FALLEN LEAVES: LAST WORDS ON LIFE, LOVE, WAR, AND GOD By Will Durant

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Will Durant (1885-1981) is best known for his eleven-volume The Story of Civilization. I have all eleven volumes, but I’ve only read the first three so far. Durant writes engaging history for a general audience. Fallen Leaves was written late in Durant’s life. It was supposed to be a summation of all he learned in his nine decades of learning and study. But, the manuscript was lost for years. Finally, it was found and this slim volume is the result. My favorite chapter is “On Education” where Durant discusses what would be most useful for students to learn. He considers drilling them in Latin and Greek (common for most of the 20th Century) a waste of time. I agree. Durant puts a lot of emphasis on learning about health and practical skills. I found Fallen Leaves thought-provoking and sensible. GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreward
Preface
Chapter 1: Our Life Begins
Chapter 2: On Youth
Chapter 3: On Middle Age
Chapter 4: On Old Age
Chapter 5: On Death
Chapter 6: Our Souls
Chapter 7: Our Gods
Chapter 8: On Religion
Chapter 9: On A Different Second Advent
Chapter 10: On Religion and Morals
Chapter 11: On Morality
Chapter 12: On Race
Chapter 13: On Women
Chapter 14: On Sex
Chapter 15: On War
Chapter 16: On Vietnam
Chapter 17. On Politics
Chapter 18: On Capitalism & Communism
Chapter 19: On Art
Chapter 20: On Science
Chapter 21: On Education
Chapter 22: On the Insights of History
Notes

MOZART: COMPLETE VIOLIN CONCERTOS By Rachel Barton Pine

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I own four or five complete sets of Mozart violin concertos but there’s always room for another set when it’s of this quality. Rachel Barton Pine and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields with Sir Neville Marriner deliver entertaining performances of these works. Matthew Lipman is excellent on the viola. Rachel Barton Pine wrote some informative liner notes that reveal how these concertos work. If you enjoy Mozart, you’ll enjoy this CD. GRADE: A-
Track Listings
1. Violin Concerto No. 4 in D, K. 218
2. Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat, K. 207
3. Violin Concerto No. 3 in G, K. 216
4. Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, K. 219
5. Violin Concerto No. 2 in D, K. 211
6. Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, K. 364

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #304: KILL ZONE, ROSES ARE DEAD, ANY MAN’S DEATH, SOMETHING BORROWED SOMETHING BLACK, and LITTLE BLACK DRESS By Loren D. Estleman


Back in the early 1980s, talented mystery writer Loren D. Estleman started writing a series of novels about a hit man named Peter Macklin. Macklin works for a crime family in Detroit. However, the leader of the crime family is serving some jail time when terrorists seize a tour boat. In Kill Zone (1984) the Feds work out a deal with the crime lord to reduce his sentence if Macklin can “neutralize” the terrorists.

In Roses Are Dead (1985) Macklin has left the crime family and is working as an independent operator. But Macklin’s enemies haven’t gone away and Macklin finds himself hunted down by other hit men.

Any Man’s Death (1986) revolves around Reverend Sunsmith’s crusade against legalized gambling. Sunsmith opposes the casinos that both the politicians and Mafia support. After surviving an assassination attempt, Sunsmith stirs up the Detroit community as he decides to run for Congress. Macklin accepts a contract to “remove” a local crime boss, but complications intrude.

Something Borrowed, Something Black (2002) begins with Macklin and his new wife, Laurie. But Macklin’s past catches up to him as he’s forced to accept a hit on a bookie in San Antonio while the Bad Guys control his wife. This novel has a lot of twists to it.

Little Back Dress (2005) begins with Macklin and Laurie looking at real estate in Ohio. But Laurie’s mother (she’s Macklin’s age, 44) is dating a guy Macklin suspects is a “player.” Sure enough, there’s an explosive robbery that brings out the best in Macklin. If you’re looking for stories of a stone cold killer, check out these Peter Macklin novels.

KITCHENAID HAND MIXER

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One of the few appliances I brought to my marriage was a avocado green J.C. Penny hand mixer. I bought it in 1975 and it worked for 40 years. Sadly, it died last week. Consumer Reports estimates most appliances last from 5 to 7 years. I certainly got my money’s worth with that hand mixer! Diane and I embarked on a search for a replacement hand mixer. J. C. Penny doesn’t make hand mixers any more so that avenue was out. Diane loves her Kitchenaid stand mixer so we decided to look at the Kitchenaid hand mixers. They come in all sorts of colors. The 5-speed mixer we finally bought is lighter than our old mixer and much, much quieter. The Kitchenaid hand mixer is powerful and easy to use. We like it! If you’re looking for a new hand mixer, I recommend the Kitchenaid.

STATE OF THE BLOG 2015

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Once again, I want to thank you for your role in making this blog what it is today. I really welcome your insightful comments, humor, and knowledge. I appreciate Patti, Jeff, Deb, Rick, Beth, Todd, Art, Bill, Bob, Prashant, Sergio, Carl, Lauren, Steve, Jerry, Stan, Dan, Kelly, Scott, Jim, John, Randy, James, and Trishankupune as well as all of you who make this blog part of your day. As Voltaire once said, “Appreciation is a wonderful thing: it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”

AMERICAN SNIPER

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Bradley Cooper’s performance as Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL sniper, rings true. Kyle just wants to be a cowboy, but feels compelled to enlist when the Middle East terrorists bomb our embassies. Clint Eastwood directs an affecting story of Chris Kyle’s four tours of duty in Iraq, each one seemingly more horrifying than the last. Sienna Miller is effective as Kyle’s wife who raises his son and his daughter as the years pass while he’s away fighting. The film shows vividly the toll repeated deployments take on military families. The scenes of urban warfare explode off the screen. You can’t walk away from watching American Sniper without some deep reflection. GRADE: A

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY and SELMA

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What better way to honor Martin Luther King Day than to review a movie of one of the key moments in King’s crusade for Civil Rights. Selma has been criticized for the depiction of President Johnson as a…politician. In Robert Caro’s brilliant books on LBJ, the President knew racism in the South was a minefield. Johnson was crafting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and needed all the support he could garner. He couldn’t risk losing legislation to an ill-conceived act of support for a controversial figure like MLK. David Oyelowo should have gotten an Oscar Nomination for his performance as Dr. King. He’s convincing and powerful. The oddest aspect of Selma for me is the fact that the King Family refused to allow director Ava DuVernay to use King’s actual speeches in this movie. So DuVernay and writer Paul Webb had to come up with “approximations” of King’s famous speeches. Very odd. But, putting that aside, Selma makes a bold statement about the struggle for freedom. Go see it. GRADE: A

WILD

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After watching the movie version of Wild it’s easy to see why Reece Witherspoon was attracted to the story of Cheryl Strayed’s 1,100 mile hike from Mexico to Canada. Based of Strayed’s memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, the movie shows Witherspoon’s struggles against the environment. In a series of flashbacks, we see how Witherspoon’s character’s relationship with her mother (Laura Dern) created a major crisis in her life. Problems with her husband, brother, and friends lead to heroin addiction. The trek across the Pacific Crest Trail becomes a healing experience. I really liked Reece Witherspoon’s performance as a very conflicted woman. Laura Dern delivers in the role of a mother trying the best she can to raise her children while living with an alcoholic abuser. If you’re looking for a very different movie, Wild is it. GRADE: B+

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #303: THE RISEN EMPIRE and THE KILLER OF WORLDS By Scott Westerfeld

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Scott Westerfeld now writes successful Young Adult fiction, but ten years ago he wrote a pair of dandy science fiction novels. The Risen Empire starts out with a hostage rescue. The sister of the Emperor has been captured by a commando team from the Rix Cult. The Rix believe they should plant powerful artificial intelligences everywhere. The novel alternates between a Rix commando who is hunted by the Imperial marines on the planet and the crew of the only Imperial warship orbiting the planet. The commander of the Lynx, Captain Laurent Zai, faces a battle with a much more powerful Rix spaceship. Other complications, like a mutiny, make The Risen Empire very suspenseful. The Killer of Worlds continues the story of Captain Zai and the Imperials when they encounter an alien artifact. At the same time, the Risen Empire is shattered when their Emperor’s “secret” gets revealed. If you’re in the mood for high quality story-telling and suspenseful space battles, The Risen Empire and The Killer of Worlds deliver. I hope Scott Westerfeld returns to write more galactic adventures of the Rix and the Empire!