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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Mulligan

After investing much of his life in an unhappy marriage and an unfulfilling career, Dr. Joe Mix realizes that he made most of the important decisions of his life in order to please others, not himself. He married a woman he never loved because she had a stronger will than him. He chose a career that he wasn't interested in because he knew it was what his father expected of him. When the consequences of his wrong decisions threaten to smother him, Joe Mix finally snaps and decides to forsake all that he has done, and set out to reclaim the life he feels he should have chosen. The ensuing odyssey carries him to his childhood home in South Dakota, a cattle ranch in Montana, and ultimately to the end of the road; the banks of a trout stream on an Indian Reservation. We all wonder what our lives could have been, Joe Mix went looking for his life.

It was really hard not to like a book that was set in some of my favorite flyfishing venues. Including my "home waters" - the Root River in Bluff Country.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting For White Horses

Waiting for White Horses, set in the tall pines of northern Minnesota's spectacular lake country, is a story of trusted friendship, loss and recovery, love and redemption. It's a book of wonderful characterizations of people, places and activities. The boreal forests of northern Minnesota, fishing and fall duck hunting made this book a real fun read for me.
The enduring friendship between Grant Thorson and Will Campbell is all that sustains Grant through a series of painful losses as the seasons pass. When Grant finds love in the arms of a beautiful woman it seems that happiness is once again within reach for him. But he is forced by yet another tragedy to reassess the high price he must pay for his dreams. From Minnesota to the White House, Grant must find a way to embrace the sometimes bitter struggle that is life. If this book were a movie it would be a hybrid chick flick written for men. I must say I'd never read anything quite like it!
If we are lucky, we all learn to wait for white horses... it's how we come to understand, through laughter and tears, the real value of the love of our lives. Indeed.....

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep is the greatest film actress of my lifetime. From first seeing her in The Deer Hunter and Sophies Choice on down through the decades to Julie and Julia, she simply has been the best. In her latest role, as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, she once again has come up with an amazing performance. Unfortunately, the disjointed script, the lack of a central premise or plot to this biopic wasted much of that performance.
You won’t learn much of anything interesting about Margaret Thatcher, a remarkable woman indeed in terms of her personality and motivation. The circumstances of her controversial stances on labor unions, foreign affairs, terrorism etc. are vague at best. Presenting them without the heart and soul of the times makes for a poor film. Even wonderful acting couldn’t save it.
The part of the film, I found most compelling and yet many friends and colleagues of Thatcher felt was inappropriate, were the scenes of her as an elderly reclues suffering from dementia. Sad to say the film The Iron Lady might more realistically have been titled, It’s Tough To Grow Old.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tom Brokaw, the semi-retired 71-year-old former NBC news anchor, is now the of author of several recent-history chronicles, most notably The Greatest Generation. In The Time Of Our Lives: A Conversation About America, he focuses on the present-day difficulties facing present day America. As usual, he has his peer group firmly in mind, but he also wants to address the nation’s youngest adults. Comparisons to the way things once were inevitably abound, but without becoming overwhelming.

Time Of Our Lives is a survey, not a manifesto. It feels a bit a lot like like the patriarchal rock of the family orchestrating a current-events conversation around the Thanksgiving dinner table. Yet Brokaw has settled easily into his assumed role as a sage elder with Great Plains common sense. What’s the point of it all? he asks early on, for a moment letting his ’60s cultural roots get the best of him. "You are not expected to know," he quotes the late Yale president and baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti, who was speaking to a class of incoming college freshmen. "But you are expected to wish to know."
At 71, Brokaw still wants to know. So do some of the rest of us....

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Secret Soldier

Back in the 70's and 89's I used to read a fair number of current novels. So called "thrillers" were often included in my reading list. Then, those interests faded as history and biography writing vastly improved in this country Historical fiction also became better grounded thus becoming a new interest. More recently a new "friend" shifted my focus once again. His name is John Wells.
John is one of those conflicted males who lives at several depths. He lost his beloved wife to a random terrorist attack. After that he seemed married more than ever to his job. . Office politics forced him to leave his work though yet he and kept going back to it. He is Muslim devoted to America and peace. He definitely prefers privacy and yet several books have been written about his activities.
In many of his books and The Secret Soldier by Alex Berenson is the latest, John Wells is presented as a real life character. Berenson wants his readers to understand that the hero does not always win and is not a super hero. Wells is written, according to Berenson, as "a compelling character not as the traditional action hero. He is more introspective, a searcher."
The Secret Soldier is a compelling, insightful, action packed book. Berenson was able to look at the rulers of the Arab World and explore how the regimes could lose their power. His main character is well developed and an intriguing personality. Anyone who wants a good political thriller with a very realistic scenario should definitely read this book.
There are literally thousands of novels on terrorism and you might think you’ve read one you’ve read them all. Bad guys, Allahu Akbar, bombs, and kick-butt spies and Delta Force teams to save the day. But Berenson works hard to make his novels stand out from the crowd. He also knows his history. With his journalist background, Berenson treats the reader to a fully fleshed out, but not boring or overdone, treatment of Saudi Arabian history and politics. It makes his novel seem authentic no matter how far fetched actual plot might be. They always seem current and close to today headlines. Yes, it's violent. So is life in The Age Of Terrorism....

Friday, January 6, 2012

Rin Tin Tin & Baron

I grew up in the big city (St. Paul). My mom had asthma. Dogs and cats were not an option so goldfish, parakeets, frogs and turtles proved to be my only pets. Still, my father often spoke of the beloved German Shepherd he had as a pet in the early 20's. That breed had become the most popular dog in America in that era. World War I had brought them notoriety and super movie star Rin Tin Tin popularized them around the world. Heres some "glamour" pictures of the most famous dog in the world. (Yes, Lassie fans.... it's true)
When I moved to rural Minnesota and took up flyfishing and upland game hunting, I fulfilled my lifelong dream of owning a dog. There was a golden retriever/German Shorthair cross, and then two Chesapeake Bay retrievers. When a bad knee finally ended my hunting pursuits, I went without a dog for a while. I missed having them around and thought hard on getting a companion/guard dog in my retirement. A skeptical wife took some convincing that a German Shepherd was the answer. His name is Baron. And now a somewhat elderly boy, me, can romp thru the woods following trails, seeking out birds, wildlife and new adventures......
Naturally, visiting the local library, the following book caught my eye. It was Susan Orleans biography of Rin Tin Tin. Rin Tin Tin was more than a famous German Shepherd. He embodied the core paradoxes of the American ideal: He was a loner who was also a faithful companion, a brave fighter who was also vulnerable. I was astonished to learn from this delightful book that he has existed for eleven generations over a century. By chronicling his amazing ups and downs, Susan Orlean has produced a hugely entertaining and unforgettable reading experience."
Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder and Bel Canto writes "Not only does Susan Orlean give us a fascinating and big-hearted account of all the many incarnations of Rin Tin Tin, she shows us the ever-changing role of American dogs in times of war and peace. This book is for anyone who has ever had a dog or loved a dog or watched a dog on television or thought their dog could be a movie star. In short— everyone . "
Here's a clip from one of Baron's favorite movie roles.... Dog of the North