#104 ~ One Can Make A Difference

September 30, 2008 at 11:08 am | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 6 Comments
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One Can Make a Difference: How Simple Actions Can Change the World edited by Ingrid E. Newkirk

Dedication

I am dedicating this review to Natasha at Maw Books Blog.  Reading this book was rewarding and inspirational to me, especially as it coincided with her Reading and Blogging for Darfur project.  The story of the people of Darfur touched her heart so much through book and film that she dedicated the entire month of September to raise awareness and donations.  She may not be a world-wide spiritual leader, a politician, a rock-star, a fashion designer, a movie star, a celebrated athlete, or a movie director, but she is a hero to me.  She used the medium she had at her disposal and dove in head first to help people she’s never met.  Her efforts this month truly embody the spirit of this book.  Natasha, this world is richer place because of you.

For every comment left here about this book review, service to others, or other related topics, I will donate 25 cents to Natasha’s efforts.

Review

I was leery about accepting a copy of One Can Make A Difference, edited by Ingrid E. Newkirk, the co-founder of PETA.  I remember very clearly the first time I received PETA literature in high school and it completely freaked me out.  While I don’t agree with harming animals unnecessarily, I don’t agree with making people unwittingly look at mutilated bunnies just because they open up an envelope, either.  That was the first and last piece of mail and, later down the road, email that I opened from that organization.  Lauren at Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc. convinced me that this would be a good book and I’m glad that I followed her advice.  One Can Make A Difference provides a great look at ways in people turn their passions into service.

This book starts with something as simple as learning to be comfortable in your own skin in order to serve as an example to others and ends with developing long term solutions for housing Native Americans.  There are so many other interesting ideas brought forth within this book.  I can’t say that they all spoke to me, but the key is to find something that sparks a passion in your heart.  From there will come your inspiration to change the world, even if that world is just one person.  I enjoyed the stories written by people whose service to others is well know, such as The Dalai Lama and Paul McCartney and by those who fly under my radar, such as Sean Austen, Oliver Stone, and Kevin Bacon. Best of all, not everyone featured was a celebrity.  I got to meet Dana Hork and Anita Smith.

This book is structured such that each individual’s story opens with some brief biographical information about that person and his or her road to service.  As much as I enjoyed the individual stories, I appreciated the biographical information equally.  For example, I would have been completely lost in the very first story about Barbara (Bobbie) Adams.  She is the woman who wore her Star Trek uniform to jury duty in Little Rock, AR.  Without that information, I couldn’t have brought this woman to mind.  While it may be easy to brush her off as a Trekkie, I was really inspired by her story.  Her ideals may not be mine, but her strength of character and dedication to her convictions is both inspirational and admirable.  I also found it nice that this book was organized in alphabetical order by the individual’s last name.  Doing so put the emphasis on what the person was trying to accomplish, not who the individual is.  Finally, there is source and, when appropriate, contact information for each of the individuals.

This will most definitely be my graduation gift from this point forward.  Living a life of service, however one may find it – in a career, during one’s spare time, through one’s charitable giving, or as a result of one’s interests and passion – is one’s most important legacy.  Reading this book is to discover how each person can honestly and creatively make a difference.

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To buy this book, click here.

#95 ~ Pattern Recognition

August 23, 2008 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, My Life with Books, Reading | 2 Comments
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Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

I had never heard of William Gibson or the novel Pattern Recognition until it arrived on my front porch back in June, a gift from my good friend, Mark. What I found was an interesting novel that truly did stretch and challenge me as a reader. In fact, I will have to read this novel again because I was unable to grasp all that was being done.

Pattern Recognition tells the story or Cayce (pronounced Casey) Pollard, a woman highly in tune with up and coming trends. She, more than anyone else, sees patterns in dress, attitudes and interests on the streets. This awareness makes her opinions sought after by marketing departments developing new logos. She earns a very comfortable living providing these services and travels extensively. As a result of being so attuned to what will be cool or perhaps because of it, Cayce cannot stand being around logos and other corporate symbols. She does not wear brand named clothing. She considers it an allergy. Because of her phobia, I will never again look at the Michelin Man in the same way after reading this book.

For someone on the cutting edge of cool, Cayce is introverted and her hobby borders on geeky. Outside of her work her passion is to hang out on a board discussing clips of a movie that mysteriously and randomly appear on the Internet. With each new piece of footage that is discovered, the boards become increasingly active with theoretical discussions about the footage. Is it a completed piece? In what order are the clips being released. Is it or will it be a movie at all? Cayce’s best friend on her favorite board, f:f:f, is Parkaboy. He is very opinionated when it comes to the footage and is known to get into heated discussions with other members. This level of dedication and interest over clips reminds me quite a bit of those people I know who are obsessed with Star Trek, The X-Files, and other science fiction/paranormal favorites. In that way, Cayce strikes me as a hero for the everyday nerd. She dictates cool for the outside world while making her home among those who don’t follow the trends.

Much of the detail in this novel went straight over my head. There were large stretches where I felt that significant things were happening, but I missed them entirely. Reading those sections over again did not change that. Even as I finished the novel the pieces weren’t fitting together for me. There were also important themes, such as the antique calculators, that I really didn’t understand. For this reason, I will need to reread this novel. I want to find the patterns in the novel that I missed.

Despite feeling lost at times and not comprehending all that was happening, I enjoyed reading Pattern Recognition. I very much enjoyed getting to know Cayce and follow her along on her adventures and her trek to find out more about the footage. She goes from London to Paris to Moscow and in the midst of these big cities, she even sneaks in a reference to Roanoke, Virginia. What I was left with most of all, were interesting ideas that I continue to think about. What would life be like if I were allergic to or had a phobia of logos, mascots, and other visual forms of marketing? What does globalization mean? What importance does corporate marketing have in my life? I like to think I’m somewhat immune to all of the advertising I see on a daily basis, but am I really?

A novel that makes you ask questions and think about the larger issues in society. Somehow, I’m not surprised at all that this is one of Mark’s favorite books. We are going to have quite a bit to discuss the next time we’re together.

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To buy this book, click here.

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This is my inaugural review in my new Expand Your Horizons Reading Challenge. Click here for more information on how this started and how you can participate.

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William Gibson won the 2004 Mary Shelley Award for Outstanding Fictional Work for Pattern Recognition. As such, this is my first review for the Book Awards Challenge II.

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