Sunday, April 5, 2020

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or the Escape of Ellen and William Craft from Slavery by Ellen and William Craft

Here is Concierto de Arnajuez, Allegro de Spirito by Joaquin Rodrigo.

One of my most popular postcards, that I send out all over the world.  

I feel that my last few reviews have been negative.  Here is a book I think everyone should read.

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or, the escape of William and Ellen Craft from slaveryRunning a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or, the escape of William and Ellen Craft from slavery by Ellen Craft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is powerfully and eloquently written by a woman who did not learn to read or write until she was an adult and had escaped the monstrous oppression of slavery.

William Craft and his wife, Ellen were slaves in the South, but they determined to escape so they devised an extraordinary plan. Ellen, even though a slave, was as white as her masters, so they decided to dress her like a white man and William would pose as their slave as they traveled to the north.

How they attained their liberty is as harrowing and suspenseful a tale as any you could hope to read, all the more so because it is true.

Many things struck me when reading this story.

One, I finally understand where and why the "one drop" rule was invented. For those of you who don't know, the "one drop" rule states that if a person has any black blood in them, even 1/56th or less, any at all, they are legally black.

Think how convenient this was for the slave trade. There was so much interbreeding between slave masters and female slaves who many masters obviously viewed as their harem, that an increasing number of slave children were mostly white. In order to justify this, as well as increasing the number of free labor on a plantation, slaves had to be considered black, even if for all practical purposes they were as white as the plantation owners.

This also increased the amount of kidnappings among newly arrived immigrants from Europe who, not speaking the language, were sold as slaves as well as poor white families selling their own children into slavery for money. I don't think this part of the history of slavery has been given the attention it is due.

What I love about William and Ellen Craft's story is their lack of rancor and, more importantly, their discernment between real Christianity and the fake Christianity the slave owners espoused.

They used the Bible to justify slavery, yet they conveniently ignore the scripture that said an owner had to free his slaves every seven years, not to mention the strict guidelines as to caring for and not abusing slaves. An abuse that was to be severely punished if exercised.

Because of certain laws passed about returning slaves to their owners, even if they were in the north, the Crafts moved to England until after the Civil War.

This narrative is short but spellbinding and I highly recommend it.

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And with this corona virus keeping children home, here is one for all my homeschooling bloggers:

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium by Gerard Durrell

One of my little monsters asleep on my should while I write.

The Picnic and Suchlike PandemoniumThe Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium by Gerald Durrell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a collection of unrelated stories written by the late British naturalist, Gerald Durrell. Unlike his other books such as, My Family and Other Animals or Birds, Beasts and Relatives, this set of short stories are more about his family and other assorted people he came across in his life and travels.

All of the stories contain humor, some more than others. The first two stories, The Picnic and The Maiden Voyage, are about his family going on an ill-fated picnic outing to welcome home his brother Lawrence, and an even more ill-fated tour on a Greek cruise ship. These two stories have humorous moments, although some of it seems a bit canned. The third likewise is a little cliche as he meets an old girlfriend in Venice and gets sucked into her zany life dramas.

Some of the stories show a glimmer of the brilliant writer he could have been had he applied himself and, he freely admitted he never applied himself for the reason that he hated to write and only wrote in order to provide a financial resource for his animal advocacy and protection endeavors.

I am speaking of the last two. The penultimate story, The Michelin Man is narrated by a chef in an obscure French village containing an even more obscure restaurant that nevertheless sported one Michelin star. The chef gives a fantastic story as to how his restaurant gained this coveted recognition. Is it true? Doubtful, but it was a great story!

The last story is in a class of its own and almost makes one wonder if Durrell wrote it or plagiarized the story from someone with real ability. In fact he presents the story as if it were a manuscript accidentally found by a book seller. It is titled, The Entrance and is a ghost story/psychological thriller that is spine tingling.

I read it on a rainy day and finished it at two in the morning, which probably added to the suspenseful atmosphere of that particular tale.

Do I recommend this book? Sure. The few well-written stories, especially The Entrance, are worth the price of the entire book.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid by Wendy Williams

Here is the inimitable Yo Yo Ma playing Shostakovich's Cello Concerto no. 1

You may notice that the background of my photos will be different.  That is because Josh and I have moved into a nicer, larger house.  I am currently sitting in my art studio which also has the aviary, which means it is also my writing room.

I am still unpacking and and putting up things, mainly books. This is my library.  It's on the second floor.  The movers were good sports about it, especially after we tipped them well.

Did I mention my husband built the bookshelves?

 Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of SquidKraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid by Wendy   Williams
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I give it two stars because it was OK. Not bad, not great. I was a little disappointed.

