Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Moving to Wordpress!! Come visit for a book give away!

 Hello everyone!  I have a special announcement!  I have finally taken the plunge and have moved to Wordpress.

The reason is because my Feedburner subscriptions have become defunct so I'm hoping that Wordpress will generate more traffic and be easier.

Also, it felt time for a change.

But, of course, if this turns out to be more trouble than it's worth, I'll have to develop a plan B.

The address to Wordpress is:



I considered a new name, but this one fits so well.  I hope my followers will follow me over to Wordpress.


And to further entice you, I'm offering a book giveaway.  Go to GentlyMadBlog for the details!


See you there (I hope)!

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Night of the Cossack by Thomas Blubaugh

Cossacks were members of several peasant groups of Russian and Polish descent. They lived in autonomous communal settlements, especially in the Ukraine, until the early 20th century. In return for special privileges, they served in the cavalry under the czars. They were well known for their horsemanship. They raided villages for supplies, women and young men to increase or replenish their ranks. Eventually they became a part of the Russian army.
(From the author's website)

  Nathan Hertzfield is a young Russian boy living with his widowed mother and younger brother. During the night a band of Cossacks raid his village. Many are killed while their houses are pillaged and burned. Nathan is kidnapped by one of the Cossacks, a man named Nikolai, and taken back to their camp. At first their relationship is somewhat turbulent.

“You're obstinate, little man. You'll make a fine Cossack.”
 Nikolai said, “I've questions for you. You were born in the village of Gagra, no?”
“Good. You're Russian by birth.”
“And you're a Christian?”
“A Christian? No.”
“What then?”
“I'm a Jew,” said Nathan proudly.
“A Jew, you say. You won't be when we return to camp.”
“How can that be? I was born a Jew. How can I not be a Jew?”
“The fact you're a Jew doesn't matter to me. You're young, healthy, and trainable. This is all that matters. You're going to need a new name. What is your name?”
“Nathan, Nathan Hertzfield.”
“Your name will no longer be Nathan Hertzfield. You're Stepan Ivanov now.”

The rest of the story is an exciting adventure where Nathan, now Stepan, becomes like a son to Nikolai. For many years they live together and become very close as they live the gypsy yet war like life of the Cossacks. As a lover of Russian literature I found the descriptions of the culture of the Cossacks informative and very interesting.

Stepan soon comes to understand why Nikolai wanted to hide his Jewish identity. It is 1904 in Russia and the Jewish pograms are underway. Eventually it becomes so dangerous that Stepan can no longer stay with the Cossacks or in Russia.

Living and running and fighting with the Cossacks is only one chapter of Stepan's life. War, political upheaval and danger from another Cossack boy who tries to pin a crime on him takes him across Europe in what is a kind of “Jewish underground railroad” where he meets many other Jews who are trying to make it to freedom and safe from persecution. Having to change his name more than once he finally makes it to America.

Thomas Blubaugh wrote this story about his grandfather who immigrated to America from Russia. He never met him or learned much about him so Blubaugh decided to make up his own story about his grandfather's life.

This book is an excellent coming of age story that would be wonderful for adolescent boys (and girls- I always read 'male' literature as a kid.) It is also a source of good historical fiction as it accurately portrays living conditions in turn of the century Russia, the plight of the Jewish people and how many of them came to America, via Europe.

Blubaugh's writing style is seamless and fluid. His characters are believable and interesting. On top of that it has a great story line. All the ingredients of a great book. It was easy and fun to read. I read it in a couple of days. I recommend this book to everyone.
Here is the latest link to the book on Amazon.

I received a free copy of this book by the author.  For more information you can go to Thomas Blubaugh's website:

For another review of this book you can visit the blog Reflections in Hindsight  here

Monday, June 28, 2021

Beating About the Bush by M.C. Beaton

Listening to Vivaldi: Complete Oboe Concertos.

Another full moon.

Beating About the Bush (Agatha Raisin, #30)Beating About the Bush by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to this on Hoopla while painting my house. I can say it was a fun mystery and made painting much more bearable, especially since the air conditioner broke and I had to paint most of the house in ninety plus (F thirty plus C) degree weather.

