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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

The Lessons Of History”  (1968©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for a summation / distillation book written by Will and Ariel Durant (a married couple) which culminates a series of eleven volumes popularly titled: “The Story of Civilization“.  This book (“Lessons“) actually was written and published between volumes 10 and 11 of that main work.  The book attempts to provide extremely brief points about twelve topics: geography, biology, race, character, morals, religion, economics, socialism, government, war, growth / decay, and progress.  There is also a preface and a first chapter detailing the authors “hesitations” in presenting such a précis.  The book is barely 117 pages while the typical main volume is 900-1100 pages (over 10,000 pages in total).  Obviously, their task was daunting and, generally speaking, they only compare / contrast the two main tensions (positions) for each topic (i.e. religion vs secularism) in this slim book.  This book, like the main series, is an attempt to bring “history” to the masses (in simple, if flowery, language).
If you are a lover of words, you will enjoy the authors’ writing style.  I found the imagery almost poetic at many points.  If, however, you are a person grounded in ideas, you may be less taken by this work.  The chapters tend to be limited to the “compare and contrast” formula of only two main concepts each per topic.  Another issue: the book is dealing with racism and culture, character and morals, etc., and many times we see these topics through the prism of our modern perspective, while the authors view them over the course of human history.  Racism and slavery, for example, seem almost excused because that’s the way it (humanity) has been for the vast majority of the last 5,000 years.  It is NOT excused (by the authors), but it is detailed and in most sections comes across as “the white-man’s destiny”, until suddenly – sometimes in only a single brief paragraph, it isn’t.  And the “suddenly” paragraph represents the last 150 years which some of us have lived through a fair chunk of – in my case 65 of them, anyway.  I am not trying to be critical of the couple’s monumental work (over five decades in the writing for the main series), however, this book seems to suffer from the same European / Northern Mediterranean perspective (i.e. bias) which the main series is always criticized for.  I did not personally find this overly objectionable, but then I am a “melting-pot” American (product of the 1960’s).
Is this a good book?  Is it thought provoking?  Is it entertaining?  Yes.  Yes.  And, yes.  There is a well known expression that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.  The authors opine this is not necessarily as true as is the subtle appearance of time, leadership, government and civilization being caught up in great interweaving cycles – like a pendulum we swing back and forth between anarchy and tyranny with only brief periods of democratic liberties and freedoms.  And, they attempt to illustrate this series of cycles for each of the twelve chapters opposing extremes.  Please note:  the authors imagery is circular.  Mine is the pendulum.
Final recommendation: highly recommended!  I bought the full twelve volumes several years ago and promised myself I’d read them “eventually”.  I’m glad I’ve finally dipped my toe in the ocean.  I guess the next step is to begin the real swim…
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On This Day In:
2019 Dodgers Choke AGAIN
He Wasn’t “Just Kidding The Press”
2018 Thinking About My Hil
Remember Your Duty In November
2017 Play Well With Others
2016 Surviving And Challenging
2015 On Destroying Historic / Archaeological Sites
2014 Magical Power
2013 How Awesome Would That Be
2012 Two Views
2011 Still Looking For Examples
2010 Giants Win Away 3 – 2!!

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History is always written by victors, and the defeated create a new set of myths to explain the past and gild the future.
   ―    Morris L. West
From his novel:  “The Devil’s Advocate
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On This Day In:
2019 Lead To Action
2018 Listen And See
2017 The Big Illusion
2016 What Are You Thinking About?
2015 What The Framers Chose
2014 Lost Anything Lately?
A Life Of Science
2013 Serve The World
2012 Acquaintance, n.
2011 On Why His Father Was A Great Teacher
A Baker’s Dozen

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You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.
   —    Michelle Obama
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On This Day In:
2019 A Lifestyle
Day 16: Cheat Day
2018 The Children Are Our Future
2017 And Three
2016 Nine Parts Mystery
2015 Little Or No Common Ground
2014 Just Between Me
2013 Beyond The Strings
2012 Saving The Union
2011 Still And Too Often

