We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.
– – Louis Brandeis (former U.S. Supreme Court justice)
The above quote serves as a preface to Dark Money. They are powerful words and carry a lot of truth, I think.
This book looks at a group of ultra rich in the U.S. who have banded together, backed by vast sums of money, to shift public opinion and the political system to the extreme right. Their ideology is a highly individualistic, anti-government, libertarian one, which, not coincidentally, just happens to benefit them (ie. the wealthy and powerful).
They favour, for example, a lowering of taxes (but with plenty of loopholes for the rich, how fair is that?), a slashing of social security and the axing of many government regulations. And, since there is plenty of oil money involved, this group denies even the existence of climate change, and is—you guessed it—vehemently opposed to doing anything about it.
The book centres on the Koch brothers, Charles and David, who are worth $41.6 billion each. The mind just boggles at that figure. How can any one individual have that kind of money? And think of the “influence” the Koch brothers can buy. Personally I believe no individual should be allowed so much money—and the power that goes along with it. It is simply contrary to society’s best interests.
Dark Money is a meticulously researched, thoroughly documented book. It is certainly dense and heavy going, and I have to admit I only read parts of it. But it raises some tough questions about what democracy really means, something we all might want to think about.
– – Penny D.
Who knows what it is about a man that intrigues you? Sometimes it can be a sense of humour, or the way his hair falls across his forehead or the quick way his mind works to come up with answers. Most likely it is a combination of traits and characteristics and features. It was that heady mix of qualities that drew Diane Schoemperlen to Shane, the Friday dishwasher at the Saint Vincent de Paul free hot meal program in Kingston in 2005. Diane, an accomplished author, began volunteering in the kitchen as a way to distract herself from both a broken heart and, more tragically, writer’s block. Shane, was a convicted murderer on an Escorted Pass.
Their relationship, spanning several years, blossomed under the stony gazes of the prison guards at Kingston Penitentiary where Diane would go to visit Shane twice weekly. Almost immediately problems arose as Shane had little experience with being part of a healthy relationship and Diane faced numerous challenges in acquainting herself with the machinations of the Canadian penal system and being the love interest of a convict.
This is a fascinating look at a relationship gone awry.
– – Christine B.
So time to dream about and plan for summer vacations and outings. I’ve just checked out the book 100 Nature Hot Spots in Ontario by Chris Earley and Tracy C. Read and it’s jam packed with lots of cool places to visit.
I’m a nature fan, I think we should all be nature fans. It’s so beneficial—and healing, too — to take time out of our busy, stressful lives to immerse ourselves in nature. And we do our kids a huge favour when we introduce them to nature.
Some of the places listed in the book are favourites of mine. For instance, I love the Guelph arboretum. And there is something magical about Point Pelee, that long, long spit of land that narrows to a point. I’ve always wanted to visit Pelee Island as well, but haven’t made it yet (I’ll put in on a bucket list). Or a visit to the waterfalls in the Hamilton area (Felker’s Falls and Devil’s Punchbowl are listed in the book) makes for a great day’s outing. BTW, did you know there are about 100 waterfalls in the Hamilton area–amazing! I’ve also got a soft spot for the beaches of Prince Edward County (Sandbanks and Presqu’ile) as I grew up nearby.
But a couple of personal favourites didn’t make the cut. Like the Thousand Islands, a place that I absolutely love. And also Petroglyphs Provincial Park (near Peterborough) which has over 900 petroglyphs (First Nations rock carvings)–turtles, snakes, birds, humans and more. It is truly wondrous. (There is another Ontario site for petroglyphs that is listed in the book, though it has a much smaller number of them. That’s Bon Echo Provincial Park in eastern Ontario. I have seen those as well, they are well worth a look.)
So go ahead and have a look at this book. Then start planning some fun outings.
– – Penny D.
I can’t walk past our signs about Book Lover’s BINGO without thinking about Annette Funicello which tells you how old I am or tells you that I am thinking about the summer and going to the beach… I’m not sure which is a better story but I am excited about our WPL BINGO.
The last time we ran Book Lover’s BINGO I had the good fortune of being at the Circulation desk when one of our customers came to pick up their prize. It was exciting – as giving out prizes always is – and then I had a chat with the customer about the books we were reading and she gave me a great idea for filling in one of my own BINGO squares; the one about a book with a colour in the title. I picked a wonderful junior novel which was jam-packed with pirates, time travel and suspense called The Golden Specific.
You see, I sometimes have a hot and cold feeling for Book Lover’s BINGO. I do love to read and to talk about books with our customers but some of those categories are harder than others and working on the BINGO along with customers is not always pain free. Last year I found it tricky to go and find a book that everyone else has read but me. I felt a little bit ridiculous looking at the books that other people were reading around town. In the end, I just kept a careful watch of what was coming back in the returns bin and chose something that looked wonderful and read that. I chose Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and it was a perfect choice as I had some time on my hands that week and didn’t mind a longer book. It was worth every page though.
