Herb and Dorothy

He was a postal worker. She was a librarian. Modern art collecting meets frugality in Herb and Dorothy, a 2008 documentary about a retired couple based in New York who had proven that “you don’t have to be a Rockefeller to collect art.” Together they scrimped, saved and haggled with (then unknown) artists to collect over 4,000 pieces of art that later on became collectively worth millions of dollars.

I saw this documentary last year and instantly made a connection: they’re the Warren Buffetts of the contemporary art world — living simply since the 1960s (in a rented one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan) to be able to buy things that were undervalued and holding on to them — forever (they never sold a single piece). Even when the Vogels (as they are often referred to in the film) were granted an annuity by The National Gallery of Art for the temporary exhibit of their collection in the museum, they did not use the money for food and medicine (as the museum had hoped for) but rather for purchases of more artistic work by contemporary artists. How’s that for passion?

HERB & DOROTHY tells the extraordinary story of Herbert Vogel, a postal clerk, and Dorothy Vogel, a librarian, who managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history with very modest means. In the early 1960s, when very little attention was paid to Minimalist and Conceptual Art, Herb and Dorothy Vogel quietly began purchasing the works of unknown artists. Devoting all of Herb’s salary to purchase art they liked, and living on Dorothy’s paycheck alone, they continued collecting artworks guided by two rules: the piece had to be affordable, and it had to be small enough to fit in their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment. Within these limitations, they proved themselves curatorial visionaries; most of those they supported and befriended went on to become world-renowned artists including Sol LeWitt, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Richard Tuttle, Chuck Close, Robert Mangold, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Lynda Benglis, Pat Steir, Robert Barry, Lucio Pozzi, and Lawrence Weiner.

After thirty years of meticulous collecting and buying, the Vogels managed to accumulate over 2,000 pieces, filling every corner of their tiny one bedroom apartment. “Not even a toothpick could be squeezed into the apartment,” recalls Dorothy. In 1992, the Vogels decided to move their entire collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The vast majority of their collection was given as a gift to the institution. Many of the works they acquired appreciated so significantly over the years that their collection today is worth millions of dollars. Still, the Vogels never sold a single piece. Today Herb and Dorothy still live in the same apartment in New York with 19 turtles, lots of fish, and one cat. They’ve refilled it with piles of new art they’ve acquired.

HERB & DOROTHY is directed by first time filmmaker Megumi Sasaki. The film received the Golden Starfish Award for the Best Documentary Film and Audience Award from the 2008 Hamptons International Film Festival. It has also received Audience Awards from the 2008 SILVERDOCS Film Festival and the 2009 Philadelphia Cinefest. Palm Springs International Film Festival named HERB & DOROTHY one of their “Best of Fest” films in 2009.

from: http://www.herbanddorothy.com

Herb and Dorothy teaches us a beautiful lesson: not-so-ideal circumstances are no match for passion.

The footage in the documentary’s ending credits is a bit of an easter egg (or so I think). It shows Herb and Dorothy going to an Apple Store, picking out a Mac and bringing it home. The ending of the ending credits? Dorothy checking out her brand new Mac, sitting in the same place where the Vogels have a new and growing art collection. A-ha.

Windows fans need not make a comment.

Tips To Get Rid of Mosquitoes The Natural Way

With dengue on the rise here in the Philippines, everyone is naturally concerned with getting rid of mosquitoes in their homes. There is no permanent way to eliminate mosquitoes but there are several ways to minimize the proliferation of these pesky bloodsuckers. We here at Oodles do not encourage the use of commercial mosquito repellents containing the harmful chemical DEET.

And don’t even get us started on ‘fogging’ (the use of insecticides and pesticides via machines that distribute them in a smoke-like fog). Fogging is okay if a. you can afford it, b. you only want a VERY temporary respite from mosquitoes (it’s just for a party, they can come back the next day) and c. you don’t mind the chemicals contaminating your lawn (oh look, it’s a mutant grasshopper!).

Unless a completely safe ultra-effective commercial repellent is invented, keep these tips in mind to keep the mosquitoes at bay:

1. Stagnant Water – Out!

Stagnant water in ponds, fountains and clogged gutters in your property may serve as breeding ground for mosquitoes. Make sure these are drained of all standing water. If you can’t absolutely part with those pretty zen water fountains in the corner of your lawn, make sure to change its water daily. Goldfish and guppies eat mosquito eggs and larvae so it’s also a good idea to put them in your pond. Check if there are basins, pails, pots and pans filled with water around your house. These too can harbor mosquito eggs and larva.

2. Citronella Grass

Citronella grass is an effective mosquito repellent. Mosquitoes do not like the scent given off by citronella grass. My mom swears by this – she learned this from a neighbor who planted citronella in her garden and noted that during an outdoor evening party, there were hardly any mosquitoes in the neighbor’s property. Citronella grass is different from lemongrass by the way. Although they belong to the same family and look identical (with lemongrass purportedly having the same anti-mosquito property as citronella), lemongrass or tanglad is the one that is usually used for cooking while citronella grass is used for medicinal/aromatherapy purposes. Here’s how to tell them apart.

3. Citronella Oil

As with citronella grass, mosquitoes are also naturally repelled by citronella oil. Make sure you buy citronella essential oil and not fragrance oil (which is synthetic). My son goes to a school surrounded by plenty of trees and shrubs so I dab a few drops of citronella oil on his legs and arms as well as on his school uniform before he leaves the house. We buy our citronella oil from a small stall called The Citronella Co. in the 6th level of Shangri-la Mall and Ilog Maria citronella with propolis (available at Ilog Maria’s online shop and at Echo Store). A cost effective way of making citronella spray: 10 drops of citronella oil in 100 ml pure grain alcohol (100 proof vodka will do) + 8 tbsp distilled water. Let stand for 2 weeks until the oil has blended with the alcohol and water.

4. Cedar Wood

Cedar wood is primarily used to drive cloth-eating moths away from the clothes in your closet but it has the ability to get rid of other insects, mosquitoes included. Mothballs are made of naphthalene and can be toxic, causing serious illness or even death when inhaled in substantial amounts. If you have pets and small children in your house, it is wise to use cedar wood instead of mothballs in your cabinets and in areas around your house where you don’t want those mosquitoes flying around. I bought a few 6-inch block of cedar wood (cut into 3 parts) for P200+ from Make Room last year but I suspect True Value branches may carry them as well (let me know if they do).

5. Pepper Pellets

From Manila Bulletin Aug, 20, 2010 article: “The government might eventually end up giving out pepper pellets, not for condiments but as a means of decimating dengue-bearing mosquitoes.” According to researches done by the PCHRD (Philippine Council for Health Research and Development), pepper pellets placed in water can kill mosquito larva. I wonder if this means that fresh pepper has the same effect and if it is only harmful to mosquitoes (meaning it’s safe for the fishes happily swimming in your backyard pond).

6. Electric Bug Zappers

Bug zappers work on the premise that mosquitoes are attracted by the flourescent or ultraviolet light inside the gadget. Some believe it’s not a very effective way to eliminate mosquitoes as biting insects are attracted more by the carbon dioxide exhaled by people and pets than by the light/heat emanating from the bulbs inside bug zappers. Which means that bug zappers work if you let them do their job away from people and pets. It makes sense to stay away from mosquito-attracting devices as insects could be attracted by these at first but could zero in on you once they sense food, a.k.a you, in the immediate vicinity. Open the bug zapper, get out of the room and close the door.

7. Incense Coils

Incense coils have been around for centuries and they seem to be effective in warding off pesky mosquitoes. I remember Katol of “lamowk seyguradong teypowk” fame at my lola’s house when I was a child and that we had to sit very close to the green burning coils (which were usually placed under the tables while we were eating) – they lose their effectiveness the farther you are away from them. I am not sure what those commercial anti-mosquito coils contain but somebody has found a way to make a Katol-like mosquito repellant using lanzones peels.

8. Fan and Mosquito Net

If all else fails, turn on the fan and use a mosquito net. Just make sure the mosquito isn’t inside with you when you tuck in the net at the sides of your bed.

Fun Trivia: A Taiwanese woman catches 4 million mosquitoes and wins a $3,000 cash prize.

Care to share any natural anti-mosquito tips you know of?

Regaining The Faith

Received this beautiful article via email from a good friend and I thought it worthy of sharing with all of you, in light of all the (mostly self-inflicted) negativities Filipinos have been receiving lately.

I am assuming it came from the same Alex Lacson (his Wiki entry describes him as a lawyer, author, philanthropist and politician) who rose to prominence after his book, “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country” caught the attention of the then chairman of the Philippine Star, Max V. Soliven.

Read about Soliven’s chance encounter with (and rescue by) Lacson here.

The Filipino Today

By Alex Lacson

After the August 23 hostage drama, there is just too much negativity about and against the Filipino.

