Tag Archives: depression

Change the World

Four young men decided to take a bite out of the world. The world bit back.

More Awesome (Nook Book)

More Awesome Than Money: Four Boys and Their Heroic Quest to Save Your Privacy from Facebook by Jim Dwyer (Viking, $27.95, 374 pages)

diaspora

This is a true story about four young men, from prosperous families (upper middle-class to one percenters), who decided to come up with a program that would take on and possibly destroy Facebook. Their creation, Diaspora, at one time seemed so promising that an intrigued Mark Zuckerberg sent them a donation of $1,000. What would set Diaspora apart from Facebook is the user’s ability to protect their personal information, keeping it from the clutches of advertisers. As the Los Angeles Times noted, the users of Facebook “are not the sites’ customers; they’re the merchandize. The real customers are the advertisers and aggregators who suck up the (personal) data on the users and use it to target commercial come-ons more effectively.”

More+Awesome+Than+Money+Jim+dwyer+Book

The efforts of the young Diaspora founders – who were in their late teens to early 20s – would fail largely because they had no business experience and made horrible decisions. For example, when they approached the Sand Hill Road venture capital firm, Kliener Perkins (KP), they were advised to not request a certain amount of money (KP was prepared to offer an investment of $750,000). They asked for $10 million and came away with nothing. This was close to, and eventually was, a fatal decision.

The stresses upon their effort were to lead to short and long-term dropouts among the leadership, and result in a suicide. This is, to a great extent, the story of Ilya Zhitomirsky, the brilliant self-taught programmer who suffered from depression. However, the telling incorporates the viewpoints of each of the founders. All of the founders suffered from inexperience and the sweet arrogance (and ignorance) of youth.

Dwyer, co-author of the excellent account of the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings, 102 Minutes, provides the reader with a cinematic story. This might make a fine film in the style of The Social Network, which detailed the founding of Facebook.

While engaging, this book suffers from a couple of flaws. The first is that multiple accounts of the same incidents result in sometimes-annoying repetition. This can lead the reader to feel like he/she is watching The Norman Conquests. Also, although Dwyer takes two stabs at wrapping up the story, in the final chapter and an epilogue, it comes to a sudden end – the book ends not with a bang but with a whimper.

If More Awesome Than Money is a true-to-life morality play, then Dwyer appears to be unsure of the lesson to be learned. Perhaps it’s that yesterday’s technological revolutionaries (Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison) became today’s establishment figures. They and their creations are to be attacked at one’s own risk.

Recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. The original subtitle of this book, as listed in the inside pages, was Four Boys and Their Quest to Save the World from Facebook. I do not know why it was changed.

Note: While finishing this review, I happened to read that Mark Zuckerberg and his wife provided a donation of $75 million to San Francisco General Hospital. “Make of that what you will.” (A.C. Newman, “There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve…”)

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Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown

My Age of Anxiety (nook book)

My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossell (Knopf, $27.95, 416 pages)

“So am I, with my phobias and worries and general twitchiness, ‘neurotically’ anxious? Or just ‘normally’ so? What’s the difference between ‘normal’ anxiety and anxiety as a clinical problem? …If anxiety disorders and depression are so similar, why do we distinguish between them? …Mightn’t my anxiety be just a normal human emotional response to life, even if the response is perhaps somewhat more severe for me than for others? How do you draw the distinction between ‘normal’ and ‘clinical’?”

Scott Stossel

The unfortunate thing about this book is that the very people who will be attracted to it may be those who’ll get the least from it. I’m speaking of those who suffer from anxiety, something that Scott Stossel is unable to define although he claims to suffer from it. Stossel is not an expert but he combines a survey like approach – what he calls “a cultural and intellectual history of anxiety,” to the topic with his own experiences. (This takes up over 400 pages.) The problem with the initial approach is that Stossel plunges into deep waters quickly, discussing Kierkegaard and Sartre and the nature of Existentialism. All readers who were not Philosophy majors in college are likely to be lost immediately.

The author might have grabbed the reader by relating his own anxious experiences first. However, there are two problems with his stories. Firstly, one wonders whether some of them actually happened. And, secondly, they must have been greatly exaggerated in the telling.

Those who pick up My Age of Anxiety thinking it’s a self-help book will likely be disappointed, especially as Stossel self absorbedly and somewhat relentlessly relates the exact nature of his confused and anxious mental state ad infinitum (to infinity).

