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

Saturday, December 29, 2018


Dear Friends & Fellow Bloggers,
Sorry to report that Mrs. T (Barb) was transported from St. Mary's Hospital campus  in Rochester MN. to Cottage Wood memory care unit this week.  This has been five years coming but the wandering, memory loss and agitation had increased considerably this summer and fall with numerous 911 calls and stays in the secure unit or “prison" as she has  called it. Barb volunteered at  Mayos Abigail Van Bureans Alzheimer and Memory Loss Research Center .      Perhaps the last great frontier isn’t outer space but the human brain and it’s role in mental illness. Your thoughts
now and in the future will be much appreciated. I intend to return to my blogging hobby and soon as I can get my act together here on the home front

Monday, December 10, 2018

Stubby the War Dog or Sergeant Subby (your choice)

The True Story of World War I's Bravest Dog. A National Geographic Kids Book for dog lovers and Kids of all Ages. Actually, Bausum wrote twin titles about the stray dog smuggled to Europe during World War I who returned to a hero’s welcome. Both books were published in 2014 by National Geographic: Sergeant Stubby (for adult readers) and Stubby the War Dog (for children). Though I remain devoted to another canine hero from The Great War (Rin Tin Tin) Stubby's  true story will leave you amazed....

Known for his keen instincts and fierce loyalty, Stubby is still recognized today as the most decorated canine in American history and the first promoted to the rank of Sergeant in the U.S. Army. Naturally an animated movie  followed......:)

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@Barrie Summy

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Harvest Time in Bluff Country

It's mid to late fall here in southeast Minnesota's Bluff Country and there's lots of corn and soybeans to be harvested. Our little acreage over looks the Spring Valley in the distance the town of the same name. In between our back yard and the valley some small field including 14 acres of "beans."....  Take a look....
To the North, our woods, adjacent to the field.
Our friend and neighbor farmer Dick is probably scouting ahead the big machinery making sure everything else is ready to go....
View from our back yard...
From hopper to bin then off to the elevator....
Miss Lily comes out to check out the excitement but she's seen it all before and chasing the chipmunk who lives under the deck is much more exciting.   


Friday, November 2, 2018

Reporter: A Memoir by Seymour M. Hersh

Half awake when I published my recent review of this book I put it on my  Troutbirder "nature" blog. So rather than start over and find out what I though about this book you have to click on the picture at the top of me standing next to my favorite Montana trout stream.  Sorry about the extra work....:)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Hundred Miles to Nowhere


Author/singer Elisa Korenne   tells a wonderful story in her memoir Hundred Miles To Nowhere. It’s the story of the New York City girl who meets a small town Minnesota guy. Being of the later type, I was naturally enthralled.  Elisa gets accepted to an artist residency in New York Mills, MN, and sees it as an opportunity to broaden her songwriting horizons. Looking for true to life Minnesota (fly over country Hicksville) experiences she starts by scheduling a wilderness canoe camping trip with  a local outdoorsy insurance man.  The fun part,   reading about their romance, is the contrasts of their two very different  worlds, how their relationship developed and was challenged by such different communities.

After her one month residency was up Elisa and Chris carried on with a mutual  cross-country romance and finally it was  Elisa who gave up subways, theater, City Bakery cookies, and her Brooklyn apartment to become the 1,153rd resident of New York Mills, a rural town ninety miles from the nearest metropolitan area, Fargo, North Dakota.  A few highlight/lowlights were the gossips who knew her weekend plans before she did. The postmaster who set up gigs for her behind her back. Chris expected her to eat roadkill for dinner. The the uproar when the Finnish Lutherans in town learned she was Jewish.  And the furnace dying at twenty-six below.  Regardless, Elisa moved to Minnesota and married Chris anyway.

I loved this book. It’s insightful, funny and draws you right into the predicament of being a transplant in different world.   My own experience growing up in the Twin Cities and spending my adult working life in rural Minnesota was not quite as dramatic but still I could relate. The old and new blend into  an evolving you.  Unafraid  you can meet the challenges and I believe see both the past and present circumstance of you, your life and surroundings much more clearly… I highly recommend this book…..

