Presidential Libraries: Locations and Ephemera

I’ve had the opportunity to visit several Presidential libraries, homes and historic places.  Most of the ones I have visited are centered around a home. Visiting Spiegel Grove, Rutherford B. Hayes’s home in Fremont, Ohio, is a quiet affair…a lovely home, a library for research, his final resting place.  Mount Vernon, the magnificent home and final resting place of George Washington, has a sprawling museum and estate and has been lovingly cared for by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association since the 1850s.  Other homes include those of Harry S. Truman, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and FDR.

Some Presidential libraries lack a home, but have outstanding museums and artifacts.  The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL tends toward the Disney-esque, with life-size dioramas and high-tech holographics along with a rotating display of artifacts in a more traditional portion of the museum.  The outstanding Library is across the street from the museum; Lincoln’s home, operated by the National Park Service, is across town and his tomb is also nearby.

The newest Presidential center will apparently be Obama’s. There is some controversy regarding the location, appearance and function of the center.  John Kass, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, calls the proposed Presidential center, to be built on public land near the golf course in Jackson Park, “The Barack Obama Temple of Adoration and Fealty.” The center won’t house any Presidential papers, nor will it be a center for research.  Kass even has a couple of suggestions for the inevitable shop at the center, “Presidential golf clubs or a Michelle Obama vegetable peeler for nutritious school lunches would be nice.”

Regardless of what ends up in the Obama center, I would like to suggest that there only be one item in the future Donald J. Trump Library:

This document captures everything about the current President…all anyone needs to know.  American can-do bravado, shades of General McAuliffe’s memo to the German command “NUTS!”, captured in a letter so clearly dictated by Trump that I can imagine the hand of a nice Katie Gibbs secretary flying across the page in perfect Gregg shorthand.  Presented on the finest Crane Presidential stationery, he signs it with a graffiti-esque Sharpie. Permanent. Bold.  Yes–this is all we need, in so very many ways.

I guarantee his feet weren’t on the surface of the Resolute desk when he signed it.


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Today’s Kipling – King Henry VII and the Shipwrights

(Since I quoted part of it in a comment, I thought I ought to put in the whole thing.)

King Henry VII and the Shipwrights

Rudyard Kipling

HARRY, our King in England, from London town is gone
And comen to Hamull on the Hoke in the Countie of Suthampton.
For there lay the Mary of the Tower, his ship of war so strong,
And he would discover, certaynely, if his shipwrights did him wrong.

He told not none of his setting forth, nor yet where he would go,
(But only my Lord of Arundel) and meanly did he show,
In an old jerkin and patched hose that no man might him mark.
With his frieze hood and cloak above, he looked like any clerk.

He was at Hamull on the Hoke about the hour of the tide,
And saw the Mary haled into dock, the winter to abide,
With all her tackle and habilaments which are the King his own;
But then ran on his false shipwrights and stripped her to the bone.

They heaved the main-mast overboard, that was of a trusty tree,
And they wrote down it was spent and lost by force of weather at sea.
But they sawen it into planks and strakes as far as it might go,
To maken beds for their own wives and little children also.

There was a knave called Slingawai, he crope beneath the deck,
Crying: ” Good felawes, come and see! The ship is nigh a wreck!
For the storm that took our tall main-mast, it blew so fierce and fell,
Alack! it hath taken the kettles and pans, and this brass pott as well l”

With that he set the pott on his head and hied him up the hatch,
While all the shipwrights ran below to find what they might snatch;
All except Bob Brygandyne and he was a yeoman good.
He caught Slingawai round the waist and threw him on to the mud.

“I have taken plank and rope and nail, without the King his leave,
After the custom of Portesmouth, but I will not suffer a thief.
Nay, never lift up thy hand at me – there’s no clean hands in the trade.
Steal in measure,” quo’ Brygandyne. ” There’s measure in all things made!”

