Monday, November 23

Morsels from Book Reviews

A pleasure each weekend is reading the reviews in the tabloid sized Book Review section of The New York Times. There are so many books in print it is not a failing to acknowledge that you will never read them all. As each week comes and goes dozens of new books are announced and those which make the pages of the Book Review are the lucky ones the Times elects to preview. Hundreds more come off the presses that don’t make the cut.

On some weekends (Usually Sunday and Monday) I might read fifteen to twenty reviews and not make note of a book I will buy and read, or look for in the local library. On other weekends I jot down the title and the author of a book I really want to read and later in the week go shopping on Amazon. 

No matter the final outcome each weekend I always find some snippet of information that pleases, informs, educates or provides a chuckle. These morsels might come directly from the book under review or be the comment of a reviewer.

These are some of those special moments from this weekend’s readings.

The unscrupulous editor in chief, Simei, informs his staff that their target audience is nitwits. Crossword clues must be no more challenging than “The husband of Eve.” (Numero Zero, Umberto Eco. Reviewer: Tom Rachman)

There are episodes in his theatrical  chronicle that recall an epigram of Oscar Wilde’s : “My play was a complete success. The audience was a failure.” (The Blue Touch Paper, A Memoir, David Hare. Reviewer: Tina Brown)

The stars here are the story and the ideas and Vonnegut himself, who is always funny in the way banging your knee can sometimes be funny.: You hurt like hell and so the only thing to do about it is to laugh.(Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut. An audio book read by John Malkovich. Reviewer: Michael Ian Black)

When former U. S. Senator Alan Simpson was a scout he and another scout were sharing a tent. They became angry with one of the other scouts. Since rain was forecast, and their tent was on higher ground, Simpson and his friend dug a trench around their tent that aimed the flow of water into the other boy’s shelter. That night, it rained and the other boy got very cold and wet. (Lights Out, Ted Koppel. Reviewer: Walter Russell Mead)

Last week I finished reading an audio version of my new book in four days…As I was about to leave, I jokingly asked the audio book audio director if he could make the book a runaway audio brest seller. 
“You should have written a smut novel,” he told me. “Those are the ones that sell.” 
“Who in the world listens to smut novels?” I asked. 
“Long-haul truck drivers!” he replied.
He was pulling my leg, but only slightly. Audio recordings of erotic fiction are a blooming business. (Author’s Note, Aural Sex. Elaine Sciolino)

She slept with Friedrich Engles (He founded Marxist theroy along with Karl Marx), but never read a word of his writings. (She couldn’t, she was illiterate.) (Mrs. Engles, Gavin McCrea. Reviewer: Jan Stuart)

Friday, October 16

Moving friends and new things

Except for one posting,  I have neglected my blog since my wife died on August 9. I know, however, Joyce would not want me to sit home and become a couch potato. I have tried to go out with friends and meet new friends and experience new things, 

I recently had a lobster dinner for $12.95 on lobster night at Reilley's Northend Pub on Hilton Head Island. This is a regular Monday feature and the place was packed. We got plastic bibs and a shell cracker with each dinner as well as corn on the cob and boiled potatoes. The service was excellent.

Without knowing it, I must have been in some kind of shell for a long time because I never heard of an Arnold Palmer until lunch this week.  For those who shared life-in-the-shell this is a combination of tea and lemonade. The tea can be sweet (as I prefer) or unsweetened. (And after living in the South since 1959, I subscribe to the thought that you cannot sweeten tea after it is served. Sugar has to be the first thing in the pitcher when making sweet tea and the boiling tea poured over it with more water and ice to finish it off.)

I went to see The Intern, a feel good movie with Robert deNiro. He has apparently conceded to his age and appears in more comedies than action movies, e.g. Ronin. This weekend I will travel to Atlanta to attend a three day reunion of the Carolinas and Georgia chapter of CIRA, (Central Intelligence Retirees Association.) They extended honorary membership to me last year and Joyce and I went to Beaufort, N.C., for the 2014 reunion.  We had a great time, met some old friends again and made some new ones. I expect to do the same this year. I have signed up for tours of Coca Cola, Center for Civil and Human Rights, CNN VIP tour and Georgia Aquarium.  All ought to be highly interesting.

Visits with my children, some here and some in Charleston have also been good times. My daughter, Martha, remembered how much I enjoyed a humungous slice of coconut cake in a Charleston restaurant and she shipped me a similar piece in an iced container for my birthday to begin the month of October. The moment I had the container opened my brain sent an Eat Now message to my body.  I ate half on arrival and I ate the rest the next day. One word to describe, or make it two; Absolutely delicious.

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Friday, August 21

My Friend Pastor Sherry

Earlier this week I was in the Riviera at Seaside Apartment complex in Mt. Pleasant visiting one of my sons who is staying there in a Stalin era architectural style apartment while he and his wife decide where they will buy a new home. 

This business and residential community is next to Franke at Seaside where I lived prior to my marriage in March 2013. I stopped by to visit my good and dear friend Pastor Sherry Owensby-Sikes, the Lutheran Minister in residence at Franke. I knew she has been battling cancer for the third time in her life, and I was extremely pleased to see her positive, outgoing, "this can be licked" attitude.

Pastor Sherry was wearing a turban and she asked if I wanted to see her head. "Yes," I said, and she removed the turban.  We laughed. Then she called a co-worker to come to her office and take this picture of two baldies. The good part is her hair is starting to grow back in but it is too late for me. Before I saved my head I had that General MacArthur style of hair where three strands were combed over to the side. Gauche in this day and age.

My good and dear friend, Pastor Sherry

My prayer and that of all our friends at Franke and elsewhere are for Pstor Sherry's fight against this latest challenge. We are confident if it can be overcome, she will do it.
God Bless.