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Failsafe” — movie review
Today’s movie review is for the 1964 military / political thriller “Failsafe“.  The plot revolves around a falsely identified aircraft entering U.S. airspace and the nuclear destruction which follows.  The premise is that both men and machines can fail when humanity trains specifically for world-wide destruction.
Henry Fonda stars as the (un-named) President of the U.S., a young Larry Hagman of “Dallas” and “I Dream of Jeannie” fame is the translator working for the President, Ed (Edward) Binns is the flight commander attacking Moscow, Frank Overton plays General Bogan (in command of the Strategic Air Command (SAC)), Fritz Weaver plays Colonel Cascio who believes the Soviets are actually attacking and tries to mutiny against Bogan and the President, Walter Matthau plays Dr. Groeteschele, an academic / Pentagon consultant who wants to use the “mistake” to initiate an all-out attack / war against “the Communists”, and Dan O’Herlihy plays General Black (“Blackie”) a college friend of the President who is called upon to bomb New York City to compensate for Moscow and to prevent a full-scale nuclear exchange.
To “understand” the movie, a little historical perspective is required…  In the previous year (1963), the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. faced off in what would come to be known as the “Cuban Missile Crisis”.  As far as we know, this is the closest humanity has ever come to nuclear annihilation. Earlier in the year (1964), another movie of a similar vein (“Dr. Strangelove“), but more of a political / military satire was also released.  Both involved a rogue aircraft destroying a Soviet city.  However, in the first movie, the Soviets have a world destroyer which is activated.  In this movie, the President acts to placate the Soviets and save humanity from destruction.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it realistic?  Is it entertaining?  Yes!  Yes!  And, yes!  The film is an interesting throw-back to the days of the black and white drama.  This role and Fonda’s role in “12 Angry Men” are the two signature roles which I remember Fonda for.  “The Grapes of Wrath” and “On Golden Pond” are both equally memorable, but the former was before my time / interest and the latter was at the very end of his long career (he appeared in over 60 films).  And, of course, in my day, EVERYONE was compelled to view “The Ox-Bow Incident” in high school.  For me, the title is more memorable than the film – of which I have almost no recollection.  (Just sayin’.)
Is “Failsafe” realistic?  Yes, particularly compared to “Strangelove“.  Aside from the B&W filming, the technology was “advanced” for its time and quite well done.  The acting was tense and there were a lot of close, sweaty shots which brought the tenseness which real participants would have felt if we were approaching nuclear war.  An interesting side note:  the Air Force did not want to promote the idea such an event (“mistake”) was possible and therefore refused to participate in production.  The film uses stock footage of planes to depict a fictional bomber and a mixture of other aircraft to represent U.S. and Soviet fighters.
Entertaining?  Yes!  I haven’t seen this film in over 40 years and I could still feel the “moment” of the film.  The number of times you see actors with shaky hands and sweaty forearms really high-lights the nervous energy which the movie conveys with virtually no music score to “artificially” build emotional impact.
Final recommendation:  Very Highly Recommended!  This is a movie which should be viewed widely in America.  In 2020, the world is racing to a different type of annihilation (climate change), but it is important to remember there are multiple nuclear powers in the world and any one of them could initiate the end of humanity through either human or technical failure.  The moral of the story is one of personal responsibility and taking action to ensure nothing like this film portrays ever happens in real life.
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On This Day In:
2019 Is #45 Warning Alabama Again?
Day 11: 49ers Win
2018 Worry (x2)
2017 Still Working
Gold In The Morning Sun
2016 Power Inside
2015 Sometimes I Feel Small
2014 It Slipped Away
2013 Corollary
2012 Working Retired
2011 The Web Is Not Authoritative! (Really?)