Where the author stuck to scientific facts concerning what zoologists know about squid, the body construction, migrating habits, age, size was very interesting.

What was also interesting was historical accounts of eye witnesses of squid and the first discoveries of giant squid.

Apparently, however, that was not enough flesh out an entire book so Williams puffed it out with speculation on the origins of the species via evolution. We don't know that so...uninteresting.

I would have found it interesting if she had presented the theory of origins honestly, such as...scientists believe this, there's some argument about that, another theory claims It's all presented as fact upon which to base our knowledge, which is a waste of time because not knowing where squid came from or how long they've been on earth doesn't really change what we can see and experience about them before our physical senses.

Then, out of the blue, the last couple of chapters are about octopuses. OK. But what does that have to do with the previous several chapters?

Go ahead and read it, but with a critical mind.

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After two days working like a dog.  Who needs a gym?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Chee-Chalker by L. Ron Hubbard

Sorry for the late post.  Josh and I are moving houses.  We're glad to move into a place that better suits out space needs, but it's so tiring.  

In the meantime, enjoy Ashkenazy: Beethoven - Sonata 8 Opus 13 (Pathéthique)

My lovebird, Puddle decided that this book made a cheap parrot toy.

The Chee-ChalkerThe Chee-Chalker by L. Ron Hubbard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
OK. I know the author started a cult. I even heard he started it as joke, but never mind.

I could not resist the cover and, who knows? Even cult leaders could be good writers.

Except in Hubbard's case, no.

I mean, he's a good writer, but the substance of his writing isn't very interesting.

Sure, he's got the hard-boiled detective, the sexy, bad girl who the FBI agent can't decide whether he should slap around or fall in love with, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, and some guy referred to as a Chee Chalker got murdered, which is why aforementioned FBI guy is in Alaska (did I mention this takes place in Alaska?).

There's interesting bits. The Alaskan culture of the 1930s, the glossary in the back is helpful so we know that Chee Chalker is a newcomer to Alaska. Siwash is an Alaskan Native American and so is Tlinget, at least the ones living on the coast.

The plot just didn't go anywhere. It was interrupted by too many drunken brawls, and too few clues to propel the story forward.

However, on the bright side, 'eye roll' there's plenty of Hubbard to be found everywhere. If I had bothered to look him up at my local library I would have discovered they had hundreds of his stuff on e-book. I wouldn't have even had to leave my house to find out he's not my cup of tea, much less waste three dollars (hey, three dollars is three dollars!) at my local Books A Million.

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Look at his cute little face.  How can such a sweet feather puss be in reality a Edward ScissorFeathers

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Art of Writing: Four Principles for Great Writing that Everyone Needs to Know by Peter Yang

This week how about some Baroque Music from the Netherlands?

While the above post card was photographed in Colorado, it reminds me of west Texas.  Europeans can say what they want about America, but so far the favorite post cards world over are the ones I send out with cowboys.  A romantic stereotype, I suppose, but one that is enjoyed internationally.

The Art of Writing: Four Principles for Great Writing that Everyone Needs to KnowThe Art of Writing: Four Principles for Great Writing that Everyone Needs to Know by Peter Yang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This short book is highly readable and concise, but filled with valuable information for the aspiring writer.

I have been writing for several years and still found several bits of useful advise to help me improve my writing skills.

The book is broken up into four sections that deal with such topics as writing with active not passive verbs, good sentence and paragraph syntax, avoiding cliches or repetitive words. Yang shows the reader how to avoid these common pitfalls as well as others as well as methods of making our writing more vibrant, interesting and clear.

Included are good, concrete examples of dos and don'ts as well as examples of good writing from authors throughout the history of literature.

I heartily recommend this book for all writers who would like to improve their skills of expression on paper or the internet.

Peter Yang

Peter Yang is an award-winning writer,
public speaker, and eternal student. Peter is currently

working on a startup called Reviewerly, a user-
generated content app that helps ecommerce

store owners capture reviewers at checkout, set
expectations from the get-go, and generate product

reviews risk-free.

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Sunday, March 1, 2020

Nightfall by David Goodis

Here is the Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A major K. 581.

This past week was Mardi Gras.  To my postcrossing pen pals I sent the following postcards. I got a book of Mardi Gras postcards at a bookstore in New Orleans last September.  They are paintings of floats from Mardi Gras parades in the 1890s.

A little bit weird, yes?

NightfallNightfall by David Goodis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I do believe that David Goodis is fast becoming my favorite Noir writer. I liked this story even better than Dark Passage.

Summary: a man Vanning, finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. I won't say what happened because it would ruin the sequence of events in the way Goodis imparts information to the reader which is so effective.

