Archive for the Books Category

R.I.P. Maj. Dick Winters, American hero

Posted in Books, History, Movies, TV, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2011 by macmystery

I first learned of Dick Winters’ death from a Facebook post by my friend Chris Otto of the York Daily-Record. He linked to a story Monday night from a Pennsylvania TV station reporting the World War II veteran’s death a week before. Here’s the Washington Post obit.

Winters became widely known, thanks to the Stephen Ambrose book and HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” which followed the E company, second battalion (Easy Company), of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Infantry from their formation through the Normandy invasion and on through Germany’s surrender.

As a history major, I found the book interesting, but honestly, the miniseries, produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, is where I, and I’m guessing millions of other Americans, truly came to know about Winters. It’s hands down the best television I’ve ever seen.

The book, culled from interviews with surviving members of Easy Company, is historically accurate, and the miniseries follows the trend of the past 15 years where filmmakers, instead of glorifying war, have tried to accurately portray the horror and savagery of conflict and illustrate the sacrifices of those who risked or lost their lives.

Winters wasn’t originally in command of Easy Company. But just like in so many other situations in the group’s story, Winters took the reins and led by example when he was called to. He was concerned about each and every one of his men. And his men respected him for it and loved him in return.

According to the Washington Post, late in the war, one of Mr. Winters’s soldiers, Floyd Talbert, wrote a letter to the officer from a hospital in Indiana expressing gratitude for his loyalty and leadership.

“You are loved and will never be forgotten by any soldier that ever served under you,” Talbert wrote to Winters in 1945. “I would follow you into hell.”

We’ve reached a point in our history where the people who risked their lives and served their country are dying off and leaving us at an ever-increasing rate. Soon, what little first-hand knowledge we have of the great sacrifice the men like those of Easy Company made to, not only preserve our freedom, but to defeat the powers of evil, will have gone away.

I’m saddened by Winters’ passing, but I’m thankful he served. He lived to the age of 92 before losing his battle with Parkinson’s Disease. News of his death, more than a week ago, was kept quiet at his request. He didn’t seek glory. He exhibited class, even in death.

Thank you, Dick Winters. Though you may not have chosen the label, there’s no denying you are a hero.

List of the week: Fiction and nonfiction

Posted in Books, History, Journalism with tags , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2010 by macmystery

How would Papa feel about Glenn Beck being on this list?

Only eight authors have reached No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List for both fiction and nonfiction. Those authors include:

  1. Ernest Hemingway
  2. John Steinbeck
  3. William Styron
  4. Irving Wallace
  5. Dr. Seuss
  6. Mitch Albom
  7. Glenn Beck
  8. Jimmy Buffett

Stephen King is an angel … and he dislikes “Twilight,” to boot

Posted in Books, TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2009 by macmystery

Does this man scare you?

Well, I know that’s not the way most people, even those who like his writing, would describe him.

But Stephen King recently did something pretty cool. He and his wife, Tabitha, donated $13,000 so that 150 Maine Army National Guardsmen training in Indiana can come home for Christmas.

The troops, from the 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Unit, are training at Camp Atterbury and are scheduled to depart for Afghanistan in January.

It’s a kind gesture that many of those soldiers and their families may never forget. Who knows how long it will be before they can return to their loved ones for the holidays … if at all. Those men and women shouldn’t have to spend their last holidays stateside a third of the country away from home.

The Kings actually gave $12,999 — because 13 is an unlucky number … who’d have though King was superstitious? — and a personal assistant chipped in $1.

If you’re a King fan, here are some other recent developments you may or may not be aware of:

Speculation that if King broke into the business today, he’d be less successful

A review of “Under The Dome”

SyFy turning King’s “The Colorado Kid” into a series titles ‘Haven”

King is considering a sequel to ‘The Shining”

King possibly teaming with Spielberg to bring “Under the Dome” to TV as miniseries

And my favorite … King trashes “Twilight” author Meyer, praises Harry Potter author Rowling

Hogwarts, S.C.

Posted in Books, Family, Movies with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2009 by macmystery
Dylan reluctantly pets the dragon. Hagrid would be proud.

Dylan reluctantly pets the dragon. Hagrid would be proud.

In yet another installment of  Daddy and Dylan Day, Dylan and I went all wizard last Saturday.

The Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville County hosted “The Science of Harry Potter.”

The program, which is an excuse to get kids and parents into the science center, married its exhibits with themes from the Harry Potter series of books by J.K. Rowling.

The program, open from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., was a lot to take in. There was no way we would be able to see everything, and there was a lot.