“Gramercy, yeoman!” said our King. “Thy council liketh me.”
And he pulled a whistle out of his neck and whistled whistles three.
Then came my Lord of Arundel pricking across the down,
And behind him the Mayor and Burgesses of merry Suthampton town.

They drew the naughty shipwrights up, with the kettles in their hands,
And bound them round the forecastle to wait the King’s commands.
But ” Sith ye have made your beds,” said the King, ” ye needs must lie thereon.
For the sake of your wives and little ones – felawes, get you gone!”

When they had beaten Slingawai, out of his own lips
Our King appointed Brygandyne to be Clerk of all his ships.
“Nay, never lift up thy hands to me – there’s no clean hands in the trade.
But steal in measure,” said Harry our King. “There’s measure in all things made!”

God speed the Mary of the Tower, the Sovereign, and Grace Dieu,
The Sweepstakes and the Mary Fortune, and the Henry of Bristol too !
All tall ships that sail on the sea, or in our harbours stand,
That they may keep measure with Harry our King and peace in Engeland !


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Have you read “17 Carnations” by Andrew Morton?

17 Carnations by Andrew Morton, was suggested by my daughter as being a book that Maureen would enjoy. I agreed, as Maureen already knows so much about the subject: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. It seemed to me that this would be an interesting book for our Book Group, and Maureen agreed to take the project. This month it was our Book of the Month, and our members couldn’t put it down.

When my daughter attended her book group, after reading 17 Carnations, she discovered that what was being read was Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury, which had been published the same day. It wasn’t nearly as interesting as Andrew Morton’s book, nor was it as well-written. She was so pleased she had misunderstood. So was I.

Maureen gave a presentation that began by highlighting the main points of the book. We all knew the story of the romance between David, the Prince of Wales, and Mrs. Wallis Simpson, that led to his abdication as Edward VIII of Britain. Not all of us knew the extent of the Nazi sympathies held by the couple, now known as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. They approved of Fascism, and thought that Britain should ally with Nazi Germany, as a bulwark against Communism. The Duke of Windsor had many German relatives, visited Germany many times as a child, and could speak German fluently, and considered himself German. It was thought that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were traitors to Britain by passing secret information on to Germany. Had they been from a different social class, they would have been shot as traitors. Their position in society proved to be a protection.

The Duke and Duchess, met Hitler during a visit to Germany, shortly after their wedding. Hitler wanted to put the Duke back on the throne as the President of the Republic of Britain, after the Nazis had taken over Britain. When the Nazis invaded France, the couple fled to Spain, then on to Portugal. Operation Willi was Hitler’s plan to kidnap the Duke when he had been enticed back to Spain from Portugal, so that he could negotiate peace with Britain. Winston Churchill made sure that didn’t happen by ordering the Duke to the Bahamas as Governor. The couple hated their stay in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. After the war, forbidden to live in Britain, they ended their lives in France. During the war, the Nazis had protected their property in Paris and the South of France, Here they were exiled, as they were forbidden to live in England. Many people considered them traitors, and Queen Elizabeth was adamant that they never again set foot in Britain.

Much of the book is based on files that the British Intelligence Services spirited out of Germany after the war. The Royal Family didn’t want their reputation besmirched by this information. The files have been released, and are now history.

The story goes that the 17 Carnations were flowers sent by the German Foreign Minister, Jaochim von Ribbentrop, to the Duchess of Windsor every day, representing the number of times they had sex. This is told to the FBI by Father Odo, a benedictine monk in a Franciscan monastery in the United States. He went on to say that Wallis Simpson had been suspected of passing on secret information to the Nazis via Ribbentrop. When the Duke and Duchess of Windsor visited the States during the war, they were closely watched by the FBI.

Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany from 1938-45. He was tried at the Nuremberg trials for his role in starting World War II in Europe and enabling the Holocaust. He was executed in 1946 by hanging.

