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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Things that scare me

Movies and books may startle me or make me squeamish, but that's not what scares me.

These are the things that scare me:

1. My middle aged children can't find jobs that lets them be independent.

2, What will happen to my children when we are gone and they have no safety net.

3. The world my grandchildren are growing up in and the world they will inherit.

4. Medicare and Social Security being slashed or even abolished 

5. Another banking crisis where we might lose our home.

6. What's happening to the family farms in this country.

7. The cutting of sports, art, and music in public schools.

8. Teachers having to go on strike for a living wage.

9. Children being separated from their parents, placed in concentration camps and then adopted without parental consent.

10. Living in a nation leaving our allies and standing by to watch genocide while debating whether the President wanted a quid pro quo in the Ukraine.

11. What has made me fear and tremble since November 2016: Donald Trump with the nuclear codes.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Dracula Movies

This weeks top ten I've decided to do Dracula movies.

The movie that started them all with Bela Lugosi. 

My favorite has Frank Langela playing Dracula, the best looking of all the vampires.

Bram Stoker's Dracula has the best cast and Winona Rider running down stairs with breasts bouncing.

I grew up watching all the Hammer Films versions of Dracula with Christopher Lee. This one is Count Dracula.

Then there are the spoofs 

Once Bitten, an early Jim Carey in with a disco vampire.

Mel Brooks had to do his take with Dracula Dead and Loving it.

And lastly George Hamilton in Love at First Bite.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

High Strung Free Dance

Wife found out about this movie at choir practice. We'd never heard of it. Somehow the word got out as it was held over for another week, which is rare in the movie market. We went to see it. There are not enough superlatives to express the impact of this movie on me. WOOOOOOOOOWWWW
Unfortunately this is the kind of movie that won't be shown in smaller towns.

The plot is nothing new. You have a young female dancer trying to get chosen for a spot in a Broadway show. A young man who is trying to get a gig as a piano player in New York. Talent is a dime a dozen in the Big Apple.
The piano player is a bicycle delivery boy who delivers a bag to an old lady's apartment. He sees a piano and starts playing. The old lady speaks to him from a behind a door and freaks out when he tries to see her. She tells him next time to play Shubert. As the movie progresses he plays for her and gets her to come out to see him. She's old and her hands are riddled with arthritis, but she used to be a great pianist. At the end of the movie she's playing the piano again.
The dancer gets the attention of the director of a dance show and he gives her a ride home. On the way his driver knocks the piano player off his bike and they take him to his gig. Okay so far standard fare for this type of rags to riches tale. That's where the trope ends and magic begins.
The gig is a retro speak easy. Everyone inside is dressed in 30's style. The entertainment starts with the piano player getting his sheet music knocked to the floor so he adlibs from what he's heard, the rest of the band follows his lead and the singers and dancers stage a performance without equal.
A friend of the piano player that works at the deli he delivers from is walking to work on a crowded sidewalk with earphones so you don't hear he music that he raps to, but what a rap. Now to me this style of music is seeing who can hic up the fastest. I couldn't make out most of the words, but I got the gist he's frustrated about being talented, but as he finishes, "With all my wishes I'm still washing dishes."
The dancer gets to her apartment to find out her room mate didn't pay the rent for three months and she's evicted. She moves in with four other dancers from the show and when they get to her apartment another roommate is an opera singer and they do an impromptu dance with the singer adding to the music.
The piano player gets hired for the show and there's a rivalry between him and the director for the dancer's attention to add some complexity. 
The rehearsal dancing is magnificent. A big name is supposed to headline the show and is introduced at a surprise birthday party for the producer. This is a Brazilian singer with a dance group behind her that knocks your socks off.
There are some other subplots, but they don't involve the dancing and singing or the music.
It ends with the opening night of Free Dance and goes dark. That performance is for the record books.
Like I said this movie is WWWWOOOOOOWWW!!!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Last Dance by Martin L. Shoemaker

The Last Dance by Martin L. Shoemaker.

 I came across this book on Amazon's First Reads. It caught my attention because it's a true science fiction book. No fantasy, no Star Wars space opera, not even Star Trek. This is pure space technology that could be possible in the not too distant future. It's based on Buz Aldrin's carefully thought out Mar's Accelerator. It's explained before the story begins. 
Wow! Pure science, possible science, not warp speed and blasters. Harks back to the days of Asimov and Arthur C. Clark.

