Category Archives: Books

Thank you M’am

A couple days ago I volunteered to read to my grandsons before bed. Its something I did all the time a couple years ago but since they both began reading copiously I’ve fallen out of the habit. I miss it. I love to read to kids. Here’s one of my favorite books. For more push the “up” button. I’ve read a lot of books to Claudia too including all seven of the Harry Potter books – twice, except for number seven. I’ve only read The Deathly Hallows one once.

For this reading I pulled out a wonderful story from the time I led Great Books classes for my daughter back when she was in fifth grade. The story I chose to read was Thank You M’am by Langston Hughes of Harlem. It was written in 1931 a few steps from where my Grandfather earned his Masters Degree at Columbia University. Columbia and the Harlem Renaissance were next door neighbors. I thought I’d share it with you.

I want to write my own damned book

Having told my whole town about how I was witness to a fizzled out train I’m just popping to speak my mind about a whole lotta stuff. Claudia just ordered a book for us to read and I am a little PO’ed that it covers a lot of what aggravates me – My last 50 years watching the Republican Party pulling train on America. Look it up in the “urban dictionary.” I want to write that book.

The book is called “Fault lines” and I just took a couple of pictures of it but can’t manage to transfer them to the blog on my cell phone. I will attend to this post too, just like the previous one, later on. Probably before I go to bed tonight.

I am going to get my daily French practice in first. OK done. Here’s the book on my lap.

I did read the first seventeen pages to Claudia. It starts just days before our wedding as Jerry Ford was settling in as our new President. Its a good recap even for someone like me who was glued to the television through much of the tumult. It was almost fifty years ago.

Here’s one of the pictures of Jerry Ford who I very much liked and appreciated for pardoning Nixon.

The picture below it shows how he caught a lot of blowback from kids who wanted to see Nixon in prison.

Impeachments in our nation’s history have not been pretty. That’s a small part of why I would prefer to avoid one over Trump. It would only serve to make him a martyr and that is one pedestal I wish to deprive our Sleazebag-in-Chief from clambering up onto.

When I started this post yesterday I had a few other things to say but 24 hours can distract a fellow. For instance today I was sent Bill Maher’s thoughts about how Robert Meuller let America down by not calling for Trump’s impeachment. Here was my reply to that:

I understand but I don’t agree.

Trump is a symptom of 40 years of Republican mismanagement of America, the world and the Earth. If this was 1974 we could do what Bill Maher wants but its 2018.

Mueller, by being back-breakingly fair, has convinced a majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents that his report was fair. That is a major accomplishment and something to build upon if we are going to knit the nation back together.

Using Mueller’s work to impeach Trump will deprive America of what we desperately need. To defeat Trump in a fair election.

To do otherwise will likely postpone any healing for a generation.

We all, Republicans, Democrats and Independents have a lot of work ahead of us for the Nation, the world and the Earth. Leaving the air poisoned with payback is a lousy way to start in on this work.

Henry Louis Gates

My eyes are too big for my stomach for history books!

These are my library’s selection of books about African-American history and part of my collection related to the Civil War which arguably is pretty much the same history.

I haven’t read them all. I describe the books I buy but don’t read immediately as being like planes circling an airport waiting for clearance to land. Another plane is close to being added to those circling my bibliographic airport. Its The Stony Road by Henry Louis Gates known to the PBS viewers for his series on family history.

I didn’t know he was about to launch a book let alone on Reconstruction. A week ago, however, I bumped into an old NY Times story about Gates in which an interviewer asked him for the books he had been most moved by. He mentions three or four including one that was sitting behind my computer Reconstruction by Columbia University historian Eric Foner.

All my life I’ve tried to find the Cliff Notes version of everything so that I would have time to become knowledgeable about all things. It has not really worked. There’s just too many books. But I did buy Foner’s book thirty years ago only to discover that he had an abridged book by the same author. I once wrote to Foner asking him (stupidly I admit) what I would find in the full version vs. his Cliffs Notes version. He was kindly un-sarcastic in his reply to me.

