Friday, March 30, 2007

Shopaholic & Baby

By Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella's chick-lit heroine is back.Now married, pregnant and working as the head personal shopper for a brand-new London boutique.For the uninitiated, the Shopaholic in question is Becky Bloomwood.She is not riddled with insecurities and neuroses but eternally chirpy, optimistic and cheerful. She has a slight spending problem, but as she gets conveniently married to a very rich man earlier on in the cycle, she never gets into real financial trouble and can indulge in her consumerist binges to her heart content. She is, basically, a shallow, celebrity and fashion obsessed idiot, and an insufferably girlie one at that, but she's also full of life, endearing, good-hearted, upbeat and resourceful. Oh,yes,she doesn't worry about being fat. She is the kind of person that many readers might wish was their friend, but even if you think you wouldn't be able to stand her for 10 minutes in real life, it can be pure fun reading about her.
Sophie Kinsella has created a character who at first seems ditzy, shallow and self-centered, but who evolves into a resourceful, sensitive friend, wife and mother. Her antics are laugh-out-loud funny and predictably unpredictable. After weepingly writing 17 pages of angst to her "unfaithful" husband, she suddenly decides that she can forgive him if he agrees to meet her at the top of a tall tower at midnight. Since Becky has trouble staying awake, she scratches out midnight and substitutes 6 p.m. Not being aware of any tall towers in London, she decides the top of the OXO building will be perfect for a romantic rendezvous.
This book is fun, and it's a perfect escape from all the serious concerns of real life. Becky is like a 21st-century Lucille Ball, full of comical, hair-brained ideas that sound impossible to everyone but her.
Sophie Kinsella writes well, with fluency and never losing the naturalness of her narrator, an ear for dialogue and a good sense of comedy, with Becky's parents, half-sister Jess and posh friend Suze prime secondary subjects for chuckles of recognition. But apart from that all, her books are refreshingly unpretentious: they are positive and kind, they don't pretend to deal with any kind of "issues" of either social or emotional kind. There is no real evil and no real heartbreak in them, there is no violence, and no sex. Shopaholic novels are pure, unadulterated, frothy entertainment with a dose of comedy of manners thrown in, and they do what they do very well indeed.
Madeleine Wickham (born 12 December 1968) is a bestselling British author under her pseudonym, Sophie Kinsella. Educated at New College, Oxford, she worked as a financial journalist before turning to fiction. She is best known for writing a popular series of chick-lit novels.
In this latest installment of the Shopaholic franchise , the commercially insatiable Becky Bloomwood shops for two in every upscale baby shop and catalogue in London, snags a celebrity ob/gyn and leverages a pair of the moment's 'most coveted' boots to negotiate a home purchase.
Complicating an otherwise uneventful pregnancy, Becky Bloomwood suspects her husband is having an affair with her hot doc,who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend,and she hires a gumshoe with predictable madcap results. For chick-lit lovers with babies of their own, or for those who covet one, Sophie Kinsella mines a rich vein by tweaking 21st-century glossy mag obsessions: from sonograms to the hottest baby strollers to tricked-out birthing rooms. Kinsella's ode to baby blues is both sly and slapstick.
This book might be the best one yet in the series! Becky Bloomwood preparing for motherhood is hilarious. You can picture her doing all the crazy things and you will laugh out loud.

In an Instant

By Lee Woodruff, Bob Woodruff

In January 2006,in Iraq, when the armored vehicle Bob Woodruff was riding in was struck by an IED.Woodruff was gravely injured by the shrapnel that had pierced his brain, battled pneumonia, sepsis, and more. With part of his skull removed, his wife Lee recalled that ''his brain was still swollen out of his head like a giant tumor.''
There may be no end of treatment for Bob Woodruff, who still undergoes cognitive therapy. As his wife Lee says, things that once seemed small now loom large: the first time her husband could figure a tip, the first time he got on an airplane himself. And yet he's one of the lucky ones, and not only that he survived the attack.
It's hard to be too critical of a book like this. Bob Woodruff and his wife went through a horrendous experience, and they deserve kudos for writing with honesty.
In an Instant is the frank and compelling account of how Bob and Lee’s lives came together, were blown apart, and then were miraculously put together again–and how they persevered, with grit but also with humor, through intense trauma and fear. Here are Lee’s heartfelt memories of their courtship, their travels as Bob left a law practice behind and pursued his news career and Lee her freelance business, the births of her children and the challenges of motherhood.
Bob Woodruff in turn recalls the moment he caught the journalism “bug” while covering Tiananmen Square for CBS News, his love of overseas assignments and his guilt about long separations from his family, and his pride at attaining the brass ring of television news–being chosen to fill the seat of the late Peter Jennings.
In this book , for the first time, the Woodruffs reveal the agonizing details of Bob’s terrible injuries and his remarkable recovery. We learn that Bob’s return home was not an end to the journey but the first step into a future they have learned not to fear but to be grateful for.
In an Instant is much more than the dual memoir of love and courage. It is an important, wise, and inspiring guide to coping with tragedy and an extraordinary drama of marriage, family, war, and nation.
In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing is the story of a brave and courageous family. Bob Woodruff was determined to overcome his injury and return to a normal life. Lee endured a very painful and heartwrenching period from the moment she learned of Bob's wound. The children, reflecting the love and caring they had received from their parents up to that point, also endured much as their father was recovering and their mother was dividing her time between them and supporting Bob. In these days of disfunctional families, it is truly an inspirational experience to read this story of a very functional and loving family.

