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Monday, September 21st, 2015

THE UNFORTUNATE IMPORTANCE OF BEAUTY is a story picked by my book group for our discussion in September.  I ran into one of our members at the grocery store who was reading ahead as she is headed back to school in a few days and she said, “our next two books are weird!” I was hoping that meant weird and wonderful and not just strange.   I have to say it was a very interesting premise and the humor made me smile as I turned pages and settled in for the cover-to-cover experience.

About the author from Amazon:

“Amanda Filipacchi is the author of four novels: Nude Men, Vapor, Love Creeps, and, just out, The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty (W. W. Norton, Feb. 2015). Her fiction has appeared in Best American Humor and elsewhere. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic. She earned an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University. She lives in New York.”

The story is a rather amazing testament to friendship.  There are four friends, who gather for the Nights of Creativity.  Georgia has written several novels, Jack is a person who can resolve conflict, Lily is a brilliant composer of music, Penelope works at being a potter and selling pottery, but her craft is putting pieces back together, and Barb who is an award winning costume designer.   Gabriel was a member of the group, but he committed suicide and changed the group’s lives.  His suicide note said that he was in love with Barb but not worthy of someone who was so beautiful.

Barb reacts to this sadness by making and wearing a fat suit of clothing inclusive of messy teeth and a wild and frizzy grey wig.  She has worn this cover-up/costume for the last several years.  Barb also believes that her father had affairs when her mother’s great beauty began to fad and they divorced.   She hopes someone will overlook her “ugly” veneer and love her for herself.

Georgia leaves her laptop in a cab and she can no longer write until it is returned a number of days later.  Her novels are quite popular. Georgia is clever with words and ideas.

Lily who is not very attractive at all and can write beautiful music which drives folks to purchase office supplies or purchase books at Barnes and Noble falls in love with Strad who can not see her as beautiful at all and the group begins to help Lily with her obsession of him.  The group encourages each other and cares for each other and develops some absurd solutions to help problem-solve and find happiness.

The humor is not knee-slapping or belly laughing material, rather makes this group more loveable and likeable and charming.  There is a constant undercurrent about beauty and a condemnation of Strad but not a true or real solution to the society’s influence. There is a strong message about how persuasive our culture is and the role of marketing and how that changes minds and uniforms us into roles.  The characters need to come to their own conclusions and ideas and then proceed into society with the strength of friendship holding them together.

It was an interesting and fun read and I was happy to be introduced to this book and this author.   I will ask at our next gathering who discovered the book and why they chose it for us to discuss.  Certainly THE UNFORTUNATE IMPORTANCE OF BEAUTY will produce an interesting discussion evening.

The Divorce Diet
About A Girl

THE LOST TRIBE OF CONEY ISLAND: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century ~Claire Prentice

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

“Claire Prentice is an award-winning journalist whose work has been published in the Washington Post, the London Times, the Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald, BBC Online, Cosmopolitan, and Marie Claire.” (From the promotion materials of my uncorrected unproofed advance readers copy of this book)

The LOST TRIBE OF CONEY ISLAND is about an historic event which occurred in 1904-1905.  It is a true story and the author has done considerable research and study to share the story of this event in our history.  It is about the journey of 51 members of the Igorrote tribes of the Philippines becoming one of the “Human Exhibits”   with the freaks and curiosities at Coney Island’ Luna Park.   Millions of people, MILLIONS came to see the village the Igorrote people built, the dancing, the singing, the dog-eating feasts and the nearly nude head-hunters in the exhibit.  A great showman taught them to perform and entertain the public, so that the humans on the other side of the fence would throw coins and buy their trinkets and souvenirs.   They came to the USA and were told they would be paid $15 a month, could keep their souvenir money, they would assist their families back home when they returned in a year.

Dr. Truman Hunt transformed himself from doctor in the Philippines to one of the greatest showman, marketing aficionados, and con-men of all time.  His scheme and his sideshow troupe made Hunt a very rich man.   He ended up on the run with the tribe because of his huge lifestyle, the pursuit of ex-wives, his alcohol consumption and the dogged agents of the American justice system.   He hid the Igorrote in squalor and paraded them in other parks when he needed more funds.  Hunt cheated them out of all their promised money and  the US taxpayers finally had to foot the bill in order to get the tribe back home.

