Rants & Raves

Remembering Black History on the Shore

By Dwayne Eutsey

With all the snow we’ve had to dig out from lately, it’s easy to forget that February is Black History Month. http://www.history.com/content/blackhistory

This observance originally began as Negro History Week in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson, the largely self-educated son of former slaves who went on to receive a PhD from Harvard, wanted to establish a time for remembering and celebrating the significant contributions African Americans have made to our national history.

Woodson initially set this observance during the second week in February because two major figures in African American history were born during that week: Frederick Douglass, the former slave and outspoken abolitionist who escaped from Talbot County, was born on February 14; Abraham Lincoln, the president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation ending chattel slavery in the United States, was born February 12.

The week became a month-long observance in 1976 and is also known as African American Heritage Month. In addition to Frederick Douglass, the Eastern Shore has made a few other noteworthy contributions to that heritage.

There is Harriet Tubman, of course. Growing up in Dorchester County back in the ‘70s, I remember learning a lot about how she bravely helped hundreds of slaves escape from the Shore through the Underground Railroad. /a72/content/harriet-tubman%E2%80%99s-legacy-lives

However, one piece of history I didn’t learn much about when I was school kid on the Shore was the important role Cambridge played in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Maybe that history was too recent and too raw for teachers to make sense of and to teach at the time, but I don’t remember learning anything about it in school. I did overhear, occasionally, vague references adults made about that time, and I even remember when I was almost 4 years old that my grandfather made me scrunch down in the backseat of his car as he drove me and my mom through a riot-torn section of Cambridge.

The Life Organizer

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I am ALWAYS striving to be more organized and efficient. (and yes, I hear Yoda's voice: Do or do not... there is no try !) And, as a self-proclaimed bibliophile (aka: book slut) I read a lot about ways to organize - starting with decluttering. The books say pretty much the same thing: pare down, find a home for everything, put everything away. (and yes - it IS the same thing my mother always told me)

This week I'm reading The Life Organizer: A Woman's Guide to a Mindful Year by Jennifer Louden. This one's different, folks. There's no files and plastic boxes and printed labels. Rather, it's about getting in tune with your heart, your dreams, your passion - and listening to yourself and your body about what the next step should be. Since it's meant to be experienced over a year - I have no idea if it actually works (though the reviews were fantastic!). Still, I do feel more centered - and even more patient about interruptions. I feel like something's changing - hopefully for the better.

Unfortunately, I haven't been as compulsive about making my "to-do" lists. I wonder if Allstate will understand I was listening to my heart and not sweating the small stuff???

I think there's a middle road here somewhere.....lost in the fog.  I'm open to advice - and will let you know what I eventually figure out!

In the meantime...where's that Allstate bill?

Howard Zinn’s Undying Faith in Democracy

By Dwayne Eutsey

Someone I admired very much, activist historian Howard Zinn, died recently at age 87.

Howard ZinnYou may know Zinn from a book he wrote in 1980 called A People’s History of the United States. With over 1 million copies sold since its publication, this landmark (and controversial) volume retells American history from the point of view of “common people” often not included in our official historical narrative—Native Americans, slaves, workers, the poor, women, pacifists, anarchists, unionizers.

Last month, the History Channel broadcast “The People Speak”, a documentary co-produced, incidentally, by Easton native Chris Moore and his friend, actor Matt Damon. With Zinn narrating, the film featured the likes of Morgan Freeman, Marisa Tormei, and Bruce Springsteen reading and singing words from the original letters, songs, diaries, and speeches that Zinn used to write A People’s History and other works. (http://www.history.com/content/people-speak)

Coming from a working-class background myself, I am forever in debt to Zinn for showing me how this often marginalized group is actually an integral strand among many other strands that together make up our national history. His inclusive view of American identity is true to our country’s unofficial motto, E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

The Kiss of Night released by local author KS Brooks

The Kiss of Night Inspired by “American Heart Month”   

K.S. Brooks01 February 2010 — Cambridge Books has just released The Kiss of Night, a novella by K. S. Brooks, just in time for “American Heart Month.”  The Kiss of Night is currently in e-book form on WriteWordsInc.com, and will also soon be available in print and through other online venues, including Amazon.com. 

In The Kiss of Night, Special Agent Kathrin Night, the well-received anti-terrorist agent introduced in Lust for Danger, is forced into early retirement after a debilitating injury.  Agent Night fights the demons of her past, present and future while dealing with her new mysterious bodyguard, Agent Aleksey Khovechkin.  Sent compliments of the Russian Minister of Defense, refusing Khovechkin’s services is not an option.  But is his true mission to protect her, or does he have another agenda?