A percentage of the proceeds from this book will be donated to the Bob Woodruff Family Fund for Traumatic Brain Injury.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution

By Robert C. Atkins

Dr. Robert C. Atkins has given his popular diet plan a makeover, complete with new recipes, updated scientific information, and a more integrative approach to weight loss and total health. With the medical community beginning to recognize the validity of the Atkins approach,which maintains that excessive carbohydrates, not fat, are the real culprits in weight gain,there has never been a better time to check out the diet revolution pioneered by Dr. Robert C. Atkins whose other bestsellers include Dr. Atkins’ New Carbohydrate Gram Counter and Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Cookbook.
Designed to catapult your body into a state of fat meltdown, Dr. Atkins's diet has taken America by storm. It targets insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. The bodies of most overeaters are continually in a state of hyperinsulinism; their bodies are so adept at releasing insulin to help convert excess carbohydrates to fat that there's always too much of the hormone circulating through the body. This puts the body into a bind; it always wants to store fat. Even when people with hyperinsulinism try to lose weight,especially when they cut fat but increase carbohydrate consumption,their efforts will fail. That is why Dr. Atkins refers to insulin as "the fat-producing hormone."
Dr. Atkins's diet is extremely low in carbohydrates, which helps to regulate insulin production and decrease circulating insulin; less insulin soon results in less fat storage and fewer food cravings. The diet is far from torturous.Those who've tried it attest that hunger is not a part of this plan. Ninety percent of Dr. Atkins's patients,more than 25,000 of them,have experienced dramatic weight loss. The book includes recipes for such luscious, low-carb dishes as lobster soup, zabaglione, sea bass, and blueberry ice cream, and even includes a carbohydrate gram counter and menus.
The first several chapters of the book explain the relationship between Carbohydrates and fat (weight) gain. It also discusses the blood sugar and carbohydrate connection. The book then goes on to explain what will happen to your body as you follow the plan. About how your body will go into something called "ketosis".To quote from the book : "ketosis" is: "a metabolic advantage. Briefly, the body naturally turns to fat for fuel when carbohydrate isn't available. When a lot of fat is burned, some of the fat fragments - ketones - get excreted to preserve the body's acid-base balance (because ketones are acid), and this called "ketosis." The book explains exactly how long it will take for your body to go into ketosis, and what you will be experiencing as your body starts to begin to experience ketosis. It also explains how to stay in ketosis, and what to do if you temporarily take yourself out of it. .
Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution also recommends several supplements that you should take along with the diet.The book goes into more detail about the connection between carbohydrates, ketosis, blood sugar, and the health benefits of the low carbohydrate diet, and how it can improve your health over all and help you to keep control over several different diseases including diabetes; it also goes in to some detail about the carbohydrate/insulin connection.
Dr. Robert C. Atkins contends that weight gain has little to do with fat intake; and, he will demonstrate "how much fat you can burn off, while eating liberally, even luxuriously.He encourages dieters to revel in traditional sources of protein like red meat, and to eat eggs and bacon for breakfast. Rapid weight loss, he promises, will be achieved through his 14-day "induction" diet, in which almost all carbohydrates are virtually banned from the table, forcing the body to go into a fat-burning metabolic state called ketosis. Dr.Atkins still urges broad-based vitamin supplements to take up any nutritional slack. So what's changed in 20 years? Atkins says he now is more interested in "complete wellness" than in dropping pounds quickly; he stresses that the "induction" is not to be considered a lifetime regimen unless, of course, the dieter has particularly stubborn "metabolic resistance." Readers of his last book may notice some defensiveness,two decades of criticism clearly have taken their toll. Nonetheless, there is enough of the old Atkins to make this the most arrogant diet book to appear in a long while. " I hope to amaze you ," he writes, " as I amazed millions of dieters in the past ."
He repeats his controversial, questionably valid premise that the elimination of carbohydrates from the diet will result in weight loss, good health, and euphoria. Contrary to current thinking, Dr. Robert C. Atkins promotes a diet of protein and fat in four stages: induction, ongoing weight loss, premaintenance, and maintenance. Case histories document his achievementsIn this book there are updated meals that are shown how to prepare. and is broken down into many pages of vital information on how to stay on the diet.

The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography

(Oprah's Book Club)
By Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier,The Oscar-winning actor and humanitarian offers an intimate look at his journey from a childhood of poverty to cinematic success.This autobiography explores his rich and inspiring life, the lessons he’s learned and his commitment to maintaining personal ethics and artistic integrity in the face of racism.Sidney Poitier is known worldwide for sensitive and powerful portrayals in socially charged films. In his magnificently crafted life story, you can't help but feel moved by his narrative. It is joy to read Poitier's candid tale. Sydney Poitier looks back at his pioneering life and career, without any sense of superiority. Using his genuine humility, he shares the lessons learned along the way.
His body of work is arguably the most morally significant in cinematic history, and the power and influence of that work are indicative of the character of the man behind the many storied roles. Sidney Poitier here explores these elements of character and personal values to take his own measure as a man, as a husband and a father, and as an actor.
Poitier credits his parents and his childhood on tiny Cat Island in the Bahamas for equipping him with the unflinching sense of right and wrong and of self-worth that he has never surrendered and that have dramatically shaped his world. "In the kind of place where I grew up," recalls Poitier, "what's coming at you is the sound of the sea and the smell of the wind and momma's voice and the voice of your dad and the craziness of your brothers and sisters...and that's it." Without television, radio, and material distractions to obscure what matters most, he could enjoy the simple things, endure the long commitments, and find true meaning in his life.
Poitier was uncompromising as he pursued a personal and public life that would honor his upbringing and the invaluable legacy of his parents. Just a few years after his introduction to indoor plumbing and the automobile, Sidney Poitier broke racial barrier after racial barrier in the United States to launch a pioneering acting career. Committed to the notion that what one does for a living articulates to who one is, Poitier played only forceful and affecting characters who said something positive, useful, and lasting about the human condition.
Here is Poitier's own introspective look at what has informed his performances and his life. Poitier explores the nature of sacrifice and commitment, price and humility, rage and forgiveness, and paying the price for artistic integrity. What emerges is a picture of a man in the face of limits,his own and the world's. A triumph of the spirit, The Measure of a Man captures the essential Sidney Poitier.
In this book Sidney Poitier freely admits his faults and owns up to his strengths, which extend from his upbringing.
"I have no wish to play the pontificating fool, pretending that I've suddenly come up with the answers to all life's questions. Quite that contrary, I began this book as an exploration, an exercise in self-questing. In other words, I wanted to find out, as I looked back at a long and complicated life, with many twists and turns, how well I've done at measuring up to the values I myself have set." —Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier was the first African American actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his outstanding performance in Lilies of the Field in 1963.He has starred in over forty films, directed nine, and written four. His landmark films include The Defiant Ones , A Patch of Blue , Guess Who's Coming to Dinner , In the Heat of the Night and To Sir, With Love. Among his many accolades, he has recently been selected as the thirty-sixth recipient of the Screen Actors Guild's highest honor, the Life Achievement Award for an outstanding career and humanitarian accomplishment.
Born in the Bahamas in 1927, young Sidney Poitier encountered few white people and never "learned" to feel inferior. When his tomato-farmer parents lost their livelihood due to a Florida embargo, Poitier's family moved to the United States of America, staying first in Miami, and eventually moving to Harlem, where his father sold cigars and his mother broke rocks into gravel. His parents' hard-working ethic and his own sense of self-worth, mixed with anger at the prevalent racism and segregation of the period, made Poitier determined to succeed despite the forces arrayed against him. Throughout the 1950s and '60s, he continually broke down racial barriers, and fought to depict African American men in interesting roles with pride, dignity, and charm. The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography, his second volume of autobiography, an Oprah's Book Club selection in 2007, powerfully describes all the challenges Poitier faced, and how the teaching of his parents and his spiritual faith helped him overcome and thrive.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Happy Feet