THE LOST TRIBE OF CONEY ISLAND is well written and it makes history come alive  revealing the true story behind the experience and it is quite entertaining.  I know my history buffs will enjoy this storytelling adventure and relive the role of the amusement park heyday in our history.  As a well told story full of historic detail, I would give it 5 stars.

As a reader, I thought it was a terrific tale compassionately told and I, personally, would have enjoyed it more if it had been just a magazine article length.  It actually made me feel ill about the way these individuals were treated and that the pubic was so driven to observe the Igorrote people.  I tried to think of the troupe as entertainers, educators and then Hunt’s people would stride into the scene and exploit their efforts time and time again cheating and enslaving these people.   Of course, it doesn’t help that we are still stuck in this human trafficking mode as entertainment and abuse.  I was reading this story as young unarmed men are being murdered in the streets and we worship guns and violence. As voters are being cajoled by lies and untrue stories and our President is being belittled and disrespected loudly – all for money.  THE LOST TRIBE OF CONEY ISLAND is a sordid reminder of how easily people can be controlled – and the con-artist wins.  In this century, it appears to me that our behavior is worse.  The entertainment needs to be bigger and more violent and our appetites grow.  Who are the savage dog-eaters?

TLC Book Tours sent me a copy of THE LOST TRIBE OF CONEY ISLAND for review.  The book will be available for purchase on October 14, 2014.  It would make quite the gift for your historic reader.


“At its heart, THE LOST TRIBE OF CONEY ISLAND is a story that makes us question who is civilized and who is savage.”  (From the publicity pages in my uncorrected, unproofed advanced e-copy)

The Devil In the White City (Bikingarchitect.com)
The Riot Within 
We Have Met The Enemy
NEW Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change

The Art Of The Sale: Learning From the Masters About the Business of Life ~Philip Delves Broughton

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

I am very enthusiastic about this book.  THE ART OF THE SALE is about change and success and I am always enthusiastic about those topics.   I picked up this book with the first opportunity that presented itself because I thought it was going to be a difficult read and I had lots of tasks to complete with so much company arriving at my house, I wanted guaranteed focused time.   I could hardly put the book down, it was a great read and so well written.

Mr. Broughton has traveled the globe interviewing the very top salesmen and women.  He believes that we are all sales people and that we all need to be sales people, because this is the basic way we connect to others in our world and it is how we get our needs met.  Here he tells the stories of how these individuals developed their skills and sharpened their talents.  It is fascinating.

At first I thought I should just recommend this book to bloggers and writers, because I think the stories and tools are such valuable lessons, then I slept on that idea and think this book is ideal for everyone.

“Sales is nothing more than the purely human ordeal of rejection and acceptance”

I have taken 2 marketing classes this past year and learned a great deal.  I am still not able to implement good marketing strategies into job interviews or marketing my blogs.   It is not that I do not believe in myself or my words, but marketing is big, big, big picture work; the salesman or saleswoman does the one on one work of promotion.  This is the ART OF THE CLOSE.    After reading this book, I realize that I have lots of knowledge about marketing, I am not fast enough in this environment, and to be truly successful at this business I will need to hire someone and I still have to learn how to be a good sales person because I am not a natural.

My youngest child is a natural and, as she says, #1.  I over talk myself and the customer out of the sale.  I do not know when to stop.  I try to convince folks.   I am not afraid of rejection and I can use it well to learn and grow, but I have to be too “honest” about what I am trying to sell.   I am not a good trickster or promiser and since I am working on selling “change” and releasing “fear”, I have chosen a very difficult market to reach.  I also do not have enough WANTS.   I have to teach my classes at University for a couple of years before I have a waiting list; folks think they know how to think and think ethically because they are not being arrested and the noise in their brains is running all the time.


“…being committed to finding a meaningful purpose in life, the belief that one can influence one’s surroundings and the outcome of events, and the belief that one can learn and grow from both positive and negative life experiences.”
“The folks with the most ‘no s’ made the most money.”
“ …this acceptance of rejection and failure as essential to building the muscle necessary for eventual success.”

The stories are about real people and how they succeeded at selling whether it was at street fairs, door to door, on a showroom floor, through big industries such as IBM, and Boeing right through to how to do Internet sales.   It takes a salesman or a saleswoman to close the deal that the marketing folks have set the stage for – you can only close if you meet the NEED of the other.

Martin Shanker asked the author during his interview this question: “What do you most want for your children? The answer, he told me [Broughton] after I fumbled to find my own, was this: the ability to meet their own needs.” “We want our children not merely to be self-sufficient, but to be able to meet the needs any human has in order to live a fulfilling life.”

