Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N.


There are times when I just want to laugh.  I don’t really care if the movie is a great movie.  I don’t really care if the acting is great and I don’t care if the plot makes sense. I just want to laugh and enjoy wasting my time for a little while.  Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N. staring Dick Van Dyke serves this purpose perfectly for me.   The movie is housed in the Juvenile collection even though to really understand all of the jokes it is helpful to at least be familiar with Daniel Defoe’s story of Robinson Crusoe. 

As one might guess from the title the film tells the story of a castaway on a deserted island. Lt. Crusoe is forced to abandon his navy jet when the engine fails.  Read more »

Gellhorn: A Twentieth-Century Life


“I was never deeply interested in being a child.” Twentieth-century war correspondent and novelist, Gellhorn always said these words would open her autobiography if she ever wrote one.

Unfortunately, she never did but Moorehead’s deeply researched biography of the writer is so rich with Gellhorn’s work, family life, love affairs, and travels that probably not even Gellhorn could have gotten it down with such precision.  Also, Moorehead provides a rich tapestry of historical and cultural information for the nine decades of Martha’s life.

During WW 11, the military refused to give her a pass to Normandy for the German invasion, so Martha sneaked aboard a troop ship and hid in the bathroom until they were well at sea.

Her father, an ex-German doctor settled in St. Louis and married Edna, an intelligent member of the local upper class. Both parents were half Jewish. One of the fascinating things in this book is to discover the lifelong extremely close connection between mother and daughter. Read more »

All the Wild that Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West


This is a hard book to categorize. Is it a dual biography? A history of a region? An environmental paean to a place? A literary memoir of the West? A road book to both grand and despoiled places?

It’s all of the above and more. Gessner began the book as a tribute to two western writers who have inspired him: Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner. Gessner went to grad school in Colorado and fell in love with the southwest. Abbey and Stegner became his heroes and teachers, although not literally—he learned through their writing.

He compares the more revolutionary-seeming Abbey who broke laws (trashed earth-moving machines to stop development and threatened to blow up dams) with the more straight-laced Stegner. Read more »

Circling the Sun


Miwanzo is the Swahili word for “beginnings.”  In this fascinating fictional biography, this word could stand for so many things: Beryl Clutterbuck’s family arriving in Africa from England when she was a child of four; the young girl establishing a close emotional bond with the local native families, known as Kipsigis; the first time she trained a thoroughbred on her own; and the first time she piloted a plane.

What an exciting life Beryl led. Beryl was one of those women who pushed against the boundaries of convention to fully partake in life.

She became the first female licensed racehorse trainer in Africa and the horses under her care won many races. She became an early bush pilot in Africa and the first woman aviator to fly across the Atlantic from east to west. Read more »

H is for Hawk

I almost became a falconer once. The ad promised you hands-on training for catching raptors, and you would be working with ones needing care, so it seemed like the perfect volunteer gig.  However, our time in California was drawing to a close, so I never got to experience the drama and force of a raptor landing on my gloved hand. But, wow, did I love this book.

This memoir artfully intertwines three stories: Helen’s experience training her first goshawk, her grieving for her father, and author T. H. White’s mixed results raising falcons and hawks. All these stories are told powerfully, and the subject is so interesting that I found the book riveting.  

Training the small fierce goshawk Mable (the author chose the name as something opposite of what you’d expect) for a few hours every day away took Helen from her disabling grief over her father’s sudden death on the street taking pictures for his job. At one point, Macdonald describes his last photograph--at street level, a line of blurs and a patch of sky as her father fell and died from a heart attack. Read more »

Around the World in 50 Days: my adventure to every country on Earth


I’m not one for doing the whole of anything: the Appalachian Trail, canoeing the Amazon, skiing across Antarctica, but yes I can see the attraction of visiting every country in the world. The problem is that it is a moving target. Governments change, countries come and go, and unless you are super rich “doing” the world in a timely fashion is not possible.

Yet the inventive, gutsy, rule-breaking Podell finally managed to complete them all though it did take a half century. He began his foreign travels with a quick trip to Canada when he was 24. And yes, he considered this international travel light.

He just completed a degree in international studies. A few years later, as editor of an adventure magazine, he decided he was tired of sending people off on exotic jaunts and staying home, so he set off with a friend to complete the longest land journey ever attempted with his good friend Steve. They got sponsors to pay for the trip and hired a photographer. Read more »

Monuments Men


It’s not often that a World War II film comes my way that stirs my soul.  It’s even rarer that what stirs my soul is not the personal story of an individual or a small group  of people standing up for what is right against the Nazi’s or an escape from a German internment camp despite impossible odds.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good war film, but most war films have the same basic features, Read more »

The Lone Ranger (2013)


“Narrator: A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty "Hi-yo Silver" - the Lone Ranger!  With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of …..

Wait, wait, wait, wait! – this is not THAT Lone Ranger and perhaps this is one reason why Walt Disney’s reboot of the iconographic persona of this legendary western hero did not do as well as expected at the box office.  From the moment this new production of The Lone Ranger was announced it was compared with the 1950s television show starring Clayton Moore (and for a short while John Hart) and Jay Silverheels.  It seemed it was destined to be a train wreck from the beginning. However, I love trains and as much as I hate to admit it, I’m always willing to look at a train wreck, no matter how much it pains me.   So I dutifully checked out this new version of The Lone Ranger and watched it, knowing from the start that it wasn’t going to be my Lone Ranger and Tonto Read more »

The 10th Kingdom

10th Kingdom graphicThe 10th Kingdom is another in my list of movies and shows that I try to watch every year.  I have a lot of those and honestly I don’t succeed in watching more than one or two of them over again each year.  The 10th Kingdom is partially why this happens.  Being a three part mini-series, it takes up much of the time I would use to watch some of my other favorites.

The 10th Kingdom takes place mainly in the magical land of the Nine Kingdoms or as we would call it, the fairy tale worlds of old.  Rebellion and war are afoot.  Prince Wendell is soon to be crowned king of Snow White’s former Kingdom; however his wicked step mother, the Queen, has escaped her prison and joined with the leader of the Troll Kingdom who wants to expand his territory.  Read more »



“Here's how it is: The Earth got used up, so we moved out and terraformed a whole new galaxy of Earths. Some rich and flush with the new technologies, some not so much. The Central Planets, thems formed the Alliance, waged war to bring everyone under their rule; a few idiots tried to fight it, among them myself. I'm Malcolm Reynolds, captain of Serenity. She's a transport ship; Firefly class. Got a good crew: fighters, pilot, mechanic. We even picked up a preacher for some reason, and a bona fide companion. There's a doctor, too, took his genius sister outta some Alliance camp, so they're keepin' a low profile. You understand. You got a job, we can do it, don't much care what it is.” – Opening Credits

The television series Firefly is a show that many say was never really given a chance.  I would have to agree. Produced by Joss Whedon for the Fox Network, the show was originally planned to have a seven year story ark.  It was canceled after airing only 11out of 14 filmed episodes.  It suffered from a variety of issues.  Fox aired the episodes out of order and swapped the times that it aired in an ill-advised attempt to raise ratings.  Those who found the show had trouble finding it again.  Even with these issues, Firefly gathered such a strong fan following that with the release of the DVDs its popularity has continued to build over time.  Read more »

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