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The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursing his own education.  This will not be a widely shared pursuit until we get over our odd conviction that education is what goes on in school buildings and nowhere else.
  —    John W. Gardner
[IMHO:  Gardner is correct that one main goal should be sparking the individual student’s desire to become educated and willing to pursue personal education beyond the classroom.  However, the societal problem which public schools were created to address has been the mass production and standardization of education, which to date, has only been possible within school buildings.
I would argue it has not been proven that technology – particularly remote learning technology – is anywhere near as uniformly effective or efficient as having a qualified and caring teacher standing in front of a group of students.  Personal (one-to-one) instruction has it’s value, but even in two on one (single child / two parent families) instruction is not as conducive to a well-rounded, socially developed AND educated child as is a classroom.  Parents can model behavior, manners and attitude, but I have rarely found any to be both qualified and able to educate their own children.  A “good” teacher is a rare enough commodity that we, as a society, undervalue (under-pay) all teachers.  A “great” teacher creates memories for a lifetime in their students.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2019 The Powers Of Mind
Day 10: Into Double Digits
2018 Up For Progress
Day 1.5: Done (For Now)
2017 And Second By Second
2016 Bakeries And Coffee Shops
2015 Spirit Not Form
2014 Sometimes Even Kneeling Seems Insufficient
2013 Hobgoblins
2012 Got Sleep?
2011 Not Another Barren Corner

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Sink The Bismarck

Comment(s):  This song followed the black-and-white movie from the same year (1960).  At this point in my life (early to mid-1960’s), I was still heavily influenced by country-music on the AM radio and 45’s which told stories.  Johnny Horton was famous in this song genre which included: “The Battle of New Orleans” and “North to Alaska“, and both were also movies – the former with Charlton Heston and the latter with John Wayne.  With the coming of the “British Invasion” vs The Beach Boys, I lost most of my taste for country twang.  Yes, I had exceptions for “softer” country like Johnny Cash (“A Boy Named Sue“) and “traditional” like Hank Williams (“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry“), but I had pretty much switched to Rock, R&B / Soul, and some ballads.  In the mid-1970’s, I had a roommate (in Germany) who was a college DJ from Dallas, Texas.  Over many nights of cards, beer and German white wine he introduced me to the finer distinctions between Western, Country, Hillbilly and Nashville music and I really never looked back.  When I got back home, my family and friends were surprised to see ABBA, Motown, Hendrix, Dylan, Cash and Nelson all sitting side by side.  And, of course, the 1970’s brought Disco…  So, yes, I’ve a long list of songs to reminisce through…
A final note:  if you haven’t seen the three movies, I recommend them – particularly “Sink the Bismarck“.  Hmmm,  maybe this will prompt me to re-watch and review the movies, too.  LoL!
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On This Day In:
2019 Ooh, Shiny
Day 4: Surprised
2018 We Are Approaching Default
Running On History
Day 37: Blended Not Juiced
2017 Today Is Not Lost
Day 8
2016 Paying Attention
2015 An Awful Ordeal
2014 What Are You Doing?
2013 Lives > 1
2012 Strange To All The World
2011 Unnecessary Stagefright