Agatha Raisin and her assistant detective Tony are driving through the country when they approach a clump of bushes. Tony grits her teeth because it seems that they can't drive past a clump of bushes without Agatha saying, "That's a great place to hide a body."

It's no different this time, except, there is a body! Or at least a leg. Agatha and Tony rush to the bushes see the leg, in fact they recognize the leg as belonging to the secretary of a company that has hired Agatha's detective agency to investigate possible espionage from a rival company.

The police are called, much ado is made, and then they all laugh at Agatha Raisin. The leg is fake.

This naturally makes the newspapers and Agatha, a rather vain person, is mortified. But she's also suspicious. Was this a trap to discredit her? If so, why? What is really going on at the company that has hired her?

The plot line is a simple murder mystery, but who gets murdered and why is not immediately apparent.

What is mostly enjoyable about Beaton's mysteries are the characters. They are very human. Agatha Raisin is a middle-aged plump, smoking drinking piece of brass. She's vain and pushy, but also very caring. She's deathly afraid of losing her young assistant, Tony, to marriage. Agatha herself has soured on marriage, more for selfish reasons than anything else.

I don't know if M.C. Beaton is trying to be realistic or has an ax to grind, but she makes marriage out to be the dullest, most boring occupation anyone could involve themselves in. Raising children is paramount to drudgery and voluntary slavery.

Relationships should be limited to sex with multiple partners. Agatha has no problem sleeping around and certainly doesn't plan commitment with anyone, but while she is working on a relationship with a new flame, she is outraged that one of her male harem has the audacity to get married.

And furthermore with someone he hasn't even slept with. She compares it to buying shoes without trying them on.

Call me old fashioned, by Agatha is rather a Trollope and comparing a human being with a pair of shoes as if other people are simply commodities to be used for personal pleasure is disgusting.

Then there's Tony trying to decide whether to marry her boyfriend, but arrives at the conclusion that marriage and family would be terminally boring and she's much better off being a detective.

That attitude is depressing enough, but also a bit presumptive. The story got me through painting my house, but otherwise wasn't all that interesting and certainly not more interesting than the relationships I have with my husband and son.

I'll read more of Agatha Raisin, but I may be holding my nose as I do so.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 21, 2021

Lonely Magdalen: An Inspector Poole Mystery by Henry Wade

 Here are some lovely Baroque Concertos.


I've been painting my birds, but have not been happy with the product.  This is my latest effort at Hercule's portrait in acrylic.  Better than anything I've done so far, but I may paint over it.  What do you think?








This was a great mystery and also an original one.

We start at a bar where a news broadcast interrupts the normal programming to announce that the body of a woman has been found strangled in a park. The woman is described with a burn mark on her face. Any information as to the identity or witnesses who may have seen anything etc..

The people in the bar become quiet. The park is not too far from the bar, but that is not why the patrons of the bar have become quiet. A hulking man sitting by himself turns white. At first they all laugh, thinking something is in his beer, but his violent reaction causes them to shy away and they soon forget about him. The bartender and owner of the bar, who happens to be an ex-policeman, suspects more.

The story then embarks on a thorough investigation with Inspector Poole, a young detective, with his superior officer, Inspector Beldam, to obtain the identity of the woman and hopefully trace the whereabouts of the murderer.

The story is unusual in that it starts off as a normal detective story, but interrupts itself to give a background of specific people involved by going twenty years in the past, before returning to the present.

The present is 1939, when Europe was on the brink of war. The middle part goes back to the First World War.

While Poole, Beldam and their men are fastidious, the story is never boring. Wade writes in an engaging way that envokes sympathy for all the players involved, even the victim and perhaps the murderer.

I'm not sure the story ends with both feet on the ground, because it leaves questions. I believe this was the author's intent, but it is not my favorite way to conclude the story because there's not absolute closure.

Still, I rank this up with one of the best mysteries I've read.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Why Cats Paint by Heather Busch and Burton Silver

 Listening to some Schumann.

I was talking on the phone with my dad the other night while I walked around outside.  I happened to look up and see the full moon.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee.  How Great Thou Art!!

This is one of the best satires on modern art that I've ever read. The authors use the exact same pretentious language to describe "Fluffy's" efforts at filling space with his marks that I've read in so many books on modern artists. The only thing they left out was political correctness. I guess cats aren't interested in Social Justice, Sexual Orientation or Racial Identity.