So I was surprised to see that Gates has written his own history of Reconstruction taking it through Jim Crow. I am strongly inclined to read it which means buying it too.

BTW – Gates is the fellow that another cranky white lady called the police on when she saw him entering his home in Boston. He was arrested by a white cop and that led to the first proof for Murdoch oriented white nationalists that Barack Obama was a raging black monster when he said the cop over reacted. That led to the obviously raging Obama to hold a beer summit between Professor Gates and the policeman in the Rose Garden. Heavens!!!

Thank God we have the sensible Murdoch-approved Donald Trump presiding over America today.

Going to bed with Peppa

Last night for the second time I risked my cell phone’s melatonin messing blue light to watch little snatches of the cartoon Peppa the Pig in French. Between the cartoon’s pictures, its elementary vocabulary and my fifteen months of study it almost seems like I could understand the language if I could only squint my brain enough.

A year ago I wrote a column about my intent to learn a second language in the Reader in a column titled “Pardon Mon French.” That was after three months of studying. Now I’ve got a year and three months under my belt…..except for the month of September last year. That’s when I was actually traveling through France and didn’t have time to keep practicing if I wanted to see the countryside. I had nine months of French practice under my belt and I was hopeless.

To my surprise I resumed my study within days of returning and have added another six months of study. I don’t have any expectation of spending a lot of time with French speaking people but that could change if I actually begin to find myself understanding and speaking it. The US State Department lists French as one of the three easiest languages to learn. The State Department says it takes about 480 hours to become conversant.I presume their preferred teaching methods are a lot more intensive than my home study without other speakers to guide me personally. I am probably beyond that level of time spent but comprehension still eludes me. I take heart in the experience of a polyglot who gave a TED talk type presentation before other polyglots. Polyglot = multi-lingual.

This young lady spoke about six languages. Her presentation followed a year of visiting other polyglots and asking them about their method of learning. She found, as I would have expected, that no two multi-lingual speakers study in exactly the same way. I found their stories very hopeful. All were in their twenties when they began throwing themselves into languages. The speaker had a very useful motivational quote. “The best time to learn a language” she explained “is when you are young.” She added, “The second best time is now.”

This speaker claimed to have spent roughly an hour a day learning new languages. She explained that polyglots generally had a little corner with all their teaching/learning tools, books dictionaries, etc that they cuddled up with. Here’s mine: Continue reading

Into my mental Expanse

Up and out of bed for four hours. Until a few moments ago when I took a ten minute break to clear my mind I was busy nonstop with mental activity skimming the News Tribune, the NY Times and other news filters on my cellphone. Twenty of those past minutes were used solving some Time’s puzzlers and fifteen minutes were on my French practice. I still have another half an hour of French practice today to do in order to keep to a half year streak of putting about an hour in daily. Will I ever get to use French if I become fumblingly conversant. Maybe. So am I learning it for vanity, practicality or just to keep my brain cells from slipping into dementia? Don’t know. Probably all three.

That’s what I pondered in my nap while trying to keep my mind clear. That and the dozens of things I’d like to write about now. But I have a Reader column to turn in today and like last week when I missed the deadline I have some rough draft work ready to operate on. But I’m operating at the moment in the “meantime” with some time to kill and ideas to spill. As I fritter away precious minutes I’m listening to the Birmingham Symphony’s recording of the Mendelssohn that I will be singing in two weeks at the DECC with the Symphony Chorus. At last week’s practice a native of Texas from the French bayous caught me working on French. My mind froze up and I got no French out but I was hoping I’d see him again last night but he wasn’t sitting behind me to give my French a spin.

But I’ve learned a couple things about the composer. He taught Queen Victoria piano lessons. That’s added to my enjoyment of the current PBS series on young Queen Victoria. I also learned that he was a polyglot speaking a half dozen languages. He was easily conversant in English which makes his assures that his English lyrics …..“All that has life and Breath”……its playing now…Heavenly…. are not at all stilted.