Happy Feet (2006)
Directed by George Miller

Happy Feet is an animated wonder about a penguin named Mumble who can't sing, but can dance up a storm. George Miller, the driving force behind the Babe (and Mad Max) movies, takes another creative step in family entertainment with this big, beautiful, music-fueled film. From his first moment alive, Mumble (voiced Elijah Wood) feels the beat and can't stop dancing. Unfortunatly, emperor penguins are all about finding their own heart song, and dancing youngste. Luckily, he bumps into little blue penguins, a Spanish-infused group (led by Robin Williams) and begins a series of adventures. Miller has an exceptional variety of entertainment, Busby Berkley musical numbers, amusement park thrills, exciting chase sequences, and even an environmental message that doesn't weigh you down. Best of all, you don't know where the movie is going in the last act, a rare occurrence these days in family entrainment. A fusion of rock songs, mashed up and otherwise are featured; this movie is as much a musical as a comedy. Mumble's solo dance to a new version of Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" by Fantasia, Patti and Yolanda may be the most joyful moment on camera in 2006.
In the great nation of Emperor Penguins, deep in Antarctica, you’re nobody unless you can sing,which is unfortunate for Mumble, who is the worst singer in the world. He is born dancing to his own tune tap dancing. Though Mumble’s mom (Norma Jean) thinks this little habit is cute, his dad, Memphis, says it “just ain’t penguin.” Besides, they both know that, without a Heartsong, Mumble may never find true love.But, his one friend, Gloria, happens to be the best singer around. Mumble and Gloria have a connection from the moment they hatch, but she struggles with his strange “hippity- hoppity” ways. Mumble is just too different,especially for Noah the Elder, the stern leader of Emperor Land, who ultimately casts him out of the community. Away from home for the first time, Mumble meets a posse of decidedly un-Emperor-like penguins--the Adelie Amigos. Led by Ramon, the Adelies instantly embrace Mumble’s cool dance moves and invite him to party with them. In Adelie Land, Mumble seeks the counsel of Lovelace the Guru, a crazy-feathered Rockhopper penguin who will answer any of life’s questions for the price of a pebble. Together with Lovelace and the Amigos, Mumble sets out across vast landscapes and, after some epic encounters, proves that by being true to yourself, you can make all the difference in the world.
Happy Feet was also meant to be a "message" film, and those can always be tricky. There are two messages here - taking care of the environment and not casting out those that are different - and yet they're handled in a truly cool way. Yes, the uberconservatives may get in a bit of a snit when they see the forces against Mumbles are cast to appear like mean-spirited religious zealots.However this is a very interesting plotpoint. Outcasts sometimes feel just that way , beat on and thrown out simply because they're running against the popular tide. And the environmental point is handled in a way non-humans would look upon it. Humans really aren't being necessarily "mean" in how they act toward animals."Humans" may be just clueless to the harm they're doing.
A top-notch voice cast helps bring this off. Elijah Wood may yet be one of the most overlooked actors in Hollywood because he's able to bring off a tender, desperate Mumbles with only his voice.If you don't give a damn about this Earth we are living on or Wildlife and/or the destruction of their habitat,maybe you should go live on another planet! It's never too early to start teaching kid's to preserve instead of trashing the world we live in.
George Miller turns such a simple throw-pillow of a plot into a vivid epic, but after doing that the movie should have wound down and gotten back in touch with the smaller moments that he used to build towards that large-scale journey the movie becomes.
The movie includes themes of humans intruding on natural habitats but avoids the heavy-duty questions of how to solve the problem. Some of the chase sequences and elephant seal scenes might be scary for younger kids. Also, racial stereotypes come into play: Latin-inspired penguins are caricatured as party-loving animals, and an African-American-type penguin comes across as an oversexed, fundamentalist preacher. Still, the movie's themes of social acceptance and embracing your own uniqueness shine through.
Voice acting is strong. Elijah Wood brings an earnestness to his portrayal of Mumbles, while Brittany Murphy is enticing as his love interest Gloria. Hugh Jackman is nearly unrecognizable as the Elvis-inspired Memphis, while Nicole Kidman brings warmth to her Norma Jean. Hugo Weaving brings menace to the intractable leader of the penguins, Noah. And Robin Williams is much more restrained than normal. He's never in a position where he overwhelms the film with one of his three voices.
We don't get to see often enough Hugh Jackman's verstility with accents, and here we are hearing him do a cross between Curly from "Oklahoma" and Elvis without it seeming forced or artificial. There are really too many performances to list, and they're all first rate.The tapdancing too is great. We only see a cartoonish replication of Savion Glover's moves, but he really sends off on sound as well. A carryover from his days on "Stomp."
George Miller and his crew spent four years working on the film; the results are, quite simply, stunning.This is an excellent animated movie, one with great performances and a vision so strong that it deserves to be mentioned right up there with the best of the computer animated medium.Happy Feet is one of the best children's films of the past 20 years.