A Serious Man Ponders "Why Me?"

By Dwayne Eutsey

Like many people, I’ve been dismayed by the devastating earthquake in Haiti recently.

The rising death toll (possibly in the hundreds of thousands), the heart-wrenching suffering, the inability to get medical aid and food supplies to the homeless survivors in a fast and effective way…It’s all been depressing, frustrating, and overwhelming.

As overpowering as the news coverage of this disaster can be, though, unless you know someone affected by the suffering there, it’s easy enough in our media-driven culture to tune out the bad news and tune into something more pleasant.

It’s like Rev. Jim, a character on the classic ‘70s sitcom Taxi, once wryly observed, “You know the really great thing about television? If something important happens anywhere in the world, night or day…you can always change the channel.” Or to update it for our times: surf the web, pop in a DVD, etc.

Review: The Lovely Bones Movie

by Erin Mawn

This past Friday night, I was one of the many people who saw “The Lovely Bones” on its opening night. I was surprised at how many young people there were in the theater, but that was probably due to the fact that the movie is rated PG-13, so no parents are required. I must admit that I was concerned about the quality of the movie; beforehand, I could not resist looking up some reviews of it and the majority of them seemed disappointed that the movie did meet its potential.

It is true that the movie takes some liberties, but I was relieved that it leaves the more important things alone. For example, the reader and movie go-er are not surprised at what happens to Susie Salmon because both the book and the film tell us immediately that something horrible befalls the young narrator. I was worried that perhaps the film would focus on that one terrible scene in order to increase the drama and horror of the story, but like in the book, the terrible incident is merely the catalyst for the story, not the focus of it.

Since I already talked about the story when I reviewed the book a couple months ago, I’ll focus on the film aspects of it: I was impressed with Stanley Tucci’s portrayal of George Harvey. I did not even realize that it was Tucci in this role when I saw the movie trailers because he looks like the quintessential creep. (I am used to Tucci in more likeable roles, such as “The Devil Wears Parada” and the Kit Kittredge American Girl movie.) His performance almost overshadows that of

Saoirse Ronan, who plays the protagonist Susie Salmon because the audience is so horrified by his character. Not to say that Ronan is not ideal for the role of Susie Salmon: her adolescent beauty (caught perfectly between a girl and a woman) is striking and she emanates an innocence so endearing and believable that the audience is truly saddened when she is robbed of it.

아메리칸 룰렛Enjoy the Works of Laurie Halse Anderson

By Erin Mawn

Hello readers (and editor)! I apologize not posting again sooner, but I have adopted the popular mantra that everyone seems to be saying lately: “life’s crazy right now”. If anyone is curious, I HAVE been doing a ton of reading lately, I just have been lax in the writing part. Sometimes when I read a book, I think “I cannot wait to write a blog about this incredible story!”. Other times, I enjoy the story but it just does not motivate me to write.

As my best friend said to me recently, I have had quite a literary year. First, I attended a talk at my local library hosted by Joshua Wolf Shenk regarding his insightful book “Lincoln’s Melancholy”. I used this book for two of my projects in graduate school and I was very excited to finally meet the man who wrote it. Then, over my summer vacation, I traveled to Colorado where I was able to meet my favorite illustrator, Michael Hague. (I did write a blog about him; it is one of my earlier posts.) This was a very special experience for me because I grew up reading his books and those pictures have always stayed in my mind. Most recently, I drove to Newark, Delaware to see Laurie Halse Anderson “speak” (if you don’t get my little joke yet, you will in a minute.)

Laurie Halse Anderson has written both young adult novels and picture books; her first YA novel, titled “Speak” was a New York Times Best Seller, as well as a Printz Honor Book, and National Book Award Finalist. It was also made into a movie for television starring a now-uber-famous Kristen Stewart. Her other novels include: “Catalyst”, “Prom”, “Fever 1793”, “Twisted”, and “Chains” (another multi-award winner). During the event, she read an excerpt from her most recent novel “Wintergirls” which is available now. She the welcomed questions from her live audience as well as from readers across the country who were able to view the event through a live internet feed. Afterwards, she was available to sign books for her adoring fans, who ranged from middle-aged adults to little children. My favorite fan was the little eight-year old girl clutching a copy of one of the Vet Volunteer books, a series written for children about children who work in a veterinarian’s office.

