Monday, 19 May 2008

Weekly Geeks #4

So, here we are, week 4. Dewey's plan for this week: This week’s theme: Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to books you’ve read, just books you might like to read. Using images (of the book covers or whatever you feel illustrates your topic) present these books in your blog.

I've given this alot of thought, and I've decided I don't want to get on my many bandwagons. I have a lot of opinions, some of which I have aired here over the past months; the main thing is, I join what I believe in. I was a member of Greenpeace for years, I was an anti-nuclear war activist, I joined the Western Wilderness Committee (protecting the virgin rain forests of BC), World Wild Life, I've marched on Parliament Hill in support of Aboriginal rights, I've practiced recycling, reducing and reusing since before it was cool, and I try to eat foods grown in my area when possible. You get the idea, I try to do what I believe in. All this to say, I discovered that I don't own many books about nuclear war, the environment, etc, partly because of my many moves, partly because I didn't buy many so much as act. So I thought about Dewey's proposition for this week, and I realized I didn't want to try to convince anyone of why I believe what I do. I think Dewey wants us to show what we care about through books. So, I've decided to present four books I own, that are about different things that I care about. Two of which I've read cover to cover, one I've dipped into, and one I have to still read:

1. The Whale Watcher's Handbook - Erich Hoyt. (sorry, there is no picture on Amazon or on Library Thing!)
2. The World's Whales - The Complete Illustrated Guide - Stanley Minasian, Kenneth Balcomb III, Larry Foster

The first two books are from my early twenties. That is when I was joining Greenpeace because of the whales. I have always loved whales, and when I lived on our sailboat in the mid-1970's, my sister and I were privileged to have a gray whale slide by our boat while in California. We arrived there in the middle of Whale week, where they had films, and library displays, and boat rides (which we didn't go on!). This was my introduction to whales, and I was 13 years old. We never saw another one on the boat. We did however almost constantly have porpoises and dolphins swimming with our boat, especially when we were sailing, and one of my first poems I ever wrote was about the dolphins! When I discovered that dolphins were being killed by the tuna fishnets, I didn't eat tuna for many, many years, and even now, I struggle to eat it. I know they have dolphin-friendly nets, but I know other sealife get caught, and I despair over the right thing to do. Uh-oh, sorry, I did not want this to get depressing!
Anyway, the first book is about whale-watching - where to go, in the world, although I bought it because it was marketed for Canada. Then, in 1984, whale watching wasn't the enormous business it is now. This book provides coastal beaches and lookouts, tours back then, illustrations and photos. I'm sure this book has been updated by now, but since I don't live by the ocean I won't update it yet!

Oh- and you know what? The whales come when they want to. I say this because one day in early spring, while I lived out west in Nanaimo BC - 1984-1985, my then boyfriend and I went for a drive to the west side of Vancouver Island, to Tofino. While at the beach, a whale jumped out of the water!! A gray whale, beginning its migration south, had stopped in the bay. The beach was deserted, and my boyfriend missed it, but I watched that whale jump and it was beautiful.
The second book was a gift for my 21st birthday from my mother, who thought I should have a special book to celebrate. This is my ultimate resource book, one I have turned to many times for the pictures, for descriptions and habits.

I have owned other books on whales, but when I was paring down in 2000 in preparation for moving to England, I found I couldn't part with these two.

3.The Simple Living Guide - Janet Luhrs
This is billed as 'A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living'. It came out in 1997. I got this from a friend who was part of the living more simpling movement (before it caught on). When I want to de-stress, or look at simpler ways to celebrate things - or to reassure myself that I am not crazy because I don't need to change my wardrobe every season! and buy the newest tvs and dvd players etc just because they are new - this is the book I turn to. It is relaxing to read, and comforting. We can live with less, but we don't have to do without. We just have to learn to invest better in quality that will last. For instance, for those of us who are parents, this book talks about the decision to enroll our children in lessons for everything vs free time. Well, in case you haven't guessed, my eldest got enrolled in swimming lessons, and joined scouts, and that was it. The rest of the time was for him to play with his friends, do homework, and our time. My youngest children are being raised the same way; I believe in free unstructured time, because I think play is so important in growing up. I don't want my kids to feel more stressed than they need to. That will come soon enough, as they grow older. This book is filled with ways to celebrate holidays, work, money, time, families, all from the perspective of living more simply so we have time to do what we enjoy. One of my favourite books to ground myself in.

