Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Loving Scott: A Memoir by Pat Horner, BOOK REVIEW-FIVE STARS



Loving Scott: A Memoir by Pat Horner

A biographical memoir and emotional look into a dysfunctional life of recreational drugs, alcohol, and personalities that complicated lives of exceptional people.

My wife and I are life-long friends with the author’s husband David. David and Pat have visited us in Mexico. They are wonderful intelligent people who found each other, and now enjoy an action packed life together.

This beautifully written and informative book is a great opportunity to glimpse into a real life story of love, tragedy, and loss.


Throughout childhood and his careers in the New York drag scene and makeup business, Scott stayed humble and grounded. He connected instantly to people while he wove through the cruel homophobia of society and the bravado and craziness of the fashion world.

Escape lured me, but as I waited for something, anything to alleviate that sick, deep feeling of dark clouds outside the window, I was reminded by the ever-occurring sun that life would go on, and so should I.

Her lecture tour with Gloria Steinem was described by Gloria as “the Thelma and Louise of the seventies.” “I had to speak first because after Flo, I would have been an anticlimax.” Gloria said. While onstage, a disgruntled man asked Flo if she and Steinem were lesbians. “Are you the alternative?” Flo asked. I was reminded of Dorothy Parker’s words, “Heterosexuality is not normal, it’s just common.”

Flo had dabbled in acting and was comfortable onstage. I was not. After her rousing speech against the Vietnam War, sexism, racism, oppression, and political apathy at the University of Minnesota, Flo called me up onstage to sing “We shall Overcome.”

I developed the photographs, the arm chair was empty—only the kids were at each side. It was supposed to be a family portrait but I had pressed the wrong button and the self-timer didn’t work. This photo spoke to me years later, depicting my psychological separation from the kids due to my growing addictions. I had gone missing.

Lucky for me the forgetfulness and feeling out of control assured me of never becoming attached to LSD. I was too confused.

I was in love again and in denial of our dependence on drugs and alcohol.

I was not a Deadhead but simply someone, fueled by drugs, who fell in love with a musician. Or was I falling in love with drugs?

My poor husband. Years later when I asked how it had been for him during the first years after Scott passed, he said, “It was hard going.”

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Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Homage To Catalonia by George Orwell - Book Review Five Stars

Book Review - Five Stars

Homage To Catalonia by George Orwell

As WWII was ramping up to begin, fascism was spreading across Europe on the wings of the Blitzkrieg with blood thirsty Francisco Franco and his like-minded followers clamoring for despotic dictatorship. There would ultimately be thirteen overrun countries by war’s end and countless millions of slaughtered victims.

As the French writer André Malraux put it, “Fascism has spread its great black wings over Europe.”

How quickly memories fade as history is about to repeat itself only now with much more sophisticated and deadly weaponry.


The late 1930s were a grim time. Not only had Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini established dictatorships in Germany and Italy, but in half a dozen other countries, from Portugal to Lithuania, Hungary to Greece, régimes of the far right had risen to power, some of them, like the Nazis, making dark threats against Jews. Even in England, the British Union of Fascists boasted fifty thousand members; wearing black tunics, black trousers, and wide black leather belts, they paraded through Jewish neighborhoods of London under a flag with a lightning bolt, shouting insults, giving the straight-arm salute, and beating up anyone in their way.

In the first weeks of fighting, the plotters and their troops occupied roughly a third of Spain. The dominant figure among them quickly became a young general, Francisco Franco—ambitious, puritanical, devoutly Catholic, and possessed by a fierce belief that he was destined to save Spain from a deadly conspiracy of Bolsheviks, Freemasons, and Jews.

He spoke of Germany as “a model which we will always keep before us” and kept a photo of Hitler on his desk. “It is necessary to spread terror,” declared another general, Emilio Mola. “We have to create the impression of mastery [by] eliminating without scruples or hesitation all those who do not think as we do.”

Eliminated they were, with a violence far greater than anything seen when Hitler or Mussolini had first seized power. As Franco’s armies advanced through Spain, it was with a ferocity that Europeans had assumed their right in colonial wars but that had seldom been unleashed in Europe itself since the Inquisition. Trade union leaders and Spanish Republic officials, including forty parliamentary deputies from the governing coalition, were bayoneted or shot on sight.

Most regular army officers had joined Franco, and quickly Hitler and Mussolini began supplying his forces with airplanes, tanks, and other weapons, and, from Italy, whole divisions of infantrymen. Against these forces the Republic mustered a smaller number of loyal officers and soldiers, and, trained hastily or not at all, badly armed militias organized by trade unions or left-wing political parties. Desperately short of rifles, artillery, tanks, and warplanes, it tried to buy these weapons overseas. But Britain, France, and the United States were, in varying degrees, leery of the Republic’s left-leaning government, and all of them were loath to fuel a war that might spread to engulf the continent. They declared that they would not sell arms to either side in Spain and pressured many smaller countries to follow their lead.

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Sunday, November 19, 2023

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond, Book Review - Five Stars


Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (20th Anniversary Edition) by Jared Diamond

Extremely thought-provoking and extensive in its worldwide scope. This tome answers numerous questions of civilization’s evolution.


