Book Review: Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle

Author: Gregory Boyle
Title: Tattoos on the Heart
Publication Info: New York : Free Press, 2010.
ISBN:  9781439153024

Not really a memoir, but more illustrative vignettes from Fr. Greg’s work with gang members in Los Angeles.  This beautifully written book is both inspiring and heartbreaking.  Inspiring because of the wonderful humanity of the “homies” the comes to its fullest when they are given some love and dignity.  Heartbreaking because so many of the people we come to while reading are cut down by gunfire and die too young.  This is a book I highly recommend.  Learn more about Fr. Greg and his homies at the Homeboy Industries website.

Favorite Passages:

We all just want to be called by the name our mom uses when she’s not pissed off at us. p. 54

Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it. p. 67

Success and failure, ultimately, have little to do with living the gospel. Jesus just stood with the outcasts until they were welcomed or until he was crucified — whichever came first. p. 172

Recommended books: Respect: An Exploration by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists by Courtney E. Martin and The Ticket Out: Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw by Michael Sokolive
Rating: *****

Book Review: Sixty Feet, Six Inches by Bob Gibson & Reggie Jackson

Author:Bob Gibson & Reggie Jackson
Title: Sixty Feet, Six Inches
Publication Info: New York : Doubleday, c2009.
ISBN: 9780385528696

One of baseball’s greatest pitchers and one of baseball’s greatest hitters – and ones known as great baseball thinkers – sit down and talk about baseball and you have a front row seat.  Sounds like a great concept and Gibson and Jackson do tell a lot of great stories and offer some great insight and analysis of the game.  Gibson even admits he used a spitball once in a game against the Mets (like he really needed too!).  I found the book disappointing though because they seemed to fall back on old cliches and baseball accepted wisdom than really offering a unique perspective.  And don’t get me started on all the Yankees glurge and Jeter-love (especially from Jackson).  I think this book would be better if there was a third person there – someone from outside the game, say, Bill James – to stir things up and keep Gibson & Jackson  honest.  Good but not great baseball writing, and baseball fans should enjoy reading it and enjoy critiquing it.

Recommended books: The Game From Where I Stand by Doug Glanvile, Watching Baseball by Jerry Remy, and Why Time Begins on Opening Day by Thomas Boswell.
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: One Thousand White Womenby Jim Fergus

Author: Jim Fergus
Title: One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd
Publication Info: New York : St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999.
ISBN: 0312199430
Summary/Review: This novel is built on the premise that in 1875 the Cheyenne tribe made an agreement with the Grant administration to bring 1000 white women to their lands as sort of mail-order brides in order to promote amity and civilization of the natives.  The government finds some volunteers and fills out the allotment of 1000 women with inmates from prisons and insane asylums.  The book is written as diary entries and letters from one of the latter, a woman named May Dodd placed in an asylum by her well-off family because she lived out of wedlock and bore children to a man of a lower class.

The positive aspects of this book is that it while May and her compatriots find love and much to admire in their new home, they Cheyenne are not idealized (a la Dances With Wolves).   May while appreciating  her new husband and free lifestyle never stops referring to the Indians as savages.  The book comes to a sad but inevitable end as the Americans lust for land leads to the conquest of the Cheyenne, white women included.

This book was better than I expected as I thought it would be a more flippant farce.  I did find that Fergus as a male author failed to write convincingly in the female voice.  For example, May suffers some traumatic experiences that are rather casually put behind her.  Still, it’s a unique framing for a historical novel and an enjoyable read.

Recommended books: The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth, Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown.

Book Review: The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian

Author: Patrick O’Brian
Title: The Far Side of the World
Publication Info: Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books ; [United States : Distributed by] Borders, [2003], p1994.
Summary/Review:  The tenth book of the Aubrey/Matrin series finds the HMS Surprise rounding Cape Horn and sailing the Pacific in search of an American ship harassing whalers, the Norfolk.  This book is one of the main sources for the film Master and Commander: Far Side of the World although there are some huge differences.  I have to say I liked the movie better although I usually like the one I saw/read first.

Rating: **

Book Review: Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

Author: L.M. Montgomery
Title: Anne of the Island
Publication Info: Books in Motion (1993)
ISBN: 1556864612
Summary/Review:  The third book of the Anne Shirley series sees Anne off to college on Nova Scotia, studying, making new friends, and setting up a new home.  Letters and visits to home emphasize Anne’s growth and change as she spends time away from her beloved home.  There’s also continuing intrigue regarding her relationship with Gilbert Blythe.  Enjoyable, but lacking the magic of the first book.

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan

Author: Fred Kaplan
Title: Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer
Publication Info: HarperCollins Publishers, c2008.
ISBN:  9780060773342

A different approach Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his life and legacy through the lens of his writing.  Kaplan contends that Lincoln may be of few Presidents to write his own speeches and probably the last one. In addition to his oratory Kaplan analyzes Lincoln’s political writings, poetry, and even his raunchy jokes and puns.  As a self-taught man, writing played an important role in Lincoln’s education as well.  This book provides a unique take on the life of the great leader.