I guess because the authors never wink throughout the book, some people take it seriously. They don't ask themselves how the writers of the book know the thoughts and motivations of an animal.

Here's an example:

"The typical pose of a cat when sitting at a Point of Harmonic Resonance: the eyes are slightly closed and the cat will generally purr and may rock gently back and forth.

Almost all cats that paint spend at least ten minutes in resonance prior to commencing a work, which suggests they derive some inspiration power from these invisible low frequency force fields."

Here's another one:

"Misty's popularity as a painter is due mainly to the figurative nature of her images. The elegant, bi-colored forms that sometimes extend up to ten meters in length, are immediately evocative and invite a wide range of projective interpretations. In a recent work, A Little Lavish Leaping, the surface is heavily built up with short black verticals to produce an elongated curvilinear mass that is at once dense yet strongly nuanced with movement.

Tension gathers at the base and builds upwards, flowing to a release in the upper ovoidal form."

Man, I wish I could write like that. I'm not even sure they're using real words.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Titanic: Legacy of the World's Greatest Ocean Liner by Susan Wels

 Still listening to Schumann.

Josh and I went to a nearby town to get our Cuckoo Clock fixed.  The only Clock shop this side of Dallas that fixed Cuckoo Clocks belonged to an ancient little man in Jefferson.   And he only took cash so it was with some trepidation that we handed over our clock to him.  Spoiler alert:  He fixed our clock but it took forever to find him and finally get our clock back. 

His store is like something out of a movie.  This is parked out front.  It is for sale if you're interested.

Back home and merrily cuckooing and playing The Happy Wanderer while the tiny couples dance.

I always like learning about a famous historical occasion and really getting into the point by point time line and detailed information.

This large book with its glossy photos and illustrations does not disappoint. Susan Wels provides contemporary photos of the Titanic on the bottom of the Atlantic, historical photos of the ship and passengers, and several of the artifacts that have been uncovered by the teams that have developed the technology to make it happen.

Wels first provides a history from the building of the ship to the landing of the survivors in New York.

The second section provides a detailed description of the the efforts to find the Titanic's resting place through the years and then the science, technology and scientists who made it finally happen.

Interesting to me are the people who think the Titanic should be left alone on the bottom of the ocean. Their argument is that way the ship and her possessions will belong to all and honor the memory of the dead.

Baloney. Such arrogant presumption to speak on behalf of people who have been gone for over a hundred years.

I'm glad that International Treaties have been created to make sure that individuals don't pirate the treasure of the Titanic, but I think it honors the memory of the passengers, both living and dead (although I doubt any are alive now) by preserving the artifacts in a public museum so we can all come into contact with the past.

I sincerely hope they are able to bring the three sections of the ship up before it finally dissolves into the ocean. 


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Trotsky: a Biography by Robert Service

Here's Bach's Cello Suite.


This is a thorough yet engaging biography of the man who might have been, but never was the leader of the Soviet Union.

I have heard pro-communists say that Communism would have worked under Trotsky and the Soviet Union would have achieved its Marxist goals if the crazy, paranoid Stalin hadn't made it to power.

Those people should read this book. Trotsky was every bit as ruthless and inhumane in his tactics in his tireless efforts to create a "Communist Utopia" as Stalin was. The difference was Stalin had more people on his side.

What fascinated me was Service's description of Trotsky's single-mindedness. His entire life was consumed in making a Soviet. He had no conscience about destroying a country, including starving out the people he claimed to be fighting for.

He wanted liberty from the aristocracy, but he did not want anyone to have freedom from him.

Due to his general lack of diplomacy, he succeeded in alienating even those who might have sided with him.

While in Mexico there were many artists and poets and philosophers from Europe, Mexico, and America who saw what they wanted to see in him and made him a poster boy for their cause.

These people were not enough to get him into power, primarily because they were armchair socialists, more concerned with mimicking the fashionable prattle of the day about socialism than actually doing anything to undermine their personal wealth.

Frida Kahlo became quickly bored with him, as she did with all her lovers, and she and her husband Diego Rivera, never practiced what they preached. They were contemporary virtue signalers.

