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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Photographic History Quiz (Part 3)

Fidel Castro lays a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Historical Photography Quiz (Part 2)

The Microsoft staff in 1978
Bill Gates, front row left.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

History Quiz

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.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Pagan Lord

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….



Thursday, June 30, 2016


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,

 And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

 It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.

 I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

 William Ernest Henley

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.
I highly recommend them both.....

Saturday, June 11, 2016


He built the biggest empire history has ever seen.

He ruled one fifth of the planets landmass.

He shaped the modern world as we know it today.





The creator of the greatest empire since the fall of Rome was????

Kublai Khan

Scholar Warrior Brother

Read the epic story of the worlds less known conqueror by Conn Igguiden.

A rip-roarin’ read, and inspiration to go and sack a few cities on your own.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Gamble

Not that anyone really wants to relive the invasion of  Iraq 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 title.   

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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book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Home Waters

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.

Monday, May 2, 2016

And Then All Hell Broke Loose

Richard Engel  is the chief foreign correspondent for NBC and has  spent much of his 20-year award-winning career  in war zones in the Middle East. As an enterprising freelance reporter,  he initially  got 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 Baghdad.

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 understatement.

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 unfolding  of revolutions in Egypt, Libya and Syria
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 snappy  but one couldn’t do much better to gain good insights into the present chaos…..

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book review blogs
@Barrie Summy