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Apparently April is Poetry Month (did anyone else know?) and every morning the English Department at our high school publishes a poem at the end of the daily announcements. I felt inspired to contribute something and as I was skimming through works by my favorite poets, I came across this poem by one of the […]

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Professor Bettany Hughes, award-winning historian, BBC broadcaster, and author of the best-selling books Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore; The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens, and the Search for the Good Life; and Venus and Aphrodite: History of a Goddess.

Prof. Hughes shares insights from her most recent book about the ancient deity known as Venus to Romans and Aphrodite to the Greeks, and her impact on our understanding of the mythology and history of beauty, romance, and passion. She discusses Aphrodite’s mythical role in sparking the Trojan War, portrayals of her across Western culture, and enduring lessons. They then turn to the ancient Greeks’ contributions to the foundations of Western philosophy, poetry, and government, and why studying classics, including figures like Socrates, is vital for education in the 21st century. And they explore the timeless wisdom and cautionary lessons all of us can draw from studying ancient Athenian democracy, Sparta, and the civic life of Greek city-states, the West’s earliest models of self-government. She concludes with a reading from her book, Venus and Aphrodite.

Children’s Books with No Politics

 

Friday morning, I saw that Beverly Cleary had died at age 104. For those of us of a certain age, we remember fondly the adventures of Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins. And that got me thinking about my aunt Molly Cone, who wrote three children’s books about a dog named Mishmash and his human companions.

I checked, and they are all still in print! So, if you go over to the Barnes and Noble website (click here), you can get them for your kids. No politics, just fun. And please don’t buy them from Amazon, but from Barnes and Noble, which needs all the help they can get.

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One of the great reads on Shakespeare is Harold C. Goddard’s The Meaning of Shakespeare, Volume 1. What a teacher this man must have been! (Head of the English Dept. at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in the 1930s and 40s.) Published in 1950 by The Chicago University Press, it has never been out of print. […]

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My Out-of-Control Reading Queue

 

It’s been a while since I wrote, and I was going to post this to a group, but then things got long and I decided I’m sharing this with everyone. So there. Anyhow, because I can’t just read one thing at a time, like a sane person, I’ve a rather long list of “currently reading” items which I’ll list here (with at least one “just finished”). There are actually several categories and reasons why they appear concurrently in my reading list. If you’re interested in just how distracted my reading mind gets, feel free to read on!

“Peace Talks” by Jim Butcher — The not quite latest in the Dresden saga. Once again, Dresden is in hot water even during Peace Talks amongst the various powers in the magical world. Which makes sense. Nothing is simple for him. The Jim Butcher Exponent of Action remains true in this book — as a Jim Butcher book continues, the action increases exponentially, and thus the longer his books go, the more we approach Infinite Action!

“Galen’s Way” by Richard Paolinelli — An independently published eBook, this falls in the genre of Space Opera, when men are real men, women are real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri are real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. So to speak. This takes place in another galaxy centuries after humanity fled some strange entity’s assault on the Milky Way. There’s action, political skullduggery, and fun stuff like that.

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Mark Alexander’s wonderful discussion on modern PI series got me thinking about the polar opposite. Detective series set far in the past. Setting a dividing line before Kulikovo (1380) shall we say, how many series can my fellow ricochetti recommend? Three come to my mind. In chronological order: Preview Open

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The Great Books: Modern P.I. Series

 

These are the series I will reread time and again, the ones that suck me back in and have held up over time. By “modern” I mean 1960s on, and include both licensed P.I.s and sole investigators. I’ll occasionally go back to some individual classics by Hammett, Chandler, Christie, and Ellery Queen (especially the trilogy of Queen failures at the center of which is Ten Days Wonder, a masterpiece.) But these twelve are the ones I will reread in their entirety.

JOHN D. MACDONALD, Travis McGee (21 books)
A hardcore beach bum burnout who lives on a houseboat in Florida, Travis is a prototype for many to come, including Jack Reacher. The Kindle versions are high-priced, but individual ones pop up occasionally for $1.99.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Loung Ung, a human-rights activist; the author of the bestselling books First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, Lucky Child, and Lulu in the Sky; and a co-screenwriter of the 2017 Netflix Original Movie, First They Killed My Father. Ms. Ung shares her experiences living through genocide under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, which resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population. Loung talks about the experience of working with Angelina Jolie on the film version of First They Killed My Father, and the role that documentaries like hers and the award-winning 1984 film, The Killing Fields, can play in portraying the human stories behind historic events. They explore Ms. Ung’s life in America, and the support she received from her secondary school teachers in Essex Junction, Vermont, her professors at St. Michael’s College, and from local and religious institutions. The episode concludes with a reading from Loung Ung’s memoir.

Stories of the Week: A new poll shows that nearly a third of parents may continue with remote learning after COVID. According to a new report, only one in six Indiana college students who study education actually join the teaching profession. How can we remove barriers to entry, especially among people of color?

Cruising the Ancient Mediterranean in a Modern Cruise Ship

 

Eric Flint’s Assiti Shards stories are alternate history series where people from the present are cast into the past by shards of time-shifting artwork striking the Earth. It started with “1632,” with a West Virginia small town transposed with space from Thirty Years War Germany. In 2017, a new branch of the series began. In “The Alexander Inheritance,” cruise ship Queen of the Sea gets sent back to the ancient Mediterranean, the year after Alexander the Great’s death.

“The Macedonian Hazard,” by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett continues Queen of the Sea’s ancient voyage. It follows the cruise ship’s adventures navigating the narrow waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the narrow minds of Seleucid leaders attempting to control pieces of Alexander the Great’s disintegrating empire.

The Queen of the Sea won uneasy neutrality in “The Alexander Inheritance,” becoming a floating embassy for the various civilizations ringing the Mediterranean. It hosts passengers from most, serving as a platform where they parley. It also crossed the Atlantic to establish a settlement on Trinidad, from which it extracts fuel to keep the ship going.

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I was reading Bari Weiss’ announcement of a new organization called Fair that is going to try and fight back against cancel culture and she linked to a fascinating article by Abagaik Shrier entitled Book Banning in an Age of Amazon She had a wonderful quote that I think is amazing and you should all […]

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The Great Books

 

Remember those 71 volumes of the Harvard Classics that you felt bound to read but after many minor starts, you set aside a volume and got lost in that detective series? So many books; so little time.

Well, the dreaded Amazon has published on Kindle all 71 volumes in one mostly well-linked file for a mere $1.99. Worth the price. Only 37,451 pages. I always have five or six books I’m reading, switching from one to the other, depending on my mood.

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I heard a doctor from Massachusetts this past weekend on NPR say that it’s OK to use the word “obesity” but not the word “obese.” Obese is a label, she said, and she was trying to get people to stop saying it. If memory serves me well, the point of using “obese” was to avoid […]

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(Part I and Part II here and here.) I read only a handful of books in 2020, but what I did read provided savory experiences that took me all over the world. The richest discovery I made last year was Gerald Durrell’s Corfu trilogy, of which I read My Family and Other Animals and Birds, […]

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This is, I suppose, about as off-the-wall as a question can be, but my memory has once again failed me.  Many many years ago I read a story, surely science fiction, wherein the author posited that the number of pleasing musical score had to be a finite number.  As I recall, there was something in […]

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Intrigue Seeking Stolen Nazi Art

 

On March 22, 1945 Major Max Hignite flew his last Luftwaffe mission; a flight to Switzerland in a Ju-52 loaded with artwork stolen by the Nazis. The plane crashed, sealed in a cave by a Swiss lake. Hignite, badly injured, survived. Rescued by local Swiss, he spent months near death in a hospital. By the time he recovered, the Ju-52 had disappeared. Only Hignite was aware of its contents. He decided to move on with his life.

So opens “Ghosts of the Past,” a novel by Mark H.Downer. Moving on included going to the United States after the war ended, joining family who immigrated to the US in the 1930s. In spring, 2001, Hignite is dying. He passes his final flight’s secret to his favorite grandnephew, Matt Ferguson. Matt inherits the aircraft’s manifest cargo and a map showing where it crashed.

Matt, in a well-paying but dull job, decides to recover the treasure as a one-off adventure. Since he is Max Hignite’s executor, Matt uses settling his grand-uncle’s estate as an excuse to take a leave of absence.

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Never, while buying an Ameripass, did I hear the Greyhound clerk say, “What, another?” If a clerk did say that, it would not have been because he’d remembered me doing this before. I think I bought two or three in San Antonio, but over a period of many years. The others I bought were in […]

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So, some SJW Red Guard wanna-be has set his sights on one of the last publishers in the SF/Fantasy publishing business which still stands its ground on free speech, namely Jim Baen. The creep in question has started a Twitter and social media campaign to get them de-platformed. You can read about it in detail […]

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