4. Faster - James Gleick. I haven't read this book yet. It's on my TBR pile. It is about the acceleration of modern day life, our obsession with speed and making things go faster - and yes, I am someone who pushes that elevator door when it doesn't close fast enough!! I think this is a character flaw, though! I will always find them slow......Again, it looks fascinating. This is what Publisher's Weekly on Amazon had to say: 'From Publishers Weekly
Technological advances in time measurement and time-saving devices have been fueled by the ever-quickening pace of our lives. Or is it the other way around? Gleick, twice nominated for the National Book Award (for Chaos: Making a New Science and Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman), offers a refreshingly contrarian view of the notion of time management and of the instantaneity ("instant coffee, instant intimacy, instant replay, and instant gratification") of everyday life. Many of us exhibit what doctors and sociologists call "hurry sickness" - arriving, for example, at an airport gate at the last possible minute - an obsession ironically matched by endless waits on expressways and runways. "Gridlocked and Tarmacked are metonyms of our era," writes Gleick, " be stuck in place, our fastest engines idling all around us, as time passes and blood pressures rise." This paradox, and the "simultaneous fragmentation and overloading of human attention" that results, he contends, can be traced to a wide variety of everyday conveniences: microwaves and automatic dishwashers, express mail, beeper medicine, television remote control, even speed-dialing telephones ("Investing a half-hour in learning to program them is like advancing a hundred dollars to buy a year's supply of light bulbs at a penny discount"). Funny and irreverent, Gleick pinpoints the dilemma underlying many of today's technological improvements: that time-saving now comes more from "the tautening net of efficiency" than from raw speed, meaning that any snag in the system - whether a disabled airliner or one or two drivers unaccountably hitting the brake - can spread delay and confusion throughout the network. Paradoxically, too, the increasing pace and efficiency of our lives leads not to leisure and relaxation but to increased boredom: "a backwash within another mental state, the one called mania." This is a book to be studied... slowly.

Doesn't that sound interesting?

Anyway, thanks to Dewey, because I've revisited two of my favourite books on whales doing this and relived some happy memories :-)

By the way, one book that I do recommend (that I don't currently own) is Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, the classic book in environmentalism that started the general realization that what we put into the environment affects everything. This is the book that was a revelation for me, because I didn't really know about DDT and Agent Orange; the effects these have had on the natural world and for Agent Orange, still being felt in the military here in Canada, were astounding. I am still surprised when I meet people who don't understand that if we spray crops, where does the spray end up? In our food, and so eventually, in us. Same with mercury, and so many other toxins in our environment. Bug sprays around the house - poison to everything, not just ants and flies. I still live by this philosophy. I've never read this book all the way through, but I think it's time I got myself a copy again. I'd like to see how far we've come, and look to see how far we still have to go. Oops, there I go again. And I think, as the aboriginal people say, we are responsible for how we leave the earth to our children. What we do affects our children to the 7th generation from now. Anyway, I wanted to show what I care about, not preach, so I'll just go out and put my natural fertilizer around my rose and marigolds around the garden to stop the slugs......

Tomorrow is my birthday, so I am going to stop and - can't smell the roses, too early in the year - talk a long walk among the green trees and see what birds have arrived now that spring has finally arrived. Happy reading, everyone! Tomorrow I get to open all those lovely books I've bought for my husband and children to give me, too!!!


Bybee said...

Happy happy birthday! Can you post pictures of your birthday book haul?

Nymeth said...

All of those do sound very interesting. Thanks for another great post, Susan.

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope you had a great day and got lots of books!

Andi said...

One of my favorite slow moments was whale watching off the coast of San Francisco - the most wonderful experience I've ever had in nature - so thanks for this post. And Happy Birthday.

Heather Johnson said...

Your comment about Silent Spring reminded me about Marla Cone's book, Silent Snow. If you haven't read it, you should. It's a fantastic look at the way pollution ends of in the ocean and is concentrated in the polar regions. It's a real eye-opener!

Susan said...

bybee: your wish is my command (as you know now on my next post!) :-)

nymeth: I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. I found it difficult to know what to write, because I didn't want to start shouting what I believe, which I think is a personal choice anyway. It will interesting to see how many people do this one. I'd better check your blog and see! lol

andi: I'm so glad my whale books reminded you! Aren't they amazing mammals? I always get a lump in my throat when I hear the humpbacks you know which is my favourite Star Trek movie, too!

heather: welcome! and I will check out Silent Snow. It sounds most interesting. thanks for the book tip.

thanks all for the birthday wishes!