Thursday, April 19, 2018

Book Review: My Fther's Wake by Kevin Toolis - Non-fiction

In his book, My Father's Wake: How the Irish Teach Us To Live Love And Die, Kevin Toolis brings to the surface the concept of death and dying and how it has evolved over the centuries. Toolis describes his personal experiences as he takes the readers back to his home in Ireland to witness the Irish way of coping with the dying and death. Below is the Kirkus Review:

"A gut-wrenching exploration of death from an Irish perspective.

Journalist and award-winning filmmaker Toolis (Rebel Hearts: Journeys Within the IRA's Soul, 1996) centers this work in his ancestral homeland, a small village on an island off the west coast of Ireland, where his father died of cancer at home. The author has spent a lifetime exploring death, beginning with his own brushes with it—first as a patient in a tuberculosis ward and, later, through his brother’s excruciating and untimely death from cancer. The author went on to use journalism to explore violence, especially from a religious or political perspective; he has covered the Arab-Israeli conflict, North African fighting, and the Troubles of Northern Ireland. His experiences have left him with a fascinating view of what most of us try not to consider: the end of life. His own father’s death, and the wake that ensued, ground his thoughts on the subject. Throughout, Toolis rails against “the Western Death Machine.” In Europe and North America, he writes, we remove death from the private sphere and place it in the hands of “experts,” ranging from coroners to funeral directors. “We need to find our way again with death,” he writes, noting that for thousands of years, humanity dealt with death in healthier, more fulfilling ways. He sees in the Irish wake a pattern to emulate, a remnant of ancient methods of handling the mourning process that brought dignity to the dying and closure to the living. This book is not for the faint of heart, as the experiences he shares will leave readers emotionally raw. It is unquestionably rewarding, however, a thought-provoking argument against a sterile and industrial view of death.

From the graveside of an Irish Republican Army execution victim, whose young son cries inconsolably at his loss, to that of the author’s own father, Toolis provides a series of intimate, eye-opening visits with the end-of-life process." Source: Kirkus Review.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Book Review: 7 Lessons from Heaven: How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy Filled Life by Dr. Mary Neal - Non-fiction

In this follow-up book, entitled, 7 Lessons from Heaven: How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy Filled Life, Dr. Mary Neal describes her chance meetings and conversations with Jesus, an understanding of the reality of Heaven and its profound impact on her daily life on Earth.

This spiritual awakening began when Dr. Neal was in a kayaking accident in 1999 that took her life; this experience is outlined in her first book entitled, To Heaven and Back. Neal, appropriately, contextualizes the accident to amplify her sense of spirituality in her daily living activities. 

As an orthopedic surgeon she indicates how she “second- guesses” her spiritual experiences of her accident and what was it that brought her back to life from death. Her explanation is well-researched with no scientific conclusions other than believing in the spiritual aspect of what happened to her. She died and was brought back to life through the intervention of Jesus. While in this state of being spiritually uplifted she tells about her meetings and conversations with Jesus. It is an inexplicable account of the impact of the reality of Heaven and how it can shape one’s life in a radiantly and joyful manner while on Earth. There are many stories of other people’s experiences that foster looking for opened doors and walking through them to enable a better lifestyle. She stresses the importance of living in the present. Even though many questions surface, it defies medical science, leaving the reader to accept these inexplicable accounts of being spiritually enlightened by “coincidental” incidences.

7 Lessons from Heaven: How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy Filled Life is an inspiring book.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Book Review: Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis - Fiction

Fifteen dogs by André Alexis takes the reader into the minds of the dogs. They escape from the shelter as a group to fend for themselves within the environs of the City of Toronto. They become a pack. They roam the streets until they come to High Park. Here, they create a coppice as their new home. On their own they learn to hunt for sustenance. Leaders emerge among them who define the differences in each dog, its relationship to each other and the leaders.

There are vivid descriptions of how these dogs interact with each other and other dogs they avoid in their meanderings around the Park highlighted by the variety of smells and filth they encounter in their new environment. There is a sense of wildness evident in these dogs as they plot, scheme and even kill. They communicate with each other and a couple of them assume the human language.

Each dog’s fate and eventual demise is determined by the gods, Hermes and Apollo. These gods “toy” with the cognitive senses of these dogs as they shape the fate of this group of dogs. The author brings in philosophical aspects of the undercurrent of the mind and intelligence of each dog through his portrayal of how these dogs live and survive or not.

Fifteen Dogs is an unusual read. It takes the reader into the minds of the dogs that could create rare assumptions leading to shrewd conclusions.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Travel News: A Winter's Day Trip to Niagara Falls

January 15, 2018: On this cold winter's day my son, Michael and I spent my birthday at Niagara Falls. We drove to the Fallsview Casino Hotel for some comfortable underground parking. We walked around the complex to determine the best way to view the Falls.We spent about an hour walking to and fro the road to the Falls where we stopped to take pictures. We noticed that the Falls were only partially frozen and yet created dramatic views.