So with Mendelssohn playing in the background let me mention one of the dozen items I’ve watched with Claudia over the past few weeks. Not Brooklyn 99 which tickles my funny bone and which is proof that racism in the US doesn’t stand a chance in the long run. Instead I’ll mention The Expanse three seasons of which we’ve live-streamed over the past couple weeks. I read a note about its being saved after by two seasons by none other than Mr. Bezos of Amazon fame. He put a good word in for them when it was about to be canceled.

Its about a future Earth at a time when Earthlings are divided into three groups. Those living on Earth. A militarized Mars and everyone else called “Belters.” They have colonized the Asteroid belt and all the other moons beyond Earth of the Solar system. In the first three seasons war is about to break out between all three subdivisions of the Solar System bound Earthlings. The Mormons have commissioned a massive Space ship to be sent to other suns and that project is being constructed in space by the belters. Bezos reportedly fell in love with the series because it works hard to show how the real life environment of space would have to be negotiated by humans. (No bathrooms have shown up yet. Probably just as well. What a distraction they would be)

There was one things that caught my attention. While there are vague hints that the Earth of a few hundred years from now is radically different one Martian warrior who finds herself at the United Nations in New York wants only to see the Earth’s ocean which is so foreign to her having grown up on desiccated Mars. When she escapes her confines and is directed to what is clearly New York’s battery overlooking the Statute of Liberty I had a quick reaction. I’ve been there and in a couple hundred years barring some industrial miracle that little bit of beach will be covered by 20 or more feet of water. I suspect the makers of The Expanse knew this but chose not to ignore this far more likely future. The idea that we will be zipping around the solar system mining its asteroids and moons in a mere two hundred years seems pretty fanciful to me. Will it happen? Oh I fully expect this but I think it would take a lot more time than this although like with Startrek I’m not entirely clear on the dates projected by The Expanse. And I haven’t even mentioned the “proto molecule.”

They had one thing right. The spaceship slated to be flown (is that what you would call it) by the Mormons is expected to take many generations to reach a habitable star beyond the sun. Alpha Centuri is the closest at 4.3 light years. NASA is contemplating sending out a space kite powered by lasers shot at it from Earth which might be able to reach one fifth the speed of light. That would make for a 30 year journey. What it would take to power a spacecraft with a 1,000 people on it at that speed is not yet within the grasp our our engineering. And Alpha Centuri may be the wrong place to send humans let alone a whole colony of them surviving the loneliness of space for generations. In a million years? Sure some new generation of hybridized bionically and computationally augmented humans will quite likely make the journey. At a fifth the speed of light their successors might make it to the far edge of the Milky Way in half a million years – a period of time 50 times as far away in the future as agriculture’s beginnings were in the past.

So for me and the immediate generations following me the question will be whether Earth and Mars or simply China Russia and the USA can avoid turning the Earth into another Venus before this endless future Era of exploration begins. To that end I’ll mention my pleasure at seeing a letter-to-the-editor in the Reader mentioning my last column about plastics. I don’t get a lot of feedback. The letter suggested a book for me about plastic waste. I won’t read it. I haven’t read the Sixth Extinction yet and that just about sums up what Donald Trump inspired politics all but guarantees will come to pass.

I give. Time for French.
I’ll save any proof reading of this for later. Maybe

More books one purchased one read and another reviewed

I had Claudia order this book five or six months ago. As she’s been stuck at home recuperating from her heart surgery she suggested I read it to her. Its quite slim. By Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon, was completed in about 1931 but only recently published. A Barracoon was a place where African prisoners were held before being put aboard the ships of Scottish and Yankee slave traders. Hurston learned of the last living slave from the last shipment of slaves to the United States (the ship “Cudjo” was transported on ran a Civil War blockade) and went to interview him about his life.

The book faithfully records his simple dialect for the sake of authenticity. It reminded me of something I have been thinking about recently. Black Americans sound different today than they did when I was a kid fifty years ago. Although a few blacks have sounded “white” since the days of house slaves; the vast majority, deprived of educations and sequestered in slave quarters, developed a distinctive patois. In the 1960’s Julian Bond was an exception with his then distinctive Middle American voice. (Here he is in 1982 making some sound observations about Socialism that would echo in the face of today’s Republican hysteria on the same subject.) Today the acting world is re pleat with black actors whose voices betray only the slightest hint of growing up in an inner city or south.

