Tag #52: Disney Song Book Tag

The Book Nut is awesome!

Here’s the link to their original post:


Part of Your World – What book world would you change yourself for so you could be a part of that world? 

 Harry Potter. I like to think that Hermione would be my best friend.



Let It Go – What book did you not want to finish because you loved it so much?

 Wow. This is a hard one! I think it was either The Notebook or Nights in Rodanthe, from Nicholas Sparks.

Beauty and the Beast – What book do you think is/will be timeless? 

Since I already answered Harry Potter, my next answer would be The Hunger Games.

So This is Love – What book were you hesitant to read at first but ended up loving?

Probably Divergent. I was skeptical at first, but I really enjoyed it.

Friend Like Me – Which character would you like to be your best friend?

Hermione Granger.

Reflection – What book really made you think/changed the way you viewed things?

I have to agree with The Book Nut here – Looking for Alaska by John Green. It was assigned reading for my Young Adult Literature class during my last semester of college, and it changed me. I’ve adored Green and his books ever since.

Colors of the Wind – Who do you tag?

I tag anyone!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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Tag #51: Book Blogger Test Tag

Image Credit

Image Credit: Early Bookish Birds

I was looking for some ideas for a few books tags, and I found The Book Nut. They’ve done so many!

Here’s the link to their original post:


The Rules:

You must answer all of these questions truthfully and once you’ve completed this tag, tag 5 other book bloggers to answer the questions next.


What are your top three book pet hates?
Coverage changes, broken spines, and missing dust jackets.

Describe your perfect reading spot.
A comfortable chair or chaise lounge on a screened porch.

Tell us three book confessions.
I have more unread than read books on my shelf, I love organizing my books by author and publication year, and I’ve never read more than one book at a time.

When was the last time you cried at a book?
Prez: A Story of Love.

How many books are on your bedside table?
Ten. I need to put the six read ones back on my bookshelf.

What is your favorite snack whist you’re reading?
Nothing.

Name three books you’d recommend to everyone.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Show us a picture of your favorite shelf on your bookcase.
I don’t have a current picture, but I love my John Grisham shelf.

Write how much books mean to you in 3 words.
Reading is relaxing.

What’s your biggest reading secret?
I haven’t read many of Jane Austen’s works.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #26: North Korea

North Korea Quote

Image Credit: Wilson Center

Unless you’ve been living under the rock, it feels like North Korea has been in the news every single day.

I wanted to use this post to walk through several things: A brief history, news articles and documentaries, China’s concerns. and what the media is NOT reporting.


North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.

Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan in 1910. At the end of World War II, Korea was divided into two zones. The north was occupied by the Soviet Union, and the south was occupied by the United States. Attempts at reunification failed. In 1948, separate governments were formed – The socialist Democratic People’s Reublic of Korea to the north, and the capitalist Republic of Korea to the south. An invasion by the north led to the Korean War, from 1950-1953. The Korean Armistice Agreement brought a ceasefire, but no peace treaty.

The North Korean army is the fourth largest in the world. With 1.21 million active duty personnel, it is only behind China, the United States, and India. Its population is estimated, in 2016 numbers, to be over 25 million people. The country shares land borders with China and Russia.

The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a strip of land, 160 miles long and about 2.5 miles wide. It separates the two countries. It was established in 1953 by an agreement between North Korea, China, and the United Nations.

The country functions as a highly centralized, one-party state. They are governed by the Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System. The Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) dominates all North Korean politics, and has an estimated three million members.

Kim Jong-un is the current Supreme Leader, or Suryeong, of Korea. He is part of the Kim dynasty, which has ruled North Korea since 1948.


Aside from general media coverage, there have been several interesting documentaries made about North Korea.

Al and I watched The Propaganda Game several years ago. I think we watched it through Netflix. It was incredibly compelling, eye-opening, and frustrating. I was so angry after we watched it.

In addition, multiple movies have featured North Korea, including The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Die Another Day (2002), Stealth (2005), Salt (2010), Red Dawn (2012), The Interview (2014), and Northern Limit Line (2015).