The Aldrin is the space ship or space train using the Aldrin Accelerator: the process where the ship uses the gravity of the planets to propel it like a slingshot to travel between earth and mars. It takes months to travel between the planets which makes the ship have to be self sustaining with hydroponics, means of producing oxygen, and recycling water. The ship stays in continual orbit between the two planets.
When it approaches either planet regular ships from space platforms or the moon dock with the ship to take off cargo and passengers and load up for the trip to earth where the process is repeated.
Naturally there's an interplanetary government with military to police the settlements on the moon and mars. Merchants have invested huge sums of money in the Aldrin for transport of goods to and from.
The story is in the form of an inquiry into the captain of the Aldrin and crew of mutiny. A special investigator is sent to make sense of why the captain and crew refused to follow direct orders from the admiralty.
Inspector General Park Yerim conducts the inquiry to determine if a court marshal should be convened. The young woman thrust into this duty as she was the only member of the IG that could make the connection shuttle to the Aldrin in the window of opportunity faces pressure from the admiralty, merchants and space forces to set up the court marshal. Being independent of the military she conducts as impartial an inquiry as possible and interviews the crew of the Aldrin before interviewing and deposing the Government's side and the captain.
While interviewing the crew they each tell stories about Captain Aames. Each story gives the history of Captain Aames as a first class bastard who pushed his crew to the breaking point, but those who meet his standards survive. Each story leads up to the mutiny and the subsequent judgement meted out by Inspector Yerim.
The novel is a bit of back and forth. Yerim is conducting the investigation then there's a story, then back to the investigation and another story. The progression of stories gives the whole picture, but can be tedious at first. As you get used to it the more rhythm it has and it's easier to follow along.
Yerim's judgement caught me by surprise, but it was a good resolution to the problem. 
A very enjoyable read.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Book I read on someone's recommendation

Books I read on someone's recommendation:

Two friends in junior high recommended Nine Tomorrows by Isaac Asimov. This was the only cover I could find on Amazon, but I read all of his Robot books and as many of his other books that I could. The Science Fiction Book Club helped a bit in diversifying my interest in other sci-fi writers too.

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
A student in the high school psychology class recommended this book to me and I used it over the years while teaching the course. It's a synopsis of world philosophy brilliantly written.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Since starting TTT and Wednesday Challenge This book was mentioned by many of those posting. I also read Crooked Kingdom and enjoyed them immensely.

She Who Comes Forth by Audrey Driscoll
Reviewed by Berthold Gambrell and I love stories set in Egypt. I also read a few of her other books and I keep up on her gardening blog.

Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus by John Gray
This book was recommended by an attorney who spoke at an inservice while I was teaching. It improved my marriage and I used it while teaching high school psychology.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Top Ten: Title changes

This week is book titles I'd change the name.
I'm fudging with plays and movies too.

1. Romeo and Juliet to Horny Teenagers

2. Julius Caesar to Noble Brutus

3. King Lear to King Fool

4. The Lion in Winter to Henry and Eleanor

5. Moby Dick to Call Me Ishmael

6. A Streetcar Named Desire to Stella

7. On the Waterfront to I Coulda Been a Contender

8. Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice to Wife Swap

9. Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe? to Squabbling Spouses 

10. Don Quixote to Tilting at Windmills 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Great Authors: Eric Van Lustbader

Another author I read all I could find of his work in used book stores. Eric Van Lustbader. He started with The Ninja and subsequent martial arts books set in Japan. He branched into science fiction and other genres. These are the Nicholas Linnear series. He has others. Someday I'll get around to them. Since I have trouble with regular books and prefer to read on my Kindles he's a little too pricy for me. When I went to Amazon for covers of his books I discovered that starting with The Bourne Legacy he's picked up Robert Ludlum's mantle and written eleven Bourne books.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Books I won't read

Todays topic is popular books I won't read. It's really about genre's to me and certain authors.

I know he's really popular, but I've never read one of Steven King's books. I've read his articles in Writer's Digest and he did a forward to one of Harlan Ellison's anthologies. I've seen Carrie, Stand by Me, Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption. I never got more than the first commercial break in the series Salem's Lot before switching channels.
Green Mile and Shawshank were the only ones I liked. They were social commentary and not horror.
I'm not against horror. I grew up with Edgar Allen Poe, and did a stint reading everything Anne Rice put our for a few years. Her vampires and witches and body snatcher and mummy didn't give me the creeps or make me feel squeamish. Harlan Ellison's Whimper of Whipped Dogs is pure slasher, but it wasn't gore for the sake of gore. There was a purpose to it and social comment.

I'm not planning on reading the Game of Thrones books. I've enjoyed the HBO series, but his e-books run 8.99 each. The first five are now at 39.99. When I can read twenty or more books a month with Kindle Unlimited for only eleven bucks I see no need to invest and spend time reading something I've already seen in the series. Nor will I do it just to find out how they deviated or what HBO left out.