Here’s Cudjo talking about the Barracoon: Continue reading

Bonhoeffer vs Hitler and and the attack on my nemesis

For the last two months I’ve been avoiding the last great organization of my house – the higgledy-pigaledy files I’ve successfully brought together up in my three year-old-office. Two months ago I was about to attack them when I let myself be distracted by, of all things, stamp collecting. I left roughly one third of my office floor with stacks of yet to be filed stuff.

I’ve been waiting for something to kick me into gear again. I cranked up the heat an hour ago, and its pouring out furiously with the zero temps outside the roof above. But I got distracted again. This time it was by the gift my daughter got me for Christmas. I’d let everyone know I wanted a copy of the book below on the right. Its called “The Faithful Spy.”

Next to it is a book I randomly found as a remainder. Its chock full of historical cartoons of Adolph Hitler’s rise and fall. Recent events call this man to my mind. I’ve been nibbling at it for a couple months.

I parked myself and began reading the book about the attempted assassin who Hitler would later execute for trying to topple him from power. I haven’t read a book since I finished one on Napoleon right after getting back from my trip to France in October. I think I need to read a good book on a sobering subject to light a fire under myself. After that and after the office clean up I’ll have run out of good excuses not to start writing my own book.

4 AM

I have been trying mightily to get six or more hours of sleep a night. Blast it all, sometimes I wake and can’t turn off my mind. 3 AM this morning was such a time.

I came upstairs to my empire of documents – my attic office – determined to organize some clutter when I was momentarily diverted by a row of history books. They were on a shelf I haven’t looked at for a couple years. My eyes landed on a book by Alfred Steinberg that got some press back when I was in college. From the inside cover I could see he had written 20 other histories. The one I opened is “The Bosses.” It’s about six corrupt, big city bosses of the 1930’s when Federal Government largesse gave them infinitely more power than they had formerly wielded.

I read the Introduction to get a taste. It struck me as being very timely. I originally bought the book twenty years ago or so because one of the six bosses it covers was my Dad’s old foil Tom Pendergast who ran Kansas City, Kansas. I even found a book mark in that section from a much earlier peek. I hadn’t gotten far. It was only about four pages into Pendergast’s 59 page section.

My Dad lived in Independence, Missouri, right next to Kansas City’s Pendergast machine. He was so appalled by its’ corruption – as a junior high school kid! – that he made up lists of reform minded candidates which he gave to his parents at election time. Coincidentally, Pendergast got his boy into the White House. That was Harry Truman who lived just a few blocks away from my Dad’s family and whose daughter, Margaret, attended my Dad’s school. Dad vaguely remembered an attempted kidnapping of the then Senator’s daughter that took place when he was in school.

I was almost chilled at the end of the Introduction by its last two paragraphs. They seemed almost prophetic. Mr. Steinberg wrote:

“The significance of the bosses of the twenties and thirties was that they collectively made the profession of democratic government and civil rights a hollow phrase in their time.

The broader meaning to future generations is that under given circumstances, such as disillusionment with national policies, the efficacy and justice of government, and the importance of the individual vote, local citizens may again by default abdicate their rights and responsibilities to the bosses with more permanent results next time.”

That’s what has been worrying me for the last three years and the principle motivation for writing a book about my Grandfather and what a real (honorable) American looks like.

Now I’m going to attend to a little of that organization I came up to my office to start. After the sun rises we will join our daughter’s family to decorate the church for Christmas and then use the tickets my son-in-law bought to attend the movie Wreck it Ralph II. That will take the edge of this moment of grim seriousness.

No Irish need apply

Now that my three years of watching Donald Trump swallow the Republican Party whole has finally given way to a ray of hope in a Democratic controlled House of Representatives I can’t promise to blog with the enthusiasm I have shown up to know. If I am true to myself I will direct my fingers to typing up one of the dozens of books my decade old blog has regularly threatened that I will churn out.