Over the years, concerns have arisen regarding the Kim dynasty, their treatment of their citizens, and nuclear weapons.

More recently, although North Korea has announced their intent to fully denuclearize, there are significant concerns from the Chinese government. North Korea has been blowing up and destroying some of their nuclear weapon facilities, and China has been very concerned about the radiation dust, and other environmental hazards. But, of course, the media here in the United States isn’t talking about that. But, they should be.

There’s a lot about China and North Korea that hasn’t been reported in the United States. It’s infuriating, really. I learned about investigative journalism early on in my education at Longwood. But, the current reporting has a certain strategy and angle. Not that any of that is an excuse. It’s crappy reporting, crappy journalism. I also believe there is a culture of fear now. Especially since Donald Trump is the President of the United States.


For more information, check out the links below. As always, I try to gather my news sources from a variety of United States and international news organizations.

 


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #74: The “New Science of Psychedelics”

The New Science of Psychedelics

Image Credit: NPR

Many of you know that I enjoy listening to podcasts. One that I listen to regularly is NPR’s Fresh Air podcast.

This week, Terry Gross interviewed Michael Pollan, a world-renowned author. His books have typically focused on food and agriculture.

However, his new book, titled How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, discusses the history of psychedelics, and the “new” uses of them to help treat anxiety, depression, and helping cancer patients face their mortality.

There have been two phases of clinical trials up until now, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved Phase III, which is “testing of drug on patients to assess efficacy, effectiveness and safety.”

In researching for the book, Pollan himself became a “reluctant psychonaut” with LSD and psilocybin (magic mushroom) to see if these effects were real.

I won’t tell you Pollan’s results, but it’s a really interesting process. I recommend listening to the podcast version of the show, as it’s an extended edition, where Pollan and Gross discuss the history of psychedelics, which is so fascinating to learn. It’s amazing to learn how LSD was first synthesized, and how it has had a turbulent history. Pollan also discusses psilocybin to an extent, which is another interesting part of the story.

For me, I was definitely more than a little skeptical. I’ve never used any drugs or psychedelics in my life. I’ve seen counselors and therapists.

However, Pollan lessened my skepticism a bit during his interview with Gross. One of his interview subjects was a woman who had survived ovarian cancer. She was absolutely terrified of it recurring, and she was paralyzed with fear. She found a guide, a therapist who administered small doses of one of these psychedelics, and helped her along her trip. She discovered this “black mass” underneath her rib cage during the trip, and originally though it was her cancer. The guide helped her understand that it wasn’t cancer, but in reality it was her fear and anxiety. During the trip, she commanded the black mass to leave her body, and it did.

When Pollan’s fact-checker called to verify her account right before the book’s publication, Pollan’s original words were something to the effect of “this black mass was significantly reduced after her experiences with psychedelics.”

The woman corrected the fact-checker over the phone and said, “No, it wasn’t ‘significantly reduced.’ It was extinguished.”

Again, some of my skepticism remains, but as someone who has a diagnosed anxiety disorder (GAD), hearing the woman’s story gave me hope. I truly believe these psychedelics helped her.


For more information, check out the following links:


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Tag #50: This or That Book Tag

I wasn’t tagged for this one, but if you’ve read the blog lately, I love doing book tags.

When I saw Jenna’s new post, the author of the lovely Bookmark Your Thoughts, come across my email, I was definitely intrigued.

Here’s the link to her post:


Reading on the bed or the couch?

At the moment, it’s my bed. I try really hard to read for at least 30 minutes every night before going to sleep. Reading is one of the only things that really relaxes me.

Male main character or female main character?

Like others, I used to be immediately drawn to female main characters.

Now, I’m finding myself seeking out more male main characters. It’s a different perspective. Plus, I tend to discover different authors this way, too.

Sweet snacks or salty snacks when you’re reading?

Neither. I don’t eat while I read.

I have enough trouble multitasking in general!

Occasionally, I have a beverage by my side, but I’m always afraid I’ll spill it.

