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Posts Tagged ‘History’

The Road To Sparta” (2016©) — book review
Today’s book review is for “The Road To Sparta” written by Dean Karnazes.  Karnazes may not be the “Dean” of ultramarathon runners, but he is certainly one of the sports most famous names and faces. Karnazes lives in the San Francisco Bay Area (where I also was raised and currently live), and, from his writing, appears to have totally adopted the ethos of being from Northern California.  Clean air, physical fitness, sometimes single minded pursuit of one’s goals, etc.
The book is another semi-autobiographical book about Karnazes.  His other book (which is reviewed here) is titled: “Ultramarathon Man“, and deals more with his various runs – particularly the Western States One-Hundred.  This book is about his being descended from Greek immigrants and him getting back in touch with his roots in his native country via participation in an ultra-run called “The Spartathlon.”  This run recreates the run which Pheidippides made from Athens to Sparta to ask the Spartans to help the Athenians resist the Persian invasion of Greece at the beach of Marathon.  Not to spoil the story (as it is ancient history), Pheidippides ran about 150 miles to carry the message (request).  He then ran a similar distance to carry the reply (“Yeah, we’ll come, but not for a few days”).  And then, … wait for it… he ran from the battlefield (Marathon) to Athens (about 26 miles) to carry news of the victory.  And then he died.
The race isn’t so spectacular.  Karnazes “only” has to run the initial portion (Athens to Sparta).  Oh, yeah.  You have to run the race in a “similar” time span to that of Pheidippides – 36 hours.
If you are a serious distance runner, much of the book will seem self-affirming as you will probably relate to the action and feelings of a ultra-distance runner.  If you are not a “serious” runner (or athlete), you may still relate, but you’ll probably also find Karnazes’ descriptions of the Greek countryside a bit flowery.  Make that extremely flowery.  Almost (but not quite) off-puttingly so.  Almost…  On the other hand, if you are just an average reader, you may really like all the verbiage.  I was kind of in the middle.  Parts of the book made we want to strap on some shoes and go out for a jog.  Others left me feeling like he had been assigned a set number of words to get the book published and he was going to reach that number with the same determination it takes to run an ultra.
Final recommendation: strong.  I enjoyed the history.  I enjoyed most of the descriptions, particularly when he was talking about the people out in the Greek countryside.  And I enjoyed the re-telling of the actual Spartathlon he ran in.  Ultimately, a good running book should make you want to lace up and hit the pavement.  As mentioned above, this book did that for me.  I picked the book up at Half-Price Books off the $3 rack.  A steal at that price.  I’ve already used a couple of quotes on my blog and I’ve got about another dozen or so hi-lighted for use in the future.
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On This Day In:
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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Image of Trump hugging Russian flag

Decisions, Decisions… Choice

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.
  ―  Upton Sinclair
When President Trump chose to openly side with President Putin and Russia over the UNANIMOUS opinion of our combined intelligence agencies, we finally had proof of where his true loyalties reside.  The only questions now are whether or not Republicans (voters and elected officials) agree with Trump and what they will do about it if they don’t agree with him.  —  KMAB
[This image is a modified (cropped and shortened by me) version of an image copied from Axios.com with original attribution of: “Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios”.  Please google the original image and / or visit the Axios site if you want to see the original.  I am not claiming ownership to the original (or any rights to my modified version), nor am I seeking any profit from its use.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2017 Some Good
2016 Edges
Sums
2015 I Hope Not
2014 Study The Means Of Expressing Yourself
2013 That Stubborn Thing
2012 Like Mike
2011 Flawless Or Candid
2010 Browning…

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In honor of the Fourth of July holiday celebration, I would like to offer up the first Amendment to the United States Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This Amendment “guarantees” five basic freedoms to the people of the United States, which the Federal Government should pass no law to abridge (reduce or restrict).  They are:
Freedom of Religion.
Freedom of Speech.
Freedom of the Press.
Freedom to Assemble Peaceably.
Freedom to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances.
The first ten Amendments to the Constitution are commonly known as the “Bill of Rights”.  Generally speaking, their intent is to restrict the government and formally guarantee rights to “people” or to “persons”.
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On This Day In:
2017 Happy 4th of July 2017!!
2016 Red, White And Blue BBQ
Happy 4th of July 2016
IMF’d (Marathon / Binge)
2015 Happy 4th of July 2015!!
2014 Happy 4th of July 2014!!
2013 Patriot Act, Anyone?
2012 Five Lost Wars
2011 Worth Fighting For
2010 Still Learnin’ Hard…
4th of July 2010

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History, in general, only informs us what bad government is.
   ―  Thomas Jefferson
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On This Day In:
2017 The Best?
2016 Timely Opinions On “The Donald”
Even Allowing For Coincidence
2015 First Things First
2014 Without The Other
2013 Earn This
Seeking A View
2012 Stumblin’ Along My Way
We’re Proud Of You, Jr!
Union Card
Two Philosophies
2011 Simply Unpredictable

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Here is what I have learned about race:  You can’t go over it.  You can’t go under it.  You can’t go around it.  You have to go through it.
When we testify in court, we swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  This is important, because anything but the whole truth and nothing but the truth will lead us astray.  Yet that is the story of American history that most of us know, particularly as it relates to race.  To move forward, we must commit to tell the whole truth about our past.  To move forward, we must find that new space on race here; a zone of belief that holds promise for a nation committed to justice for all of our people, making right what we have failed to do and insisting that we will do what it takes to reach the next threshold for humankind.
   —  Mitch Landrieu
Mayor of New Orleans, LA
From his editorial: “Repairing the story of race in the South
Appearing in Time Magazine, dtd: 2 April 2018
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On This Day In:
2017 Streaking Tales
2016 Singular Reality
2015 He Says It’s Hard To Get There From Here
2014 Question From A Founding Father
2013 Make Heroes
2012 See And Hold
2011 Am Not, Are So

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I have one life and one chance to make it count for something.  I am free to choose what that something is, and the something I have chosen is my faith.  Now, my faith goes beyond theology and religion and requires considerable work and effort.  My faith demands that this is not optional, that I do whatever I can, whenever I can, wherever I am, for as long as I can, with whatever I have, to try to make a difference.
   —  President Jimmy Carter
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On This Day In:
2017 Are You Confused?
2016 The Golden Mean
2015 To Infinity And Beyond
2014 Taken Back
2013 Windows Or Doors
2012 All Rise
2011 Vote Weight

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Hacksaw Ridge (2016)  —  movie review
WAAAYYY back in August 2016, I wrote a post about a documentary, a movie preview (“trailer”), and a few comments on something I’d discovered on YouTube which I then called “trailer reviews”.  Here is a link to that post for anyone who would like to read my earlier post:  https://kmabarrett.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/conscientious-courage/
At any rate, the movie came out and, for whatever reason, I never have reviewed it.  This post corrects that mistake.  (My earlier post was about the documentary / subject of the movie and not on the actual movie.)
The film is a typically formatted two-part military tale focusing on the World War II training (pre-military life / boot camp), and then, (actual) combat experiences of Desmond Doss, a combat medic who was a pacifist / Seventh-day Adventist Christian, who refused to touch, carry or use a firearm or weapon of any kind. Doss became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The medal was for service above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle of Okinawa (April to June 1945).  It should be mentioned, the movie implies the battle shown was a few days / nights long.  In fact, it (the battle shown) lasted a couple of weeks and the battle for the island several months.  Also, Doss received medals for two acts of courage in combat (on two other islands) which preceded this battle on Okinawa, so his courage was already known by his fellow soldiers before the events depicted in this movie.
Andrew Garfield stars as Doss, and Hugo Weaving (Mr. Smith from the Matrix movies) as his father, with Sam Worthington (the blue guy in “Avatar”) as Doss’ company commander and Vince Vaughn as his drill instructor and platoon sergeant.  The film received six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Garfield and Best Sound Editing, and winning the awards for Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing.
First we are introduced to Doss as a child and learn about his desire to be a doctor.  We also meet his girlfriend and future wife.  (Normally, I would describe all of this as “Blah, blah, blah…”, but in this movie, the background really is important to the story – imagine that!)  Doss joins the Army and is placed under the training of Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn, who is surprisingly good in this wise-cracking, but non-comedic role).  Despite being skinny, Doss excels physically but is cast as a coward to his platoon for refusing to handle a rifle and train on Saturdays.  Howell and Captain Glover (Worthington, who looks surprisingly old in this role) attempt to discharge Doss for psychiatric reasons but are overruled, as Doss’ religious beliefs do not qualify as a mental illness.  So, instead, they try to make life hard on Doss.  One night, Doss is beaten by some of the members of his own platoon, but Doss refuses to identify his attackers and completes his training.
Doss intends to marry Dorothy (his girlfriend played by Teresa Palmer), but his refusal to carry a firearm leads to an arrest for failing to follow a direct order by a commanding officer.  At his trial, Doss pleads not guilty, but before he is sentenced, his father barges into the tribunal with a letter from a former commanding officer (of the father) stating that his son’s pacifism is protected by an Act of Congress.  The charges against Doss are dropped, and he and Dorothy are married.
Doss’ unit is deployed to the Pacific theater, and during the Battle of Okinawa, Doss’ unit is told that they have to climb and secure the Maeda Escarpment (“Hacksaw Ridge”).  In the initial fight, Doss saves several wounded soldiers.  The platoon camps for the night, which Doss spends in a foxhole with Smitty (played by Luke Bracey), who was the first squad-mate to call Doss a coward back in his training platoon days.  Doss tells Smitty his refusal to carry a rifle comes from nearly shooting his drunken father, who threatened his mother with a pistol.  Smitty apologizes for doubting his courage and the two reconcile.  This last is definitely meant to create a “heart-felt” moment and my immediate reaction was: this guy is either going to be a friend for life or he’s going to be a “redshirt” (LOL – StarTrek TOS reference for you nerds out there).
The next day, the Japanese launch a massive counterattack and drive the Americans off the escarpment.  Smitty is killed (ha! a redshirt), while Howell and several of Doss’ squad mates are left injured on the battlefield.  Doss hears the cries of the wounded and dying soldiers and goes back to save them, carrying the wounded to the cliff’s edge and belaying them each down the cliff face by rope, each time praying to save just one more.  The arrival of dozens of wounded once presumed dead comes as a shock to the rest of the unit below.  When day breaks, Doss rescues Sergeant Howell and the two escape over the cliff while under enemy fire. Just a historical note on the escarpment / cliff face.  The escarpment is actually about a 300-400 foot “overall” rise which is topped by the last 30 to 40 feet of sheer cliff.  This last bit – the cliff face – is given a bit of dramatic enhancement by the film’s director (Mel Gibson) who makes the last bit seem like the whole thing.
Captain Glover tells Doss that the men have been inspired by his courage and faith, and that they will not launch the next attack without him.  With new reinforcements, they win the battle.  When some Japanese soldiers fake surrender, Doss saves Captain Glover and others by slapping and then kicking (nice Spidey move) enemy grenades.  Doss is wounded in the leg by the kicked grenades blast, and Doss descends the cliff, holding the Bible his wife gave him.
The film switches to archival photos and footage from the documentary to show that Doss receiving his Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman for rescuing the 75 soldiers at Hacksaw Ridge.  The notes state Doss stayed married to Dorothy until her death in 1991, and, that he died on March 23, 2006, at the age of 87.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, his fellow soldiers reported Doss saved over 100 men.  Doss estimated he “helped” 50.  His CMoH split the difference an said “75”!!!
So, what did I think? You gotta be kiddin’ me! I loved the documentary; I cried during the preview (okay, maybe I just welled up a bit); and, I loved the movie (and, yes, I did cry)!!  This is not a movie about war – which is what I originally thought it was going to be about.  This is a movie about the human spirit, faith and courage.  Needless to say – final recommendation: very highly recommended.  One note of caution: like several of Gibson’s movies, this one is graphic in the display of violence and in the horrors of war.  As such, it is not appropriate for the very young or the squeamish.
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On This Day In:
2017 Talent Hates To Move
2016 Looking To November
2015 It Isn’t The End
Prospero’s Precepts
2014 Friends
2013 Learning Bitter
2012 Remembrance, Minstrels & Going Off To War
May I Have More Happiness, Please?
2011 There Is No God, But God
2010 Another Running Book…

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