A lively discussion followed Maureen’s presentation. It ranged from the Windsors’ part in the Second World War, and what a good thing it was that he had abdicated, to the horrors of Holocaust and the ghastly news films that were shown after the war. Out of the two world wars, came the European Union as an effort to prevent such devastation happening again. It is estimated that over 80 million people died in the Second World War, in Europe alone. It was agreed that war is horrific, and this book had reminded us of that period of history.

Andrew Morton had written 17 Carnations objectively, and we all liked that. It could have been salacious, as the social set of the Windsors appears to have had sex with each other at an incredible rate. Mrs. Simpson having sex with Ribbentrop wasn’t an unusual occurrence. Considering that the social mores of that time were still so Victorian, and monogamy was meant to be the norm, it was obvious the people of this class considered themselves above everyone else, and could behave as they liked.

We found that Morton’s style was such that we couldn’t put the book down. We were all pleased that Maureen had presented it.


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Book Review: Origin

“Origin” by Dan BrownEver since the breakthrough success of Angels & Demons, his first mystery/thriller novel featuring Harvard professor and master of symbology Robert Langdon, Dan Brown has found a formula which turns arcane and esoteric knowledge, exotic and picturesque settings, villains with grandiose ambitions, and plucky female characters into bestsellers, two of which, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, have been adapted into Hollywood movies.

This is the fifth novel in the Robert Langdon series. After reading the fourth, Inferno, it struck me that Brown’s novels have become so formulaic they could probably be generated by an algorithm. Since artificial intelligence figures in the present work, in lieu of a review, which would be difficult to write without spoilers, here are the parameters to the Marinchip Turbo Digital™ Thriller Wizard to generate the story.

Villain: Edmond Kirsch, billionaire computer scientist and former student of Robert Langdon. Made his fortune from breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and robotics.

Megalomaniac scheme: “end the age of religion and usher in an age of science”.

Buzzword technologies: artificial general intelligence, quantum computing.

Big Questions: “Where did we come from?”, “Where are we going?”.

Religious adversary The Palmarian Catholic Church.

Plucky female companion: Ambra Vidal, curator of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (Spain) and fiancée of the crown prince of Spain.

Hero or villain? Details would be a spoiler but, as always, there is one.

Contemporary culture tie-in: social media, an InfoWars-like site called ConspiracyNet.com.

MacGuffins: the 47-character password from Kirsch’s favourite poem (but which?), the mysterious “Winston”, “The Regent”.

Exotic and picturesque locales: The Guggenheim Museum BilbaoCasa Milà and the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Valle de los Caídos near Madrid.

Enigmatic symbol: a typographical mark one must treat carefully in HTML

When Edmond Kirsch is assassinated moments before playing his presentation which will answer the Big Questions, Langdon and Vidal launch into a quest to discover the password required to release the presentation to the world. The murder of two religious leaders to whom Kirsch revealed his discoveries in advance of their public disclosure stokes the media frenzy surrounding Kirsch and his presentation, and spawns conspiracy theories about dark plots to suppress Kirsch’s revelations which may involve religious figures and the Spanish monarchy.

After perils, adventures, conflict, and clues hidden in plain sight, Startling Revelations leave Langdon Stunned and Shaken but Cautiously Hopeful for the Future.

When the next Dan Brown novel comes along, see how well it fits the template. This novel will appeal to people who like this kind of thing: if you enjoyed the last four, this one won’t disappoint. If you’re looking for plausible speculation on the science behind the big questions or the technological future of humanity, it probably will. Now that I know how to crank them out, I doubt I’ll buy the next one when it appears.
Brown, Dan. Origin. New York: Doubleday, 2017. ISBN 978-0-385-51423-1.

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A View From The Deplorable Culture

Starbucks, always much in the news and on the lips for the wanna be elites prides itself as the gathering place where the elite meet to transact business over burned and expensive coffee as a vehicle for sugar delivery.

I have spent my time meeting a certain class of clients at such places, usually off the rush hours. It has all the aspects of a tribal place, with the common rituals and intonations.

