Monday, February 22, 2010


I read a lot of books on historical events. I find them quite interesting and entertaining. You know the old saying on the difference between fiction and non-fiction?---fiction has to be believable. You'll read about absolutely amazing exploits and digest timeless insights with non-fiction. If the author writes with skill, it could be a very pleasant reading experience.

I don't really like biographies or autobiographies,I've only read a few over the years. I'm just not that interested in other people's lives no matter how famous they are or what they have achieved. They bore me actually. I find biographies are usually the same where this person has overcome great obstacles to become who they are now. But there's a lot of people who read only biographies. Whatever you like, just not for me.

There are two authors of historical non-fiction I want to cover here. One is Anthony Beevor, a British history writer who is excellent and whose books have captured many awards. I'm reading his new book now called D-DAY: THE BATTLE FOR NORMANDY. My wife rolls her eyes, but I find the literature on the wars absolutely fascinating. Anthony Beevor also wrote STALINGRAD and THE FALL OF BERLIN 1945.(I've read them both). He's an amazing writer who balances the statistical and tactical information(which can weigh you down) with personal stories and insights from the soldiers and generals themselves. Overall, you become amazed at the numerous stories and shocked at the sometimes graphic violence in these wonderful books.

This is just a note on history and the last great war, but practically the whole world got involved in WW11 which started because Hitler and Germany invaded Poland. The Allies did not want to see Poland occupied and came to its defense. The great irony of this war is that after five years of fighting and millions of people killed, the Allies let the USSR(Russia) take over Poland. Unbelievable.

The second excellent author is Erik Larson. He's an amazing writer who writes his histories in a novelistic style which is based on real events, but he doesn't take liberties with the facts or distort them in any way. I think he just fills in dialogue and some references which would be impossible to verify. Otherwise, it is a true history of events. He wrote THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY which I hear is being made into a movie and will be released sometime in 2011. It's the story of the Chicago Exposition in 1893. This is a Fair that actually changed the world on many levels. It was astonishing the "firsts" in practically everything we see and have today have come from this Fair. Quite amazing. Along with this story Larson Chronicles the gruesome killings of the first serial killer, H.H. Holms, who lived in the city at this very time. It's a wonderful juxtaposition that keeps you on your toes all the time when you are reading this great book.

I've also read ISAAC'S STORM about the devastating Galveston, Texas, hurricane in 1900 where the meteorologist at the time thought that it was a "crazy idea" that the approaching storm would do any damage. It did. The whole science of weather watching and meteorology changed greatly after this huge storm.
I also read THUNDERSTRUCK about Guglielmo Marconi and his rise to prominence in the wireless communication business. It was fascinating. I really didn't know much about marconi(in detail) until then. Larson again inserted a murderer, Harvey crippen, who was caught on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic mostly because of Marconi's wireless. I found that, in this book, I was more interested in Marconi and his inventions than the murders committed by Crippen. That was mostly because Marconi has a connection with Glace Bay, I guess.

These are excellent books; check them out.

NEWS: My wife has finished reading THE BISHOP'S MAN and absolutely loved it. She actually couldn't put it down, reading it during commercials when watching the Olympics. She said that it's excellent. I asked her about the writing, and she said it takes a little time to get his rhythm, but once you do it just flows. So there it is, an A plus on THE BISHOP'S MAN. I think now I may read it. I trust my wife's recommendation.

Next: books to movies

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I don't like figure skating. I have a difficult time assessing whether this is a real sport or not. My wife likes figure skating. She has no problem in assessing whether it is a sport or not. I was watching the Olympic hockey game last night and turning it over to figure skating during the intermissions, she was pleased---we do have another TV, but it is downstairs in the den and is too far away. The third period was coming on---real soon!---and she got up to go to the kitchen while this blonde-haired Swedish dude was doing pretzels on the ice. I switched it over to the hockey game. When she returned from the kitchen, she looked at me and asked me if the guy had finished? I said, "Oh yeah, he did a triple clutch on a broken axel followed by an inverted cowtao. 'Well done', they all said." She laughed, but I know she was waiting for the game to end. The Olympics are great---some of them.

This is interesting: My wife is reading Linden MacIntyre's THE BISHOP'S MAN and she pointed out something to me about the cover. First I have to tell you that my wife has excellent concentration and powers of observation. It amazes me always. When I'm around people I seem to always check to see who they are and what they are doing, but that's just my natural paranoia---checking to see if everything is safe. But she seems to see everything---signs, colours, directions, obstacles. She even overhears snippets of conversations. Amazing! At a concert let's say, I'll say to her that maybe we should go in now, and she will say no we can't because the couple we just walked past were talking and said the doors aren't opening for another hour. Amazing! I think a lot of people don't have an acute sense of observation anymore. Maybe people feel too safe.

Anyway, my wife took the book---THE BISHOP'S MAN--- over to me and pointed out the picture on the cover. The picture is of a rather tall man looking out over the ocean. The problem is the man's body is distorted. He's too tall with rather a smallish head. She said the cover has bothered her since she got the book, and it's true that the picture is distorted. I also noticed that the horizon is not straight. I've stood on many a beach looking out at the ocean and the horizon was always straight, except for those occasional times when my brain was chemically altered, but that was during the wild times and not to be mentioned in detail here---or anywhere for that matter. So I was thinking that the designer of the cover was making a statement about the Bishop, probably. You know, this religious man is out of sync with the world; distorted image of the world and his awkward position in it; bishops are aliens?; the ocean's blue?, I don't know.

I really don't know what my wife thinks of the book since she hasn't finished it yet, but she does complain about the writing, I know that. She says it reads like a journalistic composition trying to sound like a literary novel. That was a good critique, I liked that. She cited the lead sentence in chapter 2: "The sun was slow in '94." We both laughed. The sun is hot, the sun is bright, the sun will not come out tonight. I'll see what she says about the novel when she finishes. I'm not going to read it.

The other book written by a local author is CAPTAIN ALEX MacLEAN by Don MacGillivray. This book actually cost be about $80, no kidding. I love books about the sea, and this one focused around a character (Captain Alex MacLean) who was the inspiration for Jack London's SEA WOLF. Jack London was and probably still is one of my favourite writers. I've read a lot of London. I debated for a long time whether I should buy this book because the price was well out of reach. But my wife got some Chapter's gift certificates, gave them to me, and encouraged me to go and buy the book. I did. I have no idea why it was so expensive. I was terribly disappointed in this book. It was well researched, well written fo the most part, but it read like a University thesis. Everything said about the main character (Alex MacLean) was in quotes with footnotes to boot. You did not get a feel for this character, or even care about him after awhile. Too bad. And too bad I had to spend so much money for it. I have it here and if anybody wants it, you can have it.

Next: I think I said Historical fiction, but I think I want to discuss Histories or historical non-fiction books.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Well, you see, my wife seldom reads my blogs---for whatever reason, but it behoved her---for whatever reason, to read a few the other day. Very gingerly, she brought up a couple of things that...ah....concerned her. Mostly, the soft critique centered around the fact that she thinks I just might come off as a sour crank. Yet I saw no problem with that, really, but she pressed on further relating other people's views and beliefs which she believes should be honoured. uh ha, hmmm. I sensed a reproach, yet her demeanor belied no hint of a scold. I thought much about it, and decided to revisit certain topics and authors I smashed along the way to at least clarify.

Nostradamus and 2012: It really is bunk though, but I can give a benefit of the doubt if any one can interpret his quatrains properly without over-reaching and exaggerating certain terms. The Book of Revelations in the Bible is the same thing. But people believe such things and who am I to say otherwise.

In defence of myself, I'm a skeptic, a confirmed skeptic. I always think and truly believe that things are not what they seem, that any "known fact" is never certain, that every leading consuming topic is never as dire as they put it out to be, that you can pretty well cut in half these topics to get close to the truth, that there usually is an ulterior motive to get people to think along certain lines, and so on. It just human. And imagination.

My wife said I should explain that......I did.

