Damnatio ad bestias

In the late first century, Roman Emperor Titus had a slew of problems to compound his first year… Vesuvius erupted, plague, fires in Rome. He decided to distract everyone with a celebration to commemorate the completion of his newest resort, the Flavian Amphitheater.

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Bigger is better…until it isn’t

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co.(대우조선해양) of South Korea is the fourth largest shipbuilding company in the world – two others of the top three are also South Korean, in case you were wondering. Daewoo is the manufacturer of the TI line of supertankers – the largest currently in service in the world.TI_Europe

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Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth by Holger Hoock – review

Scars of Independence: America's Violent BirthScars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth by Holger Hoock

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got a pre-publication look at this through NetGalley.

War is hell, brutal, uncivilized. Humans, despite sometimes semi-rational brains, are too near to their evolutionary roots to be anything on the average but violent creatures. No manner of romanticizing can change that. The American Revolution has been washed, sanitized, mythologized, simplified…glorified through deliberate omission and revision and far too many people have no clue that they have been fed a pack of partial truths at best.

Mr. Hoock claims in the second sentence of his Preface that his is the “first book … to adopt violence as a central analytical and narrative focus.” I don’t know if that is true, but I do think that it may be the first to aggregate the knowledge. Some of this I knew from other readings. Some, while clearly not specific, can be inferred from any study of war and violence. To think that the British were any different than any other power suppressing an insurrection would buy into a sadly persistent myth of the civilized benevolence of the great British (or other, whether European or not) Empire. To think that the Revolutionaries, angry and feeling disenfranchised (evidence the stunning lack of reason that precipitated 2016), would revolt politely and orderly would buy into that romantic portrayal found in The American Pageant, Land of Promise, Triumph of the American Nation and their kind.

So what Hoock does is remove the curtain…expose the truths, as documented…offer logical supposition (and qualify them as such) where documents are scant or untrustworthy. This is not your grandfather’s history…but it was your great times maybe eight grandfather’s. Well researched. Well written.

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In My Life – My Beatles Story

31868677I got an advance, pre-publication look at In Their Lives – a book in which the editors asked people to write stories about their favorite Beatles songs. As I read it, I reflected on my own Beatles experience. As with many things, I don’t have a favorite. I think “favorites” are self-limiting.

But I do have stories (surprise!) of how I came to know The Beatles.

Pre-Awareness

I’ll call this the “pre-” period because I have memories, but I really had no clue about the phenomena that were John, Paul, George and Ringo. I remember pouring over my cousin’s Sgt. Pepper album cover, looking at all the photos, but it was more of a puzzle solving that anything else.

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And then, sometime around 10 or 11 years old, we were on a family camping trip with the St. John’s Catholic church’s (of Montville, Connecticut) family club, and a friend insisted that I come along to a sing-a-long because, “They can play “Octopus’ Garden’! … {cue my puzzled look…} You know! ‘Octopus’ Garden’!” Because you know that repeating it increased understanding… I went, didn’t know the words or the tune, but mumbled along embarrassingly. I didn’t think much about The Beatles but in hindsight, I suspect that friend had an older sister…we were both really too young to have discovered the magic on our own.

Two quick anecdotes flag the end of this period… My best friend in high school, in I think our junior year (1978), was once furiously trying to jot down the complete Beatles catalog from memory during a study hall. I thought that interesting…1) that I had no idea my friend was such a Beatles nut, and 2) that he could remember all the track lists.  I was mildly impressed. And, Monday Night Football was broadcast on channel 6 in New England, and due to frequency crossover, I could pick up the channel on the low end of the FM dial. I was listening to the Patriots lose to the Dolphins on December 8th, 1980 when Howard Cosell emotionally announced the John Lennon had been killed. At that time, I still ignorantly considered Lennon a whack job for the Yoko Ono fringe stuff he did, and I don’t recall listening to the radio stations that played The Beatles. Silly me.

Awareness

Anthology1cover

My “early” awareness Fast forward a surprising quite a few years… when Anthology 1 was released in 1995, we bought the CD because I wanted to hear more than the “Free as a Bird” on repeat on the radio. I was enamored, but apparently not enough to buy the other two Anthology albums that came out a year later. This period could best be marked by “Yep. That’s The Beatles.”

Not a lot here, but I was more aware. I listened to them more often than I had in the past.

Just not regularly, or deliberately.

Full on embracing

Across the UniverseIn 2007, Across the Universe hooked me. It’s an incredible movie – and not appreciated by all, but I loved the interpretation. That in itself is an anomaly. I don’t normally like stylized covers (I’m having a Disturbed cringe moment…) but I was enamored.  I also admit being a tad annoyed with myself that I didn’t catch most of the references. So…resolved…

I determined that I needed to listen to the full catalog. And I did. Several times.

Five or six tears ago, we saw Rain at the Dallas Summer Musicals. Rain is a tribute band that has been performing with different members since 1975. So true to real, the “Paul”s play the bass left handed! We saw them again three years later…same show, just as good, but we took our youngest two sons to that performance. I admit that I was baffled at the name – and there’s a good reason for that…I had never heard the song! That “full” catalog, as it turns out, was minus the singles…because I did not have “Hey Jude”.

So… resolved again…

But before that resolution, back in 2010 I started DJing dances for home-schooled – actually, home educated – teens. My ears bled until they got used to the contemporary music requests. But no matter what the kids wanted to dance to, I had to insert a bit of me and “Twist and Shout” became part of my closing set. Surprise, surprise! They loved it! Every time. Yes, it’s a cover. And Ferris Bueller lipsynced it well. But John’s scream? Iconic.

Now, I’ve listened to the complete catalog of the twelve studio albums, plus Hey Jude, multiple times, almost always in release order. I’ve loaded them onto the hard drive in the Grand Caravan I drive. I like to listen to just a few artists’ full catalogs – Rush, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, …and The Beatles. In listening to The Beatles, I came to appreciate the incredible variety, skill, composition, nuances, innovation, depth and shallowness of the Fab Four. And I pick up different things each time I run though their works. I don’t like everything they did – the violence of several songs is quite disturbing –  but as a body of work, pretty unparalleled.

So my story is one of indifference, later awareness and finally deep appreciation. No favorite song. I’m not even sure I have a favorite album. I think my least favorite is The Beatles (aka The White Album), but it’s hard to pick one album, let alone one song.

But if I did choose a song, it might be this. Go ahead and clap or rattle your jewelry. I bet you can’t help but sing along.