Recently Read Books

  • A Delicate Truth- John Le Carre (fiction)
  • Perfect - Rachel Joyce (Fiction)
  • The Expats - Chris Pavone (Fiction)
  • An Event in Autumn - Henning Mankel (Fiction)
  • Winter in Madrid - C.J.Sansom (Fiction)
  • The Brothers - John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles - non-fiction
  • LIfe Among Giants - Bill Roorbach (Novel)
  • Empty Mansions - Bill Dedman (non-fiction)
  • Woodrow Wilson (non fiction)
  • Lawrence in Arabia (Non-Fiction)
  • In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helpren (Fiction)
  • Lesson in French - Hilary Reyl (fiction)
  • Unbroken- Laura Hillenbrand (Non-Fiction)
  • Venice, A New History- Thomas Madden - (Non- Fiction)
  • Life is a Gift - Tony Bennett Autobiography
  • The First Counsell - Brad Meltzer (Fiction)
  • Destiny of the Republic - President James Garfield non-fiction by Candice Millard
  • The Last Lion (volume III)- William Manchester and Paul Reid (non-fiction, Winston Churchill)
  • Yellowstone Autumn -W.D. Wetherell (non-fiction about turning 55 and fishing in Yellowstone)
  • Everybody was Young- (non-fiction Paris in the 1920's)
  • Scorpion - (non fiction US Supreme Court)
  • Supreme Power - Jeff Shesol (non-fiction)
  • Zero day by David Baldacci ( I read all of Baldacci's Books)
  • Northwest Angle - William Kent Krueger (fiction - I have read 5 or 6 books by this author)
  • Camelot's Court-Insider the Kennedy Whitehouse- Robert Dallek
  • Childe Hassam -Impressionist (a beautiful book of his paintings)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Right Words

Words. I love em. I like to read them, I like to speak them and I like to write them. Words are powerful tools and when put in the proper order they can make us laugh or cry. They can outrage us or soothe us. They can inspire us to do better or make us resentful. The spoken word is enhanced by the speakers tone or cadence, the delivery if you will, but the written word must stand alone to cause the reader to react in the manner intended by the author. Think about the powerful and effective speakers you have heard. President Obama, President Kennedy, Mario Como (former governor of New York), President Clinton, Martin Luther King and President Reagan. Those speakers could read a laundry list and get you excited. However, give the same laundry list to President Bush 1 or President Bush 2, Senator John Kerry, or Senator John McCain and they will put you to sleep.

However, the written word must express a message without the help of the skillful delivery of a speaker. The words themselves must tell the store, stir the emotion or paint the picture. Consider the following from President Reagan’s speech on the 40th anniversary of D Day. The words are as powerful when read as they were when they were spoken by President Reagan:

We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For 4 long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but 40 years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers -- the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machineguns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After 2 days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your ``lives fought for life . . . and left the vivid air signed with your honor.''

Bobby Kennedy was not a naturally gifted speaker, but his words carried the essence of conviction, the power of things that are right and the belief that ideas combined with actions can make a difference. His speeches were not delivered theatrically Like Reagan and Obama, but rather they were delivered simply as a one man speaks to his neighbor. Read his words from June 6, 1966 in Capetown, South Africa:

At the heart of that Western freedom and democracy is the belief that the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit. Therefore the enlargement of liberty for individual human beings must be the supreme goal and the abiding practice of any Western society.

The first element of this individual liberty is the freedom of speech: the right to express and communicate ideas, to set oneself apart from the dumb beasts of field and forest; to recall governments to their duties and obligations; above all, the right to affirm one's membership and allegiance to the body politic - to society - to the men with whom we share our land, our heritage, and our children's future.

Hand in hand with freedom of speech goes the power to be heard, to share in the decisions of government which shape men's lives. Everything that makes man's life worthwhile - family, work, education, a place to rear one's children and a place to rest one's head - all this depends on decisions of government; all can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people. Therefore, the essential humanity of men can be protected and preserved only where government must answer - not just to the wealthy, not just to those of a particular religion, or a particular race, but to all its people.

And even government by the consent of the governed, as in our own Constitution, must be limited in its power to act against its people; so that there may be no interference with the right to worship, or with the security of the home; no arbitrary imposition of pains or penalties by officials high or low; no restrictions on the freedom of men to seek education or work or opportunity of any kind, so that each man may become all he is capable of becoming.

I am a fan of writer Pat Conroy who has written such books as The Prince of Tides, Beach Music and South of Broad. Mr. Conroy is truly an artist with words. Here are few examples from his writings:

I did not yet have the interior resources to dream new dreams, I was far too busy mourning the death of the old ones and wondering how I was going to survive without them.

American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough.

Walking the streets of Charleston in the late afternoons of August was like walking through gauze or inhaling damaged silk.

Her laughter was a shiny thing, like pewter flung high in the air.

Charleston has a landscape that encourages intimacy and partisanship. I have heard it said that an inoculation to the sights and smells of the Carolina lowcountry is an almost irreversible antidote to the charms of other landscapes, other alien geographies. You can be moved profoundly by other vistas, by other oceans, by soaring mountain ranges, but you can never be seduced. You can even forsake the lowcountry, renounce it for other climates, but you can never completely escape the sensuous, semitropical pull of Charleston and her marshes.

It enclosed us in its laceries as we watched the moon spill across the Atlantic like wine from an overturned glass. With the light all around us, we felt secret in that moon-infused water like pearls forming in the soft tissues of oysters.

Then another porpoise broke the water and rolled toward us. A third and fourth porpoise neared. The visitation was something so rare and perfect that we knew by instinct not to speak—and then as quickly as they had come, the porpoises moved away from us…Each of us would remember that all during our lives. It was the purest moment of freedom and headlong exhilaration that I had ever felt. A wordless covenant was set, and I would go back in my imagination, and return to where happiness seemed so easy to touch.

The English language on her tongue became a smoke-screen, without her eyes changing expression in the least.

Memory in these incomparable streets, in mosaics of pain and sweetness, was clear to me now, a unity at last. I remembered small and unimportant things from the past: the whispers of roommates during thunderstorms, the smell of brass polish on my fingertips, the first swim at Folly Beach in April, lightning over the Atlantic, shelling oysters at Bowen's Island during a rare Carolina snowstorm, pigeons strutting across the graveyard at St. Philip's, lawyers moving out of their offices to lunch on Broad Street, the darkness of reveille on cold winter mornings, regattas, the flash of bagpipers' tartans passing in review, blue herons on the marshes, the pressure of the chinstrap on my shako, brotherhood, shad roe at Henry's, camellias floating above water in a porcelain bowl, the scowl of Mark Santoro, and brotherhood again.

I had come to Charleston as a young boy, a lonely visitor slouching through its well-tended streets, a young boy, lean and grassy, who grew fluent in his devotion and appreciation of that city's inestimable charm. I was a boy there and saw things through the eyes of a boy for the last time. The boy was dying and I wanted to leave him in the silent lanes South of Broad. I would leave him with no regrets except that I had not stopped to honor his passing. I had not thanked the boy for his capacity for astonishment, for curiosity, and for survival. I was indebted to that boy. I owed him my respect and my thanks. I owed him my remembrance of the lessons he learned so keenly and so ominously.

Even without hearing Mr. Conroy’s words spoken, in your own mind you can almost hear a soft southern accent in a slow cadence manner of speaking. You can almost feel southern heat and humidity in the air around you. His words leave an impact on you in a way that makes you see a picture and not merely read words on the page.

Next time you read words that stir your soul, read them a couple of times and appreciate the talent of the writer.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque

I am sure you are aware of the controversy surrounding a mosque and Islamic Center that is proposed to be built some 600 feet from Ground Zero in New York. Ground Zero is the site of collapse of the Twin Towers. The project has been approved by the New York City Council and has been supported by Michael Bloomberg, the Republican Mayor of New York City. Last week President Obama supported the rights of Muslins to construct a mosque near ground zero. I try to be tolerant of differing views, cultures, religions and political and social beliefs but I believe it is fundamentally wrong to allow a mosque and Islamic Center to be constructed in such close vicinity to Ground Zero. The 9/11 attack and murder of more than 3,000 Americans were carried out by Muslims in the name of Mohammed. Since that date death to Americans has been a rally cry of many Muslim extremists. Continued plots to attack Americans are attempted each year.

Why do we feel compelled to allow a project to built at Ground Zero by the religion that fosters the very views that caused the 9/11 attackers and subsequent attackers to attempt to destroy us? We are told it is because of our beliefs of religious freedom.

Are Americans and other non- Muslims offered the same religious freedoms in Muslim Countries? Of course not. I happened upon a website of the Australian government giving Australian citizens advice to Saudi Arabia. Here are a few of the pieces of advice:

Preaching religions other than Islam may result in imprisonment and corporal punishment.

The importation of religious books and materials (other than those reflecting orthodox Islam) is forbidden. Generally, individuals are able to bring one bible for private use.

Women are legally required to wear the abaya, a long black coat that conceals their body shape, in all public places. The abaya is worn over loose-fitting, full-length clothing. While many local women wear a headscarf, foreign women are not generally required to follow suit. It is advisable, though, to carry a dark-coloured scarf in case you are confronted by the religious police (Muttawa) or a private citizen who takes offence.

Muslims countries restrict what Americans and other non-Muslims can do in Muslim counties. They restrict what buildings we can build. They restrict what religious books we can distribute. They restrict what we can eat or drink and to some extent even wear.

I am no fan of Newt Gingrich a former US Congressman and I disagree with most of his political and social positions. However, I pretty much agree with his comments concerning the building of a mosque near Ground Zero. Here is his statement on the issue:

“There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.

The proposed "Cordoba House" overlooking the World Trade Center site - where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks - is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites. For example, most of them don't understand that "Cordoba House" is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba, Spain - the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world's third-largest mosque complex.

Today, some of the Mosque's backers insist this term is being used to "symbolize interfaith cooperation" when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest. It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way. Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for "religious toleration" are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca.

And they lecture us about tolerance. If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom. They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign.

We have not been able to rebuild the World Trade Center in nine years. Now we are being told a 13 story, $100 million megamosque will be built within a year overlooking the site of the most devastating surprise attack in American history.

Finally where is the money coming from? The people behind the Cordoba House refuse to reveal all their funding sources.

America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could. No mosque. No self deception. No surrender. The time to take a stand is now - at this site on this issue.”

I personally think it is wrong and maybe even outrageous for this project to be allowed to move forward.

Monday, August 16, 2010

TV Ads

Television ads. Do you ever really listen to them? Are they just background noise for you or do you really hear what they are saying? For me they are usually just back ground noise like the ticking of the clock, or music in a grocery store. However, lately I have listened to a number of ads and have wondered “what are they thinking?” For example:

There is an ongoing ad that promotes a particular brand of a prescriptive anti- depressant The prescriptive medication that is being promoted in this ad is intended to help you when you are depressed. At the first part of the ad, the people look sad, they look depressed. Face it, they are supposed to look that way because they are sad and depressed. The voice over in the ad tells you that if you have this malady of depression your life can be better if you get your doctor to prescribe this particular brand of anti-depressant. The visuals change to attractive men and women smiling, playing in the park, walking with friends and families; doing fun stuff, smiling and looking like they are having a blast. After listening to the ad, you are thinking” hey I need to be happier; I need to have more fun”. Maybe I should get my doctor to give me some of these fun pills. But then it happens. The fast spoken disclaimer is stated in quiet and serious tones by the announcer.

“This medication may cause you to be depressed. It may cause you to feel suicidal. If you take this medication you may not be able to have sex, or talk. You may bleed from the anus, you may have dry mouth and unable to swallow. You may become dizzy and unable to walk.”

For goodness sake, the side effects and risk of taking this anti-depressant drug is that you may become more depressed, even suicidal? Maybe this is not such an effective drug. I am sad, depressed, down, unhappy so I take the drug, I become more depressed, even suicidal. I can’t swallow, talk, or have sex and I start bleeding from an orifice. It causes me to be dizzy and unable to walk straight. Call me crazy, but this does not sound like a particularly effective drug. If I don’t take the drug, I remain depressed but I am not bleeding from my backside, I can swallow and still have sex and I won’t walk around in a dizzy state. I mean really, would you buy a window cleaning product that had a side effect of making your windows dirty? Would you buy a “smart” pill that you made dumber? I don’t think so. This ad does not convince me that this pill would be all that helpful.

Another ad that just strikes me as totally unbelievable is for the dog food Beneful. In the ad the announcer says that Beneful has all of the things your dog loves like peas and carrots (and meat products). Oh really, things my dog loves likes peas and carrots? Do you really think a dog craves peas and carrots? When you walk in the door after being gone all day, do you think your hungry dog is really jumping around, wagging his tail, barking and thinking, “Oh boy he is home, I hope he brought me some peas and carrots?” Of course not, your starving, slobbering dog, who has been dreaming about chasing and eating rabbits before you arrive home sees you and is thinking, “ I am starved, I need meat, I hope he killed a deer for me, I hope he brought me a steak. I need a bone to chew on.” Did you ever hear about a pack of wild dogs hunting for peas or carrots?

Try this experiment. Don’t feed your dog for 24 hours. Then place a bowl of peas (ok, make that peas and carrots) before your dog and also place a juicy steak or a pork chop in front of your dog. Is there any question in your mind what food the dog would go after? Of course not, he would chew your hand off getting to the meat.

To Beneful, I say maybe peas and carrots add some nutritional value to the dog food, but please don’t tell me the dog craves peas and carrots. I might have been born on a day, it just wasn’t yesterday.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Summer Books

If you have read this blog before, you know that I love to read, I love books stores and I love libraries. The Lovely Sharon and I have the love of books in common. Although we have had a busy summer, we have each found the time to read several books, fiction as well as non-fiction.  We pass some books back and forth to each other and others I read but she doesn't or she reads and I don't. Here are few blurbs on some recently read books. If you are looking for some good reads, try one.

Non- Fiction

Americans in Paris (Life & Death Under Nazi Occupation) by Charles Glass. This is an account of several thousand Americans who were living in Paris prior to the time of Nazi occupation in 1940 and who remained in Paris (or other parts of France) during World War II. Although many of the Americans left Paris as the Nazi’s came in, a few thousands stayed. This book is a terrific book and if you are interested in the specific history of that time period and the city of Paris.

Citizens of London by Lynne Olsen. I am big Winston Churchill fan and have read many books about Churchill and books written by Churchill. This book is an account of three extraordinary Americans who were intermediaries between Churchill and his government and Franklin D. Roosevelt and the American government from about 1939 until the end of World War II. These three Americans were (i) John Gilbert Winant (who serve as the U.S Ambassador to England for much of this time); (ii) Averell Harriman, a railroad baron who was FDR’s liaison with Churchill and the coordinator of the US Lend- Lease program that supplied food and military equipment to England prior to the US’ entry into World War II; and (iii) Edward R. Murrow, the famous reporter. This book describes the London Blitz, behind the scenes of Churchill and FDR and a good look at English society during this period. This was my favorite book this summer.

Elsie & Mary Go to War by Diane Atkinson. This is a story of two women from England and Scotland who served as nurses and ambulance drivers during World War I. These women met in 1912 ( before the start of WWI). They were motorcycle riders, dare devils and truly extraordinary people. When the War started, they volunteered their services and ended up on the Western Front in Belgium for several years caring for wounded soldiers. They were decorated heroes for their work at the front line of the War.


The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva. I have read 7 or 8 books by Daniel Silva. He is a premier writer of thrillers. This is another terrific book. Check out his website at

In the Name of Honor by Richard North Patterson. I read most of Patterson’s books. This murder mystery is a very good read. Check out his website at

Private by James Patterson. I also read most of what James Patterson writes. Many of his books have co-writers. Although I enjoyed this mystery, it kind of seems that James Patterson is focusing on the volume of books written or co-written more than on the quality. Check out his website at

Lucid Intervals by Stuart Woods.   When I first started dating the Lovely Sharon, she introduced me to Stuart Woods books.  Mr. Woods is a mystery writer who turns out a great number of books. He has several different series of books that feature continuing characters. This is another in the Stone Barrington series. Woods’ books are fast reading and not detail oriented books. I think I read this book in three hours or so. If Daniel Silva and Richard North Patterson books can be equated to full length feature films, Stuart Woods’ books would be equated to a one hour television series episode. That is not a criticism, just an observation. Sharon and I read every book Woods writes and enjoy them but sometimes I don’t quite feel satisfied after reading his books like I need something more. This Stone Barrington adventure of murder, mystery and sex was one of my favorite Stone Barrington novels of the last several. Check out his website at

I have a stack of books in the Bud Cave to get to.  I have two about Leland Standford, one about Teddy Rooseveldt and the beginning of the national parks system, and one about the Oregon Trail and the California Trail during the mid 1800's. So I better close at this blog entry and start reading before the Lovely Sharon and I make our 10:30 tee time with dear friends Robin and Paul. 

If you have read a good book this summer let me know by leaving a comment on this blog so that other readers of this blog and I can check it out.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Misses

I have not written much in this blog this summer; been busy with golf, outdoors stuff, reading and hanging out with the Lovely Sharon. For a good part of the year, the Lovely Sharon and I live in different cities. During such time I live in Salt Lake and she lives in Palm Desert. Although I visit Palm Desert often when she is there, we do in fact live in two different cities for more than half the year. I can’t tell you how nice it is in the summer time when we are both living in the same city to be able to do the little things. It is so nice for one of us to be able to say, “let’s watch TV together, let’s go to Home Depot, let’s go to the library”. It is nice to come home from work or golf and see her sitting on the porch or tending to the flowers in the yard.

It is sooooo nice (please read sarcasm in the word “sooooo”) when she comes into the Bud Cave for inspection and analysis of the lack of order of my mortal existence. If I am in the Bud Cave on my computer or sitting in my leather chair watching TV or reading, she will walk in and look around. Her look around is not a casual glance around the Bud Cave, it is more like the look of a Marine Colonel on the beaches of Normandy at the D Day invasion of France during World War II. She has that look in her eye where she trying to see something that may or may not be there. While the Colonel may say “Is that the enemy over there?” “Is that a machine gun sniper nest?” I hear comments from the Lovely Sharon like “Why do you have two pairs of shoes by the couch”? “Why do you have so many books stacked up on the floor”? “I can write my name in the dust on your coffee table”. Normally I either get irritated by her observations concerning the general appearance of the Bud Cave or I pretend I can’t hear her. The “pretending I can’t hear her” approach does not work that well because she is standing within six feet from me when she is making her comments.

Thursday night I figured out a new approach to her comments. I played golf in my regular Thursday men’s game. When I arrived home the Lovely Sharon was watching a replay of the PGA Championship on TV. She had played in a women’s golf tournament early in the day and was just relaxing on the couch. I said hello, we embraced, a peck on the lips and I walked down to the Bud Cave to check email and relax. I suppose I was too quiet because after awhile she wondered what I was doing and she came down to the Bud Cave to see what trouble I was causing. She looked at the lovely wooden trash can that I have under my desk. Apparently, I had missed a couple of times when I had attempted to toss papers, water bottle tops and other sundry items into the trash can. She picked up the odd stray items and said something like “why don’t you pick up the misses off the floor and put them in the can”. Instead of pretending I didn’t hear her or instead of getting irritated, I decided to agree with her. Our conversation went something like this:

The Lovely Sharon: “Why don’t you pick up the misses off the floor and put them in the can?”

Me: “Yeah, why don’t I pick the misses off the floor and put them in the can”.

The Lovely Sharon: “It does not take that much effort to bend down and pick em’ up and put them in the can”.

Me: “You are right, it does not take that much effort to bend down and pick em’ up and put them in the can”.

The Lovely Sharon: “If you are not gonna put all of the trash in the can why even have a can?

Me. “You are right, if I am not gonna put all of the trash in the can, why even have a can”?

The Lovely Sharon: “Why don’t you get rid of the can and just build a pile of trash under your desk”?

Me: “You are right, why don’t I get rid of the can and just build a pile of trash under my desk”.

Although I was very much enjoying this wonderful spousal give and take dialogue, the kind of dialogue you could never have with a woman if you were merely dating, I could see that the Lovely Sharon was not getting the same pleasure from our tete a tete. She stopped talking and rolled her eyes in what seem to be a look of defeatism and silently left the Bud Cave for greener pastures. I felt good. I was able to protect the sanctity of the Bud Cave without arguing or pretending I didn’t hear her. It was simple, just agree with her. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?

Later that evening I approached her while she was sitting in the family room. I said, “It would be nice if you could pick up my laundry from the cleaners tomorrow while I am at work.” After I uttered these words, she looked at me; first with a look of incredulity and then with a look like a light bulb just went on in her head. She responded with “Yes it would be nice if I could pick up your laundry from the cleaners tomorrow”. She then turned back to watching the TV.

Well, I suppose my new approach of protecting the sanctity of the Bud Cave was not as effecive as I had initially thought. It came right back to bite me in the derriere. Next time I toss something in the Bud Cave trash can, I will make certain it ends up in the can.