Quo Vadis, America ?

Confused Uncle Sam

 

Prior to the end of WW II, we did not have a Defense Dept. We had both a War Dept and a Dept of the Navy. The War Dept could assemble ( and disassemble an Army in times of perceived national peril) and the Navy would carry them around the world as needed on their floating and protected transports. Truman disdained the Marines, never considered naming them  an independent service,  and called them “The Navy’s police force”

The Cold  War changed  everything and hence spawned a Dept of Defense headed initially by James Forrestal, but we were still for the most part    governed by Center – Right administrations ( Truman,  Ike,   JFK, Nixon, and Reagan ) who accommodated right wing strong men in order to hedge against Soviet and Chinese communist imperialism  It was the left ( LBJ)  that led us into Vietnam and then  serving  as wet- nurse  to a radical- left, pulled a volte-face, by siding with the world’s revolutionaries(  the likes of Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, and Daniel Ortega)

Donald Trump has shown himself to be a prickly neophyte, stumbling his way through an early presidency. His blunders will become legend. Yet we should be careful to “not throw the baby out with the bathwater” He has a rudimentary if crudely correct idea that the “American imperium ” ( to quote Pat Buchanan) can not last forever. A question he initially raised was ” Why should we still retain the self-image of the world’s policeman”. As Sec of State under Truman, Dean Acheson said of England, “Great Britain has lost an Empire and not yet found a role “

What precisely is our role in the world?

Reflections of a Septuagenarian Daycare Provider

Modern girls respect their elders

Much the same as we did ours

screaming rages ,poopy diapers

Throwing up in our new cars  


Modern girls refuse all labels

Runway babes, dressed to kill

Spandex “onesies”

Vuitton “blinkies”

Martha Stewart Infamil


Empathy, not in abundance

 avarice and greed prevail

So you wack your own twin sister  

Jousting for the sandbox pail


Still within this jaded culture 

with all the tumult of each day,

 a sisters love is always precious,

even with a price  to pay

 


Immigration- The Official Version

On a hot, unappealing day in San Antonio Texas, we stumbled into the US Citizenship and Immigration Center . We were taking a tour and happened upon the ceremony of naturalization for over two hundred newly coined American Citizens. Familys and relatives of the naturalized were spread out around the center and I asked this one family if I could take their picture. They all proudly said : “Of course !” The relative receiving his American citizenship was the husband/father /uncle of the group ( formerly a Mexican, now an American)

Demurely, one of the girls( not in the picture) smiled at me with her large Spainish eyes aglow and asked me a question: ” How many senators and represenrtaives are there in both houses of the U.S Congress…. ? ” She then gigled.. I stumbled for a moment and replied 535 … 100 senators and 435 representatives” She laughed and said ” Congratulations, you now qualify to become an American citizen” !!

I can remember a few instances when my pride in being part of this country was as great as it was onthat day, watching the raised hands and hearing the honeyed toned acccented allegiances being sworn to. Maybe watching the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soilder, as a thnunderstorm approached, came as close.

If you ever get a chance to watch the naturalization ceremony dont miss it, but bring a handerchief.

“The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Richard Flanagan ( Man Booker Prize Winner)

Narrow Road

The Narrow Road into the Deep North , through shifting time frames and perspectives, develops a story of war, squarely unmatched in recent literature. Ultimately it artfully produces that series of repeated emotional “wacks” which is demanded of any piece of competent literature . If a work of fiction is meant “to do something to you”, this one fulfills its mission.

Only witnessed in the “fiction-only” representations of Tolstoy , Remarque or Mailer. have we been able to get the fully horrific nature of war …….Straight history fails miserably in conveying its totality. Both the War (Pacific WWII) and its aftermath are equally horrific, as portrayed in Flanagan’s detailed  work of historical fiction. It is an equally  startling book to read and then assimilate in the wake of its reading.

The work details in gruesome horror the WWII experiences during the construction of the Burma-Thailand Death Railway (415 km from Thanbyuayat in Burma to Nong Pladuk, Thaland). That construction in the early 40’s is seen through the lens of the Australian troops and their Tasmanian officer, Dr. Dorrigo Evans as he executes his daily danse macabre in dealing with the Japanese Officers and guards who are  maniacally  intent upon building a railroad through the jungles of Thaland and Burma. Ultimately, it would take a near 200,000 men to propel this feat, attempted with  no construction  machinery and in the process killing 16,000  prisoners. The book’s Pacific  focus  zooms in upon Evan’s command of approximately  700 prisoners at a POW encampment in Thailand and draws you through the war, its conclusion and its unavoidably   pathological harvest.