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher.

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Fortify Your Self

Fortifying Your Self – Three Different Ways

Fearless at Work (nook book)

Fearless at Work: Timeless Teachings for Awakening Confidence in the Face of Life’s Demands by Michael Carroll (Shambhala, $16.5, 304 pages)

With this book in hand, you have the potential to lead your own life at work and home rather than be at the mercy of outside influences. Of course, that also means reading the book. Fortunately, it is full of meaningful examples and practical advice with realistic approaches to incorporating them into your daily experience. There are references to teachers admired by author Carroll who deserve the recognition. While this is gracious and appropriate, it creates an alphabet soup of names for a reader who is not steeped in the somewhat exotic cultures and traditions being referenced.

A reader would be wise to use sticky notes or a flag to mark each section as this reviewer has done. The book is structured around five primary slogans: 1. Face the fierce facts of life, 2. No delight; no courage, 3. Recognize fear, 4. Discover the jewel of fearless abundance, and 5. Command gracefully.

Helpful illustrations are included within the main text of the book as well as the appendices. The trade paper format and size of the book make it easy to take along for reference or just to aid in grounding the reader in times of challenge or tumult.

Highly recommended.

The Undefeated Mind

The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self by Alex Lickerman, M.D. (HCI, $15.95, 288 pages)

Dr. Lickerman is remarkably open and willing to share his past experiences with patients as he helped them to face life’s challenges. He is a practicing Nichiren Buddhist, and he begins the book with his own path to creating an undefeated mind.

The presenting problem is the breakup of his first love relationship prior to failing the first part of the National Board Exam at the end of the second year of medical school. The dual defeat that he experienced, combined with the field work required during the third year and the lack of time to study for retaking the first part of the exam, propelled Lickerman into a deep state of depression. From this beginning, he takes the reader into his medical practice for an array of solutions to similar problems brought to him by his patients.

The reader is assured of assistance in dealing with his or her own life obstacles given the wealth of good examples, detailed explanations of terminology used by physicians, and Dr. Lickerman’s kindly writing style. The one drawback is his need to provide attribution of the source material and references to persons whom he credits with wisdom that is worthwhile. These interruptions to the flow of the text detract from his message; however, the reader is well advised to accept this slight disruption given the value of the lessons to be learned.

Well recommended.

Attitude Reconstruction

Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T. (Riviera Press, $16.95, 354 pages)

The third book in this review is by far the most technical and visually oriented. Author Jude Bijou is a practicing marriage and family therapist/counselor. She has devised a set of charts for the reader to use as a guide to attaining a positive attitude and a more pleasant life. These charts depict destructive mental tendencies and constructive mental tendencies. Through describing the emotions associated with the two basic tendencies and the outcomes generated by acting upon them, Ms. Bijou seeks to provide the reader with an action plan for building a better life.

Visual learners will thoroughly enjoy the numerous charts, Q & A scenarios and worksheets contained within this densely-packed book. Be assured, the straightforward approach used by Ms. Bijou can be interpreted as classic textbook lessons rather than subtler gentle assistance of the type offered by Dr. Lickerman.

A person who seeks to change their life situation and needs a step-by-step process will benefit greatly from Attitude Reconstruction.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

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I’m A Loser

Beatles Loser

This article is used with the author’s permission.

Dear Reader,

I was feeling like a loser for a few days. Couldn’t seem to shake the feeling and I couldn’t figure out what was at the root of my distress. It wasn’t a new feeling for me. There are things that haunt a person periodically — feeling like a loser is one of mine. Loser: out of my league, losing my edge, feeling like a failure, these are my personalized definitions.

Whenever loser becomes part of my identity I work hard to hide it — even from my husband. Because if I tell my husband, he tries to cheer me up — that part would be okay — but when I’m feeling bad, then my husband feels bad, too. He worries about me. I figure why have two of us feeling miserable. “This too shall pass.” So instead, I walk hand-in-hand, alone with Suzanne, trying not to let anyone else know.

“I feel like a loser.” It’s definitely not an opening line that leaves a very good impression. Looking back, I can’t think of one single time when it would have been in my best interest to have extended my hand and said, “Hello, I’m Suzanne Beecher, nice to meet you. I feel like a loser today.”