A history limited to developments since the emergence of writing cannot provide deep understanding. It is not the case that societies on the different continents were comparable to each other until 3,000 B.C., whereupon western Eurasian societies suddenly developed writing and began for the first time to pull ahead in other respects as well. Instead, already by 3,000 B.C., there were Eurasian and North African societies not only with incipient writing but also with centralized state governments, cities, widespread use of metal tools and weapons, use of domesticated animals for transport and traction and mechanical power, and reliance on agriculture and domestic animals for food. Throughout most or all parts of other continents, none of those things existed at that time; some but not all of them emerged later in parts of the Native Americas and sub-Saharan Africa, but only over the course of the next five millennia; and none of them emerged in Aboriginal Australia.

Why were those societies the ones that became disproportionately powerful and innovative? The usual answers to that question invoke proximate forces, such as the rise of capitalism, mercantilism, scientific inquiry, technology, and nasty germs that killed peoples of other continents when they came into contact with western Eurasians. But why did all those ingredients of conquest arise in western Eurasia, and arise elsewhere only to a lesser degree or not at all?

Chapter 1 provides a whirlwind tour of human evolution and history, extending from our divergence from apes, around 7 million years ago, until the end of the last Ice Age, around 13,000 years ago. We shall trace the spread of ancestral humans, from our origins in Africa to the other continents, in order to understand the state of the world just before the events often lumped into the term “rise of civilization” began. It turns out that human development on some continents got a head start in time over developments on others. Chapter 2 prepares us for exploring effects of continental environments on history over the past 13,000 years, by briefly examining effects of island environments on history over smaller time scales and areas. When ancestral Polynesians spread into the Pacific around 3,200 years ago, they encountered islands differing greatly in their environments. Within a few millennia that single ancestral Polynesian society had spawned on those diverse islands a range of diverse daughter societies, from hunter-gatherer tribes to proto-empires. That radiation can serve as a model for the longer, larger-scale, and less understood radiation of societies on different continents since the end of the last Ice Age, to become various hunter-gatherer tribes and empires. The third chapter introduces us to collisions between peoples from different continents, by retelling through contemporary eyewitness accounts the most dramatic such encounter in history: the capture of the last independent Inca emperor, Atahuallpa, in the presence of his whole army, by Francisco Pizarro and his tiny band of conquistadores, at the Peruvian city of Cajamarca. We can identify the chain of proximate factors that enabled Pizarro to capture Atahuallpa, and that operated in European conquests of other Native American societies as well. Those factors included Spanish germs, horses, literacy, political organization, and technology (especially ships and weapons).


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Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Famous Faces of the Spanish Civil War: Writers and Artists in the Conflict, 1936–1939 - Book Review 5 stars



Famous Faces of the Spanish Civil War: Writers and Artists in the Conflict, 1936–1939 by Steve Hurst

Famous Faces of the Spanish Civil War is a fascinating and enlightening in-depth look at the people involved in the Spanish Civil War.

Spain was invaded by Franco, and his fascist followers. The dictatorship he  installed was the last of that era that endured after WWII. He finally died in office of old age. The brutal blood spilled by his insanely and dementedly-driven organization was among the most barbarous of that war.


International Brigades disbanded and leave Spain. Aid from the USSR diminishes to a trickle. The Republican army confounds pessimists by its courage and endurance, but it cannot survive faced with overwhelming quantities of war machinery supplied by the fascist dictatorships.

The Frente Popular was largely controlled by the Communist International, but few of the Cairo society were communists. Most of my mother’s friends were liberals or socialists, but my auntie Mimi and auntie Margaret were staunch members of the Conservative Party who, like Anthony Eden and Winston Churchill, had the good sense to see that Franco and his allies, Mussolini and Hitler, were the enemies of British interests in the Mediterranean.

Orwell’s assertion that Spain would end up a fascist state whichever side won, (meaning either Franco style fascism or Stalinist fascism) was both unproven and unlikely.

Franz Borkenau describes, from his own experience, the initial enthusiasm for the Republic of the peasants and citizens of small towns in Aragon, enthusiasm that was turned to bitter hatred by the senseless destruction, the burning of churches and the torture, or murder of anyone that Durutti or his subordinates suspected of being a ‘fascist’. It was Gustav Regler, seasoned fighter and dedicated Commissar, who remarked that men like the poet Aragon and his extremist followers disgraced the Republic and provided ready-made propaganda for the newspapers of the far Right.

The Germans wanted to try out and perfect the Blitzkrieg technique that would later prove so successful in Poland and in France. Mola preceded his advance on the Basque provinces with a chilling warning broadcast to his enemies and dropped from the air in leaflets. He told them that he was about to terminate the war in the north. He concluded that he would ‘Raze Vizcaya to the ground’. Unable to reinforce the Northern army, the only thing the Republican High Command could do was to launch diversionary attacks. These succeeded, at least to some extent, near Segovia, at Brunete, at Huesca and in the Guadarama mountains north of Madrid.

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Sunday, October 29, 2023

Man and Dog by Justin Barbour - Book Review Five Star Adventure


Man and Dog by Justin Barbour

A true action packed adventure story told in the first person.

Self-motivated, focused, and determined Justin Barbour meticulously planned and calculated every detail imaginable