the people want, need, etc. Who cares about stupid Karzai? What about the people? The people who are starving, being killed, begging in the streets? When do we ever hear from them? Even the Guardian- which I consider the most reputable news source in London- skirts over the issue and just lists stats regarding the election. Please, please world media- let people really know what's going on in the country- not just give stats!

Anyways enough ranting for now.... if there are any decent articles covering the Afghan elections I'll post:)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun is one I picked up at a small bookshop by the Old Street tube station- Camden Lock books. mostly because it cost 2.99, which was within my budget that week:) Also, it seemed interesting, as my favorite type of book to read is one which not only educates me but entertains me with a narrative.

I actually wanted to blog about this book several times (prior to finishing it) but didn't get a chance to as my computer is a piece of crap. This book definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things I had no idea about.

The book is a memoir of Peter Godwin, a white Zimbabwean who has written for Newsweek, National Geographic etc and done numerous documentaries on southern Africa. It tells the tale of his family- his relationship with his parents mainly- from the nineties until his dad's death in 2004. But the brilliant thing about the book is how he places the story of his family against the backdrop of everything that was happening in Zimbabwe at the time.

Before reading the book, I could count the things I knew about Zimbabwe on one hand. Let's see... Mugabe is an 'evil dictator'.... there was crazy inflation going on.... unrest in the country.... yeah that's about as detailed of info that I ever knew. This book gave me quite the education when it came to Zimbabwe and Mugabe of the nineties and 00's.

Things I learned: well, I learned about the civil war in which Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain and became Zimbabwe (from 'Rhodesia'), Mugabe came to power on the back the the civil war as a revolutionary and uniting leader, it was only after years that his true colors started to show, during the nineties and then into the 2000's he tried to radically socialize the country through his 'Land Reform' programme. The program actually did nothing but destroy business and agriculture in the country. It became a war against white farmers; Mugabe used propaganda to make black Zimbabweans feel that the white farmers had taken their land at their expense and we're getting rich off the land which was rightfully theirs (thus he was playing into old colonial mindsets etc). He got a group of civil war veterans (Wovits) to occupy white farmers farms in Zimbabwe and eventually drove them off the land, killing many, dislocating many others. The land was mostly then allocated to Mugabe henchmen who didn't know how to farm the land thus it went into ruin. And thus the country took a nosedive. To read more about the topic here's some websites....

Good book. But may not interest those who aren't interested in politics and world affairs. But if you do care what's going on in other parts of the world and want a view you won't get from American new stations, definitely a good read. 3.2/4 stars. A bit more difficult, a bit boring at parts, but worth it in the end.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Misery by Stephen King

So as I finished Life of Pi, I needed a new book to read. When I was in Robin Hood's Bay- a small English coastal village in N Yorkshire w Will, Pete, and Sue (Will's parents), we came upon a small book shop and as I am a definite Stephen King fan- I LOVED It- which I read last summer, I bought Misery for a few pounds. I finished it very quickly, as expected- because King makes it hard to put one of his books down when you're into it.

If you've seen the movie- which I refrained from until after finishing the book- it follows roughly the same story line. I read a blog about movie vs. book after I read and watched and apparently Misery fans are split fifty fifty. Many enjoyed the book, while others got into the movie a bit more. I prefer the book, mostly because King is an amazing story teller and knows how to completely gross someone out with just words, while the movie requires fake blood etc for the same effect.

Anyways, for King skeptics- I would say give it a go. He is completely entertaining. Does this count as part of my continuing education? I believe it was an exercise for my brain, as any novel is, so yes I believe it counts. The end for today. Misery receives 3.3/ 4 stars.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann Martel was much different than I expected. It was a great book, but did take a while to get "into."

The first fifty pages or so are a bit slow moving, but stick with it- the book will definitely not disappoint. When the ship sinks, the real story begins. Also, the intermediate returns to the present day by the "author" are somewhat annoying.

That being said, I really loved the book by the end. The passages were beautiful and descriptive. Some parts were a bit gory, but all the interactions between Richard Parker and Pi were intriguing and kept me guessing and wanting more. I was somewhat sad when they found land.

The end is definitely one that will keep you guessing. I like to think the animal story was true:) I would give this 3.4/ 4 stars.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Second book finished post-thesis. An obvious choice when considering my thesis topic. As expected A Thousand Splendid Suns was beautifully written and a very easy read.

Hosseini tells the tales of the lives of two different women in Afghanistan- Mirium, born in a poor rural village and forced into marriage at a young age- to an older abusive husband. And Laila- born in Kabul a generation later, just as the Russians leave Afghanistan and civil war breaks out, leading her to make difficult and life-altering decisions. Very sad and tear-provoking.

One of the great things about Hosseini, is that he includes a lot of historical information within his fiction- even those with no background in Afghan history can easily pick up quick and easy Afghan info in his books.

This book is a good prequel to anyone wanting to research more into women's issues in Afghanistan- i.e.- I should have read it before beginning research for my thesis:) (3.1/ 4 stars)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Circle of Light, An Autobiography by Kiranjit Ahluwalia

The first book I read after finishing my thesis was one I borrowed from my landlord called Circle of Light- the autobiography of Kiranjit Ahluwalia. After writing my thesis on domestic violence in Afghanistan, this was a great follow-up to the subject- this one dealing with domestic violence within the Indian culture (of Kiranjit, an Indian woman living in the UK).

Kiran describes the story of her life- how she met her husband and moved with him to the UK from India. From the very first night of their marriage he was abusive towards her and she felt she had to deal with it because it was her honor as his wife. Basically she blames Indian culture's portrayal of how a woman should act in life and marraige as the reason she could not escape her abusive husband. She kills her husband accidentally by burning down their house and is charged with murder. The book continues with her story of life in prison and then the campaign began by the Southall Black Sisters to free her.

I liked the book a lot; it was a very easy read. The descriptions were great- especially the descriptions of prison and the comraderie of the women in prison. It took a few weeks to read (I read it somewhat distractedly, getting back into the swing of reading for pleasure as was). Definitely recommended reading by myself for anyone interested in feminism and struggles against domestic violence and cultures that ignore domestic violence as a rights violation.
3.2/ 4 stars.

Book reviews...

I finished my thesis for my MA at the end of August and ever since have been getting back to something I love more than anything else in the world: reading for pleasure. While researching for my thesis, I read tons, but the reading had a purpose and though the material I read was pleasurable, I had to use the information and it was not just for my own pleasure. So as I've finished my thesis (on domestic violence as a women's rights issue in Afghanistan), I have read some books (fiction and non) which I will review in the next few entries. I'm sure these first few reviews will not be very amazing or enlightening, but as this blog is mostly for my own pleasure, I don't really care:) By the way, if anyone is reading this and would like to read my thesis, by all means email me:)

Question for Entry 1: Why?

Why am I creating a new blog when I wrote a total of about 5 entries in the last one (over the course of a year)?

Because, my friends I need a new creative outlet, but under a different theme/ mode of thought than the last one (which was based strictly on my newfound life in London, a city which I have grown accustomed to and no longer find very surprising or awe-inspiring; I mean that in a good way:)

This blog may be only for my own benefit but I feel it's something I need right now as my graduate education has come to a close. I need a place in the virtual world dedicated to my continuing education. Therefore, this blog will include, but will in no way be limited to: book reviews, article reviews, website links, movie reviews, comments on political events, general new things I've learned, books I want to read, etc etc. I may also write about my continuing job search.