Recommended books: Lincoln’s Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lincoln at Gettysburg by Garry Wills and The Life You Save May Be Your Own by Paul Elie.
Rating: ****

Retropost: Book Review: Quest for the Living God by Elizabeth A. Johnson (via Panorama of the Mountains)

According to NCR:

Thanks to the U.S. bishops’ doctrinal committee …

… Quest for the Living God, by Elizabeth Johnson, has shot to the top of Amazon’s best selling “general theology” book list today.

Pretty good  book if I say so myself.  Here’s my review from when I read it two years ago for lent.

Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J. explores the many ideas of God that have emerged in the past century in Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God (2007).  The book functions as a quick summary of these many “new” theologies of God – albeit rooted in ancient tradition and faithful to scripture. They include: the modern, secular world with a focus on Karl Rahner the suffering of the Holocaust and three post-war German theologi … Read More

via Panorama of the Mountains

Soccer Spectating Report 21-30 March

Ireland 2:1 FYROM (26 Mar)

Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign resumed with this succesful home match.  The Irish capitalized on errors by Macedonian keeper Edin Nuredinovski for goals by Aiden McGready and Robbie Keane.  Ireland were obviously the better side although they rested on their laurels enough to allow Ivan Trickovski to cut the lead just before the half.  Still, Ireland hung on through second half to preserve the win and an important 3 points.

New England Revolution 2:1 DC United (26 Mar)

The Revolution want you to know that you shouldn’t tune in late for their games as for the second time these season they scored an early goal.  Eight minutes in the game, Shalrie Joseph set up Zack Schilawski (both of whom had an excellent game) for the opening goal.  In the 17th minute, Joseph doubled the score on a penalty kick.  Matt Reis had an excellent game in the net keeping DC scoreless until a penalty kick by Charlie Davies in the 91st minute.  There was some officiating weirdness in this game (benefiting the home side) but overall it was a positive result and a continuation of a great start to the season.

USA 1:1 Argentina (26 Mar)

Although ESPN acted as if it were “The Lionel Messi Show” this was in fact a home game friendly for the United States Men’s National Team.  The US was clearly outplayed in the first half with an Argentine goal inevitable.  They held out into the 42nd minute when Messi dribbled pass the defense passing to Angel DiMaria whose rebounded shot was sunk in the net by Esteban Cambiasso.  Tim Howard – deservedly the man of the match – was rightfully angry with his defenders for failing to help clear the ball.  The US made some positive changes during the half, most importantly adding Juan Agudelo to the attack and Agudelo would equalize for the US in the 59th minute.  The US played a much more positive game in the second half and together the two teams played a fun and exciting game before a massive crowd in New Jersey.

USA 0:1 Paraguay (29 Mar)

Coming after the high of the Argentina game, this was a bit of a disappointment as Paraguay scored early and the US failed to respond.  The home team did play well in the second half putting a lot of pressure on the opposing goal but did not capitalize.  It’s worth noting that it’s a friendly and with Bob Bradley trying out a new lineup it will hopefully be a learning opportunity to help improve the team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

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New Bicycle Blog

I’ve started yet another blog, this one about bicycle commuting, aptly named Bike Commuter through the Boston Biker blog network. I’ve been thinking about starting a bicycle blog for a long time and have dragged my feet about it but with spring coming in, this is as good of a time to get started.

I don’t ride as much as I once did, but I hope to get back into more regular commuting and I intend to use this blog as a way of keeping me in check.  I also feel that my many years of experience as a bicycle commuter could be helpful to others.  Boston feels like a scary place to ride a bike, but I’ve found my experience riding in the city Here’s what you may expect to read on the Bike Commuter blog:

  • Ride Log – stories about my experiences biking in and around Boston.
  • Tips –  suggestions for how to make your ride in the city safe and enjoyable.
  • Advocacy – political action to support bicyclists and bicycle facilities (I may sometimes venture into overlapping issues related to walking, public transportation, and urban planning).

Things you won’t see on this blog:

  • Athletic pursuits – if you’re into bike racing, endurance rides, and/or mountain biking, I salute you, but you’re probably not going to find anything you’re interested in.  This blog is more geared to the everyday person who uses a bike to get around.
  • Rampant consumerism – much of what is on the internet about bicycling is geared toward convincing you that you need to spend money on the right bike, the right accessories, and the right clothing if you want to be serious about riding a bike.  This blog is here to convince you to get a bike that works, put on it what you need, wear what you have on and get on the road.

If you’re interested in bicycling or just like to read things that I write, subscribe to the feed at


Photopost: Woolapalooza

My son and I attended Woolapalooza today, Drumlin Farm’s celebration of all things pertaining to sheep.  We saw one man working hard with the shears to remove the wool of many sheep quickly and skillfully.   It was surprise that there wasn’t a team of people using electric shearing tools, but he got the job done (although we did see one sheep in the meadow with a big boo-boo from the shears).  We were also impressed by the sheepdog demonstrations as a border collie expertly herded a small flock around the pasture.  This made an impression since we recently watched Babe.  The only pig at the farm was a large, pregnant sow named Hattie sleeping in the pig shed.  There were many pregnant ewes as well as new-born lambs and kids.  It was a fun day and made for some good photographs.

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