Law of Attraction

Law of Attraction: The Science of Attracting of More of What You Want and Less of What You Don't Want
By Michael Losier

The Law of Attraction by Michael Losier is one of those rare books that can instantly change your life.What is the Law of Attraction?The Law of Atraction states: "I attract to my life whatever I give my energy, focus, and attention to, whether wanted or unwanted". Everything in the world is made up of energy which vibrates at a certain level. When someone has "bad vibes", they are sending off negative energy.According to Michael Losier The Law of Attraction responds to whatever vibration you are offering, by giving you more of what you are vibrating. In our bodies, our "vibration" is translated as feelings. When we feel enthusiastic, loving, confident, or content, we are vibrating positively. When we feel sad, stressed, angry ,we are vibrating negatively. This is why viewing negative events causes us to feel badly. Likewise, witnessing beauty or acts of kindess causes us to feel good.
We "create our own reality". Regardless of whether or not we are doing it intentionally, we draw circumstances and people towards us that match our feelings. We are constantly thinking thoughts, and those thoughts produce feelings (vibration). The Law of Attraction teaches us how to deliberately attract more of what we want as opposed to unconsciously attracting what we don't.
What Michael Losier shows us is that how we feel about something and what we focus upon attracts situations and people with matching vibration. He then gives us tools to raise our vibration, and attract our ideal situation which is exciting! The three-step formula for deliberate attraction is:Identify your desire,Raise your vibration,Allow it.The instructions are clear and simple, and can be performed quickly.Michael Losier provides two case studies, and guides you through the three-step process with worksheets. There is even a webpage listed in the book where you can download additional worksheets.
Michael Losier is an N.L.P. Practitioner and a Law of Attraction Coach and Practitioner.He facilitates a number of in-person Law of Attraction seminars as well as teleseminars to a worldwide audience.Michael assists and supports people so they can understand and practice the art of Deliberate Attraction so they can have more of what they want in their lives.
Michael Losier makes an important point. While your thoughts and feelings are both creative forces in your life, feelings affect your energy field to an even greater degree than what you are thinking. On the one hand, what you think and believe is a measure of your self-esteem, past experience, and what you are choosing to give attention to. On the other hand, feelings set the tone for what you receive from the universal energy field. When you feel insufficient or not smart enough or physically attractive,it limits your results accordingly. Likewise, if you don't think something is possible, you are not going to recognize an opportunity when it comes.
So what do you do when you catch yourself in conversation saying don't, not, or no? "Simply ask yourself, 'So what do I want?'" says Michael. "At first you'll need to remember to do this, but eventually it will become a new habit. It's a great way to stop the cycle of complaining from negative friends or family. Bring to mind somebody in your life who tends to dump all their problems on you. Next time you hear them go on and on about their problems, simply ask them 'So what do you want?' As they start to describe what they want, their words will change and so will their vibration. You won't feel their negativity anymore. It's a fact that you can't hold two vibrations at the same time." You make a difference.
Michael Losier has managed to distill into a text a practical explanation of the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics, and a simple three-step process for applying these laws in everyday life. With a brief nod to the underlying theory of quantum physics, and with source credit to new-age gurus Esther and Jerry Hicks of Abraham-Hicks Publications,Michael Losier proceeds to offer an extremely simple, clear approach to creating the ideal life through deliberate use of the natural Law of Attraction. His step-by-step process for 1) gaining clarity through contrast, 2) creating desire statements and 3) eliminating doubt, are refreshingly practical, easy to understand and easy to follow.
The Law of Attraction is not a new concept - which is acknowledged by the author, but this book lays it down in practical, clear, concise terms and helps you put it into action immediately.If your life feels as if it has turned south it's time to pick up this book.

The Road

The Road (Oprah's Book Club)
By Cormac McCarthy

In this book Cormac Mccarthy has given us a glimpse of a post-apocalyptic world none of us want to see or visit or even think about it. It is desolate, singulatory, stark, bleak; all of these words and more are needed to describe a world after a nuclear explosion. We are left to imagine the events, the place, and the time. All we have are these two souls, dad and son, no names. They are moving from one place to another to get to the coast, why, we do not know, are left to wonder. Along the way Cormac Mccarthy describes the world we never want to see. Smoldering even after a few years, everything black and stripped of any semblance. Not many people, and those they meet, they are afraid of. Looters, and murderers and eaters of flesh.
The story follows a father and son as the they wander, stagger, and grope their way through a burned over America. Little moves within this incinerated landscape that is smothered in ash driven by a cold wind. The snow is grey. Rivers run thickly clogged with ash and soot. The trees are black skeletons. The pair is heading for the Eastern coast with little hope of finding anything. They have nothing save a pistol and a handful of bullets to defend themselves against the bands of ravenous ghouls who maraud the roads and heat-buckled Interstates like bizarre, merciless highwaymen. And they have the ragged clothes they’re wearing and a cart of scavenged food. And they have themselves.
These two souls, father and son, the two evidences that love can keep you going, can keep you on the right path, and can keep you "One of the good guys". There is not much to keep you going or to keep you safe. Death, no food, no shelter, no clothing, harsh and cold environment, only your wits, and then it is hard to keep them together. A harsh and cold path and if it is what we have to face, Cormac Mccarthy has given us the most beautiful prose and surreal writing,with an economy of words that is beautiful in its execution.
The vulnerable cultural references for this daring scenario obviously come from science fiction. But what propels The Road far beyond its progenitors are the diverted poetic heights of McCarthy's late-English prose; the simple declamation and plainsong of his rendered dialect, as perfect as early Hemingway; and the adamantine surety and utter aptness of every chiselled description.
McCarthy carves this world in a harsh, stark lyricism reserved for those who speak unflinching prophecy. Both the father and son are surrounded by a nightmare and are frightened by others. They are starving, always cautiously alert, only having a grocery cart with a few blankets and a gun with two bullets, either to protect against the cannibalistic humanity following their tracks or for the father to finish their lives before despair consumes them both.
As they journey to the coast in search of something, the father tells the boy it is better to have nightmares because when you start dreaming, you know the end is near. McCarthy allows the reader to dream for them, striving on with them until a conclusion that whispers, under the pain and futility, of a sovereignty that is older than the destruction ever looming in the world.
Cormac McCarthy is one of the best American writers authoring nine novels including "Suttree", "Cities of the Plain" and "No Country for Old Men".The country in all of his books is no place for old men or those lacking a mad sense of courage. He’s won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Award. His author photo depicts an individual of stern background who’s perhaps seen more than he wanted. The ever-popular eternity stare is in evidence.
But there seems to be a glimmer of hope or optimism shining faintly in the wind-blown grimness. All along the journey to the coast, despite the horrors and deprivations the father and son encounter, the two happen upon caches of abundance : canned meats, fruits, vegetables, clean water in a cistern, decent clothing. This may not seem like much, but the finds shimmer like gold in the stygian atmosphere. It is remarkable that McCarthy pulls this off, a testament to his skill, while never ceasing in his relentless portrayal of hopelessness. The Road is a novel of transforming power and formal risk. Abandoning gruff but profound male camaraderie, McCarthy instead sounds the limits of imaginable love and despair between a diligent father and his timid young son, "each other's world entire". The initial experience of the novel is sobering and oppressive, its final effect is emotionally shattering.
Camus wrote that the world is ugly and cruel, but it is only by adding to that ugliness and cruelty that we sin most gravely. The Road affirms belief in the tender pricelessness of the here and now. In creating an exquisite nightmare, it does not add to the cruelty and ugliness of our times,it warns us all how much we have to lose. Beauty and goodness are here aplenty and we should think about them. While we can.
This is all a long way of getting around to the fact that the recently quite-productive Cormac McCarthy has written a new novel, The Road, which is set in a post-apocalyptic environment, and it’s as though he was made for it. The book is not only an instant classic of its type, it is very close to being the novel of the year.Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Secret