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Dances With Wolves” (1990)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the epic western directed by and starring Kevin Costner as Lieutenant John Dunbar / Dances With Wolves, Mary McDonnell as Stands With a Fist (his wife / romantic interest), Graham Greene as “medicine man” Kicking Bird, and Rodney A. Grant as Wind In His Hair (Dunbar’s initial antagonist and then friend).  This is a LONG (3 Hrs.) movie about a civil war Union officer who fails to commit suicide during a Civil War battle and instead ends up a war hero.  For his “reward” he is granted any post he wishes (shades of “Top Gun“).  Dunbar asks to be assigned to a post on the far ends of the plains (South Dakota) so he can see the open frontier “before it is gone.”  He is granted his request.
Dunbar ends up in a small post in-between two warring factions of Native Americans (the “good” Sioux, and the “evil” Pawnee).  The post appears to have been destroyed by Indian attack.  Dunbar makes friends with the Sioux and eventually becomes a valued member of the tribe / nation.  Ultimately, Dunbar takes his wife and leaves the tribe as a personal sacrifice because his presence will only bring retribution / retaliation from the Army who are tracking him down for desertion and treason.  The movie ends with a closing note about the end of a free Sioux Nation on the open plains.
So, is this a “good” movie?  Is it entertaining?  Did I like it?  Well, it won “Best Picture” and “Best Director” at the Oscars, so that kind of answers that…  Is it entertaining?  Yes, mostly.  It’s a long movie and you have to be prepared for that (physically and mentally).  You have to watch the movie or you miss subtle dialogue and facial exchanges.  Visually, I found it very reminiscent of “Lawrence of Arabia” with the colors and scenic vistas.  Story wise, I found it very reminiscent of “The Last Samurai“: U.S. Calvary officer goes native after spending time with the locals and discovering himself.
And, did I like it?  Mostly.  I tend to like my epics with happy endings and a triumphal hero.  This is not that kind of movie.  Although both the hero and the tribe “win” the last battle, the closing screen makes clear the tribe loses its battle for survival (they get confined to a reservation).  There is no mention of what happens to the Dunbar and his wife.  This appears to have been left open as a lead in for a sequel, but Costner doesn’t do sequels, the role has never been recast, and he has made clear his opposition to participation in a sequel.
Final recommendation: highly recommended!  If you are into the “heroic journey” story, this will be your cup of tea.  It was for me.  The movie was “kind of” a surprise hit.  Westerns had a big fall-off after a number of bombs in the 1970s and 80s, and this movie is credited with breathing new life into the genre.  I like westerns, even if they are rarely realistic portrayals of their periods, so this was a good thing for me.
One last comment:  I have seen some of the parts of this movie over the (last 30) years, but had never seen it straight through from start to finish.  This is my loss.  If you have not seen this movie, but enjoy Westerns, hero’s journeys, or even just epic video story telling, don’t let this be your loss, too.
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On This Day In:
2019 Imagine If…
2018 How Many Now?
Day 29: Tied (By The Time You Read This)
2017 Earn The Gift
2016 Still Loud
2015 Surprise! No Evidence
2014 Real Ideals
2013 A Happiness Weapon
2012 An Eagle Has Departed
Ummm
And In My Prayers
2011 Welcome Doubt
2010 Talk, Talk, Talk…
Every Day At Least
Democratic Suicide
Pleasurable Reading
Loose Joy
Do, Er, Write – Whatever
This Glorious Company
Relax With A Good Book
Neither Vice Nor Weakness
That’s Rich!
Man Will Prevail!!!
Frankly Speaking to Arizona
Brother By Another Mother