Among the activities:

  • Hold mice, snakes and a dragon.
  • The chance to meet and hold these Hogwarts creatures … tarantulas, giant toads and a python.
  • Quidditch demos … Well, this is as close as you can come to quidditch without being able to fly. There was a Harry Potter day camp back in the summer where the kids played quidditch, apparently. Some of the pupils were brought back to demonstrate the sport. There were hula-hoops suspended from trees branches for the rings. Soccer balls were used, and a tennis ball was the golden snitch. And did I mention there was no flying? Dylan was not impressed.
  • Old-fashioned broom making
  • The younger kids made bitty brooms from small sticks and yarn.
  • Among several demonstrations at the planetarium, there was a chart showing how all the names of the Black family (as in Sirius) corresponded with astronomy.
  • The kids could take a tour of the forbidden forest and discuss the botany of wands.
  • There were readings from “The Tales of Beetle the Bard.”
  • Wandmaking … using pretzels, chocolate and sprinkles.
  • Learning to write with quills.
  • Herbology … making your own herbal tea bag.
  • Meeting a live barred owl.
  • Photo opportunities with the Sorting Hat.
  • Potions lab … activities such as making slime, smoke, etc.

Dylan loved it. Even if the ties to Harry Potter weren’t always so strong. Really, the whole point is just to get you into the science center. Once you’re there, there’s almost no choice but to learn. And it was well worth the $9 total it took for us to get in.

When Harry Potter camp comes up next summer, I think we’ll be there.

More Bigfoot, by the book

Posted in Books, Humor, Odd with tags , , , on June 12, 2009 by macmystery
A Bigfoot book

A Bigfoot book

Looking around online, I came across a book review on a book about one of my favorite topics.

Bigfoot.

Last August, I posted “Another Bigfoot story bites the dust” about the latest Bigfoot saga, which easily sucked in (and suckered) Fox News.

Fair and balanced, … and apparently brain dead.

While I’m sure the book itself — Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend — is an scintillating read, it was the comments posted after Brian Switek’s book review on the blog that were pure entertainment.

After the appearance of author Joshua Blu Buhs to answer some of the reviewer’s questions about the book and an interesting post about how we should be willing to challenge what we know and what we believe, things digressed. At one point, one poster claims to out another as a government secret agent sent to discredit any eyewitness accounts of Bigfoot.

Eventually it deteriorates to the point where one frequent poster flat out questions the sexuality of the author.

Huh?

Finally, Switek admonished the unruly poster and closed the thread.

But not before it made my day.

UPDATE: In case you miss his comment, my friend Chris also blogged about this book and the author commented on his post. I’ll presume they didn’t discuss anyone’s sexuality.

“A Writer’s Credo”

Posted in Books, Journalism, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2008 by macmystery

My friend Jennifer mailed me a book on Yellowstone Park by a man named Jack Turner a few weeks ago. I can only imagine spending serious time in Yellowstone. It’s one of those places most people only read about. You know it exists, you’ve seen it on PBS specials but you’ve never been.

Consequently, making it to the east side of Yosemite National Park was one of my goals for my six-week stay in Reno this summer for the Maynard Editing Program, where I met Jen.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. It was simply a casualty of circumstance. I did see Lake Tahoe twice, Virginia City twice, and I made it to San Francisco and the West Coast for the first time in my life. (Not to mention, despite not being gay, I’ve now been to two major Gay Pride parades. Bizarre.)

Jennifer, who lives in San Antonio, saw the book at a booksale, knew about my unfulfilled goal and bought the book for me. She sent it along with some Alamo crackers for Dylan.

I haven’t got around to reading it yet. I will as soon as I finish the book I’m reading about the South. But I have perused “Travels in the Greater Yellowstone” enough to find this nugget between the acknowledgements and the introduction:

“The moral duty of the free writer is to begin his work at home: to be a critic of his own community, his own country, his own government, his own culture. The more freedom the writer possesses the greater the moral obligation to play the role of critic.”

The words were not written by Turner, but by Edward Abbey, “an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues and criticism of public land policies,” to quote Wikipedia, which of course, is always dangerous.

Apparently, Abbey, who died in 1989, was quite a controversial character. He was quite the environmentalist, with most of his attention focused on the American West, yet he refused to be associated with those we commonly know as environmentalists and tended to anger those on both the right and the left. For example, he advocated burning draft cards as early as 1947, but was known to support the National Rifle Association.