My current clientele is more oriented to construction trades and manufacturing. Their place to meet seems to be the ubiquitous Golden Arches.

I had to meet my excavator in Chapter 11 client today to exchange data and a review of upcoming contracts he is bidding. He chose the usual place and I pulled up in my F150 around 10am. It seemed the parking lot was about 90% similar Fords, Rams, Silverados, all fairly new with a variety of racking rigs.

Inside it was guys and gals in jeans with laptops, blueprints and folders of bids and RFQs, all reviewing stuff with a serious eye over black coffee and egg mcmuffins.

McDonalds even had a hostess who walked around refreshing coffee and greeting the patrons.

I looked out at the Starbucks across the parking lot and wondered if the cultures would keep moving farther apart, like galaxies after the big bang.

One parking lot full of Beemers, Priusi and Volvos, the other Pickup trucks.

Heck, at least the coffee is not burned beyond recognition at the Arches, and still a dollar a cup with free refills.

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Book Review: The Second World Wars

“The Second World Wars” by Victor Davis HansonThis may be the best single-volume history of World War II ever written. While it does not get into the low-level details of the war or its individual battles (don’t expect to see maps with boxes, front lines, and arrows), it provides an encyclopedic view of the first truly global conflict with a novel and stunning insight every few pages.

Nothing like World War II had ever happened before and, thankfully, has not happened since. While earlier wars may have seemed to those involved in them as involving all of the powers known to them, they were at most regional conflicts. By contrast, in 1945, there were only eleven countries in the entire world which were neutral—not engaged on one side or the other. (There were, of course, far fewer countries then than now—most of Africa and South Asia were involved as colonies of belligerent powers in Europe.) And while war had traditionally been a matter for kings, generals, and soldiers, in this total war the casualties were overwhelmingly (70–80%) civilian. Far from being confined to battlefields, many of the world’s great cities, from Amsterdam to Yokohama, were bombed, shelled, or besieged, often with disastrous consequences for their inhabitants.

“Wars” in the title refers to Hanson’s observation that what we call World War II was, in reality, a collection of often unrelated conflicts which happened to occur at the same time. The settling of ethnic and territorial scores across borders in Europe had nothing to do with Japan’s imperial ambitions in China, or Italy’s in Africa and Greece. It was sometimes difficult even to draw a line dividing the two sides in the war. Japan occupied colonies in Indochina under the administration of Vichy France, notwithstanding Japan and Vichy both being nominal allies of Germany. The Soviet Union, while making a massive effort to defeat Nazi Germany on the land, maintained a non-aggression pact with Axis power Japan until days before its surrender and denied use of air bases in Siberia to Allied air forces for bombing campaigns against the home islands.

Combatants in different theatres might have well have been fighting in entirely different wars, and sometimes in different centuries. Air crews on long-range bombing missions above Germany and Japan had nothing in common with Japanese and British forces slugging it out in the jungles of Burma, nor with attackers and defenders fighting building to building in the streets of Stalingrad, or armoured combat in North Africa, or the duel of submarines and convoys to keep the Atlantic lifeline between the U.S. and Britain open, or naval battles in the Pacific, or the amphibious landings on islands they supported.

World War II did not start as a global war, and did not become one until the German invasion of the Soviet Union and the Japanese attack on U.S., British, and Dutch territories in the Pacific. Prior to those events, it was a collection of border wars, launched by surprise by Axis powers against weaker neighbours which were, for the most part, successful. Once what Churchill called the Grand Alliance (Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States) was forged, the outcome was inevitable, yet the road to victory was long and costly, and its length impossible to foresee at the outset.

The entire war was unnecessary, and its horrific cost can be attributed to a failure of deterrence. From the outset, there was no way the Axis could have won. If, as seemed inevitable, the U.S. were to become involved, none of the Axis powers possessed the naval or air resources to strike the U.S. mainland, no less contemplate invading and occupying it. While all of Germany and Japan’s industrial base and population were, as the war progressed, open to bombardment day and night by long-range, four engine, heavy bombers escorted by long-range fighters, the Axis possessed no aircraft which could reach the cities of the U.S. east coast, the oil fields of Texas and Oklahoma, or the industrial base of the midwest. While the U.S. and Britain fielded aircraft carriers which allowed them to project power worldwide, Germany and Italy had no effective carrier forces and Japan’s were reduced by constant attacks by U.S. aviation.

This correlation of forces was known before the outbreak of the war. Why did Japan and then Germany launch wars which were almost certain to result in forces ranged against them which they could not possibly defeat? Hanson attributes it to a mistaken belief that, to use Hitler’s terminology, the will would prevail. The West had shown itself unwilling to effectively respond to aggression by Japan in China, Italy in Ethiopia, and Germany in Czechoslovakia, and Axis leaders concluded from this, catastrophically for their populations, that despite their industrial, demographic, and strategic military weakness, there would be no serious military response to further aggression (the “bore war” which followed the German invasion of Poland and the declarations of war on Germany by France and Britain had to reinforce this conclusion). Hanson observes, writing of Hitler, “Not even Napoleon had declared war in succession on so many great powers without any idea how to destroy their ability to make war, or, worse yet, in delusion that tactical victories would depress stronger enemies into submission.” Of the Japanese, who attacked the U.S. with no credible capability or plan for invading and occupying the U.S. homeland, he writes, “Tojo was apparently unaware or did not care that there was no historical record of any American administration either losing or quitting a war—not the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, or World War I—much less one that Americans had not started.” (Maybe they should have waited a few decades….)

Compounding the problems of the Axis was that it was essentially an alliance in name only. There was little or no co-ordination among its parties. Hitler provided Mussolini no advance notice of the attack on the Soviet Union. Mussolini did not warn Hitler of his attacks on Albania and Greece. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was as much a surprise to Germany as to the United States. Japanese naval and air assets played no part in the conflict in Europe, nor did German technology and manpower contribute to Japan’s war in the Pacific. By contrast, the Allies rapidly settled on a division of labour: the Soviet Union would concentrate on infantry and armoured warfare (indeed, four out of five German soldiers who died in the war were killed by the Red Army), while Britain and the U.S. would deploy their naval assets to blockade the Axis, keep the supply lines open, and deliver supplies to the far-flung theatres of the war.  U.S. and British bomber fleets attacked strategic targets and cities in Germany day and night.  The U.S. became the untouchable armoury of the alliance, delivering weapons, ammunition, vehicles, ships, aircraft, and fuel in quantities which eventually surpassed those all other combatants on both sides combined. Britain and the U.S. shared technology and cooperated in its development in areas such as radar, antisubmarine warfare, aircraft engines (including jet propulsion), and nuclear weapons, and shared intelligence gleaned from British codebreaking efforts.

As a classicist, Hanson examines the war in its incarnations in each of the elements of antiquity: Earth (infantry), Air (strategic and tactical air power), Water (naval and amphibious warfare), and Fire (artillery and armour), and adds People (supreme commanders, generals, workers, and the dead). He concludes by analysing why the Allies won and what they ended up winning—and losing. Britain lost its empire and position as a great power (although due to internal and external trends, that might have happened anyway). The Soviet Union ended up keeping almost everything it had hoped to obtain through its initial partnership with Hitler. The United States emerged as the supreme economic, industrial, technological, and military power in the world and promptly entangled itself in a web of alliances which would cause it to underwrite the defence of countries around the world and involve it in foreign conflicts far from its shores.

Hanson concludes,

The tragedy of World War II—a preventable conflict—was that sixty million people had perished to confirm that the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain were far stronger than the fascist powers of Germany, Japan, and Italy after all—a fact that should have been self-evident and in no need of such a bloody laboratory, if not for prior British appeasement, American isolationism, and Russian collaboration.

At 720 pages, this is not a short book (the main text is 590 pages; the rest are sources and end notes), but there is so much wisdom and startling insights among those pages that you will be amply rewarded for the time you spend reading them.

Hanson, Victor Davis. The Second World Wars. New York: Basic Books, 2017. ISBN 978-0-465-06698-8.

Here is a two-part Uncommon Knowledge interview with the author about the war and the book.

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Book Review: Use of Force

“Use of Force” by Brad ThorThis is the seventeenth novel in the author’s Scot Harvath series, which began with The Lions of Lucerne. As this book begins, Scot Harvath, operative for the Carlton Group, a private outfit that does “the jobs the CIA won’t do” is under cover at the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. He and his team are tracking a terrorist thought to be conducting advance surveillance for attacks within the U.S. Only as the operation unfolds does he realise he’s walked into the middle of a mass casualty attack already in progress. He manages to disable his target, but another suicide bomber detonates in a crowded area, with many dead and injured.

Meanwhile, following the capsizing of a boat smuggling “migrants” into Sicily, the body of a much-wanted and long-sought terrorist chemist, known to be researching chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, is fished out of the Mediterranean. Why would he, after flying under the radar for years in the Near East and Maghreb, be heading to Europe? The CIA reports, “Over the last several months, we’ve been picking up chatter about an impending series of attacks, culminating in something very big, somewhere in Europe” … “We think that whatever he was planning, it’s ready to go operational.”

With no leads other than knowledge from a few survivors of the sinking that the boat sailed from Libya and the name of the migrant smuggler who arranged their passage, Harvath sets off under cover to that country to try to find who arranged the chemist’s passage and his intended destination in Europe. Accompanied by his pick-up team from Burning Man (given the urgency, there wasn’t time to recruit one more familiar with the region), Harvath begins, in his unsubtle way, to locate the smuggler and find out what he knows. Unfortunately, as is so often the case in such operations, there is somebody else with the team who doesn’t figure in its official roster—a fellow named Murphy.

Libya is chaotic and dangerous enough under any circumstances, but when you whack the hornets’ nest, things can get very exciting in short order, and not in a good way. Harvath and his team find themselves in a mad chase and shoot-out, and having to summon assets which aren’t supposed to be there, in order to survive.

Meanwhile, another savage terrorist attack in Europe has confirmed the urgency of the threat and that more are likely to come. And back in the imperial capital, intrigue within the CIA seems aimed at targeting Harvath’s boss and the head of the operation. Is it connected somehow? It’s time to deploy the diminutive super-hacker Nicholas and one of the CIA’s most secret and dangerous computer security exploits in a honeypot operation to track down the source of the compromise.

If it weren’t bad enough being chased by Libyan militias while trying to unravel an ISIS terror plot, Harvath soon finds himself in the lair of the Calabrian Mafia, and being thwarted at every turn by civil servants insisting he play by the rules when confronting those who make their own rules. Finally, multiple clues begin to limn the outline of the final attack, and it is dire indeed. Harvath must make an improbable and uneasy alliance to confront it.

The pacing of the book is somewhat odd. There is a tremendous amount of shoot-’em-up action in the middle, but as the conclusion approaches and the ultimate threat must be dealt with, it’s as if the author felt himself running out of typewriter ribbon (anybody remember what that was?) and having to wind things up in just a few pages. Were I his editor, I’d have suggested trimming some of the detail in the middle and making the finale more suspenseful. But then, what do I know? Brad Thor has sold nearly fifteen million books, and I haven’t. This is a perfectly workable thriller which will keep you turning the pages, but I didn’t find it as compelling as some of his earlier novels. The attention to detail and accuracy are, as one has come to expect, superb. You don’t need to have read any of the earlier books in the series to enjoy this one; what few details you need to know are artfully mentioned in passing.

The next installment in the Scot Harvath saga, Spymaster, will be published in July, 2018.

Thor, Brad. Use of Force. New York: Atria Books, 2017. ISBN 978-1-4767-8939-2.


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This Week’s Book Review – The Vanishing Woman

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Seawriter

Book Review

Father Gabriel solves the mystery of Edith Jennings

By MARK LARDAS

May 15, 2018

“The Vanishing Woman: A Father Gabriel Mystery,” by Fiorella De Maria, Ignatius Press, 2018, 246 pages, $16.95

Edith Jennings is the meanest person in her small English town. Many hate her, all fear her, no one loves her, even her two children.

“The Vanishing Woman: A Father Gabriel Mystery,” by Fiorella De Maria opens with Edith Jennings demonstrating why she is so disliked.

The time is the early 1950s. Father Gabriel has been temporarily transferred from his beloved Saint Mary’s Abbey to serve at the Church of Saint Patrick while its priest recovers from a heart attack. While there he attends a talk at the town’s bookstore. The speaker, Dr. Pamela Milton, will speak about her latest book and signing books the next day.

Edith Jennings attends the lecture. She verbally attacks the speaker who grew up in the town. Jennings to have been libeled by Milton in a magazine article where Milton criticized antiquated teaching methods. Jennings was headmistress of the town’s school. Jennings threatens to ruin Milton’s life.

The next day, Edith Jennings literally disappears. Her daughter Agnes sees her mother walking down the path to their house, returning after Mrs. Jennings visited her sister. Agnes turns away for a few seconds. When Agnes looks out the window again her mother has vanished.

Initially, the local constabulary discounts Agnes’ story, assuming Agnes imagined the whole thing. After Edith’s body turns up in the waters of Port Shaston, 50 miles away, Agnes is suspected of complicity in Edith’s murder.

Agnes is known to be truthful, but what she claims to have seen was impossible. Some in town assume she is mad.

Not Father Gabriel. Using Thomas Aquinas for his logic, Father Gabriel decides if Agnes is not lying and not mad, something happened. He then sets out to find out what. During his investigation he uncovers long-buried secrets of the town and its inhabitants, some dating back to World War II.

De Maria’s second Father Gabriel mystery is another gem of a mystery novel. It is a fun detective tale, offering light entertainment. “The Vanishing Woman” captures echoes of Britain’s golden age mystery writers like Agatha Christie and G. K. Chesterton, while presenting an original story.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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Antifa vs …

[Edit. Coarse Language in the Twitter link.]
Ok, this meme is going to be one tough act to follow.
4 panels. Worth it.
Click the twitter link, then click the tweet to see the first panel, then click the right arrow to see following panels.
(If you don’t know who Jordan Peterson is, you won’t get it.)


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Bare Naked Faces

Wednesday night, I played clarinet and drums in my homeschool orchestra. Our twelve members range in age from six to mid-fifties. After the concert, as we were sharing our potluck meal and friendly conversation, I noticed something about the other women in the group. Mothers like me, homeschool teachers like me, none of us were wearing any makeup.

This is very unusual. Most of the time, I am the only woman in a room without any makeup. To realize that none of us wear makeup, not just not to rehearsals but also not to concerts, when we are all appearing on stage, was heartening in an odd way, and it got me to thinking.

I almost never wear makeup. I own a full kit because I occasionally act in community theater (I was “Spiker” in “James and the Giant Peach” in January), but mostly I might wear a little powder or lipstick to church and that’s it.

I found Jordan Peterson delightful when he asserted in an interview that makeup was inherently sending sexual messages, and that the implications of that in mixed-sex workplaces in particular had yet to be explored. I tend to agree with him. In addition, I personally find makeup would be wasteful to my time and money, and is something I have no interest in ever including in my life on a regular basis.

It seems that most other women like wearing makeup, but I don’t know because I rarely ask. Raising the question with them to find out what they think can seem like an attack from a self-righteous prig, which I may be but I certainly hope and try not to be so.

Can anyone share with me your thoughts about makeup? Do you wear it? Do you like wearing it? If you are a man, do you think about it at all? Do you like women to wear it?

Thanks in advance.


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