All we know at first is that Vanning is living in Greenwich Village in New York City and his apartment is being watched by a detective.

Why? Is it because he's a murderer? A bankrobber? Or are they shadowing the wrong man? Or the right man for the wrong reasons?

What I love about Goodis' writing and especially about this story is that it centers on one person, a man out of luck who spends most of the story trying to run away from everyone else. He has to use his wits, his physical strength and courage to get himself out of some tight situations.

Of course there's the beautiful woman who mesmerizes him. But is she on his side or out to get him, too? We don't know until the very end.

One last thing I really enjoyed was the exceptionally witty dialogue. I particularly enjoyed the conversations between Vanning and the detective.

In conclusion: A great book and all Noir fans need to read it.

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And a few more cards to send you off!  Have a great week fellow bloggers/revelers!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: A Rock 'n' Roller's 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict by Alice Cooper with Keith and Kent Zimmerman

Here is a surprisingly sensitive song from Alice Cooper.  He wrote it for his wife.  I think the video is cute.  I especially like it because I'm a big fan of those old crime noir stories and movies.

Alice Cooper has been faithfully married to his wife for 43 years.  They have been to hell and back together, but she stuck it out and they're still going strong.

Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: A Rock 'n' Roller's 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf AddictAlice Cooper, Golf Monster: A Rock 'n' Roller's 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict by Alice Cooper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Often when one reads books or listens to interviews of rock stars or actors, it's surprising, if not appalling, to hear how inarticulate or boring they are in real life.

This is emphatically NOT true of Alice Cooper. I don't know if it's the make up that made me think he was just a brainless rocker-not that being a rocker makes you brainless; most of those guys are music and business wizards, which is why they're so successful-but I was pleasantly surprised to discover the guy who makes his living looking and acting like a psychotic harlequin is brilliant on so many levels.

In Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: A Rock 'n' Roller's 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict, we learn that the man in black leather, strait jackets, chopping up baby dolls and screeching, "Welcome to My Nightmare" started out as Vincent Furnier, a pastor's son.

I really enjoyed hearing Cooper's step by step account of growing up in a healthy, loving household, even though his family struggled financially. They lived in Detroit, then California then finally Phoenix. By the time Cooper was in high school he was a cross country jock as was most of his fellow future Alice Cooper band mates.

Cooper gives us a step by step account of how he and his fellow Coopers began playing and how they slowly bit by bit made it into the big time.

I must say I found his honesty refreshing. Most famous people like to keep their rise to success a closely guarded secret. They were nobodies, then they were zillionaires. The rest of us are going, "uh, what happened in between?"

Alice Cooper does not do that. I never have had someone so clearly and articulately explain how their band achieved success.

Of course there's the legend of the name and a lot of urban legend that surrounds it. Alice Cooper explains that while other bands were coming out with all these weird and wonderful, catchy names, his band decided they would go in the opposite direction.

Cooper states that he decided on "Alice Cooper" because it sounded like the little old lady down the street who bakes cookies for the neighborhood kids. In the beginning, before they were known, their band would be introduced and the audience would be expecting another surfer band or ballad singing group, or even a pot smoking hippy group.

Then a bunch of raunchy goths in white paint make up and black leather would appear on stage.

Cooper recounts their first stage experience with other performers of the day. The audience was a crowd of hippies high on acid. They had been listening to bands like Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, or Jimi Hendrix. Everyone was just laid out and tripping.

Then Alice Cooper came on stage and started singing songs about trying to escape from an insane asylum. He said that by the third verse the entire place was empty. High hippies weren't ready for Alice Cooper.

What I found most interesting was his analysis of his music and how they created and arranged it so that it would work and have the most effective sound. It was not unlike listening to a composer/conductor of classical music explain how he or her creates their works. Cooper reveals great insight into the human psyche and what connects people to his songs and how they create his loyal following.

Some of Cooper's story is a common one for most rockers: their ascent into stardom, than their descent into alcohol and drug abuse. Then finally their deliverance from those demons. With Cooper it ends with a journey into another addiction.


Intertwined with Cooper's personal story are his pointers and life applications pertaining to the game of golf. Yes. Alice Cooper is a serious golfer and has played on several celebrity tournaments.

The last chapters are a testimony of his Christian faith and where that has taken him and why he chose to continue performing. Although he has changed the lyrics to some of his songs, he sees his shows as satire and the Alice Cooper on stage as the villain everyone wants and needs to defeat, which happens when the guillotine falls.

I read this book in a couple of sittings. It is highly readable, entertaining, and I recommend it for all of us old and new rockers out there.

Rock on, Alice!

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And for absolutely no reason I am posting a photo of my sister's cat.