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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Night The Fitz Went Down

Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald
Music and lyrics by Gordon Lightfoot
"The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they called "Gitche Gumee."
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
that good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
when the "Gales of November" came early.
The ship was the pride of the American side
coming back from some mill in Wisconsin.
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
with a crew and good captain well seasoned,
concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
when they left fully loaded for Cleveland.
And later that night when the ship's bell rang,
could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?
The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
and a wave broke over the railing.
And ev'ry man knew, as the captain did too
'twas the witch of November come stealin'.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
when the Gales of November came slashin'.
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
in the face of a hurricane west wind.
When suppertime came the old cook came on deck sayin'.
"Fellas, it's too rough t'feed ya."At seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in; he said"........
It’s been some 37 years since one of Lake Superior's great unsolved mysteries. On November 10, 1975, a "perfect storm" over Lake Superior sank the ore carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald. Many theories have been expressed on the cause of this catastrophe, one widely held but rarely spoken reason has never been published -- until now. In The Night The Fitz Went Down, as the last living captain of an ore boat that also sailed through the worst of that storm, Captain Dudley Paquette relates his harrowing memoir of those hours leading up to the Fitzgerald wreck and of the dangerous search afterward. In the process, the reader gains deep insight into the mind of Great Lakes captains and what might have been the situation in the wheelhouse of the Fitzgerald as the big lake crashed across the decks. The real cause of the wreck might finally be known.
The Night The Fitz Went Down is 192 page paperback book about the ship, and one of the most recent books about the Fitz's sinking. This book is coauthored by a captain who was on Lake Superior the night the Fitz went down, and he shares personal memories of that night, and what he theorizes took place. It is very biographical about Captain Paquette, so some may find this book off-subject. Actually I think it was spot on. I’ve never been on the ocean nor an inland sea like Superior. Actually being a canoe guy all my life any lake much bigger than a pond tends to make me nervous. I also like mysteries. Thus, this book was both interesting and scary to me..... Oh and I always loved Lightfoots story song.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Red Tails

No, I didn't go to see the George Lucas film. The famous director/producer of Star Wars stated he personally financed this expensive production because Hollywood wouldn't do it. He claimed it was " because its' overseas audience would be too limited." He made it into a fighter action movie ala Stars Wars scenes, according to Roger Ebert. He also largely skipped over the extreme racism and prejudice evident in the South and the military at that time. So I did one better. I went to hear Joe Gomer speak at the Galaxy library in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Gomer is one of the few surviving Tuskegee Airmen. At 91 and living in Duluth, he is sharp as a tack. Apparently the only suviving member of the famed group of pilots who fought off Nazi fighter plane attacking American bombers over Italy, he spoke to an overflow crowd in the atrium of the library. The crowds response was very enthsiastic to his reminiscences. I enjoyed the afternoon thoroughly....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The New Newsweek

In 2009 I had just became aware that Jon Meacham (the editor in chief of Newsweek magazine) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for biography. This was a small yet personal vindication for me. I'll explain why.
I thought the book American Lion was wonderfully written and particularly insightful about Andrew Jackson 's place in American History. Some months back, I had explained to a friend what a great book Meacham had written. This person immediately launched into an attack (without having read the book) upon the author for having anything good to say about this controversial president. I found myself defending and President
I also read some more criticism's of the author on the internet. I suspect those had more to do with Meachams connection to Newsweek magazine.
Here is what Newsweek Managing Director and Washington Post Co. Vice President Ann McDaniel, had to say: "It gives me great pleasure to announce that Jon Meacham has won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for biography for his best-selling book American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. The Pulitzer Board described Jon's book as "an unflinching portrait of a not always admirable democrat but a pivotal president, written with an agile prose that brings the Jackson saga to life." In addition, Jon has written two other bestsellers: Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship & American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation". I particularly enjoyed his portrait of the friendship of the President and Prime Minister. Jon is in good company; previous winners in the biogrpahy category include Robert Caro, David McCullough, Arthur Schlesinger, John F. Kennedy and, Katharine Graham, whose family owned The Washington Post Company, NEWSWEEK's parent.
Newsweek was sold recently. Jon and many of the outstanding collection of writer and journalists have since left the magazine. It been downhill for the magazine ever since. Tina Brown, has taken over as editor. Her cover story shows an imagined Prince Di & Kate walking side by side. All I could think about the article was creepy. The drive to be cool, chic and trendy is now in vogue. I rate this demise of a once great magazine as the equivalent of "reality TV." How sad....

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is about the search for a high-level Soviet spy within MI6, the British intelligence service. This mole is not to be found in an exotic location, but seems more than likely to be one of the men in the room.
The movie is based on John Le Carre's 1974 novel, which redefined modern spy fiction into complex thrillers. But this is not the book/movie James Bond type with babes, chases, explosions et.all. It is as Churchill described the Soviet Union, a riddle wrapped inside an enigma. Our hero inside this story is George Smiley, played superbly by Gary Oldman and a fine supporting cast. A highly ranked Soviet double agent is high inside British intelligence during the Cold War. But who is he? Laconic George Smiley is given the task of finding out. Oscar nomination followed in the wake of the critics high praise for this movie. The general public was less enthralled. I was more of the later. The setting and the acting was great. The plot was complex. Way to complex. Now mysteries are supposed to be that way but this one, like the book, was over the top. The editing, jumping back and forth, didn't help either. Unless your a member of the sophisticated, intellectual elite movie critics or work in advanced nuclear physics and cryptography or something akin to that, perphaps like me you'd come away from the theater, saying to yourself..... huh?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Red Mist

Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell, The new Kay Scarpetta novel from the world's #1 best-selling crime writer. This is number 19 in the series. Okay, I have to confess I don’t usually read crime thrillers. Still, this one had a medical (forensic) theme, so it reminded of Robin Cooks novels, which I liked. I gave it a try
Determined to find out what happened to her former deputy chief, Jack Fielding, murdered six months earlier, Kay Scarpetta travels to the Georgia Prison for Women, where an inmate has information not only on Fielding, but also on a string of grisly killings. The murder of an Atlanta family years ago, a young woman on death row, and the inexplicable deaths of homeless people as far away as California seem unrelated. But Scarpetta discovers connections and......
Did you ever read a really good book, then go to the movie and think they left out way too much. This book is the opposite. It might make a decent movie but the book is way too long.
That is to say stating and restating unneeded detail. A sentence becomes a paragraph. A paragraph becomes several pages.
The author seems to favor cute, snappy, and somewhat sarcastic dialogue. The characters all seem to be mimicking the same detective from a thirties movie.
In any case, if this kind of stuff was the basis of the authors selling millions of copies and perhaps even TV series like CSI...... I don’t get. It seemed to be much ado about nothing.