On the other hand, I recently watched a movie and in one of the scenes there was an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting, and it got me to thinking that maybe hiding something makes a person feel worse. If you’re not familiar with the AA meeting format, whenever anyone stands up to speak, the first line they deliver is, “Hello, I’m (Joe, Jane, or Julie, whatever their name) and I’m an alcoholic.” I’m not sure why that protocol is followed in the meetings, but it felt inviting. So when I got up this morning and looked in the mirror, the first thing I said to myself was, “Hello, I’m Suzanne Beecher and I feel like a loser.”

Hearing the words, suddenly my “loser” line wasn’t as powerful as when I’d kept it hidden away. Saying the words out loud took the sting out of them, and surprisingly my self-proclamation didn’t set a negative tone for the day. Instead it made my day easier. In fact, by the time I went to bed, the reflection in the mirror felt different and I was so relieved.

“Hello, I’m Suzanne Beecher and I don’t feel like a loser anymore.”

Thanks for reading with me. It’s so good to read with friends.

Suzanne Beecher
Read-It-First@EmailBookClub.com

Read-It-First is a service that provides excerpts from new and upcoming book releases via e-mail. (It’s like an e-mail book club.) You can sign up at:

http://www.read-it-first.com/

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Waitin’ On A Sunny Day

Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin (Touchstone, $28.00, 494 pages)

I was living in Los Angeles in the winter of 1975 when a live concert by a then-unknown East Coast band was stereo-cast late one evening by a Metromedia FM radio station.   The group, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, was playing at the Roxy Theatre and for all of Southern California.   The performance began with a song called “Thunder Road,” and the band proceeded to play all of the songs that we would soon come to know as the Born to Run album.   (I saw Springsteen and the E Street Band when they hit San Francisco the following year.)

Fans of Springsteen know that despite all of their digging, not much is known about his personal life.   Peter Ames Carlin, author of the well recommended Paul McCartney: A Life, and of Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Beach Boy’s Brian Wilson, attempts to remedy this in Bruce.   Carlin draws upon numerous interviews to flesh out a picture of a real human being behind the rock legend.

Some will be surprised to see how vulnerable Springsteen is.   He’s a man who often worries about what others think of him, one who has been unsuccessful in numerous personal relationships, one who has experienced a high level of depression and relied upon years of professional counseling, and one who has often sought a geographical solution to his problems (moving from East Coast to West Coast and back, to the South and back to the West before settling back down in New Jersey).   The mature Springsteen is now a family man, with a wife, son and daughter, who has repeatedly stuck his neck out for social causes and for political candidates – notably supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 presidential races.

Carlin has an insider’s ear for music and provides a quite satisfying amount of information about Springsteen’s recording sessions over several decades; some of the insights may cause readers to purchase albums or revisit the ones they already own.   Carlin’s best, detailed work comes in reviewing how The Rising album – a work of healing and redemption if there ever was one – was recorded after 9/11.   His analysis is excellent except for the fact that it fails to mention the very best song on the album, “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day.”   (How did that happen?)

“(Springsteen is) an artist fixated on the intimate stories of ordinary folks whose labors make wealthier mens’ dreams come true…”

Bruce provides the insight that Springsteen has crafted his albums in the same manner in which a movie producer crafts a film.   Each album is intended to represent a story, generally about the people left behind in an otherwise prosperous society.   It’s no wonder that Springsteen’s most recent release pleaded for us to take care of our own.

This story of a performer and his unique band of brothers is more satisfying than most musician bios and it makes for a fast read despite its length.   It is, however, likely to have a short shelf life as the “definitive” biography – to quote Publishers Weekly – of The Boss.   As with bios of Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Mick Jagger and other rock notables, there’s certainly more to come

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.  

“There are many things I could and should be doing right now, but I am not…  I am reading and rereading this book.   Why did you do this to me?”   Jon Stewart to Peter Ames Carlin  

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Under Pressure

Mike Wallace: A Life by Peter Rader (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, 309 pages)

“Day by day, Mike was losing his bearings – slipping inexorably into a darkness that would soon envelop him.”

Like the news anchor in Don Henley’s song “Dirty Laundry”, Mike Wallace could have been an actor but instead he wound up as the attack dog on CBS-TVs vaunted and often over-praised show 60 Minutes.   As clarified by biographer Peter Rader, Wallace was in fact an actor, a performer and not an actual investigative reporter.   That’s because he did not do his own research, his own homework – he relied on others to do the dirty work and write his material for him (including two supposed autobiographies)…  And yet, Wallace was very good at what he did.