Then I moved on to the BINGO square for reading books from the year I was born. That was a quick way to feel old fast. Although, looking at the weekly lists from the New York Times was a nice snapshot of publishing history and an interesting exercise to see which of the books have remained popular. I ended up re-reading one of Robertson Davies’ books from my birth year because you can never go wrong reading something written by that bearded genius. The square that is named “book I’ve been meaning to read” just made me feel guilty because everyone has a long list of things that they’ve been meaning to do. A book that was recommended by someone was not hard at all because WPL customers often make suggestions as they drop off their books and happily share ideas. In fact, not too long ago a customer told me about a cheerful book based on the movie Roman Holiday with the main character remaking Audrey Hepburn’s iconic role. So, I’m already ahead on that one for this year. It was so much fun to read. In fact, I gift it to you if you need a that square. It might make you want to travel to Rome though or eat a lot of pastries.
So I guess I really am a fan of Book Lover’s BINGO. Former OBOC winner? Done. Terry Fallis; the guy is always funny. WPL Featured Title? I can’t stop myself from reading those. And audiobooks? Well, they are so convenient and customers tell us all the time that they use them for long drives or listen while they walk their dogs. You really can’t go wrong with an audiobook. Then we have the “books are being adapted into movies” so often it’s like we are tripping over them so that is a very simple square to fill in. Just look at the last list of Oscar contenders for a wonderful selection. I think my cozy mystery habit definitely qualifies as a “guilty pleasure”. Joanne Fluke has a new one out so it could be my “book published this year” or my “guilty pleasure” or, because I just told you about it, it could be your “recommended read from someone”. You can come to the desk here at the library and ask for help with any of your BINGO squares and we can give you wonderful suggestions. We love to talk about books and many other things, even Annette Funicello. It’s okay if you need to go and look that up. I don’t mind.
— Penny M.
I re-read and re-watch things all the time. This is, I know, a shocking waste of time when you think of the new items that arrive at the library every week. I really should be filling my time with new and exciting stories instead of going back over old ones but “I can’t help myself” which is a line that Greg Kinnear says to Meg Ryan in the movie You’ve got mail. It’s a movie that I’ve watched so many times that even the minor conversations are mapped out in my head and I return to it and others whenever the mood strikes me. It’s the same with re-reading favourite books. If I hear an author on the radio, like a recent interview that Muriel Barbery did on the CBC, then I can put The elegance of the hedgehog on hold to read it again so that I can feel myself comfortably back in the world of Paloma, the concierge, and the glamour of a Paris apartment building. If someone mentions Pride and Prejudice in conversation then I can walk over to the shelves and check it out before I leave work for the day. It’s not that I don’t read new books at all; I feel the pull of the bright and shiny NEW stickers but there is something about re-reading or re-watching that I love.
With re-watching I don’t even have to sit down and re-watch; I can play a movie or tv series while I do the chores in the kitchen and poof, it’s like I’m playing a 1940s radio drama while I sort the laundry or file papers. My father used to talk about listening to Amos ‘n’ Andy or Fibber McGee when he was young (it’s possible he might have called me ‘Fibber McGee’ when I was trying to talk my way out of something) and I can turn anything familiar into a radio play by just turning up the volume and hearing those voices tell me their story. Especially with a particularly well written drama like one by Aaron Sorkin or Nora Ephron. I feel like they are responsible for every great line on screen that I remember. If it’s not You’ve got mail I’ll usually choose When Harry met Sally. There is really nothing like watching someone be wooed while singing music from Oklahoma. Rogers and Hammerstein music is quintessentially romantic. Everyone knows this.
Unless we are talking to someone who prefers… the clever lyrics and catchy music of Gilbert and Sullivan. That would be Aaron Sorkin. If you type his name into our catalogue you will be watching the screen for hours and hours to catch up on all that he has written or produced. To see references to the work of Gilbert and Sullivan you must watch The West Wing (season six is a sure bet for some great moments). This late 1990s-early 2000s drama follows fictional American president Josiah Bartlett (played by Martin Sheen) and his staff (an incredible ensemble cast) through some of the most fantastic storylines based on their interpersonal relationships and the fascinating behind-the-scenes world of the White House. It lasted seven seasons with Sorkin as the head writer on most of the first four and had multiple Golden Globe and Emmy awards for the entire run. It’s a dream-come-true show that makes for great watching or re-watching and we have multiple copies of it on DVD here at the library. If you feel like you have reached your limit on West Wing watching then I have splendid news for you because cast member Josh Malina recently began a podcast where he is sharing an episode-by-episode discussion of the show with excellent trivia, unique insight and special guests! Here is a link to that website: http://thewestwingweekly.com
I’d like to think that I’ll stop this habit of re-reading and re-watching but thinking about The West Wing makes me think about the film that Sorkin wrote just before The West Wing began production. It was directed by Rob Reiner with his singular approach to humour and starred Michael Douglas as an American president who is falling in love with Annette Bening’s character. It’s called The American President and shares many of the same qualities as The West Wing and I just love it. Michael J. Fox is sensational in this movie and so very funny. We have more than one copy of The American President here at WPL. I think I’ll go see if there is one on the shelf.
– – Penny M.