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Monday, August 10

Joyce L. Archibald, R.I.P.

It is with a shocked and sad heart that I inform my friends and others that my wife Joyce L. Archibald died on Sunday, August 9, 2015 at around 11 a.m at Landmark Acute Care Hospital in Savannah, GA.

Joyce went there on July 24 after being in the ICU at Hilton Head Hospital for 11 days. We anticipated she would have a recovery at Landmark but she was unable to breathe without a breathing machine and her condition deteriorated after that.

Joyce was an active woman all her life, a fine business woman, a golfer for almost 40 years, she had six holes-in-one, a tremendous feat. She had left instructions that she did not want aggressive medical actions to prolong her life. She could not have lived as she desired with a breathing tube in her throat and a feeding tube in her stomach.

Joyce's son David Perkins and his wife Carol with here for the week preceding Joyce's passing. Her second son, William, had been here several days earlier. My five children and spouses were on hand this week as well. 

Joyce and I were married on St. Patricks Day in 2013. We loved and enjoyed each other in the time we had together. She was a wonderful companion, a friend to all, loved her family and me.
Our wedding

A couple of minutes before Joyce died, I led the family in saying prayers I learned as a child: The Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. When we finished, Joyce breathed her last. 

I believe Joyce would like us to remember her as in Tennyson's Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea.

Tuesday, July 28

Property inspection and good readings

Sometime it is a delight to look our the window and see your front yard being inspected. This Heron recently walked around our front lawn and then decided to inspect our neighbor's yard. So off he went walking tall on the gravel stone walkway up to our neighbor's front porch.

I completed two good books this month: The Billion Dollar Spy, a true story of Cold War espionage and betrayal by Pulitzer Prize winner David E.Hoffman. He recounts in exciting detail how a Soviet engineer volunteered to spy for the CIA in the heart of Moscow. His tales of clandestine meetings put you on the street evading KGB surveillance and your heart pumps during fifteen minute meetings in darkened nights. (Doubleday Publishers, available on

The second book is a memoir from former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, (with Bill Harlow) who was George W. Bush's briefing officer for much of Bush's presidency. The Great War of Our Time, The CIA's fight against terrorists from Al QA'IDA to ISIS, takes the reader inside the White House and the offices of the CIA from 9/11 to the present. (Publisher: Twelve - A Hacherte Book Group, also available on

Take either or both of these books to the beach on the mountains on your vacation and you will have serious narratives; especially read Morell's memoir if you are at all concerned about terrorism. 

Friday, July 3

Man and his automobile

Henry Ford's development of the assembly line in 1913 was one of those moments Eastman Kodak had been waiting for since it began mass production of the personal camera in 1888. Man and his new automobile have possibly been the subject of more photos over the last 100 years than scantily clad beauty queens at Atlantic City. Not one to break an American tradition, here is me and my new car purchased on Thursday. (The wife is the official photographer.) The auto is a 2013 Lexus ES 350 and easily the finest automobile I have ever driven. which includes a BMW and a long line of Lincoln Towncars (official car of the Mafia).

It will take a while to learn all the wonderful things in this car but already I particularly like the rearview camera which shows a picture on the dashboard of what is behind me when I back up. The built in GPS will be a great aid to getting around, and eliminates the need to carry a portable GPS on long trips.  I've keyed in the garage opener to a button on the bottom of the rear view mirror and will dispense with clipping the opener on the visor. This model is a front-wheel drive, and this eliminates a large hump on the floor in the back seating area; thus seating three comfortably. 
Now, all I have to do is pay for it. Isn't America a great country?

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PS: My earlier blog about a boat lock should have noted it is only one of three such locks on the East  Coast. Two are on Hilton Head Island and the third in Jacksonville, FL. 

Thursday, June 18

A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney, likable curmudgeon of the 60 Minutes show on CBS who began “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” in 1978 and kept at until October, 2011, also wrote a newspaper column, TV shows for others and more than a dozen books, most of which were best sellers. His skills were honed during World War II when he was a correspondent for the Army’s Stars and Stripes.

I have not read all of his books, perhaps two or three prior to this latest reading but I remember them generally as good reads. This most recent read, “Years of Minutes”, Public Affairs, New York. (523 pages), was originally published in 2003, and I picked it up in the lending library where I live.

The book contains many of the Minutes essays aired from 1982 to 2003. I found in several of these comments that struck me as especially keen or humorous insights. Here are just a few (quote marks omitted):

You may not think driveways are important, but let me give you one figure. A car parked behind another car in the driveway, with the keys removed and temporarily misplaced, is the third biggest cause of divorce in America today. (1985)

And the one thing that makes us all like America better than any other country…there are more Americans living here than anyplace else. (From Good Things, 1988.)

President Bush gave his health speech the other day and he talked about the kind of health care people want. Well, I can tell him what we want. We all want the kind of health care a President gets. If the President faints, there are two doctors taking his pulse before he hits the floor. That’s the kind of health care we’d all like to have. (1992)

August is the only month without a real or fake holiday. That’s because we don’t want to waste a day off work during our vacation. (Official Holidays, 1996.)

Does anyone read Time, Newsweek and U.S. News?   I mean all three? (Wealth of Information, 1999.) I subscribed to and read all three in the 90’s. What does that say about me?

First, we learned that the United States spent several hundred million dollars digging a tunnel under the Russian Embassy in Washington so we could spy on them. Does this make you proud to be an American.(Most News is Bad News, 2001.)

The (New York) Times gets about $75,000 a page Sunday…multiply that by 250 pages. This edition would bring in $18 million. (
The Sunday Paper, 2001.)

Andy died in November, 2011, following complications of surgery. He was 92 years of age.