In America H.L. Mencken wanted to donate much of his library to Trotsky, something Trotsky wasn't interested in. Other supporters were John Dewey, (of the decimal system fame, not to mention doing his best to integrate Marxist values into the American educational system-do you wonder why our young people voted for Bernie Sanders?)

In the end, Stalin got him, but I don't know if Trotsky cared. He was slowly disintegrating, bit by bit, anyway. I think the end, as gruesome as it was (why a pick ax, for peter's sake?) must have come as a relief. 


I've been preparing a slide show for my mother's memorial service.  This is a favorite.  A young mother trying to keep track of her three children.  I'm the oldest.



Monday, May 24, 2021

The Deadly Percheron by John Franklin Bardin

 Here are symphonic poems by one of my favorite composers:  Dvorak.


 This book was written by the author of The Last of Philip Banter, a book I reviewed earlier. This book actually precedes Philip Banter, but only one character connects the two books and he plays a minor role in the later novel.

A Psychologist, George Matthews, meets a young man named Jacob Blunt, who informs him that he performs certain bizarre duties in order to get paid by, wait for it....Leprechauns.

Now what Blunt wants to know is, are the Leprechauns real or is he crazy? Quite a conundrum, eh?

Matthews does not believe for a moment there are Leprechauns toddling about in the world, but does wonder if the man is hallucinating or is someone playing a strange hoax on him and if so, why?

Matthews and Blunt go to a bar where the Leprechaun is supposedly waiting for them and will assign the man his next task.

Indeed there is a dwarf there and he is dressed like a Leprechaun. In fact he insists he is a Leprechaun. He angrily hops up and down on his bar stool as he gives his geneology dating back to Old Ireland (the story takes place in New York City).

Then the Leprechaun tells Blunt that his next assignment is to deliver a Percheron to a famous Broadway actress who lives in Manhattan. In fact the Percheron is waiting outside.

Incidentally, for those of you who aren't horse people, Percherons are large draft horses.

Matthews thinks the whole thing is off and tries to persuade Blunt to refuse the task. The man laughs it off and, even though he is quite rich and has a trust fund, he enjoys making his own money. Apparently the Leprechaun pays him well.

Blunt delivers the horse only to find the actress dead. He is then arrested for the murder, even though he insists he didn't do it.

Matthews arrives at the jail to bail him out, but a different man comes out to meet him, claiming to be Jacob Blunt. Matthews insists this is not Jacob Blunt the man he was counseling and that is the last thing he remembers as something crashes over his head from behind.

When he comes to, Matthews is in a mental hospital and he discovers that it is nine months later. He cannot remember anything between the time he was knocked out and the time he wakes up in the hospital.

This story is a brilliant tale of psychological displacement. You question everything, not knowing what is real or not until the very end. Even then, things seem to fly apart. I only know that Matthews somehow survives because he has a brief role in the next novel.

I highly recommend this sort of story for those who love Psychological Crime Noir written during the Golden Age of Mysteries. 

 Am I the only one who finds piggy rumps adorable?

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Untold Story of Champ: A Social History of America's Loch Ness Monster by Robert E. Bartholomew

 Listening to Mendelssohn.

 How I get to look at the computer.





This book is written by someone who really wants to believe in a sea monster living on Lake Champlain, but doesn't want to be suckered.

The result is a book that thoroughly explores every legend connected to some sort of sea creature that has been reported in the Lake from Native American legends, the European discoverer of the Lake, Samuel Champlain to sightings in the 19th and 20th centuries.

It is also a book bent on debunking every eye witness report.

That's not a bad thing and I think that Bartholomew is honest in his accounts, because he doesn't out and out call anyone a liar, however, he does point out discrepancies in reports and contradictions between eye witnesses. He wants to believe, yet he can't.

Because of his skeptical approach the overall tone comes across as snarky. It would have been a more pleasant read if he simply treated the Lake Champlain monster as a legend and narrated all the stories as such. Maybe there's something there, maybe not. Who knows? The stories are still interesting to read.

The fact is, with all alleged monster sightings, eye witnesses aren't always trustworthy and with CGI these days, anything can be shown in a photo or footage.

Until someone provides a body or skeleton, sea monsters will remain mysterious and legendary.