Today for the third or fourth time in the last few years I’ve begun a history of my Grandfather George Robb (No stranger to this blog.) This attempt’s tentative title is How to be an American.

While looking for confirmation of some general historical facts I ran across this History Channel article about Irish Catholics in the United States. Reading it I couldn’t help but wince at the naked opportunistic, nativism of our jackass President. Every slander he slung at the pathetic people stumbling along a thousand miles south of our border was once thrown at Irish Catholics escaping Ireland in 1847 for America in some 5,000 “coffin ships.”

20,000 Irish Catholics died on their month-long voyage that year. Although of greater magnitude that’s not unlike the thousands of Mexican and Central Americans who have died crossing our desert border in recent years to enrich our economy if, however, illegally.

I did take some solace in looking at the election returns. The word was that the Iron Range was going to go for Pete Stauber big time. It didn’t happen. Democrat Radinovich got almost 20,000 more votes from St.Louis County than Pete Stauber. Leading up the election I couldn’t help but reflect on the disdain that the Trumpians of an earlier era directed at the Serbian and Croation miners who made the Iron Range hum and Minnesota prosperous. The thought that their grandchildren would hand Trump another vote in Congress turned my stomach.

All the Catholic Republicans ought to read this passage below from that article before they reaffirm their support for Donald Trump in 2020. There was good reason why the Kennedy Klan were Democrats.

A flotilla of 5,000 boats transported the pitiable castaways from the wasteland. Most of the refugees boarded minimally converted cargo ships—some had been used in the past to transport slaves from Africa—and the hungry, sick passengers, many of whom spent their last pennies for transit, were treated little better than freight on a 3,000-mile journey that lasted at least four weeks.

Herded like livestock in dark, cramped quarters, the Irish passengers lacked sufficient food and clean water. They choked on fetid air. They were showered by excrement and vomit. Each adult was apportioned just 18 inches of bed space—children half that. Disease and death clung to the rancid vessels like barnacles, and nearly a quarter of the 85,000 passengers who sailed to North America aboard the aptly nicknamed “coffin ships” in 1847 never reached their destinations. Their bodies were wrapped in cloths, weighed down with stones and tossed overboard to sleep forever on the bed of the ocean floor.

Napoleon – lessons to learn

I bought this book for three reasons and paid full price at the Musee de l’armee in Paris where Napoleon is buried in a magnificent gaudy display. I would highly recommend anyone wanting to learn about the emperor to buy it for this price plus three bucks shipping. Its an excellent short but comprehensive and intelligent summary. That is one of the reasons I bought it. I’ve read three massive books on Hitler and Stalin and I wanted something quick to read about the man who helped inform their ambitions before I dove into my own book writing which I hope to begin shortly.

The other reasons were these. 2. The reviews on the cover were sterling. 3. I like buying books at the very place where the subject I’m interested in is located. Napoleon’s tomb was as close as I could get.

Bear in mind that my pilgrimage to France on the hundreth anniversary of the action that led to my Grandfather’s being awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor did not prevent me from seeing that war as my historian Grandfather did – as a monumentally stupid and colossal waste of life. And that is this eminent biographer and historian’s take on Napoleon. He was a smart but shallow, murderous, self centered authoritarian. So were Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.

What made Napoleon different was not ambition but the success of the propaganda empire he fostered and which later Napoleons advanced. Think Donald Trump. Napoleon saw opportunities and seized them. So did the other four dictators I listed. Circumstance was good for them as they were for Napoleon. Author Johnson makes the cost of Napoleon’s actions clear. The deaths in a proto industrial age of four or five millions of people. His concluding paragraph struck me hard as a devotee of Abe Lincoln. Johnson reminded me that true greatness comes with a sense of humility.

Trump’s vile life shows no sign of that quality. His admirers are blind to this. I can not forgive the Republican Party for so debasing itself on planks they only used as political weapons but had only slender belief in to disgust American voters into electing Trump. Thank you Senator McConnell.

I’ll proof read this later.