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Hamilton” —  movie review
Today’s review is for the musical play-cum-film of the 2015 Broadway production “Hamilton“. The play / film was written by the starring actor:  Lin-Manuel Miranda and based on a biography by Ron Chernow titled: “Alexander Hamilton“.  For those who are not particularly “up” on their U.S. Revolutionary War period history, Hamilton is the face on the ten dollar bills in your wallet.  He was the first Treasury Secretary of the United States and one of the few non-Presidents to appear on U.S. currency.  Anyway, this is a long production (in two parts with an intermission break), so you have to be ready with a comfortable chair.
Other actors / characters include:  Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr (the man who duels and kills Hamilton); Phillipa Soo as Eliza (Shuyler) Hamilton (his wife); Christopher Jackson as George Wahington, Daveed Diggs in a dual role of Marquis de Lafayette and (more importantly) as Thomas Jefferson; Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler (Hamilton’s sister-in-law); and Anthony Ramos as Philip Hamilton (Alexander’s son), who also dies in a duel.
Before I get much into my direct comments about this film, I have a few disclaimers:
1)  I don’t really LIKE plays or live performances of musicals (in general).  I haven’t been to many in my lifetime and most of what I have been to, I’ve enjoyed enough to feel the money was well spent, but I don’t recall ever thinking:  “Wow!  I wish I could watch that again tomorrow or next week“.  Now, in fairness to these productions:  I DON’T like crowds!  I can tolerate them, but I don’t like them.
2)  I knew little to nothing about Alexander Hamilton prior to watching this film / musical. I started to read a book about him and James Madison, but never made it past the first fifty pages or so.  It was enough to jump-start me into this production, but I don’t “really” know how much was fact and how much was tabloid history.
3)  I’m not real big on “interpreting” history in modern terms.  I’m not a fan of rap or hip-hop style “singing” in movies (or in general) let alone in plays relating historic events.
Having said all of that, what did I think?  Was it any good?  Was I entertained?  Did I learn anything?
First, I think Miranda is VERY talented, if not brilliant.  He has stage presence and was definitely able to carry the starring load with his singing.  To think he also wrote the music and lyrics is particularly noteworthy as I’ve always thought of music, lyrics and performance as three fairly different skill sets.  I felt, however, that most of his tunes were songs and not raps – which may be why I liked them.
Second, Leslie Odom Jr. (as Burr) practically steals the stage with every song.  The camera loved him and (IMHO) he was the best performer in the production.  Again, though, my impression was his tunes were songs and not raps.  I’m beginning to sense a theme here.
Third, Soo and Goldsberry were okay – again more singing than rap.  I was not impressed with Diggs in either of his roles or Ramos in either of his.  I do not believe Jefferson was a clownish buffoon, which was the impression I got from this production.  I found it equally interesting that Washington was portrayed with extreme dignity in the entire production.
Final recommendation:  strong to highly recommended!  I would like to see this made as a “real” movie without songs and with serious acting instead of as a musical.  If it gets remade as a musical (at some point), I would like it re-done with typical movie type sets instead of the single set stage with minor modifications.  I’m not sure why, but I found the use of the single set even more distracting than the rap / hip-hop.
This movie / production is well worth viewing as a history lesson in its own right.  To the extent it reaches a younger population with its trendier musical style, well, as someone who loves learning about history, that’s a trade-off I’d make any day.  My take-away (what I learned) was about Hamilton’s burning desire to make something of himself and to make a mark on history.  It was interesting to me that Burr was portrayed not as someone seeking to make history, but rather as someone who simply wanted to be present when history was made.  Burr passion was just to be “in the room”.  Again, without knowing more about both men, I don’t know if my impression is historically accurate.
One final note:  both of my daughters have seen the live productions and my oldest was anxious to get me to listen to the music in advance of the play / movie.  Both have also listened to the songs repeatedly – maybe not quite to the point of memorizing them, but pretty close.  I feel as if this (going back and listening to the lyrics) is something I need to spend some time doing as I don’t feel I got much from the lyrics as a first time viewer and listener.
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On This Day In:
2019 Tragedy
2018 The Beam In Your Eye Adds Up
Day 18: My Body Mass Index (BMI)
2017 Open Your Eyes (And Your Heart)
2016 Privilege Too…
2015 Otherwise Obscured
2014 Fundamentals
2013 Proof – ing
2012 Deluge, n.
2011 Hail, Caesar!
Why Were You Sent?

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Scientists, like other human beings, have their hopes and fears, their passions and despondencies — and their strong emotions may sometimes interrupt the course of clear thinking and sound practice.  But science is also self-correcting.  The most fundamental axioms and conclusions may be challenged.  The prevailing hypotheses must survive confrontation with observation.  Appeals to authority are impermissible.  The steps in a reasoned argument must be set out for all to see.  Experiments must be reproducible.
The history of science is full of cases where previously accepted theories and hypotheses have been entirely overthrown, to be replaced by new ideas that more adequately explain the data.  While there is an understandable psychological inertia — usually lasting about one generation — such revolutions in scientific thought are widely accepted as a necessary and desirable element of scientific progress.  Indeed, the reasoned criticism of a prevailing belief is a service to the proponents of that belief; if they are incapable of defending it, they are well advised to abandon it.  This self-questioning and error-correcting aspect of the scientific method is its most striking property, and sets it off from many other areas of human endeavor where credulity is the rule.
   —   Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 The Far Side
2018 Hold On
Day 11: Just Plain Tired
2017 Why Don’t You Tell Us What You Really Think?
2016 Discontent
2015 Do You Know Me?
Appetite For Life Update
2014 Tough Journalism
2013 Things I’ve Learned
2012 Abstainer, n.
2011 Rain, Rain, Rain
Test Your Strength
2009 End the mistakes…

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The whole idea of what happens when you read a book, I find absolutely stunning.  Here’s some product of a tree, little black squiggles on it, you open it up, an inside your head is the voice of someone speaking, who may have been dead 3000 years, and there he is talking directly to you, what a magical thing that is.
  —   Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 And I’m Not Letting Go
2018 The Continuing Failure Of Speaker Paul Ryan
Day 3: Approaching The Half Way Point
2017 Orange Comb-Overs Unite!
2016 Speaking Of Which
2015 Complexity Has A Strict Architecture
2014 Just Support
2013 Wandering Free
2012 Contribute = Paying Taxes
2011 How Will You Be Judged?

