A tool for members of Jax Freestyle Book Club, a meetup.com group in Jacksonville, Florida, to talk about what they're reading and would like to read. Click on the meetup badge to the right to go to our meeting homepage.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Your book suggestions, please!

Susan made the point that it's good to have books picked two months in advance. I totally agree, and hope we can pick two months' worth at the January meeting.

Please try to post all of your future reading suggestions before January 8; I'll put them together into a list so that everyone can look at them easily well before the meeting.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever

My thoughts on American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever:

Would it be grand to be a student of Henry David Thoreau? The imagery of going out in the woods with a teacher feels very appealing. All students should be so lucky.

This book has spurred various thoughts. Unfortunately I am not a literary scholar. I look forward to our discussion on Tuesday. Perhaps other members will bring insight from their readings of Emerson and Thoreau and Alcott and Margaret Fuller and Hawthorne. Cheever makes the claim on page 128 that few of the people (that quote the book) have actually read Walden.

It seems to me that Cheever portrays these authors as a bunch of misfits barely paying their bills. And the sexual mores come into question. And her accusation that one good choice for women was to just stay in bed in order to avoid bad marriage is a sad sad thought. [Page 93-quote below.] And what about her accusation that opium was over prescribed? Similar to xanax today? And at one point she makes the accusation that the Salem witch trials was a way for some power grabbers to grab the land of others. [page 43-quote below] Those witch trials shaped the politics of many? Government gone awry, eh?

Cheever talks about the civil war on pages 132 and 133. And here I think maybe I love these characters the most. I am perplexed by the civil war. Cheever offers some insight on these pages. Here is a quote from the book "....For the Alcotts, Thoreau, and Emerson, slavery was not some far off, economically questionable institution, it was the scared faces of the men and women and sometimes children they had fed and harbored and helped."

Then Cheever goes on to apparently reprimand the group of authors (except Hawthorne) for considering Capt John Brown a hero. Cheever seems to feel that they should have condemned his violence. The end doesn't justify the means. And I agree with Cheever.

Hawthorne seemed to see John Brown more clearly calling him a "blood-stained fanatic"

The thing that I didn't like about this book was that Cheever interjects some personal accounts and descriptions of what the houses and surroundings look like now. I found that made the book hard to read. Disjointed. And her interjection rarely added anything worth while. imo (of course). Except when she talked about what the book Little Women meant to her when she read it at age 10.


page 93: "Their choices often came down to being pathetic spinsters, marrying men they hated, or staying in bed being waited on."

page 43: "Another theory, and this is the one which Hawthorne fleshed out in his House of the Seven Gables, is that the trials were a land grab targeting those whose property was coveted by the judges or whose land just seemed to cry out for transfer no matter what the cost."

page 128: "...When someone says that they love the book, many times they mean that they might want a simpler life if they ever got tired of making money or going to parties....They remember a few of the aphorisms.......They haven't read the book itself and perhaps that's just as well. Thoreau is not kind to the rich or even the middle class."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Food for thought...thought for food

Those of us who attended the December meeting decided the tapas bar atmosphere was more conducive to talk and general good feeling than the bookstore coffee bar, and so at least for a while, we will look to have at least some of our meetings in similar venues.

As you may have noted, we decided on The Grape as St Johns Town Center for our January meeting (we've also reverted to the third Tuesday of the month; we used the second Tuesday to avoid running into end-of-year party and travel plans.

If you have suggestions for future meeting places, please do feel free to use this blog to post them. The general criteria that we decided on are a) location accessible from all over Jax area, b) wine or beer selection and snacks to light meals available, but set up so that there is no pressure to order more than you might want, and 2) not too noisy. If you have a favorite spot, or one in mind that you've been meaning to try, please post a comment and let us know about it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

follow up to the meeting at The Grotto


The above is the link to the debate that Barbara mentioned.

I couldn't find the link to the discussion about the book about Frank Loyd Wright that Kris recommended.