“It is difficult to be a Filipino these days”, says a friend who works in Hongkong. “Nakakahiya tayo”, “Only in the Philippines” were some of the comments lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles received in her Facebook. There is this email supposedly written by a Dutch married to a Filipina, with 2 kids, making a litany of the supposed stupidity or idiocy of Filipinos in general. There was also this statement by Fermi Wong, founder of Unison HongKong, where she said – “Filipino maids have a very low status in our city”. Then there is this article from a certain Daniel Wagner of Huffington Post, wherein he said he sees nothing good in our country’s future.

Clearly, the hostage crisis has spawned another crisis – a crisis of faith in the Filipino, one that exists in the minds of a significant number of Filipinos and some quarters in the world.

It is important for us Filipinos to take stock of ourselves as a people – of who we truly are as a people. It is important that we remind ourselves who the Filipino really is, before our young children believe all this negativity that they hear and read about the Filipino.

We have to protect and defend the Filipino in each one of us.

The August 23 hostage fiasco is now part of us as Filipinos, it being part now of our country’s and world’s history. But that is not all that there is to the Filipino. Yes, we accept it as a failure on our part, a disappointment to Hong Kong, China and to the whole world.

But there is so much more about the Filipino.

In 1945, at the end of World War II, Hitler and his Nazi had killed more than 6 million Jews in Europe. But in 1939, when the Jews and their families were fleeing Europe at a time when several countries refused to open their doors to them, our Philippines did the highly risky and the unlikely –thru President Manuel L Quezon, we opened our country’s doors and our nation’s heart to the fleeing and persecuted Jews. Eventually, some 1,200 Jews and their families made it to Manila. Last 21 June 2010, or 70 years later, the first ever monument honoring Quezon and the Filipino nation for this “open door policy” was inaugurated on Israeli soil, at the 65-hectare Holocaust Memorial Park in Rishon LeZion, Israel.

The Filipino heart is one of history’s biggest, one of the world’s rare jewels, and one of humanity’s greatest treasures.

In 2007, Baldomero M. Olivera, a Filipino, was chosen and awarded as the Scientist for the Year 2007 by Harvard University Foundation, for his work in neurotoxins which is produced by venomous cone snails commonly found in the tropical waters of Philippines. Olivera is a distinguished professor of biology at University of Utah, USA. The Scientist for the Year 2007 award was given to him in recognition to his outstanding contribution to science, particularly to molecular biology and groundbreaking work with conotoxins. The research conducted by Olivera’s group became the basis for the production of commercial drug called Prialt (generic name – Ziconotide), which is considered more effective than morphine and does not result in addiction.
The Filipino mind is one of the world’s best, one of humanity’s great assets.

The Filipino is capable of greatness, of making great sacrifices for the greater good of the least of our people. Josette Biyo is an example of this. Biyo has masteral and doctoral degress from one of the top universities in the Philippines – the De La Salle University (Taft, Manila) – where she used to teach rich college students and was paid well for it. But Dr Biyo left all that and all the glamour of Manila, and chose to teach in a far-away public school in a rural area in the province, receiving the salary of less than US$ 300 a month. When asked why she did that, she replied “but who will teach our children?” In recognition of the rarity of her kind, the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States honoured Dr Biyo a very rare honor – by naming a small and new-discovered planet in our galaxy as “Biyo”.

The Filipino is one of humanity’s best examples on the greatness of human spirit!

Efren Penaflorida was born to a father who worked as a tricycle driver and a mother who worked as laundrywoman. Through sheer determination and the help of other people, Penaflorida finished college. In 1997, Penaflorida and his friends formed a group that made pushcarts (kariton) and loaded them with books, pens, crayons, blackboard, clothes, jugs of water, and a Philippine flag. Then he and his group would go to the public cemetery, market and garbage dump sites in Cavite City – to teach street children with reading, math, basic literacy skills and values, to save them from illegal drugs and prevent them from joining gangs. Penaflorida and his group have been doing this for more than a decade. Last year, Penaflorida was chosen and awarded as CNN Hero for 2009.

Efren Penaflorida is one of the great human beings alive today. And he is a Filipino!

Nestor Suplico is yet another example of the Filipino’s nobility of spirit. Suplico was a taxi driver In New York. On 17 July 2004, Suplico drove 43 miles from New York City to Connecticut, USA to return the US$80,000 worth of jewelry (rare black pearls) to his passenger who forgot it at the back seat of his taxi. When his passenger offered to give him a reward, Suplico even refused the reward. He just asked to be reimbursed for his taxi fuel for his travel to Connecticut. At the time, Suplico was just earning $80 a day as a taxi driver. What do you call that? That’s honesty in its purest sense. That is decency most sublime. And it occurred in New York, the Big Apple City, where all kinds of snakes and sinners abound, and a place where – according to American novelist Sydney Sheldon – angels no longer descend. No wonder all New York newspapers called him “New York’s Most Honest Taxi Driver”. The New York City Government also held a ceremony to officially acknowledge his noble deed. The Philippine Senate passed a Resolution for giving honors to the Filipino people and our country.

In Singapore, Filipina Marites Perez-Galam, 33, a mother of four, found a wallet in a public toilet near the restaurant where she works as the head waitress containing 16,000 Singaporean dollars (US $11,000). Maritess immediately handed the wallet to the restaurant manager of Imperial Herbal restaurant where she worked located in Vivo City Mall. The manager in turn reported the lost money to the mall’s management. It took the Indonesian woman less than two hours to claim her lost wallet intended for her son’s ear surgery that she and her husband saved for the medical treatment. Maritess refused the reward offered by the grateful owner and said it was the right thing to do.

The Filipina, in features and physical beauty, is one of the world’s most beautiful creatures! Look at this list – Gemma Cruz became the first Filipina to win Miss International in 1964; Gloria Diaz won as Miss Universe in 1969; Aurora Pijuan won Miss International in 1970; Margie Moran won Miss Universe in 1973; Evangeline Pascual was 1st runner up in Miss World 1974; Melanie Marquez was Miss International in 1979; Ruffa Gutierrez was 2nd runner up in Miss World 1993; Charlene Gonzalez was Miss Universe finalist in 1994; Mirriam Quiambao was Miss Universe 1st runner up in 1999; and last week, Venus Raj was 4th runner up in Miss Universe pageant.

I can cite more great Filipinos like Ramon Magsaysay, Ninoy Aquino, Leah Salonga, Manny Pacquaio, Paeng Nepomuceno, Tony Meloto, Joey Velasco, Juan Luna and Jose Rizal. For truly, there are many more great Filipinos who define who we are as a people and as a nation – each one of them is part of each one of us, for they are Filipinos like us, for they are part of our history as a people.

What we see and hear of the Filipino today is not all that there is about the Filipino. I believe that the Filipino is higher and greater than all these that we see and hear about the Filipino. God has a beautiful story for us as a people. And the story that we see today is but a fleeting portion of that beautiful story that is yet to fully unfold before the eyes of our world.

So let’s rise as one people. Let’s pick up the pieces. Let’s ask for understanding and forgiveness for our failure. Let us also ask for space and time to correct our mistakes, so we can improve our system.

To all of you my fellow Filipinos, let’s keep on building the Filipino great and respectable in the eyes of our world – one story, two stories, three stories at a time – by your story, by my story, by your child’s story, by your story of excellence at work, by another Filipino’s honesty in dealing with others, by another Pinoy’s example of extreme sacrifice, by the faith in God we Filipinos are known for.

Every Filipino, wherever he or she maybe in the world today, is part of the solution. Each one of us is part of the answer. Every one of us is part of the hope we seek for our country. The Filipino will not become a world-class citizen unless we are able to build a world-class homeland in our Philippines.

We are a beautiful people. Let no one in the world take that beauty away from you. Let no one in the world take away that beauty away from any of your children! We just have to learn – very soon – to build a beautiful country for ourselves, with an honest and competent government in our midst.

Mga kababayan, after reading this, I ask you to do two things.

First, defend and protect the Filipino whenever you can, especially among your children. Fight all this negativity about the Filipino that is circulating in many parts of the world. Let us not allow this single incident define who the Filipino is, and who we are as a people. And second, demand for good leadership and good government from our leaders. Question both their actions and inaction; expose the follies of their policies and decisions. The only way we can perfect our system is by engaging it. The only way we can solve our problem, is by facing it, head on.

We are all builders of the beauty and greatness of the Filipino. We are the architects of our nation’s success.

To all the people of HK and China, especially the relatives of the victims, my family and I deeply mourn with the loss of your loved ones. Every life is precious. My family and I humbly ask for your understanding and forgiveness.

Terry Selection

Terry’s has always been a top choice for us when it comes to dining places in The Podium Mall. The menu used to be limited but the great-tasting croquetas, paellas (chistorrado is win!) and sandwiches more than made up for the lack of variety in the selection. About a month ago, we ate there for Sunday lunch and I was surprised at how many dishes had been added to the menu. Our old-time favorites are still there but the number of European-inspired cuisine had grown! I quickly took note of the dishes I have yet to try and earmarked them for my husband’s birthday. However, the birthday was 3 weeks away and I couldn’t wait. Two weeks ago, we had a mini-occasion to celebrate so we decided to have a weekday lunch at Terry’s. We weren’t disappointed.

There’s jamon serrano and homemade pork loin from acorn-fed Iberian pigs for those not on a diet but there’s also tawilis adobados and gambas al ajillo cooked in ArteOliva olive oil for the waist-conscious (now why would weight-watchers dine in a restaurant serving mainly Spanish cuisine?). I’m not a wine lover but I’m sure oenophiles will also have another reason to eat at Terry’s because of the array of wines available in the restaurant.

To my sister and I, there’s also a bonus to eating at Terry’s: the gourmet store right beside the restaurant selling a vast assortment of cheeses, hams and specialty culinary products. Our latest find was the cazuela – a native Spanish clay pot used for cooking. It can also be used to serve hot dishes (straight from the oven) such as sopa de ajo as it has great heat-keeping properties. Most Spanish households, we’re told, have cazuelas in the kitchen often handed down from mothers to daughters.

Cooking Chap Chae

Korean food is our “pig-out” food. Rich, flavorful and bursting with sesame oil-soy sauce-garlicky goodness, Korean food is what we turn to when we want to go all out with rice and ulam. Our staple Korean orders:  beef stew, spicy octopus and chap chae (kimchi is a given). And don’t you just love the Korean pica-pica that they serve as appetizers in Korean restaurants?

Chap chae or Japchae is a popular Korean dish that uses glass or cellophane noodles as its main ingredient. Topped with stir-fried vegetables and meat, it’s almost a complete meal in itself.

Yum! This making me hungry, how about you? 😉

1 Man, 1 Year, 52 Jobs

Only a handful, I’m sure, knew what it was they wanted to do with their lives the moment they graduated from college. The rest (that includes me) had been absolutely clueless. An exceptional few didn’t get to finish their undergraduate studies – that’s how certain they were of their calling – but ended up tech billionaires or manufacturing tycoons.

It’s a precious thing, this self-awareness, this certainty of what it is you truly want to do with your life at a very young age. If I could go back in time to talk to my younger self (don’t take that banking job, you’ll be happier in a creative field!) I would. Better yet, I would have done what Sean Aiken did: try a host of different jobs for a year.

Sean Aiken, author of The One-Week Job Project (cumulative GPA a perfect 4.0), had the same career dilemma but was more proactive in his soul-searching (or should I say calling-searching?). He took his what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life quandary to the next level (and wisely so): try out 1 job per week for a year and find out what it is he’s truly passionate about. In the course of a year, he became a bungee jump master, an advertising executive, a tattooist, a dairy farmer, a pest exterminator and a town mayor, among other interesting one-week pursuits. And I thought I had this wild idea of trying out a temporary life as a barista!

“I admit, my idea was a little wacky, especially when compared with the traditional route: Go to school, get a job, buy stuff, start a family, buy more sutff, retire, die. But far more wacky is the number of people who get out of bed in the morning and absolutely dread going to work because they hate their jobs. I was trying to avoid that fate. I wanted to find something that I’d love. Something that I’d gladly spend forty hours of my life doing each week and that would allow me to pay the bills. Whether this was possible or simply the unrealistic hope of an inexperienced, idealistic twenty-something, I wasn’t sure. But I worried this same hope could easily become regret if I didn’t find out for myself.”

I liked this book for the nuggets of wisdom it succinctly summarized at the end of every job. You also get to pick up a few cool stuff from the numerous people he meets along the way. One of the things that I’ve filed away for future geeky conversation party poopers is this (from an astronomer Aiken has worked with):

“Actually, the edge of the visible universe is the beginning of the universe,” he said. “When we look at the edge of the universe, the every edge of what we can see, we’re looking at the baby picture of the universe – the moment the universe opened up and the light was allowed to shine. That’s the edge that we can see from where we’re standing, but if you were to travel to that edge, and look back at us, you would see the same baby picture.”

And of course, wisdom can be gleaned not only from the intellectual encounters but from the mundane ones as well: “Socialize more, study less” (from his fellow Radio DJ).

Aiken’s book is not only about a young man clever enough to have thought up the idea of immersing himself in different jobs. It’s about a journey to finding one’s own passion (whatever “passion” means to each person).

The One-Week Job Project lets us in on a young man’s adventure: He experienced hours of hitchhiking rejections by the side of a lonely road, almost quit one job because of a power-tripping demi-boss, got interviewed by CNN, was offered to star in a gay pornographic film and found love along the way. Isn’t that  a lot like life?

Baguio – A Short Trip

Baguio is named the summer capital of the Philippines because of the relatively cool climate that the city is blessed with. People drive roughly 250 km further north of Manila to take a vacation away from the summer heat in the metropolis. Discounting the traffic and the potholes on the road, the GPS that we brought indicated 3 hours and 30 minutes as our total travel time but it took us 6+ hours to get to Baguio. Not bad considering that we left Manila at 10+ a.m. and that we had a 1-hour pit stop for lunch. The last time we went, it was Holy Week and it was a literal 10-hour, 1-inch per minute,  pain-in-the-behind drive up the mountains. The rainy season is really the best time to go (we went during the first 3 days of July). Accommodations were 50% off in The Manor, traffic was light and there were no crowds. The pace was more leisurely, people were happier and the services were a tad better.

On the downside, it was a scary climb. We were in Marcos Highway by late afternoon and some areas had almost zero visibility because of the fog. The road was wet and zig-zaggy. I’ve experienced sitting through blinding fog and snow while Bongo was driving in Zermatt 3 years ago but this was scarier because of the people we were with – my Mom was reciting the rosary at the back and my 7-yr. old nephew just had to let his emotions out, “Hala, mamamatay na tayong lahat!” (”We are all gonna die!”).

The pine-scented air in Camp John Hay and the green vista that greeted us in The Manor more than made up for the long and arduous climb. We booked the two-bedroom suite for 5 adults and 1 kid, while my brother and his family booked a de luxe room (as I said, rainy season rates rock). Service is always five-star there for us but the furniture needs some serious re-upholstering (or a good washing and scrubbing!). Plus, I wish they’d get rid of the carpeting – my imagination goes wild (bugs, snot and other unidentified follicular objects) whenever I see carpets in hotel rooms. The living/dining/kitchenette areas were tiled but the rooms were still carpeted *shudder*. But hey, we got a great non-peak season deal, plenty of space, a great view and service totally wowed us!


NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

In their newest book, NurtureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman present evidence to debunk much of our accepted thinking about children. For instance, that praise is always good (it isn’t) or that kids just don’t lie (four-year olds apparently lie once every hour).

The book opens with an amusing story about a doorman at a certain nightclub in the late 1960s who looked a lot like Cary Grant and proceeds to relate this to the authors’ underlying assumption for ‘why our instincts about children can be so off the mark’. Not to worry – the rest of the book’s thought process isn’t as seemingly outlandish as this one.

NurtureShock is divided into ten chapters: The Inverse Power of Praise, The Lost Hour (the importance of sleep), Why Parents Don’t Talk About Race, Why Kids Lie, The Search For Intelligent Life in Kindergarten (the new science on determining who the gifted children are), The Sibling EffectThe Science of Teen RebellionCan Self-Control Be Taught?, Plays Well With Others, Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn’t.

Some of the “new thinking” laid out in the book aren’t really new at all (i.e. that children who lose at least an hour of sleep daily also lose IQ points and are more likely to suffer from ADHD or be obese). Other chapters left me at a loss as to how to deal with the new science on bullying or talking to children about race for example. Despite these, there are plenty of little gems of wisdom we can glean from the book (no spoilers here). Bronson and Merryman pull out both old and new science, as well as results from researches conducted on schools and universities from all over the world (the Philippines has a special mention), to support much of the traditional-thinking-breakers in the book.

Overall, it has the feel of Malcom Gladwellian sociopop minus the sensational stories. The evidences challenging common assumptions about children are definitely convincing (I have now revised the way I praise my four-year old). Parents, would-be parents and everyone within a relational distance of two degrees to a child should read this book and be enlightened about the nurture factor of how children’s behaviors, personality and worldview are shaped.

While I have to say both my husband and I loved this book the skeptic in me has to point out that “progressive thinking” does not always replace “traditional thinking” (experience tells me they often go hand in hand) and that what research does is provide a statistical probability or snapshot for the majority – there are exceptions to the rule. Parents should always still trust their instincts.

(On an interesting sidenote, NurtureShock is from the publishing company, TwelveBooks – itself a company challenging common assumptions in the publishing world through its commitment to publish works by authors who have a “unique perspective and compelling authority”, publishing no more than one book a month. Of 30 hardcovers it has published, 15 made it to the New York Times bestsellers list.)