Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Full Life: Book Review

Published 7 July 2015.
Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, has a breadth of experience spanning 90 years.

Carter has written more than two dozen books over the last four decades, but A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety (2015) has the broadest scope.

Even though much of the subject matter of this memoir has been covered in more detail in previous book, this telling stitches together an entire life's worth of memories.

It's the perfect book to read first for readers unfamiliar with Carter. It covers his life before, during and after serving in the White House.

Readers can then choose which of his other books to read for great detail and analysis.

Here are the chapter titles for A Full Life:

  • Introduction
  • Archery and the Race Issue
  • Navy Years
  • Back to Georgia
  • Atlanta to Washington
  • Life in the White House
  • Issues Mostly Resolved
  • Problems Still Pending
  • Back Home
  • Acknowledgments / Index

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Field: Film Review

Released 20 December 1990.
Richard Harris gives an outstanding performance in this play-turned-film The Field (1990).

Harris plays Bull McCabe, and Irish farmer, who has worked in the same field for decades. Unfortunately, the field belongs to a widow. McCabe hopes to purchase "his" field when the widow makes the decision to sell.

Supporting cast members include Sean Bean (McCabe's son), Brenda Fricker, (McCabe's wife), John Hurt (McCabe's not-too-bright sidekick), and Tom Berenger (a wealthy Irish-American who wants to buy and develop some real estate in Ireland).

For 107 minutes, I watched Bull McCabe beg, borrow, steal and more in order to get what he really wants.

McCabe explains a number of times and in a number of ways why his late life should unfold in the way he desires. He has his logic.

To avoid overt spoilers, I will remain vague, but if you read any further, the concepts discussed will color your viewing. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Olive Kitteridge: Book Review

Published 25 March 2008.
Olive Kitteridge is greater than the sum of its parts.

For this reason, I struggle to fully explain my response to this intriguing novel, presented as a collection of 13 interconnected short stories.

I can gesture to some of the novel's strengths: the structure is ornate yet easy to read, the setting of Crosby, Maine well supports many of the themes, the characters are at once odd and recognizable, and the treatment of aging is complex.

Notably, Olive Kitteridge (2008) by Elizabeth Strout was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Also, HBO aired its award-winning mini-series, Olive Kitteridge, based on the novel and starring Frances McDormand as the title character.

It took me seven years to finally pick up a copy of the book so that I could answer the question "Why all the fuss?" for myself. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Waist-Hip Ratio: Biomarker of Health

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski.
Some biomarkers of longevity and general health require a doctor, some lab work, and some technical analysis.

Waiste-Hip Ratio (WHR) is one of the most straightforward biomarkers.

Basically, if you are shaped like a pear, you're OK. But if you are shaped like an apple, you're in trouble. 

[This post is part of a series on biomarkers of health and longevity.

Watching your waistline alone does have some value.

According to a Harvard Medical School post summarizing the research on WHR, women have an increased risk of serious health problems if their waist is 40 inches or more.  

Men have an increased risk if their waist is 35 inches or more.

Dr. Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico cites research that lowers the threshold or risk by several inches:
"A waist circumference >35 inches (88 cm) in women and >40 inches (102 cm) in men is associated with higher cardiometabolic risk (Ness-Abramof and Apovian, 2008)."

Arguing over a few inches is probably not worth the time spent away from the gym.

BMI or waist circumference alone is not as accurate a marker as the ratio between the waist circumference and the hips. Belly fat is far more accurate predictor of health problems than having substantial hips and/or thighs.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

O'Horten: Film Review

Released 27 December 2007
in Norway
I have seen O'Horten (2007) on several "films about aging" lists, but just didn't get around to viewing it until now.  It's a film from Norway available with English subtitles. 

Directed by Bent Hamer, this film offers viewers of all ages some great insights into the tensions between following a routine and deviating from routine.  

O'Horten is pensive and alternates between being sad, touching and amusing. 

The story starts with the title character, Odd Horten, wrapping up 40 years of employment as a railway engineer.  Horten is a 67-year-old man of habit.  

Quite literally, Horten has stayed on the same path for decades. Conducting a train makes symbolizes his pronounced character trait. 

We observe Horten being understated, reserved, and methodical in the days leading to his retirement.  Once he is done working, things take a dramatic turn.  One could say that his life falls off the rails. 

The bulk of the film is filled with vignettes of what happens to Horten when he doesn't have a work routine to organize his life.