I liked meeting at The Grotto although the music (being on the loud side) made listening a bit more difficult.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Thoughts thru page 43: So far it seems to be a book about how we make decisions AND also about how others make decisions about us. Communication. First impressions. And can we change little things so that people make more positive decisions about us.

I'm reading the example of how doctors who are liked are NOT sued as much even IF they are less competent. Communication. And even the TONE that the doctor uses can make a difference. I think lawyers may have learned this also. Because I've heard that lawyers now have this tactic of sounding concerned when someone is sueing.

Priming is an interesting concept. Can you use it to your advanatage? Use positive words if you want to lift a person's morale.

http://www.implicit.harvard.edu/ is a place to find a IAT, implicit association test. He says that implicit associations have a powerful affect on how we spontanteously react. BUT we can change that association by changing our environment and thus our experiences. That's a powerful thought, eh? In other words QUIT listening to people that have a prejudice that you don't want in your life.

Page 114 interesting quote: " Spontaneity isn't random. ........ Good decision making (under the fast moving, high-stress conditions of rapid cognition) is a function of training and rules and rehearsal."

Tell my boss about page 163. My company makes labels. According to page 163, labels make a difference in people's enjoyments of products.

Page 206---"Facial expressions alone are sufficient to create marked changes in the autonomic nervous system"

Page 227---He explains what happened in the Rodney King beatings. I wondered how that could happen. Guard against letting your stress response go to an extreme. Between 115 and 145 beats per minute (Grossman says) is the range in which stress improves performance. BUT after 145, bad things start to happen. At 175, we begin to see an absolute breakdown of cognitive processing. And high speed chases tend to increase the heart rate above 175. Senses start shutting down at that stress level.

Page 252--"We can prevent the people fighting wars or staffing emergency rooms or policing the streets from making mistakes." In the blink of an eye our prejudices affect our decisions. BUT with proper training or other alternatives, that prejudice can be overcome so that GOOD decisions can be made WITHOUT the effect of prejudice.
Symphonies hired more women AFTER screens were required as part of the audition.
Police are being trained so they don't get blinded by the adrenalin rush.
Emergency room physicians are being given tools to weed out the irrelevent information which makes decision making better.

Page 260-"And what Blink is--what all the stories and studies and arguments add up to--is an attempt to understand this magical and mysterious thing called judgement."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ideas for future reading????

We only have a book chosen through January, so we should be thinking about possible choices for the Valentine-y short month. If you want to recommend something, please comment to this post, so we can see possibles as a thread. If we have several suggestions on this blog, we'll be ready to make an informed vote in January.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Lots of grist for the thought mill!

Susan's post made me focus on how interesting a time it will be to discuss the Gladwell books in view of all the political and economic ferment and upcoming mass decision making! I'm definitely looking forward to the meeting! I'll be thinking about the books in those terms for sure.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Tipping Point--things I'd like to discuss at the meeting

The point of the Sesame chapter seemed to be the "stickiness" factor?

The chapter about Goetz and the rise and fall of NY City crime seems to have some political implications especially in light of the impending foreclosures because of the subprime interest mtg market.

quote: "what we think of as inner states--preferences and emotions--are actually powerfully and imperceptibly influenced by seemingly inconsequential personal influences."
To back up that statement, he gives examples:
1. The ABC Peter Jennings example and
2. the Goetz on the subway example and
3. the Zimbardo/Stanford example and
4. the cheating on a test example and
5. the FAE which is human beings overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of the situation and the context when it comes to interpreting other peole's behavior.
I've been watching that in my day to day life. In other words, how are my preferences and emotions influenced by seemingly inconsequential personal influences?

Does he give enough evidence to back up his 150 people tipping point theory? Because it seems it's a powerful point especially in regards to smaller schools. His examples:
1. Gore Associates

I haven't finished the book yet....these are some of my thoughts so far. I am enjoying this book. And I've noticed people talking about it. So I'm really glad that this book was picked for our group.

Breaking the ice

Suggestions, reactions, thoughts? Post them!