The Secret
By Rhonda Byrne
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- The Australian author of The Secret, Rhonda Byrne, introduces the book by admitting, "A year ago, my life had collapsed around me". Through searching for answers in a variety of books new and old, Rhonda Byrne began to trace what she believed was a common thread in them all. She dubbed it the "Great Secret—The Secret to Life".It is a motivational self-help book of some kind and the synopsis referred to physicists, old oral traditions, religions, poetry and philosophy. The essence of The Secret is "the law of attraction." According to Rhonda Byrne and the twenty-nine co-contributors, everything in the Universe vibrates on a particular frequency. When you think in harmony with the frequency of something, you attract it to you. If you think about wealth, you will receive wealth. If you think instead about your debt, you will receive more debt. You attract what you think about; your thoughts determine your destiny.

Rhonda Byrne restates the law of attraction in different ways: "Nothing,good or bad,can come into your experience unless you summon it through persistent thoughts"."Your thoughts are the primary cause of everything". "Your current reality or your current life is a result of the thoughts you have been thinking". "This is The Secret to everything,the secret to unlimited joy, health, money, relationships, love, youth: everything you have ever wanted.
Byrne promises with ironclad certainty: "There isn't a single thing that you cannot do with this knowledge. The Secret can give you whatever you want" ... "you will come to know how you can have, be, or do anything you want".

This book gives hope for what many have been waiting for a long time - a shift in the way the world thinks. Fragments of a Great Secret have been found in the oral traditions, in literature, in religions and philosophies throughout the World and centuries.Now,for the first time, all the pieces of The Secret come together in an incredible revelation that seems to be life-transforming for all who experience it.
The secret is really no secret, it is a great presentation of what we were taught since we were children. To have gratitude, to be thankful, to bless everything, to be positive.
In this book, you'll learn how to use The Secret in every aspect of your life : money, health, relationships, happiness, and in every interaction you have in the world. You'll begin to understand the hidden power that's within you.

The Secret contains wisdom from modern-day teachers men and women who have used it to achieve health, wealth, and happiness. By applying the knowledge of The Secret, they bring to light compelling stories of eradicating disease, acquiring wealth, overcoming obstacles, and achieving what many would regard as impossible.
Rhonda Byrne was able to bring together this life-changing information so masterfully. She first did it for the movie of the same name that she produced, which has been a phenomenon in its own right. She then added, in only ones month's time, incredible additional content to the transcript of the film that brings even more clarity to the reader. This is a book that people from all walks of life can read and then understand the concept of The Secret. It allows you to apply it to your life.People of all ages are reporting miraculous stories of positive changes as a result. Rhonda Byrne is dedicated to maintaining the integrity of The Secret and to making sure that now,the whole world knows about it.

Towards the end of 2004, Rhonda Byrne discovered a secret - "the secret laws and principles of the universe",and soon her life was transformed, as she began to put into practice what she had learned. It seemed to Rhonda that almost no one knew the things that she had discovered, even though the concepts could be found in almost every religion and field of human endeavor throughout history. And in that moment her greatest wish, and mission, was to share this knowledge with the world.

Rhonda began to see that her entire life - everything she had ever done - had been quietly and steadily moving her towards the most perfect place for her to be able to fulfill her wish. And to fulfill it on the grandest possible scale! She had gone from working as a producer at the Nine Network in Melbourne, Australia, to starting her own television production company, Prime Time Productions, in 1994. And after ten years of creating internationally successful shows, Rhonda Byrne was ready to take Prime Time Productions in a direction that fulfilled people rather than just entertained them.
On that spring day in 2004, when a book called "The Science of Getting Rich" was put into her hands, and Rhonda's whole life suddenly pulled into spectacular focus, she knew exactly what her mission was to become. She was going to take this knowledge to the world. She was going to make a movie to carry joy to every corner of the Earth. And so the great journey that was The Secret began.
In early 2005, when The Secret was simply a name and a momentous vision, Prime Time Productions was made up of Rhonda, Producer Paul Harrington, and Director Drew Heriot. For eight weeks Rhonda intensively taught everything she had learned about The Secret to Paul and Drew.

