Sunday, January 26, 2020

Rosemary: the Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

Here is Bach's Cantata BMW 169 "Gott soll allein mein Herze haben"

Once again, Josh and I visited the pet store for fish and came home with two Lovebirds. Someone needed to re-home and now they're mine.  Meet Toot and Puddle.  I named them after two favorite characters in a series of children's books I used to read to my son when he was little.  In the book, Toot and Puddle are pigs, but Puddle surprises Toot with a birthday present and guess what?  It's a parrot!  I believe those stories are what sparked my desire in getting my own feathered babies.

Oh, and don't feel sorry for Josh we also got a gorgeous Orange Oscar.

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy DaughterRosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The true life tragedy of Joe and Rose Kennedy's oldest daughter.

Rosemary was a beautiful child, but by the time of her adolescence, her parents realized that she was not developing normally. As it was customary to do back then, she was institutionalized. However, this was not enough for her father, Joe Kennedy. He decided that she needed to be improved in order to fit in with his super-achieving brood of future politicians and movers and shakers in the world.

Rosemary ended up getting a lobotomy. Whatever limited mental and emotional skills she might have had were obliterated.

Larson's moving biography details the birth and life of Rosemary Kennedy, starting with her parents, how they met and the traumatic birth of their first daughter. She takes us step by step through Rosemary's childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and eventual confinement inside an institution. Ironically, she outlived most of her family.

Larson exposes the ignorance towards people with special needs and the lack of resources. And this is where her biography shows not just a tragedy but how humans rise above personal sorrow and adversity. One of Rosemary's sisters as well as her brother Jack became determined to change the living conditions and standards for people like their sister Rosemary. They initiated charitable organizations, contributing thousands of dollars to provide help for others with similar challenges.

Their sister Rosemary was shut away and hidden. A secret to be ashamed of. Thanks to siblings and also nieces and nephews, others won't have to suffer a similar fate.

Larson does a credible and interesting job of not only informing us of this least known member of the Kennedy clan but also provides a good amount of information of the other Kennedy siblings and her parents. No one is one dimensional. Some of them acted in despicable ways, especially her father and her mother could at times be selfish, but Larson also shows when they were capable of compassion. Some of their actions were simply because they were risen in a certain time period that was steeped in ignorance towards the mentally challenged, emotionally disturbed, or mentally ill. Even the author, Arthur Miller, institutionalized his son who had Down's Syndrome.

All in all a pretty comprehensive job of recording a time period, a famous family and, most significantly, an under-reported member of that family.

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Window shopping and catching some Jazz players jamming it up Saturday night, in New Orleans, last Labor Day weekend.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

J.S. Bach's Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring

I had problems uploading these so they're not placed how I would like.  The top is me placing a stone on top of Oskar Schindler's grave.  That is how people in Israel honor their dead.

The second is the excavated site of the city of Capernaum.  And the bottom is part of the wall of Old Jerusalem.

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 This is considered one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century. It is arguably the best novel Fitzgerald wrote and certainly deserves its place as one of the sterling examples of the Jazz Age.

The story is told through the eyes of a man named Nick. He lives in Long Island next to the property of someone named Gatsby. It takes him a while but slowly he gets to know his neighbor.

The development of Gatsby is about as perfectly drawn as any character I've ever read about. At first he is mysterious. Who is he? Is he really an Oxford man as he repeatedly claims? How did he get so rich? Why is he here?

All sorts of artsy, intellectual, fashionable, and pretentious people populate his house. It seems he continually hosts parties.

As time goes on, Nick realizes that Gatsby has one goal. To meet a woman he fell in love with years ago when he was in the army, but who married someone else. Everything Gatsby is doing is driving him to this goal. He has envisioned the perfect strategy. He will woo this woman back.

Daisy is your typical beautiful, vapid Fitzgerald dream girl.

A lot of the conversation in this book is devoted to showing just how inane certain types of people's conversation is. Daisy is inane and shallow and vain. But Gatsby is obsessed with her.

Daisy encourages Gatsby. She's impressed by his wealth, by his attentions.

But sadly, she's too shallow. Even though her husband is cheating on her, she is too inert to change anything. She enjoys drifting.

Also, I think that, as much as Daisy is capable of loving, she truly loves her husband.

This story is one of tragedy. Gatsby created a legend of himself and a reality based on artificial construction.

Everything about him is artificial. His wealth, his background, his friends. Especially his friends. I won't give away the ending except to say that when it really mattered, Gatsby had absolutely no friends. They all dissolved like the shapeless, formless, people they really were.

I think it is effective that Fitzgerald narrates this story with an objective third party. I think this is the only story I've read of his that does that. It allows us to see the characters clearly, including that of Nick and his own role in the farce.

The story concludes appropriately: with an ironic twist. No doubt expressing the author's view of his own life.

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Reporter Who Knew Too Much by Mark Shaw

The season's not over until Epiphany:  Carol of the Bells

These photos were taken up near the Golan Heights where the Yom Kippor war took place.  Below is a bunker.

On top of a Soviet Tank

The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What's My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy KilgallenThe Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What's My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen by Mark  Shaw
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Since I became addicted to watching What's My Line on Youtube-I mean the old version from the fifties and sixties- I have become interested in the panelists and stars that appeared on the show.

Dorothy Kilgallen was a well-known reporter back then, although obscure today. What intrigued me, though, was that she died from a barbiturate and alcohol overdose. Nowadays that doesn't surprise us at all, since famous people not only make no effort to appear decent, but actually try to seem even more outrageous than they actually are as a way of promoting their career.