Abbey’s politics aside, his “Writer’s Credo,” originally written as a lecture and included as a chapter in his book “One Life At a Time, Please,”  is as on the money as one could be. And though Abbey was an author and not a journalist, at least in the common sense, he hits on what some of the goals of a journalist should be.

In the process of finding out more about Abbey, including spending considerable time on a Web site dedicated to his works and fans, per se, I came across a treasure trove of interesting quotes by the man. Here are a few: 

To truly bring about change, one must be willing “to oppose injustice, to defy the powerful, to speak for the voiceless.”

“Truth is always the enemy of power. And power the enemy of truth.”

“Whenever I see a photograph of some sportsman grinning over his kill, I am always impressed by the striking moral and aesthetic superiority of the dead animal to the live one.”

“Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.”

“A knowledge of the true age of the earth and of the fossil record makes it impossible for any balanced intellect to believe in the literal truth of every part of the Bible in the way that fundamentalists do. And if some of the Bible is manifestly wrong, why should any of the rest of it be accepted automatically?”

“The tragedy of modern war is that the young men die fighting each other – instead of their real enemies back home in the capitals.”

“Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.”

“There is no force more potent in the modern world than stupidity fueled by greed.”

“In art as in a boat, a bullet, or a coconut-cream pie, purpose determines form.”

“Grand opera is a form of musical entertainment for people who hate music.”

“Science is the whore of industry and the handmaiden of war.”

“The rich can buy everything but health, virtue, friendship, wit, good looks, love, pride, intelligence, grace, and, if you need it, happiness.”

“The feminist notion that the whole of human history has been nothing but a vast intricate conspiracy by men to enslave their wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters presents us with an intellectual neurosis for which we do not yet have a name.”

“There’s nothing so obscene and depressing as an American Christmas.”

“Motherhood is an essential, difficult, and full-time job. Women who do not wish to be mothers should not have babies.”

“The best American writers have come from the hinterlands–Mark Twain, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, Hemingway, Faulkner, Wolfe, Steinbeck. Most of them never even went to college.”

“Abolition of a woman’s right to abortion, when and if she wants it, amounts to compulsory maternity: a form of rape by the State.”

“In the Soviet Union, government controls industry. In the United States, industry controls government. That is the principal structural difference between the two great oligarchies of our time.”

America My Country: last nation on earth to abolish human slavery; first of all nations to drop the nuclear bomb on our fellow human beings.”

Any hack can safely rail away at foreign powers beyond the sea; but a good writer is a critic of the society he lives in.”

“There never was a good war or a bad revolution.”

“Baseball serves as a good model for democracy in action: Every player is equally important and each has a chance to be a hero.”

“The most common form of terrorism in the U.S.A. is that carried on by bulldozers and chain saws.”

“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

“Jane Austen: Getting into her books is like getting in bed with a cadaver. Something vital is lacking; namely, life.”

And last, but not least:

Life is too short for grief. Or regret. Or bullshit.”

Farewell, Skip and Alex

Posted in Books, Sports with tags , , on August 6, 2008 by macmystery
Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Over the weekend, which I spent at a campground with no real source of information, two public figures died that I wanted to say something about. They are definitely strange bedfellows, sharing a post like this.

On Sunday, Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn died at the age of 89. I read his book “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” early in my high school career. Only later did I grasp the meaning of the work.

Solzhenitsyn defied the Soviets and was expelled from his homeland as a result. He wrote what needed to be written at a time and in a place where it could have meant he’d disappear and never be seen again.

Skip Caray, Ernie Johnson and Pete Van Wieren

The Braves announcing team in 1977: Skip Caray, Ernie Johnson and Pete Van Wieren

Unlike Solzhenitsyn, Skip Caray wasn’t out to make any political statement. But he meant a great deal to me.

I grew up loving the Atlanta Braves and listening to them on the radio every night when I had to go to bed before the game was over. I was listening in the dark in the late 1970s and early 1980s, just like boys … and my mother, the baseball fan among my parents … had in the 50s and 60s.

The trio of Ernie Johnson, Pete Van Wieren and Skip painted the picture for me. And I’ll never forget it.

A lot of obits and stories about Skip this week point out that he was the son of famous announcer Harry Caray, voice of the Cardinals and Cubs. But I’d been listening to Skip for 6 or 7 years as a kid before I even knew that. As far as I’m concerned, Harry may as well have been father of famous announcer Skip Caray.

Here are what some other folks had to say about Caray:

The Hilton Head Island packet’s David Lauderdale

The Tifton Gazette’s Steve Carter

The AJC’s Furman Bisher

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman