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Monday, January 1, 2018

The Crusades

After the 9/11 attacks, George W Bush said: "This crusade… this war on terror is going to take a while." This misapplied comment was all Osama bin Laden needed to win over many new supporters. His often used phrase "Jewish/Crusader attackers of Islam " had a certain ring to it in the Muslim world. Thanks, George.
Thomas Asbridge, the author of the  The Crusades makes a similar point. Is it appropriate to use words about wars in the early middle ages in reference to current issues in the Middle East? Is their a real connection between the two eras? I wondered about that, and having limited knowledge about the crusades, I decided to find out. Meaning I checked my local library.
Asbridge concludes that the crusades are a potent, alarming and dangerous example of the "potential for history to be appropriated, misrepresented and manipulated" for political ends." Adding religious fanaticism to the potent force of unbridled nationalism, in any conflict in the modern world, is merely ugly at best. The world could well do without jihadist or crusader mentality.

Initially, the emotive words the author uses, as he details the origin and history of this long ago conflict, seemed inappropriate to a well written, researched and documented history. I changed my mind about that as I struggled through each horrifying chapter. Yes, horrifying. I use that word carefully. If you have the it. It's well worth your time. If not, take my plea to heart. "Oh God. Save us from the religious fanatics, of all stripes."
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@Barrie Summy

Friday, December 29, 2017

Goldilocks and Troutbirder

Friends Romans Countrymen I'm still way behind reading the Decline and Fall of Your Empire. Also thereupon neglecting my book review blog.  Whereas, I shall now make amends by going back almost as far as the Roman Empire by recalling a favorite book of childhood wisdom introduced to me by my mother..... Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge.  Goldilocks was hungry.  She tasted the porridge from the first bowl.
 "This porridge is too hot!" she exclaimed.
 So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.
 "This porridge is too cold," she said
 So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.
 "Ahhh, this porridge is just right," she said happily and she ate it all up.
From the wisdom of our mothers and childhood lessons.   Perhaps our leaders in Washington and all of us as citizens should cool down and warm up to working together and make it "just right."...:)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Jesus The Outlaw

Not a book review this time. Just a message passed on by our friends Don and Sandy. Details found by jumping to my other blog .... Troutbirder. :)  Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Dog Park

The Dog Park a wonderful recent book....ooops, sorry,

it's not a new book it's a poster I ran across during a recent political campaign.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Away at War : A Civil War story of the Family Left Behind

By Nick K. Adams

From September of 1861 through September of 1863 the authors great great grandfather Griffen wrote at least 100 letters from the fields of battle back to the family he left behind on the southeastern Minnesota prairie. He had left his wife and three small children on their little farm while he fought to save the Union.  It is a true story of survival of that  family on the Minnesota frontier. And most amazingly less that fifteen minutes from where Mrs. T. and I live. Of course, I’m also familiar with the story of another pioneer woman who lived briefly in our town of Spring Valley. That was Laura Ingalls who married Almonzo of the local Wilder family. More bragging on all that later…J

While the novel tells story of the “family left behind” it is all based on one hundred letters the soldier/father  wrote them during his two years of service. Those real letters  describe everything he is experiencing and thinking about, as well as responding to their communications of both hardships and endurance. It is a Civil War novel as real as life can get. 

The slow, terrifying  waiting for news, waiting for spring, waiting for his return, touch the heart.  This is a well crafted story indeed.  Minerva, her three young children, alone in a shanty on the prairie, and a few nearby fellow settlers  struggle to survive.  Can they run a near wilderness farm like this one on the own. The  three child are all 7 and under.
Minnesota’s seasons dictate their activities.  Away at War introduces the reader to the terrible impact, the pain and anxiety, and the untold suffering war causes family members left behind. A moving chronicle of the experience of war and a compelling story with relevant historical references. Of course, the place where this story really took place I’m very familiar with  so that enhances a good story even more. If you liked Little House On The Prairie I suspect you would like this one as well….. It's a bit grittier and kept me enthralled.  I don’t know if this book qualifies as a “young adult novel” but I’m sure my grandchildren would enjoy reading it and I'll love to talk to them about it this Christmas....:)

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@Barrie Summy


Friday, November 10, 2017

Reading Books

Having a good time last night at a Mississippi riverside bar and grill with friends, I surely had my glasses with me as the photo shows. So much for finishing the book I was reading today . I can't find them. Wonder if.....?  In any case a book review was in order so I'll have to substitute Plan B.  An insight into some of the pluses and minuses of my well into 70 aging process.  
 01. Kidnappers are not very interested in you

02. In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first

03. No one expects you to run--anywhere

04. People call at 8 PM and ask, Did I wake you?

05. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac

06. There is nothing left to learn the hard way

07. Things you buy now won't wear out

08. You can eat supper at 10 PM

09. You can live without sex but not your glasses

10. You get into heated arguments about pension plans though Trump is taking over that subject.

11. You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge

12. You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room

13. You sing along with elevator music

14. Your eyes and knees won't get much worse

15. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off

16. Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather  service

17. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either

19. You can't remember who sent you this list



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

It seems on my recent mission to return to some of the classics of English literature I may have overdone it. It wasn't the several volumes of Edward Gibbons fascinating exposition of Rome's downfall.  It was the annotated edition of that famous book which I purchased for my Nook. The notes and quotes mostly in Latin added substantially to the total volume of words.  Needless to say, I don't read Latin and each Chapter in English was followed by tons of mostly obscure references and explanations. However, my stubborn German (barbarian according to Gibbon) heritage compeled me to finish the four thousand page annotated version in only three months. :)
Edward Gibbon

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was written by the English historian Edward Gibbon in the late eighteenth century. It traces Western civilization (as well as the Islamic and Mongolian conquests) from the height of the Roman Empire to the fall of Byzantium. The author is often regarded as the first modern historian for style, method and substance.

I think ancient history is my favorite period to read about though I’ve often tended toward well researched historical fiction of the kind that Collen McCullough wrote.  Roman began as a republic and created an empire which eventually evolved into autocracy.  Modern historians have often debated over the many causes of it decline and fall. There is much to learn from this subject and even apply to the similarities and differences to our own country.   For reasons of length I would highly recommend an abridged unless you’re literate in the language of the Romans. On that score my wife Barb had a even simpler example in her explanation of the decline and fall….

She reminded me of her upbringing in a girls Catholic high school  Our Lady of Peace (a.k.a. Old Ladies Penitentiary).  Studying Latin she and her classmate decided that “Latin is a dead language. As dead as it can be. First it killed the Romans. And now it’s killing me


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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Women In The Castle

Another end of WW II novel but this one is particularly intriguing. German cities are mostly destroyed as the war is lost. We follow the story of three German widows of war resisters who were involved in the plot to kill Hitler.  The three women are compellingly portrayed as somewhat ordinary women surviving in extraordinary circumstances.  Those circumstances past and present have created different challenges for each widow and their children.

Good historical fiction puts you realistically into the past.  The Women in the Castle does that.  It gives you, from the perspective of ordinary German women, who were there at the beginning of the Nazi war and the end. It also can give us insights into real choices and issues people faced then and still do today.  What was it like to be swept up in extraordinary times and changes.  Or most importantly how the evil tentacles of fascism could first divide and then delude and conquer  the people of a modern nation.
It also draws some chilling parallels to things brewing in the political climate today. Jessica Shattuck has provided a wonderful addition to the list of great WWII literature.

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@Barrie Summy

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Merle's Door

Newly weds Ray & Barb with Max the Wonder Puppy
Our first dog’s name was Max. Growing up in the Twin Cities neither my spouse nor I had any experience owning a dog or any kind of pet for that matter. We both taught in a small town in southeastern Minnesota and rented a home in the country. Max was what is now known as a “designer dog” back then he was considered a “mutt”. I tried to train him for upland game hunting. The fact is he trained me. He was a natural and the best hunting dog I ever saw in action. As to his behavior, think of the book and movie Marley. Max not only looked like Marley, he was equally, shall we say, “adventuress.”  Later, he was the first of four other dogs, two Chesapeake Bay Retrievers and two German Shepard’s. They were all great family pets and well trained.  But Max was the most independent, creative and intelligent by far…… which I often wondered..... why that was?  Some clues to the answer to that question, I believe, could be found in a book I just finished reading.  The title is Merle’s Door by Ted Kerasote.

This book examines  the relationship between humans and dogs. How would dogs live if they were free? Would they stay with their human friends?

Using the latest in wolf research and exploring issues of animal consciousness and leadership and the origins of the human-dog relationship, Ted Kerasote takes us on the journey he and Merle shared. As much a love story as a story of independence and partnership, Merle’s Door is tender, funny, and ultimately illuminating. If you're a dog lover, as millions are, this memoir  is required reading.....  It will give you some serious hints about how to make your smart dog even smarter.  A small spoiler though is the fact that if you and your dog live in an urban environment or even worse an apartment the task is somewhat harder....:)

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@Barrie Summy