Classics I'm taking a pass on:

Moby Dick
War and Peace
All Quiet on the Western Front
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Madame Bovary
Anything by:

Charles Dickens
Jules Verne
Victor Hugo
H. G. Wells
Jane Austin
Emily or Charlotte Bronte
Ernest Hemmingway
Eugene O'Neal
Dorothy Parker

I could go on, but you get the gist.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Book Titles

The top ten extraordinary book titles.
The following by Harlan Ellison, most are short stories

  1.  The Beast that shouted Love at the Heart of the World.
  2. Love Ain't Nothing but Sex Misspelled.
  3. Pain God
  4. Repent Harlequin Said the Tick Tock Man
  5.  The Whimper of Whipped Dogs
  6.  Shatterday
  7. I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream
  8. Dangerous Visions - an anthology of stories publishers were reluctant to print. Ellison was the editor. 
  9. Again Dangerous Visions.
  10. Memos From Purgatory - Autobiographical account.

The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison.  A whole series of books.

Make Room, Make Room by Harry Harrison. Better known by the movie name.

King Rat by James Clavell. His first book followed by Shogun, Tai Pan, Noble House, Gia Jin, Whirlwind

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Wayland Track Reunion

I was on scholarship at Wayland Baptist College (now university) from 1972 to 1975.  I graduated in '76 working for senior year as a security guard. This last Saturday Wayland held a track reunion and I decided to go. It's a six hour drive. Here are some pictures of my team mates as they are today.

These are all the track athletes there from the '70's.

We were the only ones who were teammates. I won't name names. The guy on the left was our trainer, he was also an assistant coach a few years later. That's me next to him I ran cross country and ran mile and three mile. The guy to my right was a sprinter, and Mr. Cowboy hat was our 880 yd. dash runner and anchor on the mile medley. It was nice meeting them after all these years. Another sprinter was there, but not in this picture, he's in the top picture wearing a red shirt next to Mr. Cowboy hat.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Glory and the Dream

The last post was about books that explained things. I wanted to talk about this book in detail. It's the best history book I've ever read. The Glory and the Dream by William Manchester.
The book only encompasses 40 years. From 1932 to 1972. In essence the New Deal to watergate. He covers economics, social changes, wars, civil rights, assassinations and goes from the greatest president to the worst (up to that time).

First example: Going off the gold standard.
FDR was elected in Nov. 1932, his inauguration wasn't until March of 1933. His platform included going off the gold standard. In other words gold would no longer back American currency the Federal Reserve board would do that by manipulating interest rates.
The wealthy were looking at all the gold they owned being moved off the commodity exchange which makes the worth of the product fluctuate due to supply and demand. FDR was going to freeze the price of gold and $32.00 per ounce. Outside the U.S. the price could be hundreds of dollars or more.
Immediately after the election there was a rush to transport gold outside the U.S. the main country was Switzerland. There was one problem. Gold was kept in banks and to withdraw the gold created a paper trail of who owned it and how much was withdrawn.
FDR threatened the wealthy gold owners that if it was not returned by a certain day all their names and the amount they sent out of the country would be printed in the New York Times. Most of it was returned. This resulted in a constitutional amendment moving the date of inauguration to January 20. Shortening the lame duck period. This bit the Democrats in the butt in 2000 with the recount in Florida.

Second Example: In 1942 after Pearl Harbor the head of the Selective Service was the father of Grace Kelly (the actress). As lines formed up of young men enlisting to fight in the war he discovered that nearly 30% of the men were medically classified as 4F. As children during the depression they suffered from malnutrition and developed rickets from calcium deficiency causing bowed legs and eye sight problems from lack of vitamin A. 
Manchester extrapolated that if FDR was not elected in 1932 and Hoover continued his policy of laisse faire economics and denying there was widespread hunger in America that we might not have been able to field an army or navy in WWII.

Third example: He explained how young girls started screaming at concerts. 
There was a young lady who worked during the day and met with some friends who drove to a Frank Sinatra concert. She ate lunch, but was traveling and didn't have anything for dinner. About halfway through the concert and the audience was enjoying the singing either humming or singing along, the girl passed out and fell. Her friends started screaming for help. The other girls started screaming. Sinatra kept on singing and soon all the girls were screaming not knowing what started it. From that concert on the girls screamed during his performance and it continued with rock and roll.

Other books I've read by William Manchester:

His best known book -- Death of a President the authorized account of Kennedy's assassination. Many were disappointed that he stuck to the single assassin.

Goodbye Darkness. This is a recounting of years after WWII he visited the islands in the pacific where he fought. Most of the islands aren't in the history books. He tells of the shrines the Japanese built on all the islands to honor their dead and how the U.S. did nothing.

American Caesar. A biography of Douglas MacArthur. 
I came to understand the monumental achievement of what he accomplished in the Pacific with the fewest casualties of any branch of service in the war. He conquered an area three times the size of the United States with total casualties for the war under his command being100,000. There were that many casualties at Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Battle of the Bulge.
In recounting Truman's telegram relieving him of command in Korea, Manchester stated, "England gave more honor to Napoleon."
He does tell of MacArthur's huge ego and the black mark of trying as a war criminal and execution of the Japanese commander of Manila. The commander and his men evacuated leaving he city unharmed. It was Japanese Marines, not under his command that burned the city. MacArthur knew this and had him executed anyway upset that his house and precious library were burned.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Books that explained

This week's Wednesday challenge is books that explained.

1. Beginnings by Isaac Asimov. He works backwards in time from recent to the big bang and explains how everything came about. Masterful job. Not available on Amazon. They think he only wrote fiction. 

2. Worthy is the Lamb by Ray Summers. It explained apocalyptical literature and the book of Revelation. Totally changed my understanding of end times.

3. Victorious Eschatology by Eberle and Trench .  It explained the passage in Daniel predicting the coming of the Messiah and subsequent rise of Christianity.

4.Susana by Irene Blea. She does a masterful job of explaining how when the Americans took over New Mexico from Mexico they used water right laws to steal the headwaters from the farmers and sheep herders force them to sell their land.

5. World War I by John Keegan. He explains how the limitations of wired communication on the battlefield resulted in timid advances resulting in trench warfare and stalemate.

6 Casca: The Trench Soldier by Barry Sadler. The beginning of this book Casca has come back to England without funds. He's living on the streets nearly starving. The author explains the Bobby system of keeping watch on the streets of London at night and how all the money being made in the largest empire in world history was going to only a very few hands. The first hand account of trench warfare, balloon observation, flying in planes dropping bombs and the first use of tanks, poison gas and flame throwers is eye opening too.

6. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is hard to live up to the model that this man exemplified under the most brutal dictatorship Germany was ever under. Knowing the explanation and living up to is not easy. If first read in seminary over forty years ago and have never faced the trials he endured, but have failed to live the example he set.

7. Longitude by Dava Sobel
 I was taking a seminar through National Geographic to become a state geographer at the high school level. This is the book they spoke about the most. It's about how the development of a time piece that could tell accurate time in any climate was essential to using longitude for navigation. It's a fascinating read, it was made into a tv show, not a series by BBC.

8. Miracle of the Moringa Tree by Hank Bruce and Jill Folk.
A good friend wrote this book being advised that if you want to educate the public do it in a children's book. He is encouraging nursing homes to grow seedlings of this tree and send them to third world coutries to be planted and help end world hunger. There is no part of this tree that is not edible and it is highly nutritious.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

TTT Favorite Characterisics.

I've dividing the characteristics between heroes and villains.

Heroes: My model is Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

1. Wise, knowing the difference between knowing things and being able to use that knowledge.

2. Passionate: in their love life, for their cause, for their family, to right wrongs, to finish what they started.

3. Ethical: Willing to fight for what's right against overwhelming odds.

4. Willing to lose: their life, their jobs, their reputation.

5. Disciplined: Able to control their passions, wants and likes. Willing to exercise, study, learn when it's not easy or convenient.


1. Ruled by their passions. They'll move heaven and earth to get what they want.

2. Vengeful, make those who wronged them or get in their way that they pay.

3. Remorseless: Nothing will stop them when they get started.

4. Greedy: They can never have enough of money, power, food, cars, etc.

5. Merciless: Apathetic to suffering of all around them.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Military Books

History has always been my academic life. I joined the military book club. I quit it after I exhausted every book they offered that wasn't WWII. Here are some of my favorites.

This book I had the school purchase a classroom set with our discretionary book money. When ordering it they could find it only under the business category. It's required reading for CEO's and football coaches. Every modern day author on military history refers to or quotes from this book.
"The object of war is peace."

The next enlightening book was by a captain in the British army, who wrote this book between WWI and WWII. The British ignored it and the German's followed to the Allies regret until they embraced it's tenets as well. Major point: The indirect approach works the direct approach doesn't.

This book was given to me by a very good friend. I wound up reading a number of his books and he is the most respected military historian of the last few decades. It is a detailed description of three battles: Agincourt, Waterloo and the Battle of the Marne. The changes in weapons, scope and size of each battlefield as well as medical abilities to save lives in fascinating.

This book explained why this war degenerated into trench warfare.  Lack of communication over such a large battle front. It took wires to link phones, which were quickly broken. Commanders became reluctant to follow up victories in one area without knowing what was happening on their flanks. This problem was solved in WWII with wireless communication.

A comprehensive look at warfare through history. I love his quote that "The Mongols figured out that threatening to invade a country paid as they were bribed not to."

The opening on this book praises the United States and the way we fight wars, or at least how we fought them before Vietnam. He assessment of our fighting ability that we considered it like anything else as a job, get it done and get out. 
Then we got mired down in logistical wars. Next year we will have soldiers going to fight in Afghanistan that weren't even born when the Twin Towers fell.
He gives a detailed account of the Battle of Little Big Horn here, better than I've ever read elsewhere.