To this reader and TV watcher, Wallace always seemed one-dimensional – the type of character so easily satirized on Saturday Night Live.   Tick, tock, tick, tock…  To Rader’s credit, this is a bio that presents Wallace as an actual three-dimensional man; a gifted and seemingly fearless performer who was actually very fearful of a lot in life.   He very much feared the notion of retirement and the prospect of trying to survive out of the public’s eye.   Rather managed to stay on past CBS’s mandatory retirement age (receiving an exemption that had not been granted to Walter Cronkite), and continued doing interviews for 60 Minutes until he turned 90!   This meant that he outlived his co-workers and friends, and led Wallace to admit:  “I think I’ve lived too long.   But I don’t feel sorry for myself.”

“Beneath the brash, unnerving persona, the master of the jugular…  lies a more hidden man, a man of scars and storms and deep black melancholies.”   Eve Berliner on Mike Wallace

As detailed in this frank account, Wallace may not have felt sorry for himself but he constantly dealt with depression.   Wallace was to make multiple suicide attempts, he divorced three wives before marrying a fourth, and he was generally – even close to the very end of his life – estranged from his children.   On the small screen, Mike Wallace was a tiger – but in his own life, in his own skin, he was often afraid of the shadows of the night.

This is one of those biographies which does not ask you to change or revise your opinion on the subject.   If you were not a fan of Wallace (and this reader/viewer was not), this book will not make you an admirer.   If you were a fan of Wallace, this book will not require you to dislike the man that he was.   Like a great political compromise, it provides enough for those on both sides of the argument to feel both vindicated and not quite pleased.

In Mike Wallace: A Life, Rader has met his self-stated goal of producing a comprehensive bio of a public figure which “sheds light on our understanding of both the world in which we live and also on what it means to be human.”   It seems that for the legendary, on-stage performer Mike Wallace, living the day-to-day existence of a normal human being – away from the stage lights, without makeup – was the toughest of all his assignments.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Mike Wallace: A Life is also available as a Nook Book and Kindle Edition e-book.

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World Where You Live

iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us by Larry Rosen, Ph.D.   (Palgrave MacMillan, $25.00, 246 pages)

“…the research is now showing that technology may act as a trigger to induce these mood swings.”

Sometimes a book doesn’t fit a particular category.   It may be intended for the self-help reader or perhaps the budding psychologist who’s exploring the profession before making the commitment to a degree and an internship.   Larry Rosen has produced a book in search of an audience.   If his goal was to offer some self-help for addressing the proliferation of electronic devices and diversions that absorb our attention, then Rosen has fallen short of his goal.   The statistically-dense text does contain several self-administered questionnaires and checklists.   Where other books have illustrations, bullet points and charming anecdotes, iDisorder has none of these.

To be fair, there are scenarios or quotes that begin each chapter that give the reader a glimpse of the basis for the topic under discussion.   These topics include:  addiction to the internet; depression/mania and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; communication (shyness); and obsessions with appearance.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is referenced frequently throughout the text, much as it is in the previously reviewed book, The Other Side of Normal: How Biology is Providing the Clues to Unlock the Secrets of Normal and Abnormal Behavior by Jordan Smoller.   Unlike The Other Side, iDisorder lacks a smooth, structured flow of ideas.   The frequent cross references to prior and future chapters invoked a frame of mind for this reviewer that there would be a final exam on the material presented.   Moreover, creating a set of book notes in order to follow the concepts seems punitive for a reader who is concerned about possible technology-induced mental disorders.

While we’re on the topic of school, perhaps Dr. Rosen, who teaches psychology at California State University at Dominguez Hills, could have offered extra credit for students willing to check his grammar and citations.   It may seem petty of this reviewer to point out the reference to MIT (Massachusetts Institute for Technology) – but, come on now – “for”?   Or, this amazing comment:  “At his last review his supervisors wrote that Colby’s excessive tardiness, absence at company meetings, and lack of completed paperwork are substandard and prevent him from doing his job correctly.”

To be clear, iDisorder is a book that showed potential – potential which went unrealized.   It does not make this reviewer’s list of recommended survey books.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Here is a link to a review of The Other Side of Normal:

https://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/have-you-ever-been-mellow/

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