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Rest In Peace:  John R. Lewis
U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district
21 February 1940 – July 17, 2020
You are a light.  You are the light.  Never let anyone — any person or any force — dampen, dim or diminish your light.  Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant.  Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates.  […]  Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge.  Release all bitterness.  Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won.  Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice.  And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.
   ―    John Lewis
Take a long, hard look down the road you will have to travel once you have made a commitment to work for change.  Know that this transformation will not happen right away.  Change often takes time. It rarely happens all at once.  In the movement, we didn’t know how history would play itself out.  When we were getting arrested and waiting in jail or standing in unmovable lines on the courthouse steps, we didn’t know what would happen, but we knew it had to happen.
Use the words of the movement to pace yourself. We used to say that ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year.  Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term.  Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.  And if we believe in the change we seek, then it is easy to commit to doing all we can, because the responsibility is ours alone to build a better society and a more peaceful world.
  ―    John Lewis
Both quotes are from his book:  “Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America
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On This Day In:
2019 Most Hire
Just The Three Of Us
2018 Sounds Like #45’s White House
2017 Have We Started Winning Yet?
2016 Still Springy
2015 Well Concealed
2014 The History Of Warriors
2013 A Cult Of Ignorance
2012 Counting Valor
Understanding Faith
2011 I Can Hear You Now
2010 Inception

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“History is often on my mind, and the long view of things is often on my mind,” he says.  “Probably the vast majority of things that get labeled breaking news are not actually things you need to know, and you won’t even remember them or need to remember them two hours from now.  And I would rather spend the time that I have with people on the radio talking about things that I think they will need to know, that will be useful to them over time.”
  —  Steve Inskeep
Quoted by:  Karl Vick
From his interview:  “Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep finds the American present in the past he mines as an author
Appearing in:  Time Magazine;  dtd: 27 Jan 2020
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On This Day In:
2019 Slow Wisdom
It Is A Start…
2018 Young, Fun And Playing Well
2017 Earning Your Blessings
2016 A Suggestion…
Capable Of Being
2015 Looking For The Needles In The Haystacks
2014 The Definition Of A Gentleman
2013 Thar She Blows (Not)!
2012 Naturally
2011 Been Here, Done That
Remember
2010 Timeless Classics

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A Classical Primer” (2012©)  —  book review
This review is for the book: “A Classical Primer: Ancient Knowledge For Modern Minds“, written by Dan Crompton.  Crompton studied Classics and Linguistics while attending Cambridge in England.  This book (or an earlier version) seems to be part of a series of books loosely titled:  “I Used to Know That .. Book Series“.  This book is #19 of #28.  I guess they are things you should have been taught in grammar or high school and either you weren’t paying attention or you’ve dumped the extraneous information from you primary memory core.  For me, it’s probably a bit of both.
Apparently, a “classic” (in western sensibilities) has to do with either Greek or Roman history.  The first chapter is the longest and to me the least interesting.  The book is 194 pages and the first 58 are specifically about the languages – letters, words, cases, tenses, prefixes and suffixes – and how much of this is carried forward today into English (American and British).  Like I said, mostly not particularly interesting…
After that, come chapters on history, literature (Greek, then Roman), philosophy, architecture and finally science / technology.  The author is casual in tone and entertaining.  I felt I was actually getting information which was interesting and (maybe) useful.  As an aside, I was watching a news clip today and they flashed by a building and I thought, “Wow! Ionic / Corinthian mixed columns!”  I never recognized the differences before, so seeing them never meant anything to me before.
As mentioned, this is a short (and small) book with relatively large print and, therefore, a very fast read.  Final recommendation:  Strong to highly.  If you know little to nothing about “Classics”, this book will be a useful and enjoyable introduction.  I don’t remember EVER getting taught ANY of this stuff in school (other than the geometry portion), but then I never went out of my way to delve into any of this stuff.  If it was taught, it certainly wasn’t emphasized.
Anyway, I find it interesting to get reminded how much I don’t know about the world (and history).  My greatest fear (well, one of them anyway) is that I might die uneducated.  Reading this “primer” type of book reminds me how far I have to go to avoid that fate, but the author taps you on the forehead in a fun way and I think that’s among the best ways of getting your eyes opened to the world around you.   Slowly, slowly…
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On This Day In:
2019 I Don’t Think We’ll Be Serving Them Cake
2018 New And Old
2017 Ever
2016 At The Center
2015 True Value In Life
2014 A Potential To Be Concerned
2013 Fine No More
2012 Have You Checked Your Height Lately?
2011 Are You Convinced?

