Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Inkblots by Damion Searls (a brief review)

For those who love a good biography, here's another one. It is well-researched and well-written by a very accomplished writer and translator, Damion Searls. The book is not only a comprehensive portrait of Hermann Rorschach, but a history of a slice of culture as well with a focus on Rorschach's inkblot tests. This is a compelling read and I expect it could also become a compelling movie if taken on by Hollywood. The subject matter is rich and the writing is rich. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Gatekeepers by Chris Whipple

The Gatekeepers is a timely book, for sure.  If you enjoy following politics, this is a must-have book.  I've always been intrigued with the role of chiefs of staff simply because of their proximity to the most powerful man in the world (or what used to be the most powerful man in the world), their influence on him, and the day to day abuse they endure from all sides.  Chris Whipple's research and writing are compelling and this book is captivating.  I highly recommend it for policy wonks as well as those with general interest in politics - and everyone in between.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Unbelievable by Katy Tur


Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History

by Katy Tur

You won't believe how it ends!

This was a good book to read to basically go back and re-live the presidential campaign from a "road warrior" point of view.  It's been just under a year since some Americans voted Trump into office.  I was hoping Trump would have quit by now.  After the shock of election night, I gave him four months.  There's no way he'd last any longer.  I'm still waiting.

I read the ebook version of this one.  There were two word choice errors that I found - use of "pore" rather than "pour" and I can't even remember the other one, it was so benign. 

Tur's writing style is easy to read and comprehend but I do wish she'd have kept the political stuff in chronological order instead of jumping back and forth to election night.  That jumping back and forth seemed more like a writing gimmick than a necessity for the sake of the narrative.

I was able to recognize most of the public situations covered in the book because I've basically been an NBC/MSNBC junkie for the past year and a half or so.  I'm one of those people who - if I ever run into Katy Tur, I would expect her to know who I am - as if she could see me through the television watching all of her (and her colleagues) coverage.

If you follow MSNBC or NBC news outlets and/or followed Katy Tur's reporting during the campaign, you'll probably enjoy this memoir of such a short time ago.  If you've never heard of Katy Tur (where have you been??) but like politics and current events, I recommend this book.  For me, it was a windup for "What Happened" by Hillary Clinton.

Buy it here:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


I'd seen Ron Fournier on a few different news shows that weren't promotional spots for him but they did mention this book so I was curious.  I'm glad I followed through.  LOVE THAT BOY is a thought provoking family story whereby the autistic son teaches the father.  It is a joy to read - honestly whether you're a parent or not.  I think ANY parent should read this book and most non-parents should as well.  It's a book about humanity and growth.  You'll want to read it again.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Protest picket line in Tuscaloosa where Senator Richard Shelby's office is located.

February 24, 2017.  The second of weekly protests until Alabama's Senator Shelby holds a town hall meeting for his constituents instead of only meeting with his business friend donors.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Understanding Exposure - A Review

I started taking photographs 40 years ago and while I am not a professional photographer, I did sell a few shots and I had a month-long exhibit at one point. I didn't make the transition to digital photography so I quit shooting for over a decade. When I finally began shooting digital photography last year, I decided to actually re-learn what I was doing. I took a comprehensive photography course for the first time in my life. It was my good fortune to get a review copy of Bryan Peterson's book during the time I was learning about photography in the classroom setting. Being able to read his book during that time truly enhanced my photography education.

Bryan Peterson's conversational writing style invites the reader to learn without struggling. This is the fourth edition of this volume and with this edition comes all new photographs. Peterson has also added a section on flash photography, adding even more value to the book. Each section has suggestions for exercises to do so you get experience with the concepts Peterson is illuminating. Even though I was taking a photography course at the time, I found the exercises in this book to be quite helpful in reinforcing what I was learning through the text as well as in class.

I like this book so much that when I was taking notes, either for writing reviews or for my own personal education, instead of underlining or highlighting on the pages, I actually took photographs of the passages I wanted to highlight. I didn't want to mark up the book at all. I highly recommend this volume for any photographer who is learning or re-learning your art, and I thank the author and publisher for the free review copy.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

He Wanted the Moon – A Review

He Wanted the Moon – The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird and His Daughter's Quest to Know Him

by Mimi Baird with Eve Claxton

In this unforgettable book, Mimi Baird finds her father through personal and professional writings, and later a few key interviews, and shares him with us. This book is part biography and part autobiography. It is an intimate look at a life of manic and depressive swings in a brilliant physician living in an age of arcane mental health practices.

This book is disturbing, heartbreaking, and educational. It is important. It is about a woman looking for a connection with her estranged father and finally finding it through his handwritten manuscript for a book about mental illness and treatment.

The first half of He Wanted the Moon is dedicated to the manuscript of Dr. Baird, himself (with some prudent editing by Mimi Baird and Eve Claxton as noted in the author's note at the beginning). It is a fascinating look at manic depressive psychosis (now called bipolar disease) through the eyes of the patient, who also happens to be a world-renown physician who was on the cusp of a medical breakthrough for his own disease. We learn a great deal from Dr. Baird's narrative – how he felt, what he was thinking, how he was treated by friends and family, and the common treatments for mental illness at the time.

In 1944, there were no pharmaceutical treatments available to treat manic depressive psychosis. And during the manic stages of the disease, barbaric treatments such as straight jackets, insulin-induced comas, among other means, were the norm for controlling the patients until they became more stable. Dr. Baird described one such barbaric treatment, the cold pack, in such vivid detail that I could feel my own anxiety level rise as I imagined being trapped in the pack. My calf muscles twitched in protest on behalf of Dr. Baird.

In the late 1940's, 55% of all hospital beds were occupied by psychiatric patients. With patients, families, and doctors desperate for hope, the lobotomy was introduced as the cure. Over the years, roughly 50,000 Americans had the brain surgery that in most cases left the patient brain damaged and unable to care for themselves. Dr. Baird had his emotions-severing lobotomy in 1949.

The other half of the book deals with Mimi Baird's decision to find out what happened to her father when she was just a young girl and her attempts to learn about the man who mysteriously vanished from her young life and essentially never came back.

Her mother, who divorced her father in 1944 and quickly remarried, was unwilling to discuss the matter of Mimi Baird's father with her so there was a decades-long void in her life. Years later, it was a serendipitous conversation with an aging physician who had known Dr. Baird that opened the door for Mimi Baird to begin peeking into his life in earnest.

Anyone interested in history, medical history, mental health history, or virtually any subject in the realm of social sciences, should definitely read this book. I would also recommend it to anyone with a friend or family member with mental illness. Whether we realize it or not, we probably all know someone with bipolar disorder (manic depressive psychosis).

At the risk of sounding cliche, I was going to say this book needs to be adapted for the screen. And then I remembered that I'd read there is a film in the making. I look forward to being that person who says, “the book was so much better than the movie.”

I wish to thank the author and publisher for the advance reader's copy of He Wanted the Moon.