Sunday, May 9, 2021

The Last of Philip Banter by John Franklin Bardin


I am listening to Bach's Short Preludes and Fuges for the organ on my record player.  You can listen to them here on Youtube.


 This was a rip roaring good story. The quality of the writing exceeds the average entertaining mystery. It was like a cross between The Lost Weekend and characters of Crime Noir with a dash of Girl on a Train, except the writing was far superior to the latter.

It was superior to most mysteries as far as writing style and plot development are concerned.

Without giving anything away here is the premise:

Philip Banter has a serious drinking problem. He knows this. He knows he's a louse to his wife and narcissistic enough to believe that every woman he winks at wants him.

The story starts with Banter waking up at his desk in the office where he works as an advertising executive. In front of him is his typewriter, uncovered and recently used. Who used his typewriter? Was it him or someone else? Where was he last night and how did he end up here?

His wrist is bandaged. It wasn't bandaged last night. On the desk is writing. Fifteen pages. He reads it. Written in the first person, he reads about events that happen from his point of view: According to the paper, he goes home to his wife, who surprises him with an old friend and his girlfriend coming over.

It speaks of him having an affair with the woman and then coming to his office. Is that what happened last night?

Except. The date on the writing is for the following night. How can he or anyone have written about the future. He forgets about it.

Then. That night, everything starts happening as the writing predicts. Sort of. Not exactly.

So what is happening? Is he crazy or is someone trying to persuade him that he's crazy?

This is a well written compelling psychological suspense mystery without any down time.

Unfortunately, John Franklin Bardin only wrote a couple of really good mysteries, but I am going to read them because he is now one of my favorite mystery authors. 



Monday, May 3, 2021

In The Shadow of the Dream Child: A New Understanding of Lewis Carroll by Karoline Leach

 I hope you'll listen to this collection of Lute pieces by J.S. Bach.



Do not expect a biography of Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll. Instead this is a dissertation on how Dodgson was not a pedophile because he was a Victorian playboy with older women.

She made her case when she said that it was common in Victorian times to take photos of children disrobed and provide several examples of other photographers that also took photos of naked children.

But apparently Leach wanted to write a whole book, so after thoroughly flogging that aspect of Victorian mores into the ground, she then goes into exhaustive, and exhausting, detail as to what the missing pages of Dodgson really mean as opposed to what previous biographers have claimed they mean.

She begins a lot of sentences with probably (Dodgson "probably" had an affair with Alice's mother).

While I agree with her premise that much too much has been made of the author's possible, yet essentially unknown, proclivities, she makes the same error. It gets to the point where one thinks she doth protest too much. As if Leach is frantically trying to save the reputation of Lewis Carroll.

Too much of her conclusions are based on surmises and that is what her book has in common with other biographies of the author of Alice in Wonderland, albeit she runs in the opposite direction.

Let's just settle for the fact that we know very little of the enigmatic Charles Dodgson and simply enjoy the genius of Lewis Carroll.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

David Golder by Irene Nemirovsky


I hope you enjoy listening to Russian Guitar. 






This is a profound novel. It details the lives of poverty stricken Jewish people escaping Eastern Europe and becoming adept at business and then extremely wealthy in Western Europe.

But does it make them happy? It seems to me that in order to avoid hearing the empty rattling in their own souls they fill themselves up with material goods, intrigues, cruises, travel, mistresses and toy boys.

It is very sad to witness a family in which each member so thoroughly hates the other. The protagonist, David Golder, is a brilliant businessman and has given his wife and daughter everything they want, but the stress and pressure is beating him down. He receives no sympathy from wife or daughter, who view him solely as a source to provide their gratifications.

Even when he has a heart attack, no one cares. But then, neither does he. A friend and business associate is failing financially for the same reason Golder is sinking: the extravagant lifestyle of their family. Golder refuses to help him and the man commits suicide.

I am astounded at just how extravagant Golder's family is. Money means absolutely nothing to them, except to buy obscenely expensive cars and jewelry. Their only concern is when it runs out.

If Golder dies, his wife and daughter are worried about the money supply drying up. But then again, if they can get their hands on his money, then it would be better if he died, or so they think.

The callousness of these people is shocking, but convincingly written. This is the first book I've read by Nemirovsky and I enjoyed her fluid, yet pungent style. She exposes her characters so their leathery hearts are absolutely naked.

This book was written in the 1920s before a decade that was going to see the destruction of many wealthy Jews (not to mention poor ones as well) but I wonder how shocking that must be for anyone to live in such glamour and luxury to suddenly find themselves stripped of everything, money, power, human dignity and even life itself.


Monday, April 19, 2021

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

 Here is some "Peaceful Lute Music."

 Here is a painting of Fred.  Fred is my friend's rooster.  He is such a sweetheart and so protective of his "girls".  I've painted several Acrylics of big, beautiful Fred.



 I don't know if this is the best biography out there of Walt Disney, but it certainly seemed thorough, balanced and respectful of its subject.

Gabler starts with Disney's humble upbringing in the Midwest, and describes how his fierce determination and genius to succeed as an animator drove him ultimately to Hollywood where he became legendary.

The most fascinating parts were Gabler's account of how Disney radically altered animation. He was the first to provide color, more cells of drawing per second and also was the first to create animation shorts with sound. He pioneered all of this when they were barely concepts in regular movies, much less cartoons.

Gabler describes Disney's tyrannical and perfectionist nature that forced him to do anything and everything to make his vision a reality. As an animator, this involved scouting out the best talent, even creating an animation school to provide continual training for the animators he hired.

This part, the process of creating such phenomenal movies as Snow White is extremely interesting and I would advise all aspiring movie makers and animators to read this. Not only because it provides the history of animation, of course it's all on computer now, but the techniques used to create convincing movement and character.

Disney would have the cartoonists go out and watch deer and other animals. They would dance about in the studio and base facial expressions on each other. Disney was all about realism in the beginning.

This gradually changed, largely because the audience changed and also the financial requirements were prohibitive. That is the second most invaluable part of this book for aspiring movie makers: just what everything costs. I couldn't believe how just creating a Disney short could be so expensive.

Walt's brother Roy was the business side of it. It was his job to beg, borrow and in every way above the law acquire the money to support Disney's dream.

Later Walt's dreams expanded into live action TV and movies and finally culminated into Disneyland. The process by which these were accomplished was also enlightening.

My only grievance against the book was the author's denigrating of most of Disney's movies. According to Gable, the only good movie Disney made was Snow White. Every other animated movie was a failure. I think he bases this largely because the other movies barely recovered the costs to make them.

Maybe I'm looking through the rose glasses of childhood memories, but I LOVED the Disney movies. Bambi was one of my all time favorites and so was Pinocchio.

The other grievance, if I can call it that, is Gabler's habit of presuming Disney's motives, which I think no one but Disney can really know. Also to make sweeping generalizations about the American populace and what everyone was feeling or thinking during particular world events (World Wars, Depression, etc.) is rather presumptuous. Who knows why people liked certain types of movies at one time and didn't at another. I think most people don't think much about it and just go with the flow. A scary thought, to be sure, when one considers what kind of power that gives Hollywood and I think there is plenty of evidence in our culture that they have wielded that power.

Those complaints aside, this is an excellent biography and one for those who would like to put an actual person behind the famous name. 
 Here's the real Fred.  Isn't he handsome?



Monday, April 12, 2021

Fatal Descent by John Rhode and Carter Dickson

Here's some Liszt.

 Here are some cards I've been working on for spring.


 And here is Herr von Ringneck plotting his next nefarious scheme. "They'll never find the bodies buried under the Azalea Bushes...hoo hoo ha, ha, ha!"


This was a blistering good mystery. I had no idea what to expect and there were surprises at every turn. Not even close to predicting the ending even when the authors seemed to be leading up to a certain culprit...bam...surprise!

Lots of shady and lovable characters. Nobody's who you think they are.

The whole story takes place in a publishing house. I won't tell you who is murdered or even how. Needless to say someone is and in a seemingly impossible way. Another "locked room" mystery, except it's not in a locked room. But I won't tell you where. I don't want to spoil anything for all you who would want to read this and I would think every crime mystery fan would want to.

One thing I'll reveal: A Doctor who specializes in psychology and a Homicide Detective work together to solve the problem. I especially liked how everyone was treated with respect and there were no straw man (usually buffoonish policemen, which I hate). It made a nice story with characters I could sympathize with and respect.

OK, the one female character was annoying, but it furthered the plot, so, whatever. 
Meanwhile Josh is worried that Furry Little Maurice might be the guilty party who buried tiny little pellets under the blanket next to his head.


Saturday, April 3, 2021

Ruffian Dick: A Novel of Sir Richard Francis Burton by Joseph Kennedy

I won't publish tomorrow because today I want to wish all my blogging friends a very blessed weekend and Happy Easter.  I love you all!!

Here's a young hot shot playing Grieg Piano concerto in A minor, Op.16.
I realized that this is a post from a year and three months ago when I spent the new 2020 year with my mom and dad.  As I've already posted, my mother passed away January 14, 2021.  I was going to change the caption, but decided it's a nice memory:

I've been staying with my parents in Florida this week, bringing in the New Year with them.  I've told you all that my mother has stage four lung cancer, but she is doing very well.  She's back home and, while her energy is gone, we're able to drive to the area beaches and enjoy the sand, sun and, in the case below, rain:

Artistic, isn't it?  It's because it was raining hard and I took the photo from inside the car.  What you see is the distortion caused by the rain on the windshield.  I like it.  Rather like an impressionistic painting.

The second day the sun came out.

Ruffian Dick: A Novel of Sir Richard Francis BurtonRuffian Dick: A Novel of Sir Richard Francis Burton by Joseph Kennedy
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I gave this book a one star rating, not because it was horrible, but because it was OK. According to the Goodreads rating system that is what one star means. How one would rate "horrible" I don't know. Maybe they should have a negative graph system.

Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS was a British explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, Freemason, and diplomat. 
I got the above from Wikipedia. He sounds like someone who would be fascinating to read about, doesn't he?  Maybe he is, but you won't get an inkling from this book.
First of all, I thought this was a work of non-fiction and it isn't. It is the product of the author's imagination, supposedly based on Burton's actually diaries and letters. Other reviews say that Kennedy is a reliable source. Fine. His writing is still a bore.

Also, he dwells far too much on the salacious and vulgar. Not inspiring. Maybe Burton really led that sort of life. Maybe he really wrote about every...single...sexual proclivity... he suffered from, but who cares? If I wanted to read that junk, I'd read Judith Krantz.

I got this at a warehouse for three dollars and, I know it seems cheap on my part, but I am returning it and exchanging it for a biography on Duke Ellington. I have a self-imposed budget limit and I chose this over Duke. Let's hope Ellington's biographer is more interested in giving a balanced picture of one of my favorite big band, jazz artists. I'll let you know.

View all my reviews
As I said before I want to post a few photos with my mother (and father, of course) in memory of her.  My parents on their wedding day, July 11, 1957. They got married at Carswell AFB in Fort Worth, Texas.  When they visited, we loved to drive to Fort Worth and visit their old haunts.  The house they lived in has been torn down, but the site is still there.


Monday, March 29, 2021

The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda


Here's some Vivaldi.

 Hercule has been in suspense all week.

And now to relieve you all of the suspense you've been feeling all this week:


Last week our music library at the University where I work decided to give away all their vinyl records.  They were free to anyone who wanted any as long as they promised not to sell them.  

 I waited until the students got what they wanted and took the rest.  I am now the proud owner of  over 500 classical records, most of them in prime condition.

It took some rearranging, but I got most of them on the bottom shelf of the dining room bookshelf.


 The ones I am currently listening to are under the table in my work room:

My record player is in my work room where the birds, pigs and I can enjoy them.



All I need is a tower and I could run my own Classical Radio station.  The only drawback is having to jump up every ten minutes to change sides.


But I'm not complaining.  It's said that vinyl has a "warmer" sound than digital.  Maybe it's a cognitive bias, but I think it's true.

I do not know if this is the best biography of Lawrence of Arabia, but I certainly felt I learned a lot about the Middle East during WWI and Lawrence's role in helping the Arabs and consequently the British gain control of several of the Arab countries and bring about the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

This book does not glamorize, nor romanticize Lawrence's life, nor T.H. Lawrence as a person, but neither did it seem slanted the other way. Lawrence is enigmatic as a person, but also quite fierce as a warrior.