Trilogies or quartets?

Trilogies.

However, I’m currently reading more stand-alone books, and I love the idea of duologies, too.

First person POV or third person POV?

First person.

I honestly can’t remember the last book I read with third person POV.

Reading at night or in the morning?

I read at night.

The only times that I’ve read in the morning were for, (a) Bible studies; (b) on vacation at the beach; or (c) traveling where I wasn’t the driver.

Libraries or bookstores?

Toughest. Question. Ever.

Given that I’ve drastically cut my spending habits recently, I think a library sounds amazing right now.

Books that make you laugh or cry?

It depends. I have been known to stop reading a book before finishing it, and change to a completely new one if the mood is too sad.

At the moment, I lean toward books that make me laugh.

Black book covers or white book covers?

Black covers.

White covers are easy to stain or scuff.

Character driven or plot driven?

Definitely character driven.

While I certainly appreciate a good plot, the characters make it or break it for me.


Tag – You’re It!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #73: Thoughts on “Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist”

Evil Genius

Image Credit: Rama’s Screen

It’s time for another diatribe on a Netflix original series!

If you’re interested in other Commentaries I’ve published on other Netflix original series, here are the links:


“Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist” explores the case of Brian Wells, a 46-year-old pizza delivery driver, in Erie, Pennsylvania. Wells was the unfortunate pawn who was forced to rob a PNC Bank in Erie on August 28, 2003. He had extremely detailed notes for the bank employees, demanding $250,000. He walked out with a little over $8,000.

The police spotted him standing outside his Geo Metro, in the parking lot of an Eyeglass World retail store near the bank, and placed him under arrest. As police were calling the bomb squad and assessing the situation, Wells indicated that he didn’t have much time, as a timer was beeping on the bomb.

The bomb was locked around his neck.

In this four-part series, documentary filmmakers interview almost all of the parties involved, from the local police, state police, FBI, ATF, friends of Wells, and several alleged co-conspirators.

Unfortunately, Brian Wells was not available to be interviewed.

As we started watching Part One, I looked at Al and I said that I remembered seeing the news coverage about this case. At the time, in August 2003, it was the last week or so of summer break, right before I started my freshman year of high school.

I remember the “pizza bomber” case.

The reason why Brian Wells wasn’t available to be interviewed for this documentary, 15 years later? While handcuffed, sitting on the pavement in the Eyeglass World parking lot, police could only watch as the bomb around his neck exploded.

The documentary, in the span of about four hours, dives deep into the complicated world of mental illness, and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. Once a striking woman in the town, Diehl-Armstrong was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, among other illnesses.

For years, Diehl-Armstrong professed her innocence. She vehemently denied she was involved in any bank robbery, or murder plot. She claimed she’d never met Brian Wells. She blamed Wells’ unfortunate demise on several others.

But, evidence doesn’t lie. In the middle of the Wells investigation, another party, William “Bill” Rothstein, called police and told them he found a body in the freezer, and Marjorie (or Marge, as the documentary filmmaker calls her) killed him.

Unlike Making A Murderer and The Keepers, I appreciated how concise Evil Genius was. I think dividing it into four episodes was the right choice. It was well-planned, and well-executed.

Along the way, the interviews conducted were well-done, accurate, and simply fascinating. This is one of those cases where it’s hard to delineate who is and should be involved, law enforcement wise, and how those jurisdictional arguments can hinder an investigation. It shows the need for constant communication between agencies, something that was sorely lacking in several areas with this particular case.

The series also heavily focuses on mental illness, hoarding, and narcissism. Diehl-Armstrong made me sick from the very beginning. To me, she is an evil individual, who is a true narcissist. She only cares about herself, and will place blame on someone else within seconds. She’s angry, combative, and definitely not a nice woman.

It’s sad, really. They interviewed her father, and showed photos of her when she was younger. Back then, she showed immense beauty and immense promise. She’s extremely intelligent, and that’s ultimately part of the issue. She was called a mastermind, and I believe it.

