Monday, May 27, 2013

W21: The Emotionally Disturbed Child – Then and Now

This week’s Biblio-Mat book was one that first appeared to be a chore to read through. That notion was soon confirmed while actually reading it. Judgment by cover rang true.

Cover was drawn by said child.
The Emotionally Disturbed Child – Then and Now, by J. Louise Despert, MD, who also wrote Children of Divorce (or so the cover says), was a 329 page look into the emotional development of children. Written in 1965, it presents a look at how child development was thought of back then. While the studies and scenarios may not be up to date, it is still an interesting read for the historical context and the nuggets of advice hidden within; the biggest of which being that one should definitely not follow advice on child-rearing from a 1960’s book.

What Price Time?
Split into five sections, the book opened with a story about a domineering mother who takes over the lives of not just her own family, but also the household of the man she is housekeeping for. This case study in a domineering mother controlling the dysfunctional lives of her family could not have come at a better time as this week was also the premiere of the long awaited fourth season of Arrested Development on Netflix. Next to the Bluths, this family wasn’t all that bad but the lesson learned was not to be an overbearing mother/wife or your child will grow up with issues.

Not that far off.
The second part was actually entertaining as it told the history of children and child abuse in society across various time periods. In Ancient Greece, Spartans inspect their newborns and threw out the ones that looked weak. This messed them up. In the Medieval ages, children were forced to marry young. That messed them up too. During the Renaissance, children were sacrificed by witches as offerings. That also messed them up. In 18th century France, children were sold into lives of servitude. There was much messing up around that period as well. The soundtrack to this section would be ‘A Hardknock Life’ looped indefinitely. 

Part three dealt with what an emotionally healthy child would be like. Simply put, it is one who is comfortable with themselves, their family, and their surroundings. This section broke down the various stages of a child’s early life along with tips to rear them properly so that they presumably do not rob your neighbours in ten years. The forty odd pages in this part could be summed up simply as pay attention to the child.

Part four described what makes up an emotionally disturbed child. It is pretty much anxiety. Don’t let the child become overtly anxious about anything, but also don’t let his life be completely free of anxiety. The hundred pages in this section looking into how emotionally disturbed child is created could be summed by a quote from Garland Greene: “Mother held him too much or not enough”.

Also, avoid leaving your child with people like Garland Greene.
The last section was titled ‘Reflections on the Family’. Introspection on the modern family and the roles the members play. Specifically concentrating on the mother, it details the dangers of becoming a modern career woman. While it is universally acknowledged that infants should be with their mothers, the picture painted by the book indicates that if a woman were to have a career they would not be able to emotionally support their child and will miss out on all the big moments of their lives so they should learn to embrace the joys and creativity afforded by being a homemaker. Apparently baking one’s own bread is rewarding beyond belief.

Taken with a grain of salt, The Emotionally Disturbed Child – Then and Now is not a completely useless book. It does provide some useful tips on child rearing that has transcended the time period in which it was first printed. While not wholeheartedly recommended, the advice contained may indeed help some with raising and keeping their children in line. If that fails, 329 pages has enough heft for a spanking that’ll learn them right.

Book rating: 5/10 (Not even Annie could save this)

Random quote: “At the age of five she was placed in a private school kindergarten. But after a week, she was rejected, because her intelligence was evaluated as that of a moron.” (1960’s doctor assessments were harsh!)

Monday, May 20, 2013

W20: The Kingfishers

After ten weeks of non-fiction I was ready for a change and the Biblio-Mat did not fail to deliver. A nice step up from the educational texts I’ve received in the last two months, this week’s book was a joy to both read and look at.

Thankfully not a biology book.
With a perfectly angular bound card-material cover and one hundred thick ivory interior pages, The Kingfishers by Karel Nový not only looked great, it also felt good to flip through.  Originally published in 1963 in Czechoslovakia, this was a 1968 first printing of it in English, translated by Peter Avis and Jiřina Tvarochová. Most impressive about this book is the abundance of watercolour paintings by Mirko Hanák decorating the head of each chapter with full page spreads scattered throughout. Vibrant with a hint of abstraction, it elevated the book to a whole new level.

Gorgeous watercolours, angry-esque birds.
The Kingfishers was a dramatic tale of two kingfishers struggling to raise a family against a host of odds. Written in the point of view of the birds, it reimagined what life would be like in a forest if all the birds communicated as one society, complete with politics, hierarchies, and status discrimination.

The story follows Or and Kik, two young kingfishers embarking on a journey at the end of winter to find a new home to raise their soon to be laid eggs. Due to habitat destruction both by nature and by man, they’re forced to relocate throughout the riverlands and learn to deal with the other birds in the environment. Written for a young audience, it was more like The Secret of NIMH than Red Wall, but it was nonetheless an enjoyable read.

Game of Branches.
Strewn with philosophical ideals and musings, the writing style of The Kingfishers stretched to preach in a few areas but ultimately it’s a tale of how all beings should live in harmony. Funny enough, this is contradicted with the character of the eagle-owl who becomes villainized for eating other birds. While one of the kingfishers acknowledges that they too take lives as part of the food chain, it suddenly becomes a moral issue when an animal arrives to prey on them even though it was, and always has been, a part of the natural cycle of life in the forest.

Sociopath critters.
While I like to take most books at face value, part of me wonders about how much the communist regime in Czechoslovakia and the cold war fears in nearby Russia were interwoven into the struggle of the kingfishers. Banding together and working towards a single goal are reoccurring themes in the story along with sharing resources for a greater good. Coming together to overthrow superior powers ruling over them, is common in a lot of stories but in this one it is drilled in constantly. While not quite Animal Farm, I do think there’s still something deeper to be read in the tale.

Book rating: 9/10 (The art really sells this book)

Random quote: “He began to eat, and after a while he became used to the cage, too. The man succeeded in taming him even to eat from his hand. The eagle-owl became dull and stupid, like anyone who has lost his freedom for a long time.” (Life lessons)

Monday, May 13, 2013

W19: Affairs

With a bold red title on a sensual background with a hint of mystery, the first glance told me everything I needed to know about this week’s Biblio-Mat book. If there was any book to judge by its cover, this one would be it.

Exactly what it advertises.
Affairs by Mary Anne Wollison, was an interesting book. One part sociological exploration, two parts instructional, and three parts smut, it seemed to be a 178 page handbook on everything one would want to know about affairs from a woman’s perspective. Published in 1982, it still had a very contemporary feel to it and the content did not date itself at all. Then again, erotic literature does tend to transcend time rather well.

The book began with an introduction on why women have affairs along with a brief history of adultery. Seemingly written by a woman for women, it gave fascinating insight into how affairs come about. It presented both positive and negative arguments to extramarital affairs but seemed to lean a bit more on the former. With an interview with Dr. Thomas, a psychologist and marriage counsellor, the book took on the stance that affairs are natural and while they might hurt a marriage, they don’t necessarily mean the end of one.

The face of a woman educated in affairs.
The next hundred pages were filled with stories from twenty different women of all walks of life recounting their sexual affairs. In explicit detail. Passed off as anecdotes and insights into the female mind, it was really more of a slightly toned down version of “Dear Penthouse”. After reading books on plane engines and book collecting for the past few weeks, this came as a nice change of pace. There were two main interesting things about this section. The first being that almost none of the women regret having their affairs. In fact, they were proud of them and any remorse they felt came from them either not doing it more or contracting some sort of venereal disease. The second thing of interest was that a great deal of the women were located in Toronto. Seeing how this book was published in Toronto and the author resided here at the time, it made sense but it also became a bit disheartening to know that infidelity runs this rampant here.

Most disturbing How-To guide I've read.
The last part of the book was the most shocking. With a chapter titled ‘The Art of an Affair’, the book became an instructional guide on how to conduct an affair down to personality quizzes to find out what would work best for you, guides on what kind of men you should pick up, and where to do it. To be fair, it does have a section on the consequences of these actions, but this section seemed to be glossed over quickly with advice such as resisting the urge to confess and if you really have to confess, confess to a friend instead of your spouse.

Everyone loves quizzes.
While I’m against affairs and the thought of cheating on a significant other bothers me greatly (being on the receiving end of this is probably the worst feeling in the world), I felt that I had to at least try to approach this subject with an open mind and dig deeper into this aspect of relationships. Registering for an account at, a site for married people to hook up with other people, I attempted to get some first-hand information on why affairs happen from women actively seeking them. 

Perhaps I should have selected more categories.
Suffice to say that going on such a forum for meaningful conversation did not go well. There were a few propositions, a handful of explicit photos, but most replies were along the lines of ‘sex or GTFO’. Turns out this subculture does indeed exist and it disturbs me like nothing else.

Book rating: 8.5/10 (Despite me not agreeing with the subject matter, it was well written and insightful)

Random quote: “I’ve never been mixed up with a married man. It’s bad enough if one of you is married. If both of you are married it’s really a problem.” (Advice to cheat by?)

Monday, May 6, 2013

W18: Engines (Part 5)

Part of me was glad to hear the drop of a light book. That part of me died a little when I saw what I received from the Biblio-Mat this week.

Probably the least useful part.
The book, Engines, is actually part five of a series. Edited by E. Malloy, the hardcover manual was a collection of information by a “panel of experts”. Printed in the UK, it did not have a publishing date but seeing how this particular volume dealt with the Wasp Jr. B, Wasp H1, and Hornet E Series engines that are used mainly in WW2 planes, it was most likely printed shortly after 1940.

If your engine doesn't look like this, fix it until it does.
The most interesting thing about this book was that not only was it an ex libris text, it fully embraced it as a badge of honor. The inner cover had a book plate stating that it was from the Mechanics Institute Public Library of London Canada. The title page had a triangular emboss on the corner reaffirming that it was from the Public Library of London, Ont. Outside of this, the book held very little interest for me, primarily because I have a large distrust of old mechanical manuals.

Bookplates: Instant literary status.
Six years ago I purchased a car I had wanted for a long while – a 1982 Fiat Spider. It was a tiny 2+2 convertible that was older than I was and ran like it. I bought it as a project car to fix up and the previous owner was kind enough to include two shop manuals with it. After spending an entire summer completely rebuilding the engine based on black and white blurry photos, hand-drawn illustrations, and ambiguous directions, I realized the previous owner just wanted someone to haul the books out of his garage as it was less effort than carrying them to curb for trash pickup.

From a distance it could be a blueprint for an oil rig. Up close, a poorly designed oil rig.
This manual was pretty much the same as the ones for my car. The only difference is that if one were to use this as a guide, they will be half a kilometer in the air when the engine unexpectedly cuts out as opposed to, say, cruising on the highway at 140 and having everything shut down due to a blurry illustration on how to install a fuel pump. I’m sure that if it was used as a textbook to supplement an actual class on aircraft engines it would be a decent book but on its own it is just a book of theory without any useful instructional guidance. The book bills itself as having twenty-four illustrations. It’s safe to assume that there are slightly more parts than that on an aircraft engine so if the area you need to fix isn’t on one of those illustrations you may have a problem.

Future generations will have no idea why books needed pockets.
Engines (Part 5) wasn't a total loss though. When I reached the end I was pleasantly surprised. Not by the information contained in the book but by the checkout card holder on the inside back cover. A surge of nostalgia hit as I recalled having to fill out the checkout cards and getting them stamped in elementary school. At two cents a day up to a maximum of twenty-five cents for overdue charges, though, it seems even the library did not really want this book.

Book rating: 4/10 (Technical without being practical)

Random quote: "Place the timing pointer on the large drive gear, so that it lines up with the timing mark on the rim of the gear, and rotate the engine in the counterclockwise direction until the timing pointer is at the 20 degree timing mark before top dead centre on the firing stroke of No. 1 cylinder on 4-lobe cam magnetos and 29.4 degree on 8-lobe cam magnetos." (I’m pretty sure a Magneto is not what I think it is)