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Our true nationality is mankind.
  –  H. G. Wells
From his book:  “The Outline of History
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On This Day In:
2019 Beautiful Rules
2018 Skepticism
2017 WWGD?
2016 Growing Greatness
2015 When It Is Darkest
2014 Knowledge And Doubt
2013 Three Thoughts
2012 Gentle Reader
2011 Leave The Light On For Me Anyway

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Sharpe’s Eagle” — book review
Today’s review is for “Sharpe’s Eagle” (1981©) written by Bernard Cornwell.  This book was the first in the “Sharpe” book series which became (in the 1990’s) the Sharpe television series.  I became aware of the character via this TV series while living in Liverpool and was reminded of them when they came up as a suggestion in YouTube.
Richard Sharpe is a sergeant in the British army in Spain fighting against Napoleon Bonaparte and his French army.  Sharpe saves the life of the commanding general who then gives Sharpe a field promotion to Lieutenant.  The series tracks Sharpe’s rise through the officer ranks.  This book jumps in with Sharpe as a Captain and then begins dropping bits about how he got that far.
The book revolves around two main battles.  The first where his regiment loses the “King’s colors” (the British Flag) and Sharpe personally recovers his Regimental colors.  The two flags are normally kept fairly close together on a battlefield and if you lose one, you generally lose both.  The second battle is to win a Regimental Eagle, which is the French equivalent of the British Regimental colors.  The first battle is purely fictional, while the second is dramatized history – so, basically fictionalized history.  The battle occurred, the eagle capture did not.
So, is the book any good?  Entertaining?  Interesting?  Yes.  Yes.  And, yes.  I can easily see why this book became both a book series and a TV series.  Of course, I like historical fiction, military stories (and fiction), and good old action novels (and movies).  It is not “very” realistic that Sharpe survives the battles, let alone the book or series, but setting that aside, the book is actually much better at explaining the battles than the TV series.  The TV series was significantly scaled back, but it still retained the flavor of the book.  For example, in the battle where the flag (King’s color) is lost, the book’s battle is a battalion size engagement.  In the TV show, it’s a company fight.
One other point.  The author (Cornwell) is a serious military historical expert on the Napoléonic period and the book is full of details which high-lights his expertise in period tactics, weapons, social classes, food and geography.
Final recommendation: highly recommended!!  As I said, I saw some of the various series back in the 1990’s, so I jumped in with the YouTube offering.  I then read the book and re-watched this particular episode in the TV series again.  The episode was even better after reading the book.  I will add there were “somewhat” significant differences in the two versions, but (again), perfectly understandable given the time and space a book gives you and the cost limitations a TV adaptation does not allow.  And, yes, I bought a number of books in the series, so you’ll be seeing posts on those as I get through them.
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On This Day In:
2019 #45: Who Lost By Three Million Votes
2018 Torn Between Two Loves
A Girl And A Boy
2017 I Think They Are Starting To…
2016 Living There
2015 Bookin’ West
Beyond My Reach
You Never Call Anymore…
2014 Winning?
2013 Still Inventing
2012 Motivated
2011 Waiting In Line At Starbuck’s

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