Personally, I believe Wells was an innocent victim. I believe he was simply delivering pizzas, doing his job, and was caught up in an unfortunate series of events that led to his murder that day in August 2003.

However, the documentary looks at both sides – Was Wells a true victim, or was he involved in the plot?

You decide.

At the end of the series, I felt like all my questions had been answered. The right people, I believe, were arrested and prosecuted accordingly. The law enforcement agencies have learned, at least I hope they have learned, that constant communication and cooperation is key. Justice delayed is justice denied.

I thought it was a fascinating subject to explore and discover, especially since it’s been nearly 15 years since Brian Wells was killed. I applaud the filmmakers for choosing to focus on this case, their research, their interviews, and being as unbiased as possible. It’s not easy to do, especially with a case like this, one that got more complicated and convoluted.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #72: Books That Every Reader Needs To Read

Books Everyone Should Read - Imgur

This is a consensus cloud of Books Everyone Should Read. Image Credit: Imgur

Thrice Read! You ladies are on a roll!

Here’s the link to their post:


So, without further ado, here’s my list!

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • I’ve expressed multiple times how much I love this book. I re-read it every year. It’s amazing sometimes how you fall in love with assigned reading!

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

  • This was another assigned reading book. It was incredibly powerful for me. I don’t re-read it every year, but I have read it multiple times.

The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks

  • Aside from the movie (2004) being excellent, the book is one of my all-time favorites from Sparks. It’s a classic romance, in my opinion.

The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

  • Another assigned reading book that has stuck with me. Learning Anne’s story was pivotal, as I have Jewish relatives and ancestry. Plus, I’ve been fascinated by anything related to World War II for as long as I can remember.

The Giver, Lois Lowry

  • Lowry is one of my favorite authors. This book initially scared me, and gave me nightmares, so it was left unfinished for years. I think I finally got through it for the first time in college. It’s a powerful book. Plus, the movie adaptation (2014) is decent, too.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

  • I don’t think I will ever not mention Harry Potter. Although I was a late bloomer in terms of reading the series, once I started, I was absolutely hooked. Rowling is a literal wizard!

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

  • I dove right in after it was published. This started the big dystopian kick for me. This book, and series, are ones that I will always keep on my bookshelf.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

  • I love historical fiction, especially set in the 20th century. I devoured it within a few days, and then my mom read it. The movie (2011) is a great watch, too. Mom and I saw it together.

The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls

  • I can’t remember who recommended Walls’ memoir, but I’m so glad they did. I could not put this book down, although I probably should have been studying at the time. Walls is an amazing writer and storytelling, and her family’s adventures are something to behold. This, and her other books, will always be on my shelves.

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

  • This was another assigned reading book, for one of our first presentations in Mr. Degnan’s ninth-grade English class. Originally, I hated the book. But, years later, I re-read it, and now I love it.

Night, Elie Wiesel

  • My school district focused on World War II and the Holocaust in middle school. We did a huge unit on the Holocaust, and this book was a big part of it. However, this is one of those books that I’ve only read once, since it absolutely haunted me.

The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

  • I don’t remember when I first read this book, but it’s always stuck with me. I found myself re-reading it several years ago, when I was going on job interviews right out of college. It’s one of those pivotal books that has so many lessons wrapped up in a good story. Plus, the movie adaptation (1983) is excellent – One of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen.

The Awakening, Kate Chopin

  • I agree with Thrice Read on this one. You either love it or hate it. I loved it from the first read.

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

  • Although fictional, Steinbeck perfectly captures the essence of despair as a family leaves Oklahoma to escape the Dust Bowl. But, life isn’t as rosy as they thought once they arrive in California. It’s a classic book about such a tumultuous time in American history.

The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg

  • I’m going to recommend Allsburg’s books as a whole (He’s written many, including Jumanji and Zathura), but The Polar Express was a childhood staple. My parents had the hardcover book, the cassette tape, and the bell. We also went to see the movie (2004) as a family. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

This was such a fun post! So much nostalgia!

What’s a book you believe ever reader should read at some point?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