Sunday, November 25, 2012

Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road

By Willie Nelson 

If you are a Willie Nelson fan, read this book. If you are NOT a Willie Nelson fan, then you should be, and you will be if you read this book. Willie is a great man, poet, philosopher and family man. The book? Why the book is a work of art. There are lyrics, ( mostly his own) and illustrations by his son Micah. 

We all know a lot of things about Willie Nelson, his music, his tribulations and his charity. I had no idea that he was a philosopher, or a man so loving that his patchwork family doesn't know or care who started where or why. That, in my opinion, is his greatest talent. He is an amazing and loving family man. 

Scattered throughout the book you will find stories and thoughts about Willie, written by family and friends. They are a beautiful tribute. This book is not great literature, but it is great art, and great love. 


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Destiny of the Republic

by Candice Millard

This is compelling book about an extraordinary man. The more I read, the more ashamed I felt that I had not known more about him sooner. This was a man who was born into poverty, who loved family friend and country. He asked nothing from anyone except himself.

To say that he was a man of kindness and honor is to not say enough. He had gained the respect of nearly all who knew him, barring only those whose own aspirations and jealousies prevented them from seeing the man that james Garfield had become. 

He found a way to obtain the schooling that experiences early in life convinced him that he needed in order to make a difference, and making a difference is what he wanted most. Beginning with a few dollars his family had saved, he worked his way to and through a superior education. One made all the better by is own focus and intelligence. Life gave him the opportunity to meet and marry the love of his life. 

Garfield's path to the White House took him through the Civil War where he achieved the rank of general. He became a congressman whose own integrity led him to fight what was then, as it is now, a corrupt political atmosphere.Sadly, before he had a chance to make his mark in history, or change the course of this country, an attack on his life would soon leave both his family and country without this great man. One can only wonder how history might have been changed had he lived. I have to believe that he would have had a profound impact on his country. 

Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore: A Novel

by Robin Sloan 

Clay is a quiet, unemployed geeky ex NewBagel employee. His job involved computers and it made him happy. And then it didn't because it faded away, as so many jobs do. So in order to make a living he tried ( but not too hard) to find new employment. His heart wasn't really in it.. and his mind kept tking him in other direction. But some things are meant to be, and in that spirit, we see him going through the door of Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore. And he finds himself face to face with sparkling blue eyes and an older man who asked him "What do you seek in these shelves". As it turns out, those words were to begin a journey that would change his life. For that matter, They would also change the life of Penumbra, the man who spoke them.

The bookshop was tall and narrow. It was unlike any bookstore Clay had ever seen. And it was indeed unlike any other bookstore, anywhere. It was even unlike any bookstore anywhen. But it suited Clay, both the hours and the slightly ( slightly? ) weird atmosphere. The store was staffed by one other hired clerk, Oliver. Oliver was a student of archeology and The store suited him as well. It was hardly arduous being a clerk for Penumbra. Some nights, Most nights, as clay worked the 10 pm to 6 am shift he would only see one so called customer. So called because most of the people who came through the doors never bought a book, they borrowed them. They borrowed them from the Wayback part of the long, tall store. Sometimes He was climbing a ladder and reaching, reaching to bring a book to a usually older man or woman who had a name, and a number that were to be recorded in a logbook Penumbra kept under the counter. The name, the number and a description of the reader were carefully logged, as well as their manner of dress and their demeanor. Clay was intrigued.

During the long hours of the night, Clay was moved to create listing for the store on Google, and targeted local people, or those who might for some reason find themselves in the neighborhood. This too, was to have an interesting affect on Clays life. Funny how a small thing can have such a large impact. And so Clay found himself liking his unusual employer, and the more than slightly unusual little shop. It's a good thing, too considering what was to happen next.

I can't tell you any more. I really want you to read this book. It's quirky, it's techie, its mysterious and even funny. You don't want to miss it. Like the bookstore itself, something like this book is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. So.... what are you waiting for? This book can be in your hands in no time at all.. the internet is magic like that. In fact, the internet is magic beyond your wildest dreams.... go.. hurry... buy this book. You will be glad you did, I am pretty sure.

The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia

by Patricia Harmon

What an amazing read. I love the way this author writes. She writes about women, and their weaknesses and their joys. Mostly Patricia Harman writes about their strengths. This is a story of a woman who became a midwife more by accident than by design. Patience was a woman who had lost her parents at an early age, walked away from an orphanage and into the first of many adventures she was to experience. She lost a lover and a child, and eventually became a widow due to a terrible accident. Yet she found a way to survive. 

She landed in small, very poor town in West Virginia. The mines nearby provided work for some, but The Depression found its way into town and many of the richer inhabitants became poor and the poor became destitute. But life has a way of going on, and babies will be born, and so she made her living as a midwife, which she had learned from her great and beloved friend Mrs. Kelly during the years they shared a home and a way of life. Even though she had spent much of her life in cities like Pittsburgh and Chicago, she took to rural living like one who was born to it, and was finally living a life she enjoyed and was a respected member of the community. But even country life had its pitfalls, and she still had a challenge or two ahead of her. A self described warrior, she made her way, and eventually found more than a life she was content with, she found a way to be happy.

Dwarf: a memoir

by Tiffanie DiDonato, Rennie Dyball

This is the flat out, honest, intimate story of the life of a woman, a warrior in her own right, and it kept me glued to the pages from the moment I opened the covers of the book, 

Very shortly after her birth, her parents were informed, coldly and with no information that their newborn daughter suffered from a form of Dwarfism called Diastrophic Displasia. Her parents learned that is form of dwarfism causes a malformation of the joints, and cartilage. From the very earliest days surgery became a part of her life. First her feet and her joints, to enable her to stand. Later, elective surgeries that would lengthen the bones in her legs and arms. 

As a very young child, she was of course, not aware of her differences. She was with small children and was small herself. She was very good about learning to find ways to assist herself rather than always asking her parents for help. This was necessary because she was not only small, but her legs, and her arms were smaller than those of a typical child. Tong,s pencils and other household objects enabled her to do many things she would not be able to accomplish otherwise. 

Then, something happened on day.. that sent her mother, who by then had gone to school to study nursing, to seek out other and better ways to help her daughter. They found a doctor who could help. The fact that the painful surgery to lengthen her bones to make her legs and eventually her arms a bit longer was explained to little Tiffie and she made the choice to go ahead with it. She did this with the absolute support and untiring help of her mother. 

While the surgeries were indeed just as painful and the recovery as difficult as had been described, Tiffany thought it had been worth it. When once again an event in her life caused her to seek out further medical intervention and yes... more surgery, more pain. By this time in her life she had a friend, Mike. He was her friend, her sounding board, her unfaulty door. He was there for her in as many ways as he could be. 

Despite the fact that her original surgeon was not enthusiastic about further intervention, Tiffanie and her mom, the indomitable team sought out a way for Tiffanie to achieve her dream. This story is very honest and sometimes graphic in its descriptions of what she had to endure, first as a small child and then as an adolescent. It is an unflinching account of pain endured, humiliation and even isolation. But after her Dad, who at first was not as enthusiastic about her plans came on board, anything seemed possible. 

So this is the story of a young woman with more strength, than most will ever have to find in themselves in a lifetime, never mind during the years of their childhood and adolescence. It is a story that will make the reader stop and thing before complaining about the hand life has dealt to them. It is an inspirational and despite everything, it is a story of optimism and achievement. 

Read it.. you won't regret it. Recommended 

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power managed to be an interesting read, and almost exhaustingly informative, without being an enjoyable one. I have read other biographies, other books about historic events or periods in history that were fare more enjoyable and reader friendly than this dry story of an intriguing man.

In this book we are reminded that Thomas Jefferson was almost obsessive in pursuing an education in the classics, the arts and languages, as well as in leadership. He was an inventor of many things from apparently a dumbwaiter to a plow and even the round sundial and a bookstand. Some of these inventions are referred to within the pages of this dreary read. In short, it seems to me that he would be quite the handy man to have around as he was a problem solver and designer, as well as something of an engineer and efficiency expert. Not a bad list of qualities in your every day working man, never mind politician and political hero. One thing that touched me, being a reader was this.
On February 1, 1770, when his Shadwell house burned, his grief was primarily for his library, which was lost in the fire.

Jefferson was passionate when it came to serving his country and caring for his family, which at one point included not just his own wife Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, who was known famiiarly as Patty, and small daughter, but the wife and children of his brother. His sense of responsibility extended to the households of extended family members, and to this was added the house slaves left behind when his wife's father died in may of 1773.These slaves included Hemings family. The Hemings,Elizabeth, her sons Robert, James and john and his wife's half sister Sally Hemmings, were to serve him well and in many and various capacities over the years. Some in fact were regarded as members of his family, at least in his own heart.

Did jefferson strike a deal to win the presidency? Was a vote for Jefferson, merely a vote against Adams under whom he had at one time served as Vice President? He ran with Aaron Burr as his intended Vice President in his first term. The election was a bitter one.It seems as if political shenanigans have changed little since the early years of american politics. History tells us that Jefferson served two terms, I have to wonder if he did so reluctantly? Among the things Jefferson is known for besides drafting the Declaration of Independence, is his purchase of the area known as The Louisiana Purchase, abolishing foreign slave trade and he was the first to claim Executive privilege He retired from office in 1808, after serving not only as President of the United States for two terms.

He was a man well loved by his family for whom he seemed ready to jump any hurdle or take on any and all responsibility. He was cherished and respected by his grandchildren. After finally reaching the end of this tome, much of which is devoted to notes, which I confess to have mostly skimmed, I find that I respect Jefferson much more as simply a man, than as a politician or President. Not that his political career was a failure or in any way one undeserving of respect. It is more that his life as a family man was so stellar as to, for me, eclipse his public life and contributions. This integrity of spirit is what lent a positive light to his time serving his country while in office as Second Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to France, a position which he clearly enjoyed, then the First US Secretary of State to this newly minted country . He was also Second Vice President of the US, which led finally to his serving as Third President of the US.

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, in Albemarle County, Virginia, until his death on July 4, 1826. It seems that to the best of his ability, a last stand as a man in control of his life, he would also have a hand in controlling his death. He questioned the doctor repeatedly during his last hours, not wanting to pass from this life before the date of July the 4th. Oddly, his death came on the same day as that of John Adams.A man with whom he had many differences over the years, with whom he had once been rivals but who in the end had become a friend. The two men having made amends before their deaths. During their later years these two men shared many letters, explaining and clarifying their ideas and their ideals and sealing their unusual connection both to each other and to the country.

The Last of the Bird People

                                                                                      By John Hanson Mitchell

The Last of the Bird People is a peculiar, but intriguing story of a group of hunter gatherers who were found living in Massachusetts in 1928. There was a public works project at that time, construction of the Quabbin Reservoir, in the Swift River Valley.

The story began with the disappearance of an anthropologist who had found what he believed to be signs of such a group in the area where the reservoir was to be created. Preparation had already begun, towns had been abandoned, cemeteries had been respectfully moved. The young man, by the name of Minor Randall had become convinced that a group of people had managed to find a way to survive outside of the so called civilized world. He went to Harvard University, and asked them for support in locating and learning about these people. Apparently, the administration there had some serious doubts about his story, and no love lost for Randall. His persistence in his quest for support ended up with is losing his position at Harvard. 

Because this had become more than just an intriguing mystery to Randall, but something of a quest, he assembled some food and necessary items for an extending stay in the area where he believed this group to be living. He set up camp and watched and waited. His vigilance paid off in the end, when he was captured by the descendants of Jenna Crow, or the Bird People. 

What happened thereafter is what makes up this story. It is a transcript of the deposition of John Barking-Fox, as told to the authorities who took him into custody after finding him near Everglades City in July of 1929. He claimed to be the only survivor of the group who left their home in Massachusetts, led by the man they called Tracker, otherwise known as Minor Randall. 

The story is somewhat difficult to follow at first, as it is written in the vernacular in which it was told. This was a mixture of Algonquin, English, French, Portugese and other words never before encountered. Persistence pays off, however as with continued reading, the story flows along more comfortably. It is well worth the effort to learn what Jon Fox has to say and to learn the fate of the Bird People. At least, their fate according to John Fox. (  )
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Reunion at Red Paint Bay


by George Harrar

Simon Howe grew up in Red Paint, Maine. Although he left for school and then a job with a newspaper, he found himself going back to Red Paint when his parents health declined. Simon ended up staying. He bought the old weekly newspaper and along with his therapist wife Amy and young son Davey, felt that life was good. And life was good. Red Paint was a friendly town, he knew many of the people there, had gone to school and grown up with them, in fact. It was a good place to raise a family. He led a fairly quiet and stress free life. Then, the first postcard arrived. It mentioned a funeral, but it meant nothing to Simon, who just put it aside and went on with his life. 

A second and third postcard eventually arrived, and a suggestion of meeting with the sender seemed like a good idea. Simon was, after all a reporter at heart, and this was the way to solve the mystery of the postcards. That is when things began to start falling apart. There was a scare involving his son, whose behavior was becoming alarming in addition to the postcard mystery. A new and unusual patient showed up for an appointment, at Amy's office. A patient that showed up for appointment after appointment and whose behavior seemed odd even to someone who dealt with people and their issues every day. Then one day, things got worse. Much worse. 

Who would have believed that a long ago moment in time would cause so much trouble in a carefully ordered life in the present. Certainly not Simon and his happy little family. But a single moment can matter more than he would ever have believed. The paper would come out again on Thursday, and for the first time in a long time, something big would be found on the front page