Cambridge Writer Publishes Innovative Children’s Book

The Mighty Oak and Me Sales Will Benefit Reforestation Program

During the winter of 2001/2002, novelist K. S. Brooks discovered a 300-year-old “Mighty Oak Tree” towering over the backyard of her new home in Cambridge, Maryland.  Immediately she noticed the wide variety of wildlife beneath its canopy.  Squirrels, birds, tree frogs, snakes and even a baby raccoon have made their homes in the tree.  Robins raised their young and squirrels used the leaves for their nests in its branches.  Honey bees built combs and homes in and on the tree.  Hummingbirds rested on it after drinking nectar from the garden below.  As time went by, the author found herself thinking of this ancient oak as a member of her family.

After years of photographing the “Mighty Oak” and its visitors, Ms. Brooks decided it was time to share its images and secrets, especially with children.  She wanted to preserve the memory of this magnificent tree, and at the same time teach the value of trees to future generations.

The Mighty Oak and Me, published in April 2009, is a unique and innovative book which introduces children to ecology and the real-life world of trees through full-color photographs. Teachers across the country are hailing The Mighty Oak and Me as a valuable educational tool.  Mid-Shore Elementary School Teacher Nora Lynch comments “I believe this book should be in every primary school library!  It is enchanting and informative.”

Book Review: "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years"

by Larry Johnson

What is my life story? What is there worth remembering? How will my children or grandchildren describe my life?

These questions and many others swirled through my mind as I finished Donald Miller's new book, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." Consider what your life is telling is important to you. Is there anything memorable? Are you taking any risks? Have you been out on any limbs lately?

In the book, Miller uses the backdrop of turning his memoirs into a movie screenplay to reexamine his life. What he discovers about the elements of a really memorable movie are what makes up a really memorable life. He shares a very personal metamorphosis that takes him through territory familiar to most people: family, relationships, contributions to society, and others.

The book was excellent! Not only does Don take us into his life, but I closed the book challenged about who I really am and excited about what the possibilities are! His background as a writer makes this book especially interesting to those who use the business end of a pen but equally interesting to anyone! I highly recommend it! I reviewed the book as a book review blogger for Thomas Nelson Publishers! http://brb.thomasnelson.com/

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultra-Violent Zombie Mayhem!

by Erin Mawn

I have a confession to make: I have never read a Jane Austen book to the end. Believe me, I have tried. I feel I owe it to the world of literature that I love so much to not just ‘get through it’, but to actually enjoy reading it, too. I know the stories of Austen, especially when they are reimagined in modern cinema. For example, one of my favorite 90’s movies is “Clueless” which is loosely based on Austen’s “Emma”. (“What-ev-er!“)The book and movie “Bridget Jones Diary” is based on “Pride and Prejudice”; the sequel to this smash success (both book and movie) was titled “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” and was based on “Persuasion”. I have seen the mini-series “Pride and Prejudice” as well as the more recent movie starring Kiera Knightley, and I dragged my boyfriend to the theater to see “Becoming Jane”, a biopic starring Anne Hathaway. I love Jane Austen’s stories, I just could not get through one of her books. Well, not until the zombies came, anyway. . .

Seth Grahame-Smith’s hilarious parody of Austen’s most well-known work has been exalted by readers and critics alike; you get all the goodness of social intrigues and blossoming romances, but there’s also a ton of zombies wandering around the English countryside that need to be dealt with before anyone can live happily ever after. Luckily, Elizabeth Bennet is an expert at weapons and martial arts. If you’re already familiar with the real “Pride and Prejudice” (either seen the movies or actually read it) then you pretty much know how the story goes. But that’s not really the point in this book; the point is to laugh at the ridiculous dialogue which follows early 19th century formality, but refers to battling the living dead:

“Mr. Collins tells me that you are schooled in the deadly arts, Miss Bennet.”

“I am, though not to half the level of proficiency your Ladyship has attained.”

“Oh! Then — some time or other I shall be happy to see you spar with one of my ninjas.

Are you sisters likewise trained?”

“They are.”

When asked what inspired him to re-write the Austen’s famous love story, Smith replied, “I just thought it’d be really funny to desecrate a classic work.” He seems like one of the geniuses with an off-beat, dark sense of humor that I’d love to meet sometime, if only to pick his brain. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the zombie pun.) Ever true to the modern literary discussion circle, Smith includes thoughtful questions for discussion at the end of the novel, such as:

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