War is brutal and Lawrence had to act brutally as well as be brutalized. We gain a lot of insight in just how inhumane soldiers can be to each other. Think of the most inhumane practices you can imagine and then double it and you have how the Arabs treated their enemies. Double it again and you gain an idea of how vilely the Turks treated their enemies.

And then there were the western countries who fought through the Arabs (the British, the French) and those that fought through the Turks (the Germans, and the Russians) in order to gain access to valuable oil land and sea ports. It allows one to gain insight as to how leadership in various countries, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey was appointed and why the Middle East has the sort of 0leaders it has today.

Considering the profoundly significant role these countries play today in world events, it behooves all of us to learn the history of the Middle East.



Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Trial of Lizzie Borden: a true story by Cara Roberston

 I'm listening to the Sonata no. 8 by Prokofiev, performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy.


 Hubby cubby and I have been busy little bees these past two weeks.  After living with it for a year, we finally bit the bullet and switched my art room and the library.  Even with sky tubes, there was no view for my birds and me when I worked, which was not good since that is where I spend most of my time.  


Now my library has just enough light for reading. I keep my fiction here.





And now my work room has light with views, which I enjoy while working.

Even my birdies have a view.  I got a branch from the woods and propped it up in an old Christmas tree stand.



 I have another surprise but it will have to wait until next week.  (That's called a "teaser", folks.)


The Trial of Lizzie Borden was a good, step by step exploration of the mystery of the Borden murders.

We all know the rhyme:

Lizzy Borden took an axe
Gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
Gave her father forty-one.

But did she? She was acquitted for the murder.

To start at the beginning:

Lizzie Borden was ironing handkerchiefs in the dining room and Maggie, the house servant, was washing windows on the top floor.

Around 11:00am, Lizzie called to Maggie to come downstairs quickly for someone killed her father. Later her stepmother was also found dead in the upstairs bedroom. Both had been murdered with an ax.

According to autopsies, and blood coagulation, the mother had been killed an hour and a half earlier than the father.

The community of River Falls, Massachusetts, was completely unprepared for such a grotesque crime. The police seemed to be the least prepared. They couldn't find the murder weapon, they found no clothes of Lizzie's that had any blood on it, and although fingerprint samples were available at the time, they refused to use them, considering them unreliable.

Friends seemed to have incriminating evidence, such as one who had a note written by Lizzie, refused to cooperate and the police refused to press the issue.

Eventually an ax head was found but without the handle. It turns out Lizzie burned a dress the next day of the murders and her statements and alibis were tenuous and contradictory.

However, all the police had to go on was circumstantial evidence.

Cara Robertson takes the reader through everyone's testimony, the events themselves and the court trial. Some of it gets a bit long, but is still interesting. I felt both the prosecutor and defense lawyers used too much speculation and subjective feelings as to how or why Lizzie Borden, a wealthy young woman, could or could not be capable of such a heinous crime.

In the end, the defense won. It took the jury barely ninety minutes to decide the Lizzie was not guilty. Apparently Lizzie's gender and station in society won the day.

But did it?

After being set free, Lizzie determined to return to her home and continue as she left off. But the support that her friends and church gave her while she was on trial eroded and she soon found herself alone.

She and her sister
Emma decided to move and bought an expensive house on an estate. Lizzie then began to show peculiarities that showed another side to her. She kept strange, bohemian friends. After a while the home life became so unsupportable for her sister that she moved away.

It also came out the Lizzie was a thief. Furniture and jewelry stores discovered she was stealing from them and refused to accept her patronage after that.

The case has been cold since 1893 and some questions will never be answered:

If Lizzie Bordon didn't kill her parents, who did? The house was securely locked. And where was the murderer hiding for an hour and a half undetected between the murders?

Was Lizzie a psychopath or temporarily insane?

What happened to the murder weapon?

We'll never know.

Or will we? Robertson mentions concealed documentation of the trial that is classified because of some ruling over 120 years old. Maybe a law can overturn the classification and the documents can be unsealed and shed new light on one of the most famous cold cases in America. 
The only books in the art room I put on the top shelf for Percy to shred.  Cheapest parrot toy ever and no more than what those authors deserve. 

And a hint for next week:
What are those things on the bottom of my art book shelves in the dining room? 

 Tune in next week to find out. Same Bat time; same Bat channel.