Aside from an incredible depiction of the historical events, we see, the complex , unresolvable post- war lives of Evans and the many actors ( both Australian and Japanese ) in the novel .

I have often thought  of the resilience required of humans  to  simply proceed with  daily life  in the aftermath  of such paroxysms .Without committing to “spoilers”, this dark novel sadly answers some of those questions. As the novel concludes, we are left with not only the sad afflictions of the war itself, but also its emotional and inevitably   mutated  after crop…..We see clearly   that   unvarnished  enormity  of war indelibly spewn over all.

A little bit of Laura Hillenbrand ‘s Unbroken mixed with a more fully and direfully exploded version of Pierre Boulle’s ( Thank you Lee Paquette for your editor’s correction of his name) The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

This is a strong read.

Here is a good link to the actual railway:

http://www.scottmurray.com/bridge.htm


Review of “The Sports Gene” by David Epstein

The Sports Gene

In his well- researched and informative narrative “The Sports Gene”, David Epstein gives us insight into the long waged dispute between nature and nurture as it relates to athletics. In his work, we begin   with  the premise of writer  Malcolm Gladwell  and his “10,000 hr theory” ( Outliers)- all things are possible (athletic and otherwise)with 10, 000 hrs of meaningful practice and experience. We are then provided examples of talented people who have achieved great athletic prowess and achievement without much practice at all.

We learn that the reaction time of a major league baseball player is not much better than the average person, while demonstrably possessing exceptional visual acuity ( many in the 20/8 range)

Perhaps the most interesting sections deal with   racial differences  between African ( both West and East Africa) and the rest of the planet and how these differences may explain certain superiorities in the running sports. He explores the concentration of talent within Trewaly Parrish, Jamaica ( Home of  Osain Bolt , Victoria Campbell- Brown and other top sprinters) He develops the theory of researchers in  the relationship between malaria immunity, hemoglobin paucity and fast twitch muscle development, In a fascinating thread on how these factors interact within a West African population where malaria was and is a constant threat.

Epstein then moves on to East African distance running where scientific muscle study (fast vs slow twitch)seems to have less impact on performance than does body type ( narrow hips and thin lower extremities), combined with the economics of the entire region ( the necessity of long -term movement in a mountainous , cattle raising region and society)

This is an interesting,  well -written book  which will  certainly serve the curiosity of all those who  have ever wondered about athletic talent.

Blizzard of 2013

Blizzard 2013

It is 12:06 PM and I have just succeeded ( after a hour’s work of snowshoe trekking and shoveling) in opening my front door.  Complete driveway/ car cleanup will take at least two days

This was a 30 hr storm dumping upwards of 3 ft of snow throughout CT. There were times during the night when it was snowing at 5inches/hr with winds in the  50 + mph range. Complete whiteout everywhere.

The good news is that we did not  loose power, especially good news as my generator developed carbeurator problems and would not run. Nothing left to do but eat steak au poive and drink Pinot Noir.

Estimates are that the Blizzard of ’78 topped this one by a tad, but at least current  Governor Molloy preemptively closed th highways, whereas Governor Grasso waited, with disastrous conditions on the highways strewn with abandoned cars.

The meterological condition used to describe the storm was “bombogenisis”( don’t ask ). Hope never to hear the word again

 

Follett’s Historical Novels

 Ken Follett’s early works (  Eye of the Needle, The Man From St Petersburg, The Key to Rebecca) gave him the well deserved reputation as the creator of spy novel “page turners”,a   well-deserved and valid ascription.

Back in 1989( while not abandoning his spy novels), Follett embarked on a course change with his enormously successful  The Pillars of Earth,  centering upon the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England. Frankly, it is difficult to discern whether it took longer to write the novel (3.5 years ) or build the cathedral ! The work was then followed by it’s  sequel , World Without End,  which follows the descendants of Pillars through the 100 Years War and the Black Death.

In 2010, he then moves into the 20th century with the commencement of  The Century Trilogy and it’s first  volume,   Fall of Giants .  Here we visit World War I, The Russian Revolution and Woman’s Suffrage.

We are now at volume 2  of the trilogy , Winter of the World. With the major historical themes of World War II, The Spanish Civil War and Cold War. The last of the three works, provisionally titled Edge of Eternity, will be published in 2014

Follett’s books are challengingly  long , but immediately immerses you in a grouping of diverse and interesting characters. The books are a must for the fans of historical fiction.