One of Rhonda's initial intentions for the creation of the show was that Prime Time Productions would use The Secret to make The Secret,that it would be an effortless, joyful journey as they attracted everything and everyone that was needed to fulfill the vision. And right when the company was ready to begin production the perfect people to make The Secret began to appear.
Overall, the abdication of reason is so absolute that it takes a while to actually believe it can be really happening.What The Secret advises is really positive thinking, affirmations, visualisation of goals; ideas made mainstream by treatment techniques, that one's attitude and expectations often result in self-fulfilling prophecies. That fear and lack of self-confidence can block fulfilment. That day-to-day, others sometimes treat us the way we think we deserve to be treated. That generally, we tend to be more happy and more successful if we have positive outlook and believe things are possible.
THE SECRET is a way of thinking that can transform the lives of all and lead to a new reality where each is free to follows one's own dream. It attacks no one.It reveals secrets long held hidden in the initiation rights of mysterious societies. It unlocks the parables of great spiritual avatars. It brings science to the thin line that it has been unwilling cross with regards to the power of thought.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond (2006)
Directed by Edward Zwick
Screenplay by Charles Leavitt

The movie Blood Diamond,directed and produced by Edward Zwick and released into theatres in December of 2006, brought a controversy to light about the diamond business upon its release.This movie hit the screen with an explosive impact on the diamond market in America. Leonardo DiCaprio’s and Djimon Hounsou’s performances are award worthy. A captivating plotline and outstanding cast performances make this film a must see.

If you don't know what “blood diamond" is, they are stones that have been smuggled out of countries in Africa at war, which are then used as a way to pay for more arms, increasing the death toll and violence in the region. Back in the late 1990s, at the height of the conflict diamond industry, only a small percentage of these gems got into the Western market, but it was still a very profitable business. It has all been curtailed greatly since then and Sierra Leone is currently at peace but Blood Diamond is a way to remind us how precarious it still can be.
Director Ed Zwick ("The Last Samurai") hammers this home with vivid images of human cruelty and suffering. But unlike its counterpart Hotel Rwanda, which concentrated on one individual and how he dealt with the genocide, there are actually too many angles to the Diamond story, too many messages. It diffuses the film’s impact and drags it down, rather than strengthen it.

Leonardo Di Caprio, a diamond mercenary with a British accent - weird. Jennifer Connelly looking too pretty for a war-torn context. Djimon Hounsou intimidatingly genuine in his role as desperate father. His Oscar nomination was no surprise.

Leonardo Di Caprio, Hounsou, Connelly, diamonds - and lots of blood in Africa.Blood Diamond is an attempt to get people to wake up to reality of death, atrocities, bloodbaths in Africa. A reality shunned by the Western politics, financed by Western corporatocracy, and glossed over by the Western media.There's a good line by Connelly's character when she sees a million-inhabitant refugee camp and says that we'll only get a glimpse of it in CNN, "somewhere between Sports and Weather".

The movie opens with Solomon Vandy being kidnapped from his family to work in diamonds run by the Revolutionary United Front. The RUF are anti-government rebels whose modus operandi seems to be pillaging and burning villages, chopping off hands, shooting women and children, and enslaving able-bodied men (there's some black comedy in how the Revolutionary United Front commanders, overseeing their prisoners breaking their backs sifting for diamonds in the rivers and just before shooting people point-blank, can say, "Here, there are no masters and slaves!"

On account of a government attack on the mines, Vandy is imprisoned but only after he managed to bury a huge diamond he found. This secret can't be kept entirely and he's later set free by Archer who's determined to get the diamond himself. The deal is that Vandy helps Archer in return for assistance in finding his family. Along comes Bowen, a journalist who wants to expose the truth about the illegal diamond trade and whose help Archer and Vandy needs to make it to the site where the diamond was buried.

There are great shots of bazooka-inspired destruction and other intense battle scenes of the civil war. You get Archer making the all-too-familiar quote, last made by Bruce Willis, about how God has "already left Africa". You get half a dozen mini-pep talks about how nothing can be done to resolve the situation,and serious cliches like, "Why are our own people doing this to each other?"). You'll also get a half-chilling new acronym, TIA, the meaning of which I'll leave it to you to find out.

You get an unrealistic half-romance between Archer and Bowen who looks way too LA-girl-who-wants-to-make-a-diff for this movie). Quite unexpected is the violent indoctrination by the Revolutionary United Front of children kidnapped from villages (think of Kurt Russell's Soldier with a lot less technology, fashion and suave) which included front-lining the next village massacre, being forced to take drugs, gambling - all a growing boy needs, huh?
The sad thing is there'll be charity in hell before countries who can afford to give aid do so in reasonable amounts. And even if they do, Africans themselves can't seem to eliminate the (tribal?) proclivity to occasionally wipe each other out.

How can the diamond trade be made to bring real development to their source-countries? How can the violence be ended? How can big corporations be made to serve the Third World instead of the opposite? And - probably the most important question raised by the film - how do we get people to give a damn?

Edward Zwick's narrative skills keep us hooked on the story, and the first-rate production values and imaginative use of locations give the film an enthralling scope and epic sweep.The movie was shot in Mozambique. Starring Leonardo Di Caprio,Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly,Michael Sheen, Arnold Vosloo, Basil Wallace, Ntare Mwine, Caruso Kuypers, and David Harewood .

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
By Barack Obama

I wasn't expecting a whole lot from The Audacity of Hope by Senator Barack Obama. I thought it would be a lengthy stump speech, worth knowing but no revelations. What I found, however was a thoughtful plan, mapping out a direction for restoring common sense into the political process. Obama is a well-spoken, well-written, humble man who really knows how to articulate a message. Senator Barack Obama uses personal anecdote, history, Constitutional interpretation, and a healthy respect for the expertise of others in building a cohesive platform for success. Were it delivered consistently as well as he delivered his prose in this book, it would be the basis for repairing many of the rifts in the political landscape torn apart by extremism.

In 2004, Barack Obama electrified the Democratic National Convention with an address that spoke to Americans across the political spectrum. One phrase anchored itself in listeners’ minds, a reminder that for all the discord and struggle to be found in our history as a nation, we have always been guided by a dogged optimism in the future, or what Senator Barack Obama called “The Audacity of Hope.”