We all have come to realize that a famous person dying "unexpectedly" is code for an overdose or suicide.

As clean cut and classy as Dorothy came across on TV, she abused alcohol and drugs, had multiple affairs (one of her children may not even be her husband's) and was a tigress when reporting.

I will take this moment to say that, even though no one was any more innocent back then than they are now, I found the veneer of decency that was required of television shows and personalities back then to be a relief. I don't care who is sleeping with who or who made a video mostly naked. Oh, to return to a time when classy, not trashy, was fashionable.

Mark Shaw has written a book that I suspect he is hoping will get him a Pulitzer, or at least credit for re-opening an investigation on-not only Kilgallen's death- but also President Kennedy's.

According to Shaw, Kilgallen was murdered by the mafia because she knew that JFK was not really killed by a lone crazy person craving notoriety, but a plot by the mob to avenge the push-back Robert Kennedy gave to certain crime bosses.

To be honest, I don't know. But I can't say that Shaw's book persuades me one way or another. It primarily consists of speculation, peppered with a lot of sentences beginning with, "What if...?" and "Common sense dictates..." or "therefore it is logical to infer..."

What I liked came in the first half of the book: a biography of Dorothy Kilgallen. Smutty dark underbelly aside, she was an interesting person. She was also an ambitious, hard-nose, relentless and at times, savage, reporter and writer. One would not suspect that from the sweet persona one sees on What's My Line.

Shaw probably did not intend this, but the conclusion I formed of Kilgallen is that she chased after a Kennedy conspiracy like a pit bull because she couldn't resist seeing her name in lights. No doubt she imagined a Pulitzer or even Nobel Peace prize as the spoils of her efforts. I think she wanted her name to go down in history as the one who blew the lid off the Kennedy assassination cover-up.

Instead, she is primarily known as a panelist on a game show.

The second half, if I may be so blunt, comes across as Shaw's starry eyed notion of himself as Kilgallen's savior. He hopes that justice may finally be served as more and more people, especially "young, educated, intelligent" people come to understand how "ludicrous" and "absurd" the notion is that Oswald acted alone.

By the end of the book, his writing reads like a man who has stayed up late at night, drinking numerous bottles of whiskey. He gets increasingly maudlin and grandiose as he winds up his book. It got a little silly.

It is also interesting to note that Kilgallen's children, all of whom are alive, refused to speak with this author.

As I mentioned before I have no idea if Oswald acted alone or was part of a conspiracy. To me President Johnson had the most to gain from Kennedy's death. He was from Fort Worth and got voted in through corrupt cronyism and organized crime outfits locally. Why has no one suggested him as a suspect? He was a lousy president. Thanks to his "war on poverty" an ever-growing portion of our population has become increasingly dependent on government assistance and we now have generations of families who no longer understand what a work ethic is.

But I digress. In conclusion I found it to be an OK read, hence the two star rating.

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Sunday, January 5, 2020

Reading goals for the first quarter of 2020

I like this song.  I can see a movie scene with this in it.  Heaven's Gate by Dawn Landes.

I spent the new year with my parents on the gulf coast, but more about that later.

I have been enjoying reading the reading goals of my fellow bloggers.  A lot of them are linking together on certain read-alongs and I look forward to reading the reviews in the ensuing months.

Part of me would love to join, but I know I can't narrow my reading.  I'm too scattered.  It's why I stopped reading books for publishing companies.  I want to read what I want to read and going along with other reading lists interferes with that.

Having said that, I decided to get on the bandwagon and create a tentative list that I hope to finish by the first quarter of the year.

I completed my goal on Goodreads of reading 300 books in 2020.  I freely admit that in December I started puffing the numbers with quick reads.  My intention was to make a dent in my 700 plus TBR pile.  It didn't work because I bought as many books as I read.  Sigh.

My goal this year is to read 300 hundred books, but this time I'm going to make a concerted effort to read only books on my pile and I'm going to start with the piles of books lying around the house.  I lovingly call these my "poor little homeless books" because there's no room for them on my shelves.

I haven't bothered to list them, so you'll have to look at the titles in the photos best you can.  The following are the first one hundred, if you include the anthology of mysteries on my Kindle.

So without further ado, here they are, piled according to genre.


The upside down book is The Third Man by Graham Greene




I have been especially interested in how memory operates.


I may have mentioned that I have a goal of reading a biography of every single president.  And also every composer I love.


I'm especially excited about that fat blue book.  It's a history of Texas.  The bottom book was irresistible because my maiden name is Barrow.  I know that my father can trace our ancestry back to Jamestown, but I've never seen anything where a Barrow contributed to history.

Foreign Language

Pop Culture


I eat these books like Godiva Chocolates.  Fattening but delicious.

And, of course my fun weekend reads:  Mystery

The Library of America book is a collection of David Goodis mysteries.  He's a recent discovery and I'm really enjoying him.  I read Don't Shoot the Piano Player and I'm currently reading Dark Passage.  The man can create suspense like nobody's business.  He cleverly provides a hook at the end of each chapter so you end up reading farther along than you intend.

Notice my new Kindle on the right?  Hubby Cubby surprised me with it.  It has back lighting so now I can read in bed in the dark and not bother him.

It's interesting to see what genre I'm heavy on.  I didn't realize that non fiction books outweighed the others.

Well, that's my list.  We'll see how many I read by March.

Let's get started, shall we? Happy reading 2020!