An airman being captured by Vietnamese in Truc Bach Lake, Hanoi in 1967. The
airman is future Senator John McCain who spent over five years being tortured in a Vietnamese prison camp. Donald J. Trump recently mocked his service.
Ok, I’ll own up to it. I’ve been a lot into English
historical fiction in recent years. Favorite authors include Bernard Cornwell
- 10th century (The Saxon Chronicles),Sharon Kay Penman - (12th century The Plantagenet series),and Hilary Mantel - (16th century (The Thomas
Cromwell Trilogy).This month it was The
Pagan Lord by Cornwell….
Alfred the Great is dead and Edward his son reigns as king. The Kingdom of Wessex survives but peace is
tenuous at best. The Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand
ready to invade and will never rest until all of England is theirs.
Uhtred, once Alfred’s great warrior but now out of favor
with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old
family home, that great Northumbrian fortress, Bebbanburg.
Loyalties are transitory for some and every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the
bloodiest battle yet with the Danes; a war which will decide the fate of every
king, and the entire English nation.
Uhtred, the hero and narrator of the Saxon series, is a
fascinating mixture of divided loyalties and internal contradictions. Born a
Saxon, he was raised by Danes and has the temperament of a genuine Viking. He
disdains the “nailed god” of the Christians and favors older gods, such as
Thor, whose symbol (a hammer) Uhtred carries with him everywhere. He served
Alfred loyally and effectively but never really liked or sympathized with him.
Uhtred’s one overriding ambition is to recover the Northumbrian fortress of
Bebbanburg, which was stolen from him years before.They called this era The Dark Ages for a
reason. Nobody writes the twists and turns, the chaos and battle scenes as
well as Cornwell. When Untred winds down
the Saxon Chronicles we can even see a small light at the end of the tunnel.
The birth of England….
Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) survives 27 years
of imprisonment. His guide is the Victorian age poem Invictus. He emerges to
lead a reconciliation of blacks and whites into a new South Africa. Matt Damon
plays the captain of the countries white dominated and beloved rugby team. The
team is also a symbol of white racism and despised by the nations blacks. Clint
Eastwood finds just the right touch, avoiding an over the top sports movie and
a deep psychological analyses of character motivations. The result is exciting
action in a sport that most American wouldn't have a clue about, and a truly
dramatic portrayal of real political leadership. It was also something that I
found downright inspiring. I recall teaching world history to my senior high
students and feeling that the apartheid state in South Africa was as
intractible a problem as the issue of Palestine, the Arabs and the Jewish
state. Sometimes it's nice to be wrong.
The poem and the movie are both oldies but goodies.
Not that anyone really wants to relive the invasion ofIraq but if you missed the part about how it
all went even more wrong after the initial misjudgment of doing it in the first
place, Thomas E. Rick's #1 New York Times bestseller Fiasco says it all in the
Next came his book The Gamble which is the definitive
account of the insurgency within the U.S. military that led to a radical shift
in America's strategy. Based on unprecedented real-time access to the
military's entire chain of command, Ricks examines the events that took place
as the military was forced to reckon with itself, the surge was launched, and a
very different war began. His stunning conclusion, stated in the last line of
the book, is that "the events for which the Iraq war will be remembered
probably have not yet happened."
This accurate prediction is evidenced in the horrors
emanating today in the daily news from the Middle East. When it comes to military
matters Mr. Ricks is as good as it gets for journalism and analysis. He clearly
shows us in these two books the devastating consequences of an ill- conceived
and ill-planned war….
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I just started reading Home Waters edited by Gary Soucie. It's a fly-fishing anthology. Home waters would be that place or places which the fly fisherman considers his own. Not in the literal sense, of course, but in the sense of being at home there. The place with which he is most familiar and most comfortable. A place to which he returns most often in body and spirit.
For me, it is the spring fed limestone creeks and rivers of Bluff Country, the karst region of southeastern Minnesota. There are several rivers and innumerable streams and tiny brooks in this unglaciated countryside. Over a forty year period I have fished most of them.
South Branch Root River
The South Branch of the Root River is closest to my home and heart. It is the place to which I now return in my retirement years.
This is where I first learned how to entice the wily brown trout with the fly. Then taught my two sons the same art. Later, as they grew up, we wandered far afield to the fabulous waters of Montana and Yellowstone National Park. The Boulder, the Gallatin, the West Fork of the Madison, The Big Hole, The Lamar, Slough Creek and countless others became part of our vocabulary.
Son Ted and I in Yellowstone
Vertigo and other infirmities of aging limit my stream time now but the memories live on as strong as ever. Not to sound elitist but fly fishing for trout has produced among the sporting endeavors the closest thing to real literature Thus Home Waters whereby a host of writers take readers to their favorite fishing spots in a captivating collection of 55 pieces touched close to my heart and memories of similar places and experiences.
Richard Engelis the
chief foreign correspondent for NBC and hasspent much of his 20-year award-winning careerin war zones in the Middle East. As an
enterprising freelance reporter,he
initiallygot himself into Iraq as a
“human shield” for a peace organization in early 2003, and struck a deal with
ABC News; he would become the last American television reporter left in
In 2005, his Baghdad hotel was badly rocked by a truck bomb
across the street, and as the entire region exploded into war and revolution,
he would have other close calls — including being kidnapped in Syria in 2012.
To characterize him ad an intrepid reporter would be more than an
Mr. Engel’s harrowing adventures make for gripping reading
in his new book, “And Then All Hell Broke Loose,”.He deftly uses them as a portal to look at
how the Middle East has changed since he arrived in the region as a young reporter
back in 1996. The result is a book that gives readers a brisk but wide-angled
understanding of the calamities that have unfurled there over the last two
decades — most notably, the still unspooling consequences of the careless and
botched invasion by the United States invasion of Iraq, and the sad
unfoldingof revolutions in Egypt, Libya
Engel has interviewed most of the key players in
these tragedies writ large as well as having a good background in the history
of the region. The book is relatively short and snappybut one couldn’t do much better to gain good
insights into the present chaos…..
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I am a not so recently retired social studies teacher and basketball coach. Still hunting birds though now with a camera instead of a gun.
Nature devotee, dog lover, birder, gardener and still all around outdoor adventure seeker.
Troutbirder II is my alter ego. He loves books and history and spent the Bush II years gradually converting to "yellow dog" Democrat.