The pictures tell many beautiful stories that you can create as you view each picture.

View of the American Niagara Falls from the Canadian side

Back to viewing the Canadian Niagara Falls

We returned to the hotel for a delicious lunch and to warm-up before we ventured out again to be in awe of these partially frozen magnificent Niagara Falls

Statute of Nikola Tesla--a famed Electrical/Mechanical Engineer, Inventor and Futurist.
 This statute is situated in front of the stunning backdrop of snow-draped trees
across the road from the Canadian Niagara Falls.

It was late afternoon when we returned to the hotel to warm up and relax with a slice of chocolate birthday cake and a cup of tea. But before we left I tried my hand at the slot machine in the Casino and betted a small amount that I was willing to lose.  Instead I gained a healthy but much appreciated sum of winnings. Michael declared it was my birthday luck. He drove me home amidst snow flakes and traffic congestion in some parts.  It was an extraordinary and memorable day of a milestone birthday. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Travel News: Day 1 - Tournament of Roses Tour in California

In the past whenever I watched this Parade on TV I said to myself that one day I will go there.  My sons made it happen for me in 2018.  I am deeply grateful for their generous Christmas gift to me; it is a beautiful launch to my solo journey of my life.

A bit of the history of the Tournament of Roses. It was founded in 1890 by members of the Valley Hunt Club led by Charles Frederick Holder who sponsored the first Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, California. They wanted to showcase the warm winter weather as well as the abundance of flowers and plants of California to their east coast friends. All participants in the Parade had to decorate their carriages with a variety of flowers and plants. 2018 celebrates its 129th year; this year's theme is Making A Difference. In 1902 the college football teams became part of the Rose Bowl Game making it their 104th year of affiliation with the Tournament of Roses Parade. (Source: 2018 Official Souvenir Program)

On our first day, December 30, 2017 we spent the morning at one of the many warehouses to observe the preparation of some of the floats for the Parade.  It was a fascinating walk through as we watched volunteers, identified as Petal Pushers work on the floats--inserting flowers, leaves and various plants onto the floats. See images below:
Petal Pushers at work

Roses waiting to be inserted onto the floats

Petal Pushers busy at work

A close-up of the natural flora and fauna
This tour created a curious sense of anticipation of what would be revealed on the day of the Parade on January 1, 2018.

In the afternoon of December 30, 2017 we had a guided tour of the Queen Mary ship, now converted to a hotel. It was one of the Cunard Line passenger ships that sailed from Great Britain to New York in the late 1920s.  It still boasts its original design and architecture inside the ship with minor modifications for today's needs and maintenance.

In front of the Queen Mary ship

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Travel News: Day 2 - Tour of Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood: Tournament of Roses Tour, California

On Day 2, December 31, 2017 we went on a tour of downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood. While in downtown Los Angeles, we stopped to visit the original part of Los Angeles which now has a typical Mexican style market. The images below depict two sites located in front of the market.


As we drove towards Hollywood, we spotted the Los Angeles City Hall--the pyramid shaped building in the mage below:
Los Angeles City Hall
Onwards to Hollywood. We stop at the famed Dolby Theatre where the Oscars event is held and strolled around the complex to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign.
From the Dolby Theatre complex the Hollywood sign is visible in the distance

While walking around the complex I snapped a picture of this saying carved along the pathway along with other sayings from different artists. 

Our tour takes us to part of the pathway that has the different stars of fame. Below is the one for the Beatles' stars.

The site for the Beatles' stars of fame.
We stopped for lunch at the Farmers' Market and then we strolled along the street browsing through all the stores and shops along the way.  Back on the bus we headed onto the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum.  We saw the tar bubbling in the lake while the Museum with all its animal fossils were displayed in the Museum.

Tar Pitts Museum
We drive back to the hotel for an early New Year's Eve celebration in anticipation of being at the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 20`8.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Travel News: Day 3 - Tournament of Roses Parade, Pasadena, California

The flyover - U. S. Air Force B - 2 Spirit

The parade began with a flyover - U.S. Air Force B - 2 Spirit.

There were marching bands, some performed with amazing talent for the onlookers. But for me, it was all about the floats and below are a sample of my favourites,

The many images below are worth thousands of words. Absorb and Enjoy!

In the afternoon, we viewed the floats up front and close; here are a sample of the images:

Every float is created from natural flowers and plants, i.e. a variety of flora and fauna.

It was a wondrous and memorable start to 2018 as I continue to keep in touch with new friends.