Now,Senator Barack Obama calls for a different brand of politics–a politics for those weary of bitter partisanship and alienated by the “endless clash of armies” we see in congress and on the campaign trail; a politics rooted in the faith, inclusiveness, and nobility of spirit at the heart of “our improbable experiment in democracy.” He explores those forces–from the fear of losing to the perpetual need to raise money to the power of the media–that can stifle even the best-intentioned politician.Barack Obama also writes, with surprising intimacy and self-deprecating humor, about settling in as a senator, seeking to balance the demands of public service and family life, and his own deepening religious commitment.

At the heart of this book is Senator Barack Obama’s vision of how we can move beyond our divisions to tackle concrete problems. He examines the growing economic insecurity of American families, the racial and religious tensions within the body politic, and the transnational threats–from terrorism to pandemic–that gather beyond our shores. And he grapples with the role that faith plays in a democracy–where it is vital and where it must never intrude. Underlying his stories about family, friends, members of the Senate, even the president, is a vigorous search for connection: the foundation for a radically hopeful political consensus.

A senator and a lawyer, a professor,a father and a student of history and human nature, Barack Obama has written a book of transforming power. Only by returning to the principles that gave birth to our Constitution, he says, can Americans repair a political process that is broken, and restore to working order a government that has fallen dangerously out of touch with millions of ordinary Americans. Those Americans are out there, he writes–“waiting for Republicans and Democrats to catch up with them.”

“A government that truly represents these Americans–that truly serves these Americans–will require a different kind of politics. That politics will need to reflect our lives as they are actually lived. It won’t be pre-packaged, ready to pull off the shelf. It will have to be constructed from the best of our traditions and will have to account for the darker aspects of our past. We will need to understand just how we got to this place, this land of warring factions and tribal hatreds. And we’ll need to remind ourselves, despite all our differences, just how much we share: common hopes, common dreams, a bond that will not break.”–from "The Audacity of Hope".

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
By Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah came to the United States when he was seventeen and graduated from Oberlin College in 2004. He is a member of Human Rights Watch Children’s Division Advisory Committee and has spoken before the United Nations on several occasions. He no lives in New York City. Everyone in the world should read this book.This absorbing account by a young boy of 12, gets swept up in Sierra Leone's civil war goes beyond even the best journalistic efforts in revealing the life and mind of a child abducted into the horrors of warfare. Beah's harrowing journey transforms him overnight from a child enthralled by hip-hop music to an internal refugee bereft of family, wandering from village to village in a country grown deeply divided by the indiscriminate atrocities of unruly rebel and army forces.
Ishmael Beah then finds himself in the armyĆ¢€”in a drug-filled life of casual mass slaughter that lasts until he is 15, when he's brought to a rehabilitation center sponsored by UNICEF and NGOs. The process marks out Ishmael Beah as a gifted spokesman for the center's work after his "repatriation" to civilian life in the capital, where he lives with his family and a distant uncle. When the war finally engulfs the capital, it sends 17-year-old Beah fleeing again, this time to the United States, where he now lives. Told in clear, accessible language by a young writer with a gifted literary voice, this memoir seems destined to become a classic firsthand account of war and the ongoing plight of child soldiers in conflicts worldwide.

Washington Post
"Everyone in the world should read this book. Not just because it contains an amazing story, or because it’s our moral, bleeding-heart duty, or because it’s clearly written. We should read it to learn about the world and about what it means to be human.” Time Magazine “A breathtaking and unselfpitying account of how a gentle spirit survives a childhood from which all innocence has suddenly been sucked out. It's a truly riveting memoir.”“Beah is a gifted writer. . . Read his memoir and you will be haunted . . . It’s a high price to pay, but it’s worth it.”
People Magazine
“Deeply moving, even uplifting…Beah's story, with its clear-eyed reporting and literate particularity—whether he's dancing to rap, eating a coconut or running toward the burning village where his family is trapped—demands to be read.” (Critic’s Choice, Four stars)
Elle Magazine
“Beah’s memoir, A Long Way Gone (Farrar, Straus and ­Giroux), is unforgettable testimony that Africa’s children—millions of them dying and orphaned by preventable diseases, hundreds of thousands of them forced into battle—have eyes to see and voices to tell what has happened. And what voices! How is it possible that 26-year-old Beah, a nonnative English speaker, separated from his family at age 12, taught to maim and to kill at 13, can sound such notes of ­family happiness, of friendship under duress, of quiet horror? No outsider could have written this book, and it’s hard to imagine that many ­insiders could do so with such acute vision, stark language, and tenderness. It is a heart-rending achievement.” —Melissa Fay Greene
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“In place of a text that has every right to be a diatribe against Sierra Leone, globalization or even himself, Beah has produced a book of such self-effacing humanity that refugees, political fronts and even death squads resolve themselves back into the faces of mothers, fathers and siblings. A Long Way Gone transports us into the lives of thousands of children whose lives have been altered by war, and it does so with a genuine and disarmingly emotional force.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“What Beah saw and did during [the war] has haunted him ever since, and if you read his stunning and unflinching memoir, you'll be haunted, too . . . It would have been enough if Ishmael Beah had merely survived the horrors described in A Long Way Gone. That he has written this unforgettable firsthand account of his odyssey is harder still to grasp. Those seeking to understand the human consequences of war, its brutal and brutalizing costs, would be wise to reflect on Ishmael Beah's story.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Beah speaks in a distinctive voice, and he tells an important story.” Kirkus Reviews“Hideously effective in conveying the essential horror of his experiences.” The Guardian UK“Extraordinary . . . A ferocious and desolate account of how ordinary children were turned into professional killers.A Long Way Gone is one of the most important war stories of our generation. The arming of children is among the greatest evils of the modern world, and yet we know so little about it because the children themselves are swallowed up by the very wars they are forced to wage. Ishmael Beah has not only emerged intact from this chaos, he has become one of its most eloquent chroniclers. We ignore his message at our peril." —Sebastian Junger, author of A Death in Belmont and A Perfect Storm.

