To Go To Troutbirders Nature Blog (click on above picture)

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Last of the Presidents Men by Bob Woodward

Woodward’s book, his 18th  is a direct descendant of All the President's Men -- his iconic first book, written with Carl Bernstein in 1974. The Last of the Presidents Men  takes us back to Nixon’s White House and  is based on more than 46 hours of interviews with Alexander Butterfield and never before revealed diaries and other documents.  Butterfield "unable to tell a lie under oath"
was the White House aide who revealed that Nixon was taping conversations in the Oval Office. It was those tapes ordered up by the Supreme Court which revealed the lies and criminal behavior of the President of the United States.

The book doesn’t add a whole lot to the story oft told in many books and biographies of a President  who was bizarrely shy, even  paranoid and willing to settle scores for imagined,  even trivial slights. One who easily lied and was willing to break the law to serve his ends. A telling vignette from the tapes was Nixon telling his top aides that years of bombing in Vietnam had not done one bit of good. He also demanded an inquiry and a jacking up of the air force as to its ineffectiveness. A few month later he unleashed the massive bombing of Cambodia and Laos for political gain in the upcoming presidential election. He wanted to win at any cost.....

Butterfield was an Air Force pilot who fought in Vietnam. Believing his path to higher rank in the service was blocked he wrote to an old college friend H.R. Haldeman looking for a career move in Washington. Haldeman was Nixons chief of staff with Butterfield getting a job in the White House. Most of Nixons aides were longtime friends and insiders. Thus Butterfield was new, open minded yet military loyal to the new President. He remained loyal yet  came to view the man as strange, even more weird than even odd. This comes out at many points in this book which becomes more a personality/psychological portrait than anything else.

I was too young to vote for Richard Nixon though my parents did. He did some good things the opening to China being one.  Still the aura about the man was creepy. Mr. Butterfield recounts Nixon’s efforts to root out an “infestation” of portraits of Joh F. Kennedy in staffers’ offices and his demand for a proper “picture policy” that couldn't be traced back to him.  And he recounts Nixon’s need for talking points — even for events like a small private birthday party, and his extreme discomfort at any social event.

Thus we learn of  Nixon’s secrets, obsessions and deceptions. I’m not a fan of gossipy “celebrity” books but this book is the last word from a man who kept quiet for over fifty years and is backed up by thousands of document never seen before.  I think this may all be relevant today as I watch the Republican candidates spout their utter nonsense and wonder who these men and one women really are.  What lies behind their clichés and fear mongering. What do they really believe? Who are their friends?  How do arrive at decisions based on what values? Yes the story of Richard Nixon might well be worth thinking about again as we elect a new President …. Scary thought.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Troutbirders Favorite Recipes

Its hunting season here now in Bluff Country and our walks with Miss Lily the GSD are somewhat limited in where we can go without running into deer hunters. My hunting efforts in years gone by were mainly limited to upland game birds. Bow hunting  for a few years was famous mostly for some hilarious episodes of ineptitude on my part. :)
 In the late sixties my bride purchased Cooking The Sportman's Harvest from the South Dakota Dept. of Game, Fish and Parks. I'm not sure why due to the fact that my very first effort to bring home game to the family hearth had engendered the following exchange. "What are they," asked an obviously disturbed Queen B. "Squirrels", was my proud reply, 22 in hand. "You can forget that. I'll be damned if I'm gonna cook any skinned rats in this kitchen.
Here are some of the recipes which didn't get used. I wonder why?
Paddlefish squares (illegal to catch in Minnesota. Now on the endangered list.)
Snipe (Boys Scouts were often sent to search for these in the dead of night)
Fishloaf (probably carp with ketchup topping) or that all time favorite... Carp Chowder with PCB's and other genetic mutations.
Pressure cooked Sage Hens (tenderizes geriatric birds of any type)
Sandhill Crane pie (popular also in North Dakota where if it has two or four legs and is not human it can be shot and eaten including tables)
Barbequed perch (not available at Famous Daves)
Fish Egg Soup ( for those with more expensive tastes) Also in the Moss Back Turtle variety
Fricasse of Young Racoon. Yes!
Also in the book were specialized recipes for Opposum, Beaver Tail, and Groundhog.
What it came too finally was that she was sure anything not certified Grade A by the Department of Agriculture was probably not safe to eat. I then presented her with a copy of Upton Sinclairs book The Jungle. The inside story of the meat packing industry in Chicago at the end of the 19th century. Having decided that Grade A was not a sure fire saftey guarantee either, Mrs T. went on to devise her own recipes for pheasant, grouse, geese, duck and trout and walleye. What a woman! Squirrel never did make the "approved list" though.

Sons Ted and Tony carry on the hunting traditions of the Troutbirder family.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Last Hero - A Life Of Henry Aaron

Howard Bryant's "The Last Hero" is the fascinating  story of baseball great Henry Aaron and his journey. It is more than a baseball story though because in this clearly written and culturally important biography, we learn of a shy man who struggled to break out of the stifling  cocoon of southern racism in which he grew up.   Then there  also was his introverted personality which left him vulnerable to unfair stereotyping as well.  There is plenty of baseball here, but just as important the book includes front-office politics and the struggles of those who, like Aaron, came up right behind Jackie Robinson. It is also a deft examination of how white writers and black writers wrote about Aaron.

Hank Aaron has a rightful place in sports history. His accomplishments are seemingly never given the full credit they deserved.  He was the black baseball player chasing Babe Ruth's great home run record. It was in 1973 and '74 that Hank Aaron's pursuit of Ruth took on its dramatic and spellbinding arc. He'd break the record -- if he wasn't shot or maimed first. He had well-wishers, to be sure, but the death threats were relentless and kept the FBI busy. A black player had toppled the supreme number in baseball, the very game that had once been off-limits to his people.

More than another “sports idol” book The Last Hero tells the story  of an important time and place in American history. How this country began to change in the fifties thru the seventies on its baseball diamonds, through the Civil Rights movement and beyond…..
Aaron breaks Babe Ruth's home run record...

Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Devil In The White City

I guess I was a little late in catching up with best selling author Erik Larson.  Thus when I was looking over bargain books at our local Goodwill store I latched onto Devil In The White City.  A true story based on events that took place in Chicago during the famous worlds fair of 1893. Subtitled  Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.  For my taste it would have been two books.  The magic was the absolutely fascinating story of the planning, building and operation of the fair itself.  What a revelation of an new world at its outset! That is the birth of modern America.
The second book would have been the story of as mass murderer and all the incumbent details. No thank you. If I wanted to learn more about insane people who do horrible things to there fellow human beings I could just as easily turn  on my television and watch the evening news....:(

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

All The Light We Cannot See

In All The Light We Cannot see Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr has written a wonderful story about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as a lockmaster.  When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo.  With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. Gorgeously written and in accurate detail Doerr connects the lives of the two young people showing against all odds how people can be good to one another in horrible circumstances.  

The author skillfully creates a web of ties between the two protagonists before they even have met. St. Malo is a beautiful setting for the story. Occupied by German forces, under siege by Allied bombers, it heads inexorably to a stunning climax. The book is in  short but lyrical chapters which make it readily easy to read and connect the various parts.

 The walled Breton city of Saint-Malo is a wonderfully picturesque and apt setting for the most dramatic part of Mr. Doerr’s story. Saint-Malo was occupied by German forces and under siege by the Allied bombers that destroyed much of it before the war was over.   To enjoy the book it didn’t hurt either that I had promised Mrs. T. a trip to France when she retired. And yes we spent some time in St. Malo.  All the Light We Cannot See is a terrific book. I liked it a lot….:)

With our friends Steve and Jewel an evening meal at a sidewalk café in St. Malo
And a walk thru the walled city

Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Alamo : The Anatomy of the Last Stand Myth

I just finished reading Exodus From The Alamo by Phillip Thomas Tucker. Mrs. T had dropped it off at our small local library and was asked what I thought of the book. This is not an everyday occurrence. My red flag alert immediately went up.
Turns out this book has been quite controversial. I wasn’t surprised to find this out since the author basically attacks and vilifies the "story" or "myth" of the Alamo as it has been presented to generations of schoolchildren and movie goers. Think John Wayne and Fess Parker. According to Tucker, the whole thing was about the spread of slavery into the verdant land of another nation. The leadership of the Texas rebels was flawed from top to bottom. The people who were already living in Texas (both Anglo and Mexican)were divided about the nature and causes of the rebellion. Santa Anna was akin to Napoleon as a military genius. Huh?
I had tended to agree with the authors basic thesis about the importance of slavery. Some of the details were new and interesting to me, since my basic knowledge of the documented facts about this event (particularly the fight itself and the deaths of Travis, Crockett & Bowie was limited. And some of the analysis was quite laughable.... Santa Anna another Napoleon?
In any case, it was evident the author had several, not very well hidden, agendas. One was that an appraisal of this historical event could do much to improve mutual understanding between Anglo and Latino residents of the Lone Star State. Perhaps.  The other was, by indirection, to bring to light the mind set of people like George W Bush. Thus the controversial nature of the book is brought to focus.
In the end the brouhaha is about politics. This is not helped by the fact that the book is very poorly written. It needed some serious editing and didn’t get it. There are pages and pages of redundancy and much hectoring. The author must assume his audience are all idiots. For this reason alone, I would not recommend buying this book. I would recommend obtaining it at your local library because it is interesting, that is if your interested in historical mythology. Then when you get annoyed with the poor writing, you won’t be tempted to burn it.
As to the politics, well, if this is where George W Bush and "bring em on" (especially in regard to his failed war policies in the Middle East) came from, I wish the myths of the Alamo had been debunked a long time ago. Imagine, if you will, Dwight D. Eisenhower or Abraham Lincoln saying something like that with thousands of dead and maimed soldiers lying on the battlefield.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Martian

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

 Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.
But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him

No doubt, yes, it will be enough to  allow him to beat the impossible odds. I mean, really we can't have an unhappy ending can we. I like survival stories and I really like the premise here…..and a survival story with an unusual setting.  But to a non technologically oriented history teacher the never ending scientific jargon and complicated explanations were more difficult for me to understand than the manuals I can't decipher when trying to put together something large,  I bought at a Big Box Store,  written but someone  who was not very conversant in the English language.  On the other hand if you like this sort of thing you’ll love The Martian….:)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Dog Master - A Novel of the First Dog

As regular readers of my little book blog (Troutbirder II) probably know, my reading tastes are fairly eclectic but leaning a little to history and biography.  My latest read ( a novel) perhaps leans way too far back in human history,  like maybe thirty thousand years to the upper Paleolithic period.  The reason for this stretch is quite simple…. My lifelong love for dogs.

Set against the most dramatic time in our species' history, The Dog Master tells the story of one tribe's struggle for survival and one extraordinary man's bond with a wolf - a friendship that changed mankind forever

Thirty thousand years ago, ice was storming the planet. Among the species forced out of the trees and onto the steppes by the advancing cold was modern man, who was both predator and prey.

No stranger to the experiences that make us human-a mother's love and a father's betrayal, tribal war and increasing famine, political intrigue and forbidden love, joy and hope and devastating loss-our ancestors competed for scant resources in a brutal landscape.

Mankind stood on the cold brink of extinction...but they had a unique advantage over other species, a new “technology” - domesticated wolves.

Only a set of extraordinary circumstances could have transformed one of these fierce creatures into a hunting companion, a bodyguard, a soldier, and a friend. The Dog Master by W. Bruce Cameron is an evocative glimpse of prehistory, an emotional coming of age saga, a thrilling tale of survival against all odds, and the exciting, imaginative story of the first dog.

  The story follows three timelines: the present day life of a professor who believes humans succeeded because of their early relationship with dogs, the early life of Mal's mother, and Mal's attempts to survive with a wolf he names Dog. The story opens with Mal struggling to survive on his own after being cast out of his tribe. He finds a wounded wolf with three puppies and they bond together in a cave. I was instantly hooked by this premise. Every chapter ended with a cliffhanger that propelled me through the book. I cared deeply about Mal's mother and both of her sons. She is intelligent and resourceful, my favorite type of character. The pre-history setting was fascinating, in part because everything is truly life or death. I also loved Clan of the Cave Bear, which I read some years ago. This book is better. I highly recommend  it. Even to people who prefer cats….:)

Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Wright Brothers

David McCullough, one of America's premier history authors,  has come up with another gem, the story of the famous but not well known Wright brothers.   A fascinating tale of family, ingenuity, competition, and even international intrigue.  I enjoyed it a lot....