Selling is about understanding and using your own needs and emotions to find fulfillment.

This book is very valuable information sharing.   Selling inspires thinking skills and faith, when one stops being told what to believe (formulas) and what to say and can truly think and act .   The Art Of The Sale  is what we will need when we give up playing games and being entertained, it is about the art of living life.

tlclogoI am grateful for TLC online book tours and The Penguin Press for sharing this book with me – It was eye opening and full of great information.

If you order anything from Amazon (including Kindle) or Powell’s or from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.

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The Dressmaker of Khair Khana
Walter’s Muse

Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy ~ By James A. Roberts

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Shiny Objects

Right at the top of the review I am going to tell you I thought  Shiny Objects was a 5 (ladybugs) book.  It is exceptional and if you only read one non-fiction book in the coming year, I think you would be wise to pick this one.

“ If you want to live the American Dream, one would need to move to Denmark.” Richard Wilkinson, July 2011 Ted Lecture on Economic Inequality

Shiny Objects is a well written study about how we have become one of the most successfully materialistic cultures ever experienced.  James Roberts is a Professor of Marketing at Baylor University and he takes us slowly and deliberately through the steps of how we got to this peak and how our natural disposition towards materialism was promoted and designed to drop us into the correct chute.  Very kindly, Robert’s last few chapters of the book provide the ladders and the hindsight to help us up and out of the mire; including reminders that ignorance is not bliss and it is our responsibility for recovery.   I will just say that his tests and quizzes throughout the book are invaluable tools for assessing one’s  true standing in this world of Materialism and where we might need to work at making changes in order to survive and come out standing upright and provided for our own futures.

Truthfully, almost everyone in the USA believes they can become part of the 1% and many, many of the immigrants to this country attest to that belief.   Yet, decade after decade we are so distracted by marketing ploys and Shiny Objects dangled in front of us as treasures that we still are deluded.  We work longer hours than nearly any other country on the planet and it is not proving to be so that we can get to the top but so that we can pay off our credit cards and get out of debt.  “ We are not all meant to own our own homes.”    We are in love with our credit cards and our Shiny Objects and we are on a consumption binge.

“ We toss out 140 million cell phones each year, use 1 million brown-paper bags each hour (yes, hour), expend 1 million plastic cups on commercial airplanes every six hours, and run through 2 million petroleum-based plastic bottles every five minutes.”

We have learned over the years through the media suggesting it repeatedly that we may not reach our goals for a long time and not without a great deal of effort.  So why wait?  Why not enjoy your life now and pay for it later?   Marketers, politicians and many religious pillars are all just waiting for you to take on this attitude and enroll in another credit card offer.  We are repeatedly told this until we believe it to be true.  We are trying to buy our happiness (see the Constitution) and build our self-worth and esteem through Shiny Objects and credit.

“The ability to delay gratification signifies the transition from an impulsive driven existence to a higher order, future oriented perspective.”     Sigmund Freud

Robert’s peels back the layers and layers of design and mythology within the framework of history, and the knowledge and skills he shares with his students.  He takes on everyone including students, politicians, Prosperity Gospel Preachers, and each of us as individuals.   He challenges us to find self-esteem an inside job and to pursue deeper meaning and satisfaction through more humane channels.

I know I have been practicing Voluntary Simplicity for 30 years now, have been environmentally pro-active, and am a child of Depression Era parents, and I do not watch TV.  I was amazed at how influenced I am as evidenced by the taking of each of the questionnaires and self-testing with the complete appendix overview.  I am wiser for having read Shiny Objects.

“Iron Man2, [the movie], contained a league-leading 64 product placements. … “The Biggest Loser, [TV show], had an eye-popping 250 product placements per show.  American Idol had 4,151 [product placements] in its first thirty-eight episodes of 2008”

This book was an amazing integration of so many of the books I have read recently, and yet, it does not just report the problems and the test results, it does not just share with us why this marketing works so well as to delude us, and it gives us the steps to liberate us from this dragon.   We definitely need to smarten up and not keep allowing the system to dumb us down.

“Credit Cards Can Make You Fat.”


Thank you to TLC book tours for putting me on this tour.  It was a pleasure.  I received a copy of the book from Julie Burton at HarperOne publishing.

James A. Roberts James A Roberts website

If you purchase anything from this site from Amazon, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.

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Walking the Green
We Have Met the Enemy
Your Money or Your Life