This is a story that needs to be told, heard, read. Beah's ability to rise above the horror that drug him to the depths of depravity conveys hope for humanity. Ishmael Beah is a remarkable human being. I hope he continues to write. He has a gift for story telling that will improve with practice.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

How Doctors Think

How Doctors Think
By Jerome Groopman

Jerome Groopman is well known from his essays in the New Yorker, which take on a wide variety of complex medical conditions, evocatively communicating the tensions and emotions of both doctors and patients.Yet, this book is something different: a sustained, incisive and sometimes agonized inquiry into the processes by which medical minds, experienced, highly erudite medical minds synthesize information and understand illness. How Doctors Think is mostly about how these doctors get it right, and about why they sometimes get it wrong: "most errors are mistakes in thinking.
This is an honest, touching, and insightful look at the paradigms with which doctors make diagnoses and decisions, with examples of when this really works and when it fails and why.
Although it's actually a review text book geared toward medical students and nurses, without the 'human' side and beautiful prose of Groopman's book, it's so simply written that anyone can understand it (perhaps with a little help from Google once in awhile for a term). So if after reading about doctors' thinking on the more philosophical level in "How Doctors Think," you're interested in understanding the type of diagnostic reasoning and treatment planning that occurs on the more scientific/physiological level , in other words, the essence of what you learn in med school,you would really enjoy Clinical Pathophysiology Made Ridiculously Simple.
It also has a chapter that walks the reader through different case scenarios and how a doctor should reason through them to make a diagnosis case you ever wondered why the doctor presses here, listens there, orders such and such test, etc. Often when confronted with disease, one of the most important parts of the healing process is understanding it; this book allows you to do so from a reliable source, without having to filter through all of the information (and mis-information) on the internet.
Understanding how your body works and what happens when it does not will help you to better deal with illness and understand what doctors are telling you....or if you're an 'amateur' scientist, you'll just enjoy this easy-to-understand book on the physiology of disease and diagnostic reasoning. Like I said, it's a text book, not a general audience book like "How doctors think," but if you're looking for an interesting companion read to Groopman's important and insightful book, you might find it interesting to read Clinical Pathophysiology Made Ridiculously Simple.
This alarming statistic introduces Dr. Jerome Groopman's compelling analysis of how doctors think and what this means for patients seeking diagnoses. Groopman is curious to discover how one doctor misses a diagnosis which another doctor gets. Interviewing specialists in different fields, he analyzes the ways they approach patients, how they gather information, how much they may credit or discredit the previous medical histories and diagnoses of these patients, how they deal with symptoms which may not fit a particular diagnosis, and how they arrive at a final diagnosis.
Throughout, he considers the doctors' time constraints, the pressures on them to see a certain number of patients each day, the limitations on tests which are imposed by insurance companies or by hospitals themselves, and the many options for treating a single disease. He is sympathetic, both toward the patient and the physician, and, because he himself has had medical problems, he provides insights from his own experience to show how physicians (and patients) think. Case histories abound, beginning with the 82-pound woman, whose celiac disease was not diagnosed for fifteen years. Here Groopman analyzes the uses and misuses of clinical decision trees and algorithms used by many doctors and hospitals to assess probabilities and make decision-making more efficient. Sometimes, however, it is necessary for a doctor to depart from the algorithm and obey intuition. Recognizing when the physician is "winging it" depending too much on intuition and too little on evidence is a challenge for both patients and other physicians.
Ultimately, Groopman focuses on language as the key to diagnosis, showing that when patients and physicians can communicate and truly share information, they have a better chance to come to correct diagnoses and appropriate treatments. The success of Groopman's book attests to the need for discussion of these issues, but I am not sure Groopman realizes the difficulty patients have in finding ideal doctors whose personalities, thinking, and communication styles are compatible with their own. Most of us are referred to specialists by our primary care physicians ,some of whom we see only once a year and do not know well, and it is not possible to interview several specialists to find the one most compatible. We accept the appointment our primary care physician has set up for us, often with the specialist who has the earliest available appointment. Patients with urgent problems may have fewer choices than Groopman seems to think they have. Though we all search for the ideal, ultimately we must hope that our own diagnoses are not among the "problem fifteen percent."
Many of the physicians Dr. Groopman writes about are visionaries and heroes; their diagnostic and therapeutic triumphs are astounding. And these are the doctors who are, like the author, willing to anatomize their own serious errors. This passionate honesty gives this book an immediacy and an eloquence that will resonate with anyone interested in medicine or science.

Nineteen Minutes: A novel

Nineteen Minutes: A novel
By Jodi Picoult
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In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes, you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five....In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off it.Sterling is a small, ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens -- until the day its complacency is shattered by a shocking act of violence. In the aftermath, the town's residents must not only seek justice in order to begin healing but also come to terms with the role they played in the tragedy. For them, the lines between truth and fiction, right and wrong, insider and outsider have been obscured forever. Josie Cormier, the teenage daughter of the judge sitting on the case, could be the state's best witness, but she can't remember what happened in front of her own eyes. And as the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show, destroying the closest of friendships and families.Nineteen Minutes is New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult's most raw, honest, and important novel yet. Told with the straightforward style for which she has become known, it asks simple questions that have no easyanswers: Can your own child become a mystery to you? What does it mean to be different in our society? Is it ever okay for a victim to strike back? And who -- if anyone -- has the right to judge someone else?Bestseller Jody Picoult (My Sister's Keeper) takes on another contemporary hot-button issue in her brilliantly told new thriller, about a high school shooting. Peter Houghton, an alienated teen who has been bullied for years by the popular crowd, brings weapons to his high school in Sterling, N.H., one day and opens fire, killing 10 people. Flashbacks reveal how bullying caused Peter to retreat into a world of violent computer games. Alex Cormier, the judge assigned to Peter's case, tries to maintain her objectivity as she struggles to understand her daughter, Josie, one of the surviving witnesses of the shooting. The author's insights into her characters' deep-seated emotions brings this ripped-from-the-headlines read chillingly alive.

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