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@Barrie Summy

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Destiny of the Republic

He was born in poverty, in a log cabin, on the American frontier. Through hard work, and a wonderful ability to educate himself, courage and an expansive personality he rose to be President of the United States. No. No. It wasn’t Abe. His name was James Garfield. He was from Ohio and was our second president to be assassinated.
Candace Millard has written a wonderful description of an aspect of the age which saw the transition from the end of Reconstruction to modern America. Her book Destiny of the Republic - A Story of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President tells the story of a little known President, cut off like John Kennedy, in the prime of his life. It was a time of great corruption in government, "robber barons" and the solidification of segregation as part of southern institutions and thinking.
The most interesting part of the book is the story of how a man shot in the back with what should have been non mortal wounds was basically killed by his doctors.
Over a period of about 11 weeks the President was repeatedly probed into his wounds with unsterilized fingers and instruments as the doctors tried to find the bullet lodged in his body. This all at a time when the world famous French doctor, Joseph Lister, had been demonstrating for years how his theories on the prevention of infection could save lives and limbs. The famous American inventor, Alexander Graham Bell also worked furiously to develop a machine which could locate the bullet. All to no avail.
Millard, whose previous book The River of Doubt was about Theodore Roosevelt’s near-fatal journey of exploration in South America, is again perfect in bring these people and events to life. This book of narrative history ranks right up there with others like The Devil in the White City as a classic of its type. I highly recommend it.

Friday, June 29, 2018

History Redux

You might be surprised to learn that this fine stone home, overlooking the Missouri River near St. Charles, Mo. belonged to Daniel Boone. A few summers back we stopped to visit on our way to the Ozarks. I liked to imagine Boone sitting on the verdana as Lewis and Clarks's Corps of Discovery passed by at the botton of the hill. Historic homes can inspire the imagination and put you in a different era. I had those feelings in Springfield Ill. where Lincoln lived, Washington's Mt. Vernon and , of course, Montecello, Jeffersons home. And yet..... so many bedrooms and kitchens eventually made my eyes glaze over. Enough is enough.

That was pretty much my attitude when, along with Mrs. T and our friends Gary and Rosie, a trip was being planned to visit Great Smoky National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Two days were included to visit America's premier colonial city - Williamsburg in Virginia. Hundreds of original building and homes. Endless kitchens, bedrooms and dining sets. Oh my!

Standing in the garden of the Governors Palace in Colonial Williamsburg, I heard a loud voice haranguing a small crowd on a street corner just outside the garden. As I approached, I heard the speaker advising his listeners that with "the Colonel" leading the colonial troops surrounding the British army in Boston, success was bound to follow. One member of the audience asked if their was no room for compromise. Disdainfully waving his hand aside, the speaker spoke of liberty and death. I looked quizzically at the man standing next to me. "It's Mr. Henry you know. He is quite the rabblerouser." Emboldened, I turned and asked Mr Henry if he felt Colonel Washington was "sufficiently qualified, given his lack of successful military experience, to undertake such a grave task?" Taken aback, Henry immediately attacked me for even casting the slightest aspersion upon such a "fine and upstanding Virginian." The crowd definitely agreed with that. "Where are you from," I was asked, as if that would explain my ignorance. "The Land of Sky Blue Waters, far to the northwest."

Properly chastened I followed my companions across the street to "tour" another house. We were welcomed by a tall elderly gentlemen who invited us to sit down and visit in the parlor. He said his name was Wyeth. He had the air of a professor or teacher about him. He was actually both and a lawyer as well.
Upon finding out we were all teachers and from " far to the West," he wondered if we were Papists. Satisfied on that point, we talked about students. Among his law students had been the aforemention Patrick Henry and a Thomas Jefferson. I couldn't resist asking him how they compared as students. He laughed and said both had attained the bar but " Jefferson was easily the most brilliant student I had ever taught. Henry, on the other hand, well lets just say, I'm sure he talked his way into it."

Later, we attended a session of the House of Burgesses, met Mrs. Washington who was speaking to a group of Girl Scouts in a home she was visiting. She also graciously answered some of our questions. We met some regular people going about their business. All in all what this all amounts to is part history lesson and part Disney-style razzmatazz. The museum focuses on events in the town during the painful divorce from Britain, via re-enactments of some of the key incidents. Thus you get to see the 'local people' gathering at the Governors Palace to hear a reading of the Declaration Of Independence, congregating outside the Raleigh Tavern to hear news of the war, or conducting recruitment drives (among the paying visitors) for Washington's army. I loved it. This was living history....the best kind.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

On the theory of “better late than never” having just read and reviewed Frazier’s Verona and duly impressed with his writing skillsm I checked our local library to see what else he had written.  Thus, I came upon Cold Mountain. I recognized the title from an Academy Award winning movie I had missed seeing…..
 Published twenty some years ago, this now widely read debut novel was at the top of best seller lists for over a year. It also won many literary awards.
 Badly wounded and disillusioned finally realizing the war was mainly to preserve slavery for the rich, a Confederate soldier named Inman decides to walk back to his home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to Ada, the woman he loves. His trek across the disintegrating South brings him into intimate and sometimes lethal converse with slaves and marauders, bounty hunters and eccentrics some helpful and others dangerous.  At the same time, highly educated for the times Ada is trying to revive her father’s derelict farm and learning to survive in a changing  world she is ill prepare to deal with.  Alternating chapters connect their stories.  The lyrical descriptions of the Appalachians set the scenes as the author gives us  a powerful story of real life circumstances. It might not be too far of a stretch to say that Ulysses and Penelope came to mind as I was drawn into this wonderful book. I highly recommend it.....

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@Barrie Summy

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


Varina by Charles Frazier

Whether its history, biography or historical fiction the devastation of the American Civil War is widely read and known about but not always and not about  everyone who was there.  Charles Frazier, author of best seller Cold Mountain, takes us back to those awful days and introduces us to a teenage girl who lived surrounded by the people, events and consequences of that awful war.

Her name is Varina Howell.  With a financially reckless father she agrees to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, perhaps giving her stability and the ability to help her parents. Davis is a wealthy Mississippi planter and slaveholder.   Davis pursue politics and Varina find herself in Washington  where he husband is a key figure as a Congressman and leading figure in several administrations.

   Davis is eventually appointed president of the Confederacy, putting Varina in the middle of things. For Civil War “buffs” the details of the war as seen thru Varinas life  will likely not reveal much that is new. It is her life, experiences and thoughts that grab the reader.  The Confederacy falling, her marriage in tatters,  her rescue of a black child being beaten on the street of Richmond, later raising that boy with her own children is only the beginning. Later she and her children escape Richmond and travel south on their own, now fugitives with “bounties on their heads, an entire nation in pursuit.” This is the story of  one woman’s tragic life and is epic in its breadth and intimacy.

Because her twilight years were more interesting to Frazier, he decided against using a traditional biographical approach to tell Davis’ story. This bothered me at first. I like and need chronology to keep track of things in any story. I’ll let the author explain in his own words…

“I decided early on that I didn’t want the structure to be based on the calendar,” he said. “I wanted it to be based on memory and association. I wanted that back and forth, push and pull, jumping through time.”To reveal her tale, Frazier drew on a real person from her past. During the last year of the war, the Davis family took in a young mixed-race boy and raised him with their children. That boy, known as Jimmy Limber, was taken away when the family was captured by Union soldiers as they tried to flee to Cuba. He never saw Varina Davis again. And his fate remains a mystery. For his  novel, “Varina,” Frazier creates James Blake, the adult version of that boy. Blake, who is a teacher, becomes the book’s driving force as he tracks Davis down and pushes her to help him understand his past.

The book’s chapters alternate between the two adults and Davis’ life in New York and flashbacks that reveal her childhood, her marriage and particularly the harrowing journey she and her children took as they fled Richmond after the Confederacy collapsed. The narrative jumping around can be frustrating at first but in the end the reader realizes that this is an exploration of  Varinas memories, her feeling of complicity and realizations of the moral depravity of slavery and it consequences in her own life.

Having previously read and reviewed the story of the Grimke sisters (The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kid   ) this book was an interesting counterpoint.  Varina is a feminist in her own right. She is conflicted. She made  tough choices. And most interestingly was and is still denigrated by those who wish her husbands cause had prevailed….This is a most fascinating and revealing novel/ biography. I highly recommend it.....
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@Barrie Summy

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm

The Last Lion: Winston Churchill  is a trilogy of biographies covering the life of Winston Churchill. The first two were published in the 1980s by author and historian William Manchester, who died while working on the last volume. However, before his death, Manchester had selected Paul Reid to complete it  the final volume...
The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm was published in November 2012.
"[Reid's] palpable enthusiasm at thinking about Churchill demonstrates once again...the grip this iconic figure can still exercise on the imagination....Reid...use[s] his journalist's eye to pick up on small details or points of color that illustrate a wider truth." (Richard Aldous, New York Times Book Review )
"Mr. Reid...following Manchester's lead,...dutifully includes both the admiring and disparaging remarks of Churchill's colleagues and contemporaries, presenting everyone's take with equanimity." (Wall Street Journal )
"Reid has produced a third Last Lion...that is both magisterial and humane. Cue the trumpets." (Vanity Fair )
"It's a must-read finale for those who loved Manchester's first two books." (USA Today )
"Masterful... [and] breathtaking....Reid...finished the race with agility, grace, and skill....This is a book that is brilliant and beautiful, evocative and enervating." (Boston Globe )
"Those who want a detailed account of Churchill's two terms as prime minister and leadership during World War II will find this book a literary feast.....It's a worthy finale to an exhaustive portrait of one of the last century's true titans." (Washington Times )
Reid has written a thorough and complete analysis of these years, and it is a worthy finale to the first two volumes." (Terry Hartle, Christian Science Monitor )
"The third and final volume of a massive work of biography is a tribute not only to Manchester but also to Reid, whose courage in accepting the job is matched by his success in telling the story." (Richmond Times-Dispatch )

Troutbirder writes “I really enjoyed this book!  Was the writing as brilliant and engaging as that of William Manchester?  No, but then not everyone can  do A+. This was more like B+ but still worth it.”
About the Authors
William Manchester was a hugely successful popular historian and biographer whose books include The Last Lion, Volumes 1 and 2, Goodbye Darkness, A World Lit Only by Fire, The Glory and the Dream, The Arms of Krupp, American Caesar, The Death of the President, and assorted works of journalism.
Paul Reid is an award-winning journalist. In late 2003 his friend, William Manchester, in failing health, asked Paul to complete The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm. 
On the lighter side you can scroll back to the top and click on the picture of the guy in the pink shirt and Minnesota Gopher hat to other blog and some ripostes from Winston Churchill.....:) 


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Madisons Gift

Historian and novelist Stewart  gives American a needed lesson on how a President can accomplish much by working with others.  It was James  Madison’s ability to forge working bonds with other founding members of the new American government, even if they did not always see eye to eye that stands out in this biography.  Discreet, generous and not at all egotistical, unlike others then and now he dit much to forge the documents that framed a new government, He refused to take credit, rather conceding the “work of many hands and many heads” in the forging of the Constitution.  Soft-spoken, he was overshadowed by the more dynamic personalities of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Monroe.  Yet the complement of their respective qualities resulted in brilliant working relationships during the course of Madison’s political career.

A wonderful biography of a very smart President.  Let us hope we shall see his like again. We surely could use it in these very different times….

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
In simple terms, the book is the fictionalized history of the Grimké sisters, Sarah and Angelina (Nina), who were at the forefront of the abolitionist and women's rights movements in its early beginnings before the Civil War. As young girls and women they grew up on a slave holding plantation in South Carolina.   In alternating chapters  is the intriguing narrative of Sarah and a young slave, Hetty, who was given to Sarah as an 11th birthday present. Sarah despises slavery, even at that early age, and out of principle attempts to reject the gift.

Much of the Grimkés' story is historically based: Kidd has fleshed out mountains of research — facts, figures, dates, letters, and articles — into a believable and elegantly rendered fictional first person account of Sarah's life. But though Hetty was real, her story here is almost entirely fabricated — and perhaps because she is mostly a product of Kidd's imagination, Hetty's character seems truly inspired.

A key moment in the book comes with the discovery that Sarah has taught Hetty to read — a criminal offense in antebellum South Carolina. Punishment is cruel for both girls; Sarah is banned from her favorite things in the world: her father's library and his books. Hetty is whipped.

Meanwhile, Sarah's family ridicules her hope to study law, labeling it unseemly because she is a woman. She is shattered and cowed by their conviction that being a woman means she has no right to ambition. Overcoming that obstacle is a long, painful journey full of self-doubt; she'll face prejudice toward her sex the rest of her life, even as she eventually  creates a national following for her abolitionist crusade. Sarah may read, think, or speak — as long as she doesn't make any men uncomfortable by doing so. Her younger sister is also highlighted.  Sarah is the thinker. Her younger sister Nina is the doer.  They make a great team.

I would strongly suggest that your read the author’s comments at the end of this wonderful novel before starting on the book story itself. It’s fascinating and will help clarify where historical facts and the author imagination stand. I also found it interesting that the author tells how she ran across the Grimke sisters story  in a Chicago exposition of “one hundred of the most influential women in American History.” The two sisters certainly deserved much more notice in the annals of American History textbooks than they ever received. For my part between 1964 and 2004 when I taught units on the people and events leading up to the Civil War to high school students I always included their neglected story. Now I’m every glad that Kidd, a wonderful writer,  has brought that story to a much wider audience. I strongly recommend it to everyone…


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@Barrie Summy

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

We Are Soldiers Still

I had just finished reading We Are Soldiers Still - A Journey Back To The Battlefields of Vietnam. The book is by Lt. General Harold Moore and journalist Joseph Galloway. Why go back and read about a long ago, divisive and disasterous war? Simply because there are still lessons to be learned.

For me, an interest in the recent appearance of this particular book began several years ago with a movie. The title of the movie was We Were Soldiers - And Young. It was based on the book of the same name also written by Moore and Galloway. It starred Mel Gibson as the young officer Moore, who's task was to convert the 7th Regiment (Custer's old cavalry unit) into an effective component of the new airmoble 1st Cavalry. That division was about to be sent and tested in Vietnam.

An old Irish folksong "Gary Owen" was the 7th's marching song and greeting.. The 1st Cavalry (Airmobile) division would mount a fleet of helicopters instead of horses.

The 7th regiment was soon shipped in its entirety to the escalating war South Vietnam. There they were quickly helicoptered into the Ia Drang valley with the mission to locate North Vietnamese forces and to cut the Ho Chi Minh trail. The idea for airmoble unit was to be able to chose its own time and place for battle. In that valley, they were immediately surrounded and attacked by hidden and well entrenched regular forces of the regular North Vietnamese army. That army had been moving south to reenforce the Viet Cong .
With great difficulty and heroism, the 7th held its own, under Moore's brilliant leadership, against an attacking force that greatly outnumbered them.

Several days, later a sister unit from the 1st Cav. that was moving into the same area was ambushed and basically wiped out. That, of course, never appeared in the newspapers of the time. Fifty thousand Americans were killed in this war before it was over seven years later. Moore was obviously a fine man and a great leader. I'm sure there were many others like him. The movie as movies are wont to do, elicited a strong surge of patriotic emotion, during the battle scenes. One's fellow countrymen, putting there lives on the line to protect our freedom, it seemed . And yet. And yet walking out of that theater I couldn't help but thinking..... what a waste. What a godawful waste.... The wisdom of hindsight perhaps
I had remembered a Christmas family gathering a few years before, where I met my cousin who had just returned from Vietnam. He was a civil engineer working on water projects in Saigon. Today, I guess, he would be called a "civilian contractor." He had utterly shocked me with tales of massive corruption in South Vietnam's military government. How the Americans had to bribe people left and right to accomplish anything. How, except for some of the Catholic minority, the people despised that government and regarded them as lackeys for the American "colonialists," who had replaced the "true" nationalists. A generation later, Moore kept a promise he had made to his men, that someday they would return to that battlefield, to make peace within themselves and to their fallen comrades. After years of difficulties that promise was kept and a number of these heroes returned to the Ia Drang Valley. One of those heroes is pictured here, at that place and that time. His name was Rick Riscorla. A generation later, he was the new chief of security at the World Trade Center. There he died after his actions saved the lives of thousands of people on that fateful day. Hal Moore, Joe Galloway, and many of their comrades were to return to Vietnam. There they met and befriended some of the soldiers they had fought. Moore's counterpart in the NVA was among them. In fascinating detail we learn of the strategies of each side. More importantly, we read of their hopes, dreams and illusions. Given the delusions, that have at times colored our own foreign and security strategies, it is a tale well told and worth learning from. General Hal Moore follows up on the Vietnam war in We Are Soldiers Still - A Journey Back To The Battlefields Of Vietnam.
I highly recommend it. A few days ago an American aircraft carrier docked at a Vietnamese port. American tourists now flock to the country. America seems now wary of Chinese ambitions in the South China sea. So are the Vietnamese. How times have changed......

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Lost in the Wild

In the wilderness, one false step can make the difference between a delightful respite and a brush with death. Survival  stories are one of my favorite genres.

On a beautiful summer afternoon in 1998, Dan Stephens, a 22-year-old canoeist, was leading a troup of  boy scouts deep into Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park. He stepped into a gap among cedar trees to look for the next portage—and did not return.

Three years later, Jason Rasmussen, a third-year medical student who loved the forest’s solitude, walked alone into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on a crisp fall day. After a two-day trek into a remote area of the woods, he stepped away from his campsite and made a series of seemingly trivial mistakes that left him separated from his supplies, wet, and lost, as cold darkness fell.

Enduring days without food or shelter, these men faced the full harsh force of wilderness, the place that they had sought out for tranquil refuge from city life.   Lost in the Wild takes readers with them as they enter realms of pain, fear, and courage, as they suffer dizzying confusion and unending frustration, and as they overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles in a race to survive.

This true adventure book  hit me hard several ways. As a youngster Jack London’s  Call of the Wild brought me close to the Artic Wilderness and much later filmmaker author Jon Krakow brought me up and back down Mt. Everest attementing to rescue stranded, trapped and dying climbers. My own experience taking my teen age boys into Minnesota BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness) brought many personal wilderness memories  back to life as exemplified by problems and dangerous choices revealed in this riveting book. Another connection for me was  when the deputy sheriff who led the various joint agency  rescue teams turned out to be a former student of mine. His name was Steve V.

Real People Real small mistakes can cascade into life or death survival choices. This is not the fake survival stuff you see on T.V. Enjoy! But be careful not to get lost.....

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@Barrie Summy

Monday, February 26, 2018

Troutbirder Goes on Broadway

It was the spring of 1959 and leaving St. Paul Union Deport the senior class of Harding High school was heading east to Washington D.C. and New York City by train. I was on board playing poker in the Dome throughout the night. Perhaps I was a youthful version of Sgt. Bilko as the cards kept falling my way. My only other memory was seeing the forges light up the hillsides as we passed thru Pittsburg. In Washington, we saw all the famous sights. Unfortunately, we missed seeing “Ike”  in the White House as he was busy warning the nation against endless wars and the military industrial complex taking over. That hasn’t gone so well….:(

More famous places to see in New York followed. There was a real sense of vibrancy and excitement there.  Staying at the Roosevelt Hotel an evening out to world famous “Coney Island” was planned. Everyone was excited except me.  My mom had advised me that this night might provide a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a Rogers and Hammerstein musical. The name was “Flower Drum
Song.”. That morning before our tour bus left, I asked the man behind the counter if two tickets were available. “Not a chance,” he replied.  “It’s booked up months ahead, of course, there might be a cancelation. Check back about 5 o’clock.”  I did but no luck. Then Plan B appeared. “If you want to see a Broadway play, one recently opened right across the street from your first choice and within walking distance. It’s called The World of Suzy Wong."   To this day I can still claim I’ve been to a play on Broadway…..

Actor William Shatner has a unique place in the history of the romantic novel The World of Suzie Wong. Shatner, known for starring as Captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek T.V. series, was the first man in the world to “woo” Suzie Wong in the original stage version. Shatner, 27 won the heart of a decent Hong Kong prostitute played by Vietnamese-French actress France Nuyen on Broadway between Oct. 14 1958 and January 2 1960.

I have no real memories of the play itself except between the acts I bought a couple of very small glasses of orange juice for the outrageous price of two dollars a glass. Apparently, the play was roundly panned by the big city critics so it didn’t last very long.  Later, yet a movie version was produced starring handsome William Holden.  I advised my mom against seeing that movie having giving her a somewhat sanitized version of the plays plot along the lines of “love conquers all”



Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Dovekeepers

There is only one ancient source on the story of the Jewish Uprising culminating in the stand at the fortress of Masada. Its veracity has been questioned by recent archaeological evidence. Still the story, whether entirely true or not, is an inspiring one. Novelist Alice Hoffman in The Dovekeepers tells the story from a feminist perspective. Hoffman is a prolific author whose books are both widely loved and frequently damned. Mix feminism with frequent doses of mysticism and controversy may be the result.
The Dovekeepers follows four very different women from the second destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem to the final suicide at the fortress of Masada. There a disparate group of men and women chose death over slavery. Strong stuff indeed. ( A view across the desert of the Dead Sea from the fortress of Masada).

I found the book a little too  long at points. This is because some the points of the beautifully evocative writing are repeated to often, losing their power in the process. Also because  mixing in  dreams, visions and confusing allusions doesn’t always  work for me.  Still  much else about this novel is very good, from the characterizations to the contrast between the shabby, hungry refugees and the magnificence of Herod's abandoned palace at Masada. All in all though I think this book is  well worth reading.....

Monday, February 5, 2018

Storm Front

I’m not often a mystery/thriller type of reader but I managed to get seven book report credits out of twelve required by my 11th grade English teacher for reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes.  Still later, writers like P.D. James, John le Carre, Tony Hillerman, Patricia Cornwell, Scott Turnow and  John Grisham caught my eye. So there I was in a small waiting room at Mayo Clinic waiting for my wife on the 2nd day of three days of testing, apparently looking really bored. A kind secretary noticed and offered access to the departments   lost and found collection of mysteries  This was a first time read of John Sanford. A Pulitzer prize winning journalist and  highly successful author of  mysteries. His stories are often placed in a Minnesota setting. Hey! I live in Minnesota and frequently pick out books with settings I’m familiar with. Set it in Paris (I’ve been there twice) and if the murder takes place on the steps  of the Opera, I’ve been there chaperoning  a class of high school seniors eating a bag lunch. I can still  see it clearly….


Which brings me to John Sanford’s Storm Front.
When John Sandford is traveling around Minnesota, he's got one thing on his mind: Is this a good place for a crime? A veteran thriller writer with more than 40 novels to his name, Sandford has staged crime scenes all across the state, from the North Woods to the Mall of America.  
In this one an ancient relic in unearthed during an archaeological dig. A Minnesota college professor who finds it, returns it to the Gopher State naturally and is followed by two conflicting Israelis ( a Mossad agent and a member of the agency responsible for protecting ancient relics, along with several Hezbollah terrorists, a Turk and several thieves who want to make a killing moneywise or otherwise. The relic could change the world's history as we know it. Virgil Flowers, southern agent of the Minnesota BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) is put in charge.
This is good stuff.  Stephen King describes it as unapologetic guy fiction.  Stop! There is such a thing as Chick Flicks and I've be reading a lot of Victorian and Jane Austin lately so lets all keep and open mind.  It's not smarmy. It's gritty but not in the category of a President claiming "locker talk" to justify grabbing women's privates because he is rich and famous.  I enjoyed the book and will likely find some more  by Sanford at our local library....:) 


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@Barrie Summy

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Post

"The Post"  reminds us about the indispensable role of the press in a democracy, ours in this particular case. An historical fact that comes to illustrate the dangerous times we're living now. The story of The Pentagon Papers, that Defense Department secret study of how this country became entangled in a no win war in a faraway place for no valid reason.

 Steven Spielberg directs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in the movie. It shows a suspenseful  drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post's Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers - and their very freedom - to help bring long-buried truths to light.

 The film is both a gripping and timely celebration of the free press, and, in the remarkable hands of Streep, an exploration of what it meant then (and, perhaps, now) to be a woman thrust into power in an all-male world.  Even for us Golden Agers who know this story  and its’ Watergate follow-up as well, in our present time of “alt-facts”, it doesn’t hurt to reflect upon a President who broke the law, lied and tried to suborn the process of justice….

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Crusades

After the 9/11 attacks, George W Bush said: "This crusade… this war on terror is going to take a while." This misapplied comment was all Osama bin Laden needed to win over many new supporters. His often used phrase "Jewish/Crusader attackers of Islam " had a certain ring to it in the Muslim world. Thanks, George.
Thomas Asbridge, the author of the  The Crusades makes a similar point. Is it appropriate to use words about wars in the early middle ages in reference to current issues in the Middle East? Is their a real connection between the two eras? I wondered about that, and having limited knowledge about the crusades, I decided to find out. Meaning I checked my local library.
Asbridge concludes that the crusades are a potent, alarming and dangerous example of the "potential for history to be appropriated, misrepresented and manipulated" for political ends." Adding religious fanaticism to the potent force of unbridled nationalism, in any conflict in the modern world, is merely ugly at best. The world could well do without jihadist or crusader mentality.

Initially, the emotive words the author uses, as he details the origin and history of this long ago conflict, seemed inappropriate to a well written, researched and documented history. I changed my mind about that as I struggled through each horrifying chapter. Yes, horrifying. I use that word carefully. If you have the it. It's well worth your time. If not, take my plea to heart. "Oh God. Save us from the religious fanatics, of all stripes."
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@Barrie Summy