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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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@Barrie Summy

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Dover Beach (Favorite Poems)

Continuing with a few of my favorite poems.  It's not a top ten list of any kind. Just a few of those poems which I remember well because at a certain point in my life they had influence and meaning to me personally.  I started with Percy Bysshe Shelly and Ozymandias. My next choice was The Testament of a Fisherman by Robert Traver. My next choice is Dover Beach by Mathew Arnold.

I don't believe I would have chosen this poem a few decades ago. History though shows us  the ebb and flow of civilizations and life.  Recent years have brought us the loss of our eldest son, five grandchildren who live far away and our 50th wedding anniversary along with serious health issues. The daily news sees numerous crises, tragic events along with a potential catastrophe unfolding at the nations center. Yes Dover Beach speaks to me these days......

The sea is calm tonight.

The tide is full, the moon lies fair

Upon the straits; on the French coast the light

Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,

Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!

Only, from the long line of spray

Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,

Listen! you hear the grating roar

Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,

At their return, up the high strand,

Begin, and cease, and then again begin,

With tremulous cadence slow, and bring

The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago

Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought

Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow

Of human misery; we

Find also in the sound a thought,

Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore

Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.

But now I only hear

Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,

Retreating, to the breath

Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear

And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! for the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Troutbirders Favorite Poems #2

 Continuing with a few of my favorite poems.  It's not a top ten list of any kind. Just a few of those poems which I remember well because at a certain point in my life they had influence and meaning to me personally.  I started with Percy Bysshe Shelly and Ozymandias. My next choice is The Testament of a Fisherman by Robert Traver.

John D. Voelker, also known by his pen name Robert Traver, was a noted lawyer, judge, author and fly fisherman from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He grew up in his hometown of Ishpeming. His book Anatomy of a Murder was a highly reputed best seller and made into a Academy nominated movie staring Jimmy Stewart and Lee Remick.

I became a devoted fisherman at a very young age. I graduated from the University of Minnesota and took my first (and only) teaching job in southeastern Minnesota's Bluff County.  I quickly discovered I had moved into the only county in The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes without a lake.... which upon further investigation turn out to have many free flowing limestone springs and cold water creeks. Perfect for trout. I gave it a try mostly teaching myself how to flyfish.  When asked later to explain my passion for this particular form of fishing, Travers poem expressed it best....
A young Troutbirder's cutthroat trout on the Lamar River in Yellowstone

“I fish because I love to. Because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly. Because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape. Because in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing what they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion. Because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed, or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility, and endless patience. Because I suspect that men are going this way for the last time and I for one don't want to waste the trip. Because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters. Because in the woods I can find solitude without loneliness. ... And finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important, but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant and not nearly so much fun.”  
― Robert Traver
Root River Fillmore County, Minnesota

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Bogged down a bit in my reading, I thought I'd come up with a few of my favorite poems.  It's not going to be a top ten list of any kind. Just a few of those poems which I remember well because at a certain point in my life they had influence and meaning to me personally.  I'll start with Percy Bysshe Shelly and Ozymandias.

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,

Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,

The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Nothing beside remains: round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

I  met Ozymandias  accidentally at a public meeting sitting next to me in the audience. He did have a commanding voice and arrogant sneer,  particularly at the end of the meeting  when he made threats and promises  about the manner and substance of the meetings purpose. Appalled,  I chose to ignore him for several years as he took command of the empire in which I played a small part.  
Some time later as my co-workers and other community members grew increasingly unhappy and in some cases frightened, a few began to stand up. I joined them to do what I could to help.

Ozymandias is actually the ancient Greek term for Ramses II mightiest of Egypt's pharaoh's.  Perhaps his broken statue residing now in the British museum may find a kindred spirit now residing (except on weekends) in Washington D.C.  My hope remains the same now as when I first met  that spirit those many years ago ....we shall see a decayed wreck boundless and bare whose political arrogance has come  to its inevitable end :)


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Thrillers v. Thinkers

There is, of course, a whole smorgasbord of fiction that ranges from "thrillers" to "who done its?" and everything in between. I've tried them all.
David Baldacci is one of my favorite authors.  He writes a tight plot with interesting characters. In Hells Corner there are some fascinating  goings on in the White House but at least you know it fiction rather than the "alternate facts" coming from Washington D.C. these days.

  Still starting with The Complete Sherlock Holmes in high school I've always tended toward the "thinkers" over" the "thrillers" and then went on to all those female British authors like P.D. James who solved so many crimes.  And least we forget, it was  TV that first brought us that bumbling Colombo. Oh how those criminals underestimated his genius....:)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Coldest Winter

Author David Halberstam was one of America’s greatest journalist/historians. As a young man he made his reputation as a reporter in Vietnam. There he reported  as he saw it. That is as a quagmire in the making by a government of the “best and brightest” who were in denial of its folly. He went on to produce 20 books in 40 years on a variety of  fascinating subjects but  perhaps most importantly of our nations war machine drifting into wars of “exceptionalism” a.k.a  imperial folly. It was his Vietnam book The Best and Brightest which won him the Pulitizer Prize.

It was his last book The Coldest Winter, published five  days before his untimely death in a car accident at age 73, that I just finished reading.  I think it was his very best.  The Coldest Winter is about the Korean War of 1950-53. This was is not writ large in the collective memory of this country, except for those few remaining who fought there. It was  a war that was cruel and inconclusive and claimed the lives of 33,000 American soldiers, 415,000 South Koreans and about 1.5 million North Korean and Chinese troops. Better forgotten? I think not.

This book includes the down in the foxholes stuff of an untrained, outnumbered, ill equipped, and driven into a corner, heroic  American Army as well  the broader picture of military strategy, political and managerial bungling at the highest levels. All of this leading up to the inimical fate of three wars of hubris, dubious strategy, and imperial ineptitude.  That is Korea, Vietnam, Iraq  and now seemingly ad infinitum more yet…..:(
And now the having read William Manchester’s classic on Douglas MacArthur,  American Caesar there are fascinating heroes and villains . Halberstams MacArthur is both. He is the brilliant strategist of the island hopping campaigns in the Pacific and tactician of the Inchon landing in Korea. But here disturbingly and at length MacArthur is the self-besotted   egomaniac who wastes  the lives of his men. As a 10 year old I remember my father, the banker, arguing in defense of the General over President Trumans  firing of him, with his two Railroad Brotherhood siblings.  As  that was in the era of children “being seen but not heard” I kept my counsel though I agreed with my Uncles and President Truman.  After reading The Coldest Winter  I know they were right then and I remain convinced of it even more so to this day….:)  A fascinating book indeed.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Lilac Girls

Recently out in paperback, ereader, and audio if you or your book club missed it you can easily catch up. It’s Martha Hall Kelly’s debut novel Lilac Girls.

This bestseller was based on the true life of several World War II heroines.  First  New York socialite Caroline Faraday a dilettante appearing  do-gooder  who shows her true essence as Hitler’s army invades Poland in 1939 with courage, determination and a strong sense of justice.

 Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences. 
For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

 The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

Lest we never forget, this harrowing  fictional tale, based on well researched facts and real people,  not only illuminates a dark page in human history it gives us a fresh female point of view. . .  Although read either non fiction or fiction about the Holocaust is not for the faint hearted it is necessary.  Though  parts of the book,  like life in high New York society left me uninterested or unanswered questions where character develop was lacking in depth frustrated,  overall this story was riveting.  Perhaps it was the little known aspect of Ravensbruck  being the only Nazi concentration camp solely for women that made it so…..  In any case it’s been a while since I read Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See that I’ve read one so interesting….

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Monday, May 1, 2017

The Zookeeper's Wife

First I read and reviewed the book in  Oct. 2009
Then today we saw the opening of the movie. May 1, 2017
I had been  at the mall, taking a shortcut thru Barnes and Nobel, determined not to stop. I stop and it's an hour or two delay and more money spent on books than I should. And, of course, I stopped .....
The title that caught my passing eye intrigued me. It was The Zookeeper's Wife. Perhaps, it was a recent movie review I had done on these pages that inspired me to take a look. The movie was The Time Travelers Wife. I had written  that it was just "ok" and panned its "silly, romanticized, and confusingly trivial" plot. The kinder comments on that review were, to the effect that, if I had previously read the book, I would have better understood and appreciated the movie. Ouch! This time I read the book first and hoped that somebody makes a great movie about it. It certainly deserved it.

Diane Ackerman's The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story (W. W. Norton) has been selected to receive the 2008 Orion Book Award, which is conferred annually to a book that deepens our connection to the natural world, presents new ideas about our relationship with nature, and achieves excellence in writing.
"The Zookeepers Wife is a groundbreaking work of nonfiction,"said selection committee member Mark Kurlansky, "in which the human relationship to nature is explored in an absolutely original way through looking at the Holocaust." Kathleen Dean Moore, the committee's chairperson, said: "A few years ago, 'nature' writers were asking themselves, How can a book be at the same time a work of art, an act of conscientious objection to the destruction of the world, and an affirmation of hope and human decency? The Zookeeper's Wife answers this question."
The Zookeeper’s Wife is set in the time and place of The Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto. Few readers will casually pick up a book on this topic. I never shy away. Believing that generations for all time should never never be allowed to forget what happened, when evil on a scale never imagined, ran unchecked for years. You brace yourself and then read because you must. And yet this book left me feeling good. It even inspired me at times. I hesitate to write this about a book dealing with these horrible events, but at the core it is a story about
humanity at its very best. Diane Ackerman, famous poet, essayist, and naturalist tells a wonderful tale here. And it’s a true story carefully researched and based on fact.

The book begins in the mid-1930s, when a young couple, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, were the directors of Warsaw's zoo.
The zoo was destroyed during the Nazi bombardment of Warsaw in 1939. Surviving animals were shot "for fun" by rampaging soldiers led by the director of the Berlin zoo.
Jan immediately joined the resistance. Smuggling food into the Ghetto, building bombs, sabotage and many dangerous acts were part of his daily life. The Zabinski's eventually carried cyanide pills in case they were caught by the Gestapo.

"Equally important, Jan and Antonina opened their home and the zoo to partisans and Jews, some of whom were smuggled out of the ghetto by Jan himself. The Zabinskis hid their "Guests" in closets, rooms and even the old animal cages; in the course of the Nazi occupation, they helped approximately 300 women, men and children. And Antonina insisted, throughout, on maintaining a festive, music-filled household, even as she and Jan lived with the constant threat of exposure, torture and death, not just for themselves but for their young son, too.
In Ackerman's telling, it was Antonina's connection to the animal world -- her belief that every living thing is entitled to life, respect and nurture -- that made her incapable, despite her own terrors, of turning away from suffering. Nazi ideology, obsessed with categorization, hierarchy and uniformity, was incomprehensible to Antonina, who delighted in life's messy, rambunctious diversity.
A story like this could easily devolve into Dr. Doolittle-like sentimentality. Ackerman avoids mawkishness in two ways. First, the horrors of the Holocaust seep into almost every page, just as they should. The Zabinski household may have maintained a determined joyful air, but we never forget that the Guests' time in the ghetto has transformed them from accomplished, vibrant people into broken, hunted prey: "shipwrecked souls," Antonina called them in her diary. Equally important, Ackerman refuses to romanticize nature. She knows that the animal world is full of -- in fact, depends upon -- deception and violence, and that a person's immersion in the natural world is no guarantee of goodness."

The Zookeepers Wife is a fascinating book. I highly recommend it. I also recommend the movie. Some of the movie reviewer charge it with being a Disney version of the Holocaust. This is not true. The movie clearly implies and sometimes shows what is happening. It tells the story as it pretty much happened. We don't need Schindler's List or Sophies  Choice to understand it. Incidentally Jessica Chastain as Antonina is very good.  Good and thoughtful movies are sometimes hard to come by these days. This is one....:)


Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Weapon of Mass Destruction?

As  revealed in a recent post, two of our male grandchildren from a warm State visited chilly Minnesota for a week. During one of our many outings, 4th grader Leonard revealed he was especially interested in rocks. Seems as though, I  told him, I happened to personally know an expert on the subject, my friend Gary, a.k.a. Mr. Science who taught Geology and Earth Science.
Of course, Gary was a collector of not only lots of rock but Indian artifacts as well. Walking our GSD Lily that afternoon, Leonard had found an interesting rock which he thought had a fossil embedded. Mr. Science identified it as Chert. Chert is a microcrystalline or cryptocrystalline sedimentary rock material composed of silicon dioxide (SiO2). It occurs as nodules, concretionary masses, and as layered deposits. Chert breaks with a conchoidal fracture, often producing very sharp edges. Early people took advantage of how chert breaks and used it to fashion cutting tools and weapons. The name "flint" is also used for this material. Gary presented Leonard with a genuine arrowhead from his own collection.      
A few years earlier I had taken a somewhat larger role in instructing younger family members in Indian lore.  Showing Leonard some native wildflowers in my garden, we happened upon Canadian Bloodroot.  Naturally, an inevitable question arose. The sap of this beautiful spring wildflower was indeed red. Unfortunately upon showing the evidence I daubed some on the Grandchild while sharing a few stories of the warriors of the  Lakota Nation. It seems at least one female member of the family did not appreciate me "indoctrinating innocent youth in warlike virtues".  Indeed, I was properly chastised but one must admit they are beautiful flowers....:)


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Greater Journey - Americans In Paris

The weather here in Bluff Country has been quite unpredictable for days. With temperatures fluctuating wildly from one day to the next, one day I'm outside and the next in my "winter" mode. What that means is lots of arm chair sitting/snoozing, bird feeder watching, some soup making  and reading.

Now to the reading part. Mr McCullough has done it again. Two Pulitzer prizes ( for John Adams and Truman) along with numerous other award winning best sellers and a Presidential Medal of Freedom apparently weren’t enough. Recently, I ran across  a  recycle at the Goodwill store where my spouse hangs out occasionally. It was  The Greater Journey: Americans In Paris. The theme of this book might be summed up by  the authors statement that "not all pioneers went West." These were the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians architects and others who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. Most had never left home, never experienced a different culture. They achieved so much for themselves and their country,  profoundly altering  American history and culture
These "pioneers"   included (just to name drop a little) :
Oliver Wendel Holmes - Doctor, Poet.
Charles Sumner - Abolitionist, Senator
James Fenimore Cooper - Author
Samuel F.B. Morse - Painter, Inventor
Emma Willard - Educator, Author
Nathaniel Hawthorne - Author
Elizabeth Blackwell - 1st female Doctor
Ralph Waldo Emerson - Author
Louis Gottschalt - Pianist
George Healy - Portraitist
Mark Twain - Author
Henry James - Author
Harriet Beecher Stowe - Author
Elihu Washburne - Ambassador
August Saint Gaudens - Sculptor
Mary Cassel - Painter
John Singer Sarget - Painter
American no longer needed to only look to Europe for guidance in all things....
Over one hundred years later America has another gifted artist. Historian/biographer David McCullough. He knows how to tell a really good story.

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Customer Support!

Oh sure. It's been a crummy day already. A State of Minnesota Department farmed out  Customer Service to a business in Denver, Colorado......ugly. :(

My all time unfavorite (besides the usual annoyances) was the time I bought a new computer which didn't work.  I called help and talked to "Fred" who happened to live in India and spoke the King's English. After an hour or so of trying to get my new computer to open he admitted it didn't work and he would send me another new one.  He needed my address. I gave him our P.O. Box Number. " I need your physical address," he stated.  The conversation which ensued for over an hour consisted of me trying to explain the meaning of Box Number and him demanding something called a physical address. Finally, understanding his problem I told him that Fillmore County, Minnesota was probably the last place on planet earth that didn't have street addressess....

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Murder Room

Yes occasionally I do go slumming and read a thriller/mystery type fiction or nonfiction. Here's an oldie but goodie from the library or your ereader....  The Murder Room is about the Vidocq Society  a members-only crime-solving club that meets on the third Thursday of every month in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Vidocq Society is named for Eugène François Vidocq, the ground-breaking nineteenth century French detective who helped police by using the psychology of the criminal to solve "cold case" homicides. Vidocq was a former criminal himself, and used his knowledge of the criminal mind to look at murder from the psychological perspective of the perpetrator. At meetings, Vidocq Society Members (VSMs) listen to local law enforcement officials from around the world who bring in cold cases for review.
VSMs are forensic professionals; current and former FBI profilers, homicide investigators, scientists, psychologists, prosecutors and coroners who use their experience to provide justice for investigations that have gone cold. Members are selected by committee invitation only, pay a $100 annual fee, and commit to attend at least one meeting per year.
The Society was formed in 1990 by William Fleisher, Richard Walter, and Frank Bender. It solved its first case in 1991, clearing an innocent man of involvement in the murder of Huey Cox.
Vidocq will only consider cases that meet certain requirements: they must be unsolved deaths more than two years old, the victims cannot have been involved in criminal activity such as prostitution or drug dealing, and the case must be formally presented to them by the appropriate law enforcement agency. The Society does not charge for its services, and pays for the travel expenses of the law enforcement agents who come to present cases.
The Society was featured in several cases of America's Most Wanted TV series, and was also a plot point in the finale of the 2007–08 season of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2010 it became the subject of a book, The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo.

While reading the book is not for the faint hearted, I found it quite interesting. The clues of numerous horrific and unsolved murders are not skipped over. Still it gave me some insight into the subject that frightens and frustrates people when murderers appear to get away with their crimes. The new forensics popularized in many recent televisions programs. The subtitle of The Murder Room is The Heirs Of Sherlock Holmes Gather To Solve The World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases. The reference to Sherlock Holmes is appropriate indeed.

Finally, like many of the cases references in this book, the details are scattered and seemingly unorganized. In a word the book needs some serious editing. The author skipped between cases with other topics in between. It all made for interesting but somewhat confusing reading.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Deer Hunting With Jesus Rereviewed

I wrote this review in March of 2009 as an introduction to my new second blog Troutbirder II. I recall finding the book interesting and unsettling.  Around that time a friend had accused me of fomenting "class warfare" by my pro labor union comments.  I responded by referring to "famous" social scientist Paris Hilton having pointed out the war was over.  "We won" she said.  I feared she might be right. I needed more information...... so the picked up Deer Hunting With Jesus.

My take on March 17, 2009
"If you are comfortable with all your political, social and cultural assumptions:
DON'T READ THIS BOOK. It's very upsetting.
If you attack people who suggest that the income differential between those who shower before they go to work and those who shower afterwards has increased
enormously in recent decades by accusing them of "class warfare:"
DON'T READ THIS BOOK. You won't like what you find out.
If you think all blue collar working class people are stupid and worse:
DON'T READ THIS BOOK. If you do you might be shocked.
If you get upset because their are "Reagan Democrats," Limbaugh "dittoheads,"
"Armed Old Testament Evangelicals," and "My Country Right or Wrong Superpatriots."
DON'T READ THIS BOOK. It won't make you happy to find out why they exist."

March 9, 2017  A Second Look
Deer Hunting with Jesus    -  Dispatches' From the Class War  

From the church where his brother preaches in tongues to the Rubbermaid plant that employs half his hometown, Bageant uncovers harsh lessons about how liberals failed the people who do society's grunt work, as well as fight our wars, and wind up with nothing to show for it.  They're bitter as hell, but they "vote Republican because no liberal voice...that speaks the rock-bottom, undeniable truth, ever enters their lives."
Bageant's dead serious and damned funny, as he despairs over his benighted brethren but loves them fiercely and wants justice for them. This book is a fantastically readable explanation of why working-class America has given up on liberalism. Winning it back, Bageant writes, means liberals "are going to have to pick up this piece of roadkill with our bare hands."
Looking back on my first review I can't say we weren't warned.  Instead we lost focus and the result was Trumpism with Trump as President. God help the U.S.A.

Of course, the situation has gotten a lot worse since the book was published.  Miss Hilton's team hasn't won but is winning.  Bill Clinton had it right those decades ago..."It's the economy stupid."

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Patriarch

The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy
By David Nasaw

“I cannot impress upon you strongly enough my complete lack of confidence in the entire [British] conduct of this war. I was delighted to see that the president said he was not going to enter the war because to enter this war, imagining for a minute that the English have anything to offer in the line of leadership or productive capacity in industry that could be of the slightest value to us, would be a complete misapprehension.”   With those words the Joe Kennedy reveals for the umpteenth time his misjudgments about Great Britains capacity to resist Hitlers European conquests.  The how and the why of this appeasement is one of the many facets of this brilliant, compelling book

Kennedy is not without many critics and untrue libels. He and his family had more than a few friends and hero worshipers.  I hoped in reading this giganticus of a book to find the truth. David Nasaw  promises his readers to excise anything that could not be confirmed by primary sources and that the Kennedy family allowed unlimited access to family archives.  I believe this to be true. The result is riveting and striking to say the least.

This book covers the first half of the twentieth century from the inside out.  Joe Kennedy was personally involved in virtually all the history of his time. His isolationism was deep and yet commonplace.  A lot of Americans, notably aviator Charles Lindbergh, wanted to keep America out of another European war. But Kennedy’s relentless drive to appease — indeed, reward — tyranny was monomaniacal, preposterous and dangerous. In his view, Hitler was really just another businessman with whom a deal could be struck. Here his business genius impelled him in a direction that would have led to hell.Does this reflect the seeming approach of the present conman in the White House.  Perhaps…..

The best and most interesting part of this book is family because that's what drove this man the most.  In business, in being a father, government official, a Hollywood insider, and man about town.  Yes, I can sum it all up this way-  real historical biography that’s utterly fascinating.

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@Barrie Summy

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Hidden Figures

Ignorance is not bliss and Mrs. T and I came out of Mayo Clinic after 2 ½ days  better informed if not blissful.  That took us to our favorite Chinese buffet and a movie.  Again after the movie we felt much better informed about an important part of American history.  The Space Race, though we didn’t feel blissful about it either…..
 Hidden Figures is not a blissful  kind of film: It’s a story of brilliance, but not of ego. It’s a story of struggle and willpower, but not of individual glory. Set in 1960s Virginia, the film centers on three pioneering African American women whose calculations for NASA were integral to several historic space missions, including John Glenn’s successful orbit of the Earth. These women—Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan—were superlative mathematicians and engineers despite starting their careers in segregation-era America and facing discrimination at home, at school, and at work.

 Just the fact that our collective culture highlights virtually zip about this platoon of brilliant, dedicated, overworked, under-appreciated, and until recently, never celebrated African-American women who functioned as NASA’s “living computers” to make it possible for Alan Shepherd, Gus Grissom and John Glenn to become national heroes is as humiliating as it is mind-boggling. This is
especially for those of us who grew up witnessing the birth, trials and eventual triumph of our Gemini and Apollo Space Programs.    Yes, Hidden Figures is well worth seeing…..:)