Last Week’s Links

The best books on Critical Thinking

I’ve been concerned that schools are not adequately teaching critical thinking skills since I first started teaching writing to college students back in 1971. Since then my concern has turned into alarm as I’ve seen the results of the lack of these skills pervade modern culture. 

Here philosopher and writer Nigel Warburton lists five books to help us learn about topics like straw man arguments and weasel words.

What Role Should Work Play in Retirement?

Behavioral scientist Utpal Dholakia, Ph.D., explains that “the idea of retiring as not working may need to be reconfigured for our times.”

Can Bullet Journaling Save You?

I keep reading about the benefits of bullet journaling, a process touted as not only the best productivity tool but also as many people’s favorite creative outlet (just search Instagram to see all the fancy bullet journal layouts pictured). “Bullet journaling has taken off as a kind of mindfulness-meets-productivity trend that equates organized journaling with an ordered interior life.”

Here Anna Russell writes about her discussion with Ryder Carroll, the thirty-nine-year-old digital designer who invented the Bullet Journal. Carroll offered Russell this parting advice: “You’re not doing it right, you’re not doing it wrong, you’re just figuring it out as you go along.”

On planes, adults have tantrums too. Here’s how to handle bad behavior at 38,000 feet

Writing for The Seattle Times, travel writer Christopher Elliott declares, “The worst behavior on a plane? It’s often adults.” And doesn’t it seem that we’ve heard and read of lot of examples that prove him right on news broadcasts and Facebook lately? Elliott has some concrete suggestions on how to deal with bad adult bahavior if it should happen near you on your next flight.

And as you’re crammed into your ever-shrinking coach-class seat, console yourself with this fact: “The worst behavior on a plane often happens in the first-class section. It’s the super-elite frequent flyers who behave as if the plane belongs to them.”

Tina Turner Is Having the Time of Her Life

I was lucky enough to watch Tina Turner perform at Harvard Stadium in the summer of 1970.

Here Amanda Hess reports on the retirement life of Tina Turner, “the symbol of rock ’n’ roll stamina for 50 years.” Now 79 years old, she has been retired for 10 years in now lives in Switzerland in a home she calls the Chateau Algonquin, with an unobstructed view of Lake Zurich. 

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Friday the 13th Harvest Moon

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Harvest Moon to glow bright on Friday — the 13th

Tonight’s the night:

Superstition will fill the air on Friday the 13th, a day commonly known as one of the unluckiest days of the year. As the sun sets, one of the most well-known full moons will fill the night sky and possibly bring a little extra bad luck with it.

Friday night’s full moon is the Harvest Moon, considered one of the most popular moons of the year. The origin behind this moniker dates back hundreds of years.

Take a look at this article from UPI for photos and information about both Friday the 13th and harvest moons.

Last Week’s Links

Want To Feel Happier Today? Try Talking To A Stranger

I always wear my noise-cancelling headphones on planes, even though I don’t always switch them on. I unabashedly admit that I do this to discourage the person—any person—crushed into the seat next to me from trying to strike up a conversation with me. Many of us also fool around with our phones to avoid actual interaction with people around us in any public place.

But this article might change our behavior, with its discussion of research suggesting that even “seemingly trivial encounters with the minor characters in our lives — the random guy at the dog park or the barista at our local coffee shop — can affect feelings of happiness and human connection on a typical day.”

Why a Thriving Civilization in Malta Collapsed 4,000 Years Ago

When we visited Malta in 2018, we toured the site of an ancient temple that had been discovered and excavated in the late 20th century. Now the site is protected by a canvas awning as excavation continues, but our tour guide told us that her grandmother remembered playing as a child on what was then thought to be just a pile of rocks.

ancient temple, Malta
ancient temple, Malta

This article therefore caught my eye. The temple on Malta, among the earliest known free-standing buildings, preceded Stonehenge by about 1,000 years but apparently lasted only about 1,500 years before disappearing. Scientists believe that studying the rise and fall of the early culture on this island nation can help with “understanding change in the wider world.”

Surviving Woodstock

If you happen to have an extra $800 burning a hole in your pocket, “On the fiftieth anniversary of the festival, a thirty-six-hour boxed set reveals some truths behind baby-boomer myths.”

Woodstock almost immediately became a myth. Shortly after the festival, Abbie Hoffman speed-wrote and then published “Woodstock Nation,” giving texture to the idea that those who had been at the event constituted a new generation: “I took a trip to our future. That’s how I saw it. Functional anarchy, primitive tribalism, gathering of the tribes. Right on! What did it all mean? Sheet, what can I say, brother, it blew my mind out.”

Bonus: If you’re looking for information that’s a bit more accessible, Publishers Weekly has you covered with a long list of books celebrating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock.

50 MUST-READ FICTION BOOKS FEATURING OLDER WOMEN

In my other life I blog about books. And as I have gotten older myself, I’ve become interested in how older adults, particularly older women, are portrayed in literature.In my other life I blog about books.

Heather Bottoms had a similar experience when she turned 50 last year and now as she approaches 51. Here she offers a substantial list of novels featuring older women as characters. “The women in these stories range in age from age 50 to 110 and represent a wide variety of experiences, personalities, and genres. All these novels feature older women as crucial characters.”

Although she lists many books that I haven’t read, I heartily second her recommendation of the following books:

Cover: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
  • The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields  
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova  
  • Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney  
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout  
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid  
  • Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos  
  • Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

Bonus: Her opening paragraph contains a link to the list she compiled last year around her 50th birthday.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

In preparing this post for publication, I realize that all these pieces revolve around remembrance.

On the Intoxicating Power of Forgetting Where You Came From

In this excerpt from the book A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past, author Lewis Hyde “explores the egoism of memory and self-making.” Hyde tells an anecdote about Larry Rosenberg, a teacher from the Insight Meditation Center in Cambridge, Massa­chusetts, visiting the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a preserved building much like the one Rosenberg grew up in. What most caught my eye was this:

Rosenberg told this story in the context of a talk about a distinction he draws from Buddhist teaching between “real time” and “psychological time.” With real time, we do not dwell on (or dwell in) the past or the future but simply note them (saying, “I grew up in New York” or “When I retire I’m going to Florida,” and so on). With psychological time, on the other hand, past and future take over the present; we live in them, identifying with their pleasures and pains. As the Bud­dhists say, we “make self” out of them (as I might make self out of my pride in publishing a book or my shame over having flunked a chemistry exam).

This distinction between these two kinds of time describes the difference between mere facts, such as date of birth, and those experiences that we incorporate into our life story, the narrative of personal events we build up over time to help us make sense of the world and our unique place in it.

Where Are All the Books About Menopause?

Having undergone a hysterectomy at age 44, Sarah Manguso ponders how “For women, aging is framed as a series of losses—of fertility, of sexuality, of beauty. But it can be a liberation, too.”

The Clarks Originals You Didn’t Even Know You Needed (Until Now)

This is not an advertisement from me (although it is an endorsement from Esquire) but rather a reminiscence. 

Do you remember Clark Wallabees?

Clark Wallabee

First debuted in 1967, the Wallabee has more than a half-century of history behind it. Originally based on a German-designed moccasin, the style didn’t catch on in Clarks’ native Britain initially. But it enjoyed success in North America, and it was a runaway hit in Jamaica. See, Jamaican “rude boys” had already adopted the desert boot—which was launched in 1950—as part of their de facto uniform, and the associated criminal activity made the footwear a target for police. When Wallees came onto the scene, they were immediately brought into the fold.

The article goes on to explain that Wallabees became popular in the U.S. because of “the influx of Jamaican immigrants to New York in the ’80s.”

I bought my Wallabees in the early 1970s, on a trip to San Francisco. I had to learn not to tie them tightly, like sneakers, but more loosely to allow for the shoes’ lower fit on the foot. Once I learned that trick, I wore them all around San Francisco (although I did not wear accompanying flowers in my hair) and for a long time afterwards. 

I hadn’t thought about Wallabees for a long time. What a pleasant surprise to see them recommended as an acceptable fashion accessory for young adult males.

Apollo 11 at 50: Space program transfixed Americans, changed pop culture

UPI asserts that humans’ first walk on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969, was the culmination of a craze that since 1961 “had influenced pop culture — entertainment, architecture, fashion, consumer goods and language.”

Words linked to space were everywhere, with American space explorers called astronauts and the Russian counterparts called cosmonauts. People found ways to use “liftoff,” “launch” and “rendezvous” for purposes other than space talk. And phrases “space cadet,” “it’s not rocket science” and “spaced out” became commonplace.

The article goes on to list how the space craze’s influence showed up in all kinds of ways: toys, candy, cars, television, movies, music, fashion, architecture, Disney World (Florida). In Houston, where the astronauts trained, the baseball team the Colt 45s was renamed the Astros. They soon had a new indoor home, the Astrodome, which opened in 1962.

The moon landing was “a demonstration of what the human species could achieve,” but in the next five to six years the “feel-good moments were gone,” replaced by “the 1-2 punch of Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War.”

How about you?

Do you remember Clark Wallabees, the moon landing, the Astrodome, or menopause?

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Antique Car

We saw this beauty in a parking lot over the weekend. We are not car buffs at all, but this one has been so beautifully and lovingly restored that it was impossible not to admire it.

According to the hood ornament, it’s a Packard 8. The front end is long because it houses all eight cylinders in a line, called a straight eight. According to Wikipedia, Packard produced the Packard 8 between 1930 and 1938.

If you can add any more information, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. And thanks.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

A Sea Change: Coming Home Early

We were scheduled to return home from our world cruise on May 11, but during late March, while we were visiting Australia, I began to feel what I thought was the start of a sinus infection. The ship’s doctor said, “No, I think you have something wrong in your tooth.” He sent me to a dentist in Albany, Western Australia, who really tried to help me but finally admitted that my situation, an abscessed tooth, was more than she could deal with. “You need to see a specialist,” she told me. 

The doctor and the dentist each prescribed a different antibiotic, and the two medications soon reduced the infection enough that I was no longer in pain. But the dentist emphasized that there was no way to tell when the infection would flare up again. At that time we were about to embark on a 7-day at-sea cruise across the Indian Ocean toward Africa, during which I would have been unable to get off the ship. We therefore had to make a decision quickly, and we chose to come home to see a specialist. 

We left the ship in Perth, Australia, and, after two horrendously long flights, arrived home on Friday evening, March 29th. We had gotten no sleep overnight and therefore slept most of Saturday morning. When I called the dentist’s office on Saturday afternoon to see about getting an appointment, I was surprised to get a recording informing me that the office closes at noon on Saturdays; it never occurred to me that a dentist’s office wouldn’t be open all day Saturday.

Yesterday (Monday) morning I got in to see the dentist, and that tooth has now been gone for a little over 24 hours. (Recovery will involve a lot of time sitting around reading.) We had been scheduled for a 3-day, 2-night wildlife excursion in South Africa, which I’m sad about missing. An African safari is still on my bucket list, so that will have to be the basis for a future journey. 

If I had to have some medical condition, an abscessed tooth was probably a relatively good thing to have. Last year we had 7 or 8 broken legs on the world cruise. I’m glad I didn’t have to negotiate the long flights home while in a wheelchair.

Life lesson learned: Always purchase trip insurance.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Punta del Este, Uruguay

Today we got a glimpse at how the other 2% lives. Punta del Este is a glamorous seaside resort often compared to St. Tropez. From its origin as a fishing village, the area has grown into the site of high-rise hotels and apartment buildings, and of luxurious mansions overlooking miles of sandy beaches, gardens, and groves of pine, eucalyptus, and acacia trees.

beach at Punta del Este

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

The area draws the rich and famous for 2 months of the year. The other 10 months, according to our guide, the place is like a ghost town. The year-round population of the town is 10,000, but during the summer that number soars to half a million.

The area is also an art lover’s dream, with many galleries and museums. One example is Casapueblo, the gleaming white building built over a period of 30 years by Uruguayan sculptor and painter Carlos Páez Vilaró. The building is now a museum.

Casapueblo

Perhaps the most famous icon of Punta del Este is La Mano (The Hand) sculpture on a beach by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal.

sculpture The Hand

Another iconic sight of in southern Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina is people drinking mate (pronounced MAH-tey), a kind of tea that is prepared and served in a special cup.

cup for preparing mate

You put sugar and mate leaves in the cup, then fill the cup with boiling water. The flat metal piece protruding from the cup functions like a straw—is has holes in the bottom to draw liquid from the bottom of the cup—through which you sip the mate. In both Uruguay and Argentina our guides told us that people carry a thermos of mate around with them all the time to refill the cup. They sip mate all the time, like this woman who visited Casapueblo at the same time we did:

Our guides also emphasized that mate is as much a social ritual as it is a beverage. When people invite others to have some mate, they’re really inviting their friends to sit around and visit while simultaneously sipping mate.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown