I found myself getting irritable the other day and couldn't determine
the source until I realized I was reacting to what I was reading at the
time, John Kerry's "Every Day is Extra".
I was taking on his irritation with his having to deal with the
incredible amount of stupid self-sabotage, actually sabotage of our
country (and the world) by those who had (and have) agendas that were
valued above what made sense. i.e. Let's not pass anything that will
make (fill in the blank here) Obama, the Palestinians, the Jews, the
Democrats, et. al. look good.
I can't say this is an uplifting read, but Kerry
does an incredible job of shining the light on what goes on behind the
scenes in the Senate and in international diplomacy when self-interest
is valued above the potential for a good outcome. Peace in the Middle
East? Good luck. Reasonable discourse in the Congress? Ditto.
It's a good read, informative, frustrating.....but
left me wanting no more of politics for awhile which is where Kerry's
at right now.
.....and, I must add, Kerry's book does NOT end on a down-note. he
writes: ".....there's nothing wrong with America and the world today
that can't be fixed by what's right with our citizens and with people
around the globe." and he quotes JFK here, "Our problems are man-made–––––therefore they can be solved by man."
He ends with, "Onward."
Just finished David McCullough's "Truman".
What a contrast to today's insult to our country (and the World). I
wonder how long we have to wait for the final chapter to this pathetic and
nightmarish "joke".......(we've had enough of the punch line.)
After the politics of Truman I was ready for
something totally different.....I found it in Fredrick Backman's, "Britt-Marie Was Here"! It's a novel which begins with;
"Forks. Knives. Spoons. In that order. Britt-Marie
is certainly not the kind of person who judges other people. Far from
it. But surely no civilized person would even think of arranging a
cutlery drawer in a different way from how cutlery drawers are supposed
to be arranged. We're not animals are we?"
And this is the way this wonderfully strange book
ambles along....and then moves in another beautiful direction....or
You will love this one. (Even if you're not a dedicated novel reader.)
You can’t tell a book by it’s cover is, of course, a phrase, a warning,
useful for all kinds of circumstances. But in this particular case, it was
the cover of the book I’m about to tell you about that almost caused me
to not pick it off the library "Good Reads" shelf and, once I did, to put off reading it for
a couple of weeks. I had selected two potential good reads. The first was an overview of the FDR administration, “Nothing to Fear”
by Adam Cohen. I was already aware of most of the information Cohen
wrote about, the fight for Social Security, the New Deal programs like
the CCC, the WPA and so on. But this book has many of the important stories about
the movers and shakers of the time, who, like Francis Perkins, played
huge roles behind the headlines to get much of the New Deal rolling.
The kinds of opposition that had to be overcome were no different than
the sorts of push back against any progressive programs that have been
offered since the 40’s. A good book and an informative read.
It was the second book I struggled with. Not the
reading of it, just the getting myself to read it in the first place.
Why? Well, the cover showed a picture of a line-up of white males
displaying the stars and stripes next to the Nazi swastika and the lot of them making
fascist salutes. The title; Behold America
put me off as well. I thought this was going to be a long diatribe
about how we are going down the tubes. I’ve had enough of this kind of
scare stuff from social media and hysterical-headlines from Huffington
The subtitle of the book is “The entangled history of ‘America First’ and ‘The American Dream”
(as concepts) and the author is Sarah Churchill. But I decided to dive
in and swim with it for a while to see what she had to say. The answer?
What she has done is to have researched newspaper
clips and speeches made across America, even from the most obscure news
sources, that go back to 1900 and forward to today that reference the
use and meanings of the terms “America First” and “The American Dream”.
The first has most often been linked up with
anti-immigration and racist views (and the KKK, the Nazis,
white-supremacists, etc.) while the second has moved between ideas of
ethics and morals and dreams of social mobility, and monetary gain. The
former has been quite inflexible, the latter dependent upon the
malleable definitions of the time.
I can’t do this book justice in a simple “review”. I
will take a moment to quote just a few important lines from the Coda
where Churchill quotes an observation made by Dorothy Thomson, a
political columnist back-in-the-day (I’ll add to that in a moment).
Thomson is describing a party where she says she can determine who is a
“natural born Nazi”. She describes person A as being “right-leaning”,
person B as a “fellow-traveler” etc. till she get to person D. This is
what she says, “D is the spoiled son of a doting mother. He has never
been crossed in his life. He spends his time at the game of seeing what
he can get away with. He is constantly arrested for speeding and his
mother pays the fines. He has been ruthless toward two wives and his
mother pays the alimony. His life is spent in sensation-seeking and
theatricality. He is utterly inconsiderate of everybody…”
Sound like anyone we know? This observation was made in 1941.
Churchill writes, “Americans need to restore belief
in the social contract, our sense of society as a moral economy and
there is much good reason to do so in the name of a reclaimed American
dream. There is no good reason to do so in the name of America first.”
What a piece of scholarship this is.
Yes, get and read this one, despite the cover.
I came upon this little gem of a book, "The Day The Sun Rose Twice, The Story of the Trinity Site Nuclear Explosion, July 16, 1945"
by Ferenc Morton Szasz. It opens with this; "In December of 1945, the
Indian pueblo of San Ildefanso, New Mexico prepared to celebrate its
annual deer dance. That year they invited a square-dance club from
nearby Los Alamos to join them." There follows a description of the
celebration which then ends with, "Finally to the unusual accompaniment
of accordian and Indian drums, the two groups danced together."
World War II had just ended months before and this
was the first Christmas in four years that would be observed in peace.
(Wish we could have another invitation like that from the Pueblos so
that we could all dance together again this time for both peace and
The book ends with this, "What happened at Trinity
Site....evolved into the most crucial issue of the twentieth century."
One of the Los Alamos scientists said, "Forty years ago we meant so
well.....but it did not turn out so well."
In between this opening and closing is the story of
the people who worked to create "The Bomb". This is a very interesting
piece of work.
After finishing the above I dove into a larger piece of work, In the Garden of the Beast,
by Erik Larson. This is about the Dobbs family. He was the ambassador
to Germany from 1933 to '37 so in the midst of Hitler's rise. He was
accompanied by his wife, daughter and son (this is not fiction by the
way). This is a very behind the scenes story of life in Germany as the
Nazi party took over. I have heard a lot of comparisons about what is
going on in our country today and Nazi Germany back then and I must say
that those who want to spend time being hysterical about democracy
being doomed and fascism taking over, etc., etc. really need to read
more history to get things in perspective. Having lived through those
times I can tell you (and them) that the only comparison that is valid
would be in the fear being expressed and the language being used.
Example, if someone is physically attacked because
of their skin color or religion in our country today, the attacker is
usually arrested and held accountable. In Nazi Germany, attackers of
that sort were not only state supported they were sanctioned. This is a
huge difference. And never mind claims of "fake news", there was NO
news outside of state controlled newspapers and radio. You could be put
in a concentration camp, or shot, if you criticized the government.
There was no "freedom of speech." We are no where near that kind of
country. This "empty vessel" in the White House (so described by a
reporter when asked what the current occupant might think about an
international problem) may scar us somewhat and cause us to loose our
standing as a nation to look up to for a time, but this is a temporary
aberration and the pendulum WILL swing, we WILL get rid of this gang.
(Yes I know that's what many sane Germans thought when Hitler and his
gang of thugs was in power too) but we are NOT Germany in the 1930s. If
you doubt this read "In the Garden......." and get some perspective. And take a breath, we're on the road to getting rid of this latest version of thuggery.
Just a short look at the third book I finished this
week (this is why I'm not getting any of my own writing done....but I
AM trimming trees after all so it's not like I'm slacking off). This
book is Red Cloud, a bio of
the Sioux chief by Robert W. Larson. It's a good read and a very clear
description of the times (mid 1800's to early 1900's) and this
important Sioux presence.
By the way, I also want to plug any book by Mari
Sandoz who was a genius of a writer about so much in the west and the
Great Plains....and the Indians of course. Read anything by her and she
will take you there both in time and in language. Some readers back in
her day (mid 20th Century) didn't like the fact that she did not
romanticize the Old West...quite the opposite. Another writer whose work is worth
"Pandora's Lab, Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong"
by Paul A. Offit, MD. A really good read about stuff we thought was
really a good idea which have turned out to be quite the opposite.
(Like getting rid of DDT which then promoted alternatives which are not
effective and REALLY harmful to us and the environment.....yes, Rachel
Carson was wrong about this.)
Just finishing, The Improbable Wendell Willkie
by David Levering Lewis. Willke ran against FDR in 1940. The first half
is a bit of a "plow" because Lewis has a bit of an arcane style (which
I won't go into here) but the second half sails and is well worth the
journey. I just want to quote this one thing, which is nothing Willkie
said, in fact it was Max Lerner who wrote it ca.1941; “…….despite
the divergences of economic systems, of race and color and language and
social structure, the world is compassable, interdependent, organic.”
("Compassable" is a seldom used word which means comprehensible...understandable.)
What struck me about this is that currently we have
in the White House a world leader who has never read this quote and if
he did could not connect with the concept. Nor, it seems, have his
supporters. It is shear madness that we have such a character in such
an elevated position. He should be gotten out....sooner rather than
I haven't read much about WW1, just never got
into what has been written about it.....till now, and that's because To End All Wars
by Adam Hochschild is one of those fine, rare pieces of writing that
will grab you from the first paragraph. It's a combination of the best
Civil War accounts like The Killer Angels by Shaara and the movie The Fog of War.
Of course Shaara's book is fiction, this is not. But the truth of WW 1,
how it began (NOT with the assassination in Sarajevo) and how it was
prosecuted, is not. Hochschild is very clear about how crazy it was to
get into the nightmarish mess to begin with, and how the madness
deepened as it went on year after year with the slaughter of young men
seemingly endless, and truly pointless. I couldn't put this one down,
and I wanted to, but the human drama, the basic human insanity
Hochschild writes about so well wouldn't permit it because, of course,
it, WE haven't gotten much more sane. It was amazing, for example, to
read about how people who strongly opposed the war were, as the losses
mounted, inexorably drawn into it and began to support it because it
became about COUNTRY and survival. I wondered if much has changed given
the times we live in now......100+ years later. Yes, I know a LOT has
changed and in fact, the odds the world will ever be plunged into a
major war like I & II are much slimmer than ever.
Here is a very important read; How
to Change Your Mind, What the new science of Psychedelics teaches us
about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. (Michael Pollan)
Do NOT pass this one up! The title might seem to
predict a dry read about self-help tricks, but that is not the case at
all. This one is well written, a first person narrative about how to
change how we both perceive and experience what we keep believing is reality. If you invest time in reading anything over the next few weeks, make it this one!
My own book, Becoming Coyote, A Journey of Enlightenment (Mostly) is
not quite as "important" as Pollen's BUT! it's NOW available and is it
worth the read? After 14 edits I never want to
see it again.......however, you might like it and my
writer-editor-publisher daughter (Winter) says it's "...really good."
and it DID get good "reviews" from a couple of pre-publish
readers....so there you go.
It's thick enough (400+ pages) to make a
good door stop and has a very nice cover.....which, for some obscure
reason, I can't get to load here....? It beats any over-the-counter
sleep aid and has no horrible side effects. (so far)
Anyway; it's $20, which will
cover book, envelope, and postage. (No, not available in a "Kindle"
edition or on Amazon so rare to begin with....and I'll sign it too!)
friend, poet, Wildman, Long Dancer, Vietnam vet (Marine & Marine
Guard, Washington, DC), dad, friend-of-the-Earth, dog lover, City
Planner, therapist, compassionate man. 1947-2018. He died this past June. We miss him every day......yes, every day. c
The Wolves at the Door, by Judith L. Pearson
subtitled; "........America's Greatest Female Spy" is about a
well-to-do, 20 something woman becoming one of the best spies in WW II.
Talented, clever, strong, determined....she could not parachute into
France because she had a wooden leg so she went by boat.....twice (even
after being identified by the Gestapo and betrayed by a double agent).
A master of disguise, multi-lingual, a crack shot, a planner,
organizer....well; it all reads like a great novel...but it ISN'T!
Virginia Hall did it all and it's a better story than any 007 tale
(even without the car chases). This was an amazing woman who never
wanted any publicity lest her underground activities by compromised. A
very good read and should have been a movie!
If you can find it (at Amazon or your local library) get ahold of New Mexico: Voices in an Ancient Landscape
by Douglas Kent Hall. I read it and found three as gifts for other NM
lovers. This is a classic! First published in '95 it's a bit dated when
it comes to some of the views of the people interviewed, but it's a
fine piece of NM and Southwest history.
I recommend The Vaccine Race
by Meredith Wadman for a comprehensive history of vaccination and the
evolution of the search for vaccines that have held off, and in some
cases done away with some of the scourges of humanity. (They wiped out
small pox and have just about done the same with polio.)
This book is so good when it comes to explaining how
vaccines are made and delivered that as I finished it I actually
considered that I might have become a vaccine researcher if I’d just
been less unsure of my ability to tackle the field of biology.
Talk about challenging! What I found really exciting
about the field was the quest, the problem solving, the mysteries, the
challenges, the determination to defeat an equally determined “enemy”
(a virus). This is really fascinating stuff.
Don’t get me wrong; it ‘s not an easy read. Wadman
cites many names and many issues, and some of the unconscionable choices that
have been made in testing some of the vaccines while in pursuit of
knocking out some of these diseases…..as in, who gets sacrificed in order to achieve a final victory.
I’m not going to go into all the detail about this
in this short review except to say, mistakes were made and there have
been unintended consequences BUT, this is not the stuff of conspiracy
as some critics have proposed. And understanding this and all of what
researchers are up against …..well, perhaps that’s the main reason to
read this book.
Dan Rather's book, What Unites Us
(2017) is a straight forward, uplifting memoir of the U.S. then and now
(covering his life-so-far) and it's a read that will touch you. His
topical chapters cover, Freedom, Community, Exploration,
Responsibility, Character.....and inside each of these are reflections
on voting, empathy, immigration, books, the arts, the environment,
public education, courage...and so much more. Please take the time to
check this one out.
by Hillary IS worth your investment of time. It's a tell-all book and
when you read it you will be able discern just how much of what we
thought we knew about Hillary was shaped and delivered by a flawed
media, yes including the "paper of record" the N.Y. Times, & by the
Republican b.s. machine.
Yes, it's worth your time, if only to inform about
how dirty politics have distorted the truth about her and about our
democracy...... and I think it will make you sad that we all have
missed the wonderful opportunity to have someone like this, male or
female, at the head of our country. I certainly shed a few tears about
“In the absence of fact, myth rushes in, the kudzu of
history.” What a great line. It was written by Stacy Schiff of whom it
is said, “Even if forced at gunpoint, Stacy Schiff would be incapable
of writing a dull page or a lame sentence.” For proof read her Cleopatra, a Life.
What an epic work! This is not a book you can rush through, not if you
want the full benefit of Schiff’s hard won knowledge about this “last
empress” (as described by Schiff).
this is NOT Obama's auto-bio, the subtitle of this book is, "How Barack
Obama defied his critics and created a legacy that will prevail"! by
Here's a quote from p 238,
those sympathetic to Obama’s aims as well as those opposed, spent his
presidency believing he had largely failed. This conclusion rested
on the premise that Obama had undertaken to bring about a revolution,
or a post-racial society, or the banishment of all political
disagreement----none of which he had ever actually promised.
What had Obama promised? To
unleash structural transformation in American health care and
education, to bring down the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, and to
spare the economy from another depression. He had likewise promised
thoughtful, honest governance and a no-drama president…….in 2008, sixty-nine
and a half million Americans voted to entrust the presidency to Barack
Obama. Many believed in him deeply, even fervently. Their faith was
This claim by Chait is substantiated by page after
page of details about what Obama accomplished in the face of knee-jerk,
Republican opposition. Want to re-fund your hope? GET THIS BOOK! c
look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like
the Ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the
men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose that
what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged
“But I know
also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress
of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as
new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and
opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must
advance also, and keep pace with the times.”
Thomas Jefferson, 1816
Winter Desiree's book Matchbook is detective-fiction.....not a genre
I usually read...BUT! this is one fine piece of reading and as one of
the comments on the back cover notes, "You will not be able to put it
down."...well, that's for sure. Don't pass this one up, my daughter has
written one FINE story and YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PUT IT DOWN....i.e.,
I read it in one day, Raven took two. We have 'em so to get a hard copy contact us.
Cost is $10 + shipping (probaby $2) read and pass the word, this is a
Here’s what the late Elroy Bode, author of eight books (among them; Commonplace Mysteries, To be Alive, Texas Sketchbook)
said of Matchbook; “…the details, the perfect rendering of people and
places…sentences that shine, words, phrases like jewels.”
He quotes one line, “During the last three years I
had submerged the memory of Ella in a river of alcohol, watched as she
sank below the turbulent surface of my mind.” and comments;
“There is not a writer alive who would not be proud to have written
PS, She just finished a second, not a sequel, and it's every bit as
good as Matchbook.
She's on a roll. That book, When I Knew You, is now