Malcolm Gladwell: My wife said I gave this popular author of BLINK and other such cra... too hard a time, and that maybe he was actually on to a lot of important things. Well, he's not, really. I saw him being interviewed the other night on the telly. I certainly think that his easy approach to decisions, success, etc., reflects the Western way of thinking---that in order to get things, there must be a trick, or easy way. Life doesn't work that way, I don't think. There's too many variables along the way to say for sure that this is the only way to go about it, or that this is what happens all the time. It's a wild position. I always wonder what people educated in sociology or anthropology, and know and study these things, think about his simplistic view of events. I also wonder at his popularity.

I was also going to write a blog on Charlize Theron, but my wife said that it probably wasn't appropriate and on topic. I was going to say that I am much enamoured with this young female actor. Not only is she such an excellent actor in anything I've seen her in, she is absolutely a beautiful woman. Her radiant face is flawless, yet in her roles in movies she plays this down in order to reach the character she portrays. There are many female actors who would not take such roles because it would make them look ugly, yet Ms. Theron's objective is always the character she's portraying. She's a true actor. And beautiful with gorgeous eyes! My wife is right, so I won't write anything about Charlize Theron. Oh, I have to say that the problem with Charlize Theron is that her roles in movies lately are becoming redundant, but that's mostly because there's no good screen plays written for women. This has always been a problem for female actors. And it seems a blatant problem today with the movies out now. Anyway, I wasn't suppose to write all this.

So that's it, I think. Historical fiction next.

Monday, February 1, 2010


BEFORE THE BIG BANG by Brian Clegg is quite the interesting science book, full of information regarding the scientific study of the universe by astrophysicists and cosmologists. He lets you know just where the study is today and how viable it all is.Good book.

I made up a conversation between two scientists discussing this very thing. It goes this way:

1st Scientist: The universe seems to be expanding! What do you think?
2nd Scientist: Which means that it all came from one singular source. Right?
1st S: Yes, I guess so.
2nd S: A singularity, a Big Bang.
1st S: Oh. Can it be proven?
2nd S: No. Not yet.
1st S: But where did all the matter come from?
2nd S: It was made in the stars. But there is so much lost matter---the math doesn't fit.
1st S: Lost matter? What is it?
2nd S: Dark Matter. It's all out there, we can't see it. But it all makes sense if you put Dark Matter there.
1st S: Can you prove it's there?
2nd S: No. But it has to be.
1st S: What's driving the Dark Matter?
2nd S: Dark Energy. We can't see it, but it has to be there.
1st S: Can you prove that there is dark energy there?
2nd S: No. We are working on it.
1st S: What's causing the galaxies to spin like that?
2nd S: Black Holes. We can't see them but we know they are there.
1st S: Can you prove that Black Holes are there?
2nd S: No. But they have to be.
1st S: So we can't prove that any of these thing actually exist?
2nd S: No, but we are working on them. They'll fit if have to doctor the math to make them fit.
1st S: I see.

A very learned professor at University once told me a very long time ago that once you go outside our immediate solar system, everything breaks down and nothing makes sense. It's a puzzle out there, best not to think about it. But scientists are determined to find out just what all this is, and why it's there. They are remarkable men and women and have a huge task in front of them.

It seems to me that if we could find out what exactly gravity is, we could unlock all this. We know how to use gravity; we can measure it and predict its outcome, but no one really knows what it is. The key may be there.

Nostradamus: I've read Nostradamus many years ago when I though that this man and his so-called predictions were authentic. They're tenuous at best. He writes in quatrains, and these are heavy with odd pairings, connections, and words---it makes no sense. Example: "It rained blood and milk..." The word "milk" will throw you, but some people interpret it as something that is close to our reality. In other words, it is all interpretive. I think it is a waste of time reading him, he says nothing. Oh, by the way, he said nothing about 2012.

2012 is suppose to be the end of the world. I've gone through this scenario so many times over the years. This time it is based on the Mayan calendar which is so accurate and ends on December 21, 2012. Well, it had to end somewhere, right? One comedian said on TV once that if the Mayans were so clever, why didn't they predict their own demise? Good question.

People do go on with all their foolishness. But 2012 will be an interesting year---it will make good television. I think we are all safe.

I told my wife that they think the world will end on 2012. I ask her what she thinks about this. She said, " Oh that's just great, that's when our new car is paid off!"

Next: History books