Book Review: The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas J. Fleming (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas J. Fleming

Four Stars

“In their loves and losses, their hopes and fears, they are more like us than we have dared to imagine.”

A worthwhile addition to the histories of our founding. Superficially what seems trivial reveals deep of relevance for understanding both the founders and the product of their labors.

“Newspaper ethics in the nineteenth century did not put a high value on accuracy. ‘Faking’ a story … was accepted journalistic practice.”

The universal themes seem to be of men driven almost to monomania, often to the neglect of wives and family. In several cases, it is impossible to know the man without knowing the wife. Most were dedicated to their spouses. Sadly, those who had sons or grandsons almost universally begat individuals who embarrassed them, improvised them, and broke their hearts. Their daughters seem to be woven of finer stuff.

“Nothing is ours which another can deprive us of.” Thomas Jefferson

Well-conceived, well-researched, well-written.

“Dolly [Madison] concluded that a woman who waded into the contentious side of politics aroused the always lurking hostility between the sexes and won no friends for her side of the argument.”

Book Review: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Four Stars

“Sometimes even bad advice can point a man in the right direction.”

Eight stories bound to stretch your imagination if not your horizons.

“Maturity means seeing the differences, but realizing they don’t matter.”

Original, thought-provoking fiction in a range of times and contexts.

“When you love someone, you don’t really see what they look like.”

 

 

My Seven Wonders of the World, #3

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Temple Mount of Jerusalem

 

(AVRAHAM GRAICER, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index)

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem has been a focus of history and religious devotion and fanaticism for three millennia. Three faith’s hold it to be the site where Abraham offered his son (Genesis), though they disagree which son was offered. It was the site of Solomon’s, Zerubbabel’s (Nehemiah?) and Herod’s temples in the tenth and sixth centuries BC and first century AD.

Some assert that Herod’s Temple was only the second, as the building of the third temple will supposedly trigger the Apocalypse, but historically Herod’s Temple was the third Jewish temple built on this site. Calling it a reconstruction of Zerubbabel’s sanctuary would compare to Continue reading

My Seven Wonders of the World, #1

Noodling around the internet “researching” something else, I ran across a New Wonders of the World list. Based on a poll run by an outfit in Switzerland, it was mostly a popularity contest. Several of the listed “wonders” can be rejected outright: neither the Statue of Liberty in New York nor Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro are wonders. Large statues, but neither the largest nor the most significant. Too modern. Ditto the Eiffel Tower. Petra and the Taj Mahal at least showed endurance.

So, I jotted down a list of seven wonders, then realized that I had actually seen only four of them. How can I judge the wonder-value of something I’ve only seen in photographs? Therefore, I started over, listing seven manmade structures which moved me when I experienced them. Rather than just list the seven, I’ll devote a short article to each. Along with a picture. Unfortunately, I visited some before the era of digital photography and, while I took pictures of each, I’d be hard pressed to find them now, and they’d be slides, prints or negatives.

The current mode would start at number seven and work up to number one, but that doesn’t work because, even if any of you have seen them, there can be only one greatest manmade wonder of the world. Even the ancients agreed. In fact, this group of structures was ancient when the ancients made their list. And is the only surviving wonder of the original list. I’m referring, of course, to:

1. The Great Pyramids at Giza, Egypt.

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commons.wikimedia.org

The Giza Pyramids are perhaps the only “gimmee” on the list. No one who sees them can miss their gigantic proportions and simplicity of form. When I saw the Pyramids in March 1983, I was prepared beforehand to be underwhelmed because I expected them not to live up to the hype. We stayed at the Mena House Hotel (a significant historical site itself) just down the hill from Khufu’s Pyramid. (The Mena House starts on the edge of the picture, by the golf course.) The first afternoon we walked up the hill to see for ourselves.

Approached that way, Khufu’s Pyramid shields those of Khafre and Menkaure. Khufu’s Pyramid isn’t just big, it’s so big that your sense of proportion is jarred. Impressive? It’s as impressive–no, more impressive in person. In addition to the three great pyramids Continue reading

On Human Nature and Political Ideologies

Not so simple as the Great Thinkers think.

Misty Midwest Mossiness

This paragraph in the “Human Nature” chapter of my Introduction to Philosophy textbook speared me, considering the turmoil before, during and continuing after our most recent elections. It’s a long paragraph so bear with me. I’ll split it at points to add more white space for emphasis and where my mind flipped thoughts from ‘right’ to ‘left’ instead of its usual on-edge position:

Your perception of human nature determines even how you think we should set up our society. Ask yourself this, for example: Should our society be based on capitalism or socialism?

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Book Review: The Third Eagle by R. A. MacAvoy (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Third Eagle by R. A. MacAvoy

Three Stars

“Ten years climbing a ladder to find nothing at the top.”

A young man who lives in a niche of a niche culture, chucks all aside one day and leaves: leaves his job, his home, his planet. Unprepared? Does being a galaxy-class martial arts expert count? Some.

“Hearing his death described as inevitable moved Wanbli not a whit. Everyone’s death was inevitable.”

Excellent sense of otherness. Language drift, Wacaan culture, day flower species. Then the earthies show up.

“An excellent translation of what [the stars] would look like if massless directionality were Continue reading

Book Review: Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Four Stars

“All because he stole something that should have been his to start with.”

This is historical fiction as it ought to be written: a vivid portrait of the times woven from many factual threads as well as period appropriate people and ideas. But this is no history, rather an engaging, enjoyable fiction. Each chapter opens with an epigram from some primary source draw from letters or journals of that time. The story also explores the lot of the common soldier encamped at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania that brutal winter of 1777-8.

“My humors fell out of balance, and I became tetchy and sour-minded.”

The voice of the protagonist, a young black male fleeing from slavery and joining the fight for American independence, sound authentic. Written to simultaneously capture the attention and persuade young readers.

“Even from his grave, Father could be an annoying fellow.”

A fictional treatment of American slavery risks either sugar coating what was an awful reality or demonizing everyone and everything involved. Anderson draws a clear line against slavery while exploring the varying attitudes and justifications of that day.

“The land which we have watered with our tears and blood is now our mother country.”

A good, standalone read, even though it is the sequel to Chains.

“If our luck does not turn for the good on its own,” she said, “we’ll make it turn.”

Book Review: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Grace of Kings (Dandelion Dynasty #1) by Ken Liu

Three Stars

“A bright, tenacious flower will not bloom in obscurity.”

Both the book and the author demonstrate the potential for greatness, as reflected by its winning several notable awards. However, despite being over six hundred pages, it feels rushed. Liu tries to create a world and fully develop all the players in a major turning point of history. He almost succeeds.

“All the works of men must be trivial in the fullness of time.”

Medieval culture on cusp of industrial revolution, geography like Japan though the culture seems more Chinese, I’ve heard it called silkpunk. As in Homer, the gods exist but don’t directly act. They meddle as forces of nature and impersonations of common people.

“Understanding nature is as close as man can get to understanding the gods.”

The underlying thesis is that conflicting views of reality, values, and perceptions lead inevitably to conflicts. Common enemies may produce common goals, but even those you love are Continue reading

Tenacious Dedication

Talent + training + tenacity is just about unbeatable.

Misty Midwest Mossiness

I feel nostalgically melancholy today.  I am remembering a time, about a decade ago, when I seethed with frustration surrounding a disappointing rejection my daughter suffered through.  When I requested an explanation for the rejection, the response I receive accused my daughter of “not being dedicated enough.”  In my mind, “not dedicated enough” became “not rich enough” because the evidence supporting that theory appeared overwhelming.  Other more affluent students with less talent and training achieved admittance, while my daughter was passed over.

Across the intervening years, I’ve watched and listened to my daughter devote countless hours in vocal training and coaching, music studies, daily practicing, auditions, rehearsals and performances.  Her perseverance, tenacity and, yes, dedication, knows no bounds. Her vocal coach is amazed out how extraordinarily large my daughter’s voice is, the largest she has heard.  I weep with pride, joy and love when I get a chance to hear…

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11.11.16 ~ Honoring All Who Served

“All gave some; some gave all.”

Misty Midwest Mossiness

Veterans Day 2016 ~ Courage

Thank you to all the Veterans who have served with honor and courage.

God of peace,
we pray for those who have served our nation
and have laid down their lives
to protect and defend our freedom.

We pray for those who have fought,
whose spirits and bodies are scarred by war,
whose nights are haunted by memories
too painful for the light of day.

We pray for those who serve us now,
especially for those in harm’s way.
Shield them from danger
and bring them home.

Turn the hearts and minds
of our leaders and our enemies
to the work of justice and a harvest of peace.
Spare the poor, Lord, spare the poor!

May the peace you left us,
the peace you gave us,
be the peace that sustains,
the peace that saves us.

Amen.

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