A. Ham

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My family posed under the marquee but they weren’t wearing 3D shades so I cropped them out for this post.

Hamilton the musical was worth every penny of this weekend extravagance. The history it is based on, authored by Ron Chernow, has been on my bookshelf waiting for me for about ten years. After I return from France I may tackle it.

My breath is taken away by the audacity of Lin-Manuel Miranda to have envisioned this as a subject for the musical stage.

Tomorrow’s video

My Dad, Daniel Marsh Welty, died shortly after we moved to our snow sculptor’s palace thirty-one years ago. He never got a chance to see it although I shot a VHS tape of it to show him where we had moved to. His Vietnam was the “Good War” and for years afterwards he read the memoirs and histories written by men who had fought in it. I kept a bunch of his paperbacks after his death and today I’ve got them arranged in a modest glass case with other mementos of his life. As you can see they include a sketch that my Mother made of him when he was in his late twenties. In life he never looked that fierce.

I plucked one of the books from the shelf a couple days ago to begin reading to Claudia in anticipation of our September trip to France and more specifically to the hallowed coast of Normandy. Its Cornelius Ryan’s “The Longest Day.” After beginning its chapter ten in the first section I had to put the book down and shoot a 6 minute video of me reading and commenting on a passage that talked about the modesty of my fellow Kansan, Dwight David Eisenhower. The depths that we have sunk to politically with the Trump Presidency led me to shoot another video to share my thoughts with my blog’s treasured but minuscule audience. I’ll upload it tomorrow.

A little of my Dad’s influence bookwise

My Dad, Daniel Marsh Welty, died shortly after we moved to our snow sculptor’s palace thirty-one years ago. He never got a chance to see it although I shot a VHS tape of it to show him where we had moved to. His Vietnam was the Good War and for years after he read the memoirs and histories written by men who had fought in it. I kept a bunch of the paperbacks after his death and today I’ve got them arranged in a modest glass case with other mementos of his life which as you can see includes a sketch my Mother made of him when he was in his late twenties. In life he never looked that fierce.

I plucked one of the books from the shelf a couple days ago to begin reading to Claudia in anticipation of our trip to France and more specifically to the hallowed coast of Normandy. Its Cornelius Ryan’s “The Longest Day.” After beginning its chapter ten in the first section I had to put the book down and shoot a 6 minute video of me reading and commenting on a passage that talked about the modesty of my fellow Kansan Dwight David Eisenhower. The depths that we have sunk to politically with the Trump Presidency led me to shoot another video to share my thoughts with my blogs treasured but tiny audience. I’ll upload it tomorrow.

What I was reading the first time I ran for Congress

I have always hoped to catch lightning in a bottle or as the French would say it “la foudre dans une bouteille.”
(this will be a post about the challenges of disseminating my thoughts on line among other things However…..
….Je suis desole mais jardining calls. That’s Franglish for I’m sorry but gardening calls.

…………………..

I’m back. Claudia and I have done some satisfying gardening.

I am about a third of the way through the book Is Paris Burning. I believe title comes from a quote by the desperate loser, Adolph Hitler, as his world was being eaten alive by the Russian and American armies. It didn’t happen. The book tells that history.

That title lodged in my mind when my Dad got the book. I didn’t read it until 1992 the first of two times I filed to campaign for Congress. I was unhappy with Republicans as they kept taking folks like me, moderates, and stripped us of our positions and ridiculed our milquetoast politics. Instead, they invited in their own set of special interests – gun nuts, anti-civil libertarians, pro life extremists and young folks who thought that America should return to the social-darwinism of Ayn Rand. They did this to counter the “special interests” they accused the Democrats of handing their party over to – Minorities, Woman libbers, unions.

Things have only got worse. I filed again in 2006 but barely campaigned at all getting sidetracked in investigating an old Democratic Party Scandal that upended them in 1978 when I was still a Republican in good standing.

I never took political parties too seriously. In my view they were more like two different fraternaties that always tried to out-hustle the other for the best pledges and other distinctions to be the biggest of the big men on campus. But my family had all been Republicans for generations and I although I started college inclined to be an independent the more my generation bad mouthed my people, my family, the more contrarian I got. My family was full of good people and if they were given a blanket condemnation I decided to wrap myself up in that blanket with them. I would do it my own contrarian way. I would not forswear my ideals which were for the most part idealistic and common sense. And back then the Republican Party was so desperate for young people my heresies, if that’s what free trade and civil rights were, were winked at. I even had a lot of company. In 1972 Minnesota’s GOP state convention passed a pro-choice plank.

This could all become the subject of a book. By 1991 I decided to try my hand at writing a book and I did and I published it. Oh it was a dreadful book far too autobiographical about a younger me being transported back to the time of the dinosaurs. But it was a great exercise in perseverance if not common sense. I spent a small fortune publishing it. But I had a method for my madness. I had decided to run for Congress having already served as a campaign manager for a Republican Congressional Candidate ten years earlier in 1982. Coincidentally, my counter part in that year’s Oberstar campaign was later sent to prison.

All Republican campaign’s of those years were impoverished. My independent campaign would be no exception so I came up with a plan to finance my campaign by selling my books, or rather, giving them as a token for contributions. I think I palmed off 250 of the 6,000 books I’d printed. It didn’t work out and I was stuck with a garage full of books that I finally parted with reluctantly twenty years later. They went to the landfill. I still have a couple hundred left. I’d made them virtually unsaleable by putting a pro-choice manifesto in the back of them. Its still the best and most prescient part of the book, but crimeny, who would buy it that way?

I couldn’t file for Congress today. Its a national holiday and I had gardening to do. But I did study French and I have more blog posts screaming for my attention. There is a lot on my mind. Having a friend of dicators as one’s president focuses the mind. My eight loyal readers might feel like a fire hose is aimed at them or maybe not. We’ll see.

Oh and here are the books I read in 1992 as I got fired up for Ross Perot and campaigned for Congress myself:

Lincoln and his Generals………………..T. Harry Williams
Is Paris Burning……………………….Collins & LaPierre
(How Paris was spared destruction in WWII)
Confucius and the Chinese Way…………… H G Creel

And so far this year …..

2018
The Last of the Doughboys Richard Rubin
Fierce Patriot (Wm Tecumseh Sherman) Robert L. O’Connell
The Greater Journey David McCullough
Five Nights in Paris John Baxter
The Road from the Past Ina Caro
Is Paris Burning

When the nail does the hammer’s work for it

I found the contrast between two items in the latest Duluth Reader worthy of comment.

First up, John Ramos was one of two or three people who decided to see the Duluth School Board’s get to know you session. Loren Martell had little good to say about it last week and John explores the meeting further. It was facilitated by a staffer of the Minnesota School Boards Association who took the three hour session to hammer the point home that a school board member must keep his/her head down and tell no one in the community what’s going on by means of giving them platitudinous “elevator speeches” and by telling them Sgt Schultz style that they know nothing and that they must talk to someone in the administration who does know what’s going on.

I’m afraid I’ve come to the realization that is how the statewide organization representing the 300 plus Minnesota school boards sees things. Go along to get along defer to your superintendent don’t argue.

A couple years ago I shocked a seasoned MSBA staffer when I explained that I had been prevented from participating in one of our school Board contract negotiation sessions in violation of our school board policies. I guess this newer MSBA facilitator would recommend I not even take my concern to the MSBA.

Here’s a long post from me on the episode and my discription of how I reacted at the time.

It didn’t take me long to start fuming. At 11:15 AM I texted the Superintendent: “ I don’t do livid. I’m close to making an exception. You are violating school board policy and you have a very unhappy SB member in your foyer.”

In the batter’s box: I can’t seem to find the Reader’ book review of “Beneath the Ruthless Sun.” Its the second review of the book about 1950 racism in Central Florida. Here’s another review that I can link to. If the African American community had followed the go with the flow sentiments of Ms. MSBA they’d still be getting lynched today.

One more reason why my loyal readers will remain reduced to 7

Yes, I lost a reader due to too much emphasis on the state of black America. My departed reader assured me that I had obviously been subjected to too much propaganda. Well, true to form the first of the New York Times pieces I will link to is about America’s new holocaust museum in Alabama. Duluth will be sending a delegation to this memorial as our infamous lynching is part of its story. If its mention of the treatment of an angry young wife who railed at her husband’s murderers is propaganda……well, I will continue to subject my readers to it.

The other article was a review of the book written by a reporter who covered Hillary Clinton for ten years right up to her defeat at the hands of Donald Trump.

And this same author separately explains the advice she was given before writing a book. It was: read lots of books. Since I keep putting off authoring my own book/books I found the advice sensible.

And last night I sent in my next column to the Duluth Reader’s Submissions email. The column will be titled: Swallowing Ham’s Sandwich. I can’t link to it yet but it begins:

The story of Noah’s Ark begins in chapter six of Genesis. My grandsons would tell me that Chapter six was afraid of Chapter 7 for good reason. Why? Because 7-8-9.

France

This is my bookcase of French related books that I’m working on. I posted a similar picture of the books on China last year. It was one of a number of posts to my “China” category. I have begun a similar category on France which this post is now a part of.

My (now) seven loyal readers will recall that it was my Grandfather’s exploits in France that was the primary driver for this trip. I have in fact polished off a couple books on that subject in the past seven or eight months. But that reading has led to a more intense interest in the nation which gave us our liberty and for which we have twice returned the favor.

I just finished reading Ina Caro’s book “The Road from the Past” to Claudia. (NOTE the preceding link is to a very unflattering WaPo review of the book which was, the book that is, just what I hoped it would be). Shortly afterward we decided to watch the movie Julie and Julia which was a charming little movie about a writer who set out to and succeeded in cooking all 524 recipies in Julia’s Childs first book on French Cooking in one year’s time.

I’ll be posting more about France as I go along. I’ve already made some discoveries I hadn’t expected. For instance I have always thought of English as a Germanic language. But Britain and France’s long entanglement left about one third of our vocabulary coming from the frogs. I must admit that has made it much easier for me to pick up their lingo as I chip away at it every day.

I’m currently on a 54 days in a row tear studying it. I started five months ago and have about four more months to go by which time I hope too have added a few brain cells upstairs. In fact, I think I’ll add a few more right now. Maybe I’ll edit this later or peut être pas.

The “wrong side” is winning

Despite the impossibly compelling news items today about our unraveling Presidency I have only one item to mention in the blog today.

It comes from the NPR interview with the author of the soon to be released novel “Varina.” It is about the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

In real life Varina Davis left the South and took up life in New York City for the years following the war. I can’t vouch for the book but the author mentioned an anecdote that accords with other accounts I’ve heard about the leaders of the Civil War who were more interested in plow shares than swords in its aftermath. These included such luminaries as Robert E. Lee.

Here’s the sentance about Varina’s post war view of slavery that caught my attention:

“She, in later age, said very clearly: The right side won the war. “

Civil Rights in my lifetime came close to nailing the corpse of racism in a transylvanian coffin. Republicans, beginning in the era of George Wallace, did their best to use racism-lite to win over white southern voters with soft core appeals to their racist heritage until eventually they swamped the Party of Lincoln with the descendants of recalcitrant confederate loving, black vote suppressing, chip-on-the-shoulder types. I lived through a lot of this with Nixon, Reagan and most recently Donald Trump. There hasn’t been much room for Lincoln lovers like me in the Party since its ugly transformation. Lincoln lovers are tolerated if we shut up and sit outside the party’s windows on the ledge while the party defers to Rush Limbaugh and his ilk to prevent us from climbing back in. Our only choices are self defenestration or groveling debasement. Most have chosen the later. What’s their rationale? The think it would be terrible to lose control of America by arguing with Donald Trump’s cheerleaders. They are channeling Bashir – Gas my enemies – el Assad.

Me. Think of me as Wylie Coyote standing just beyond the ledge in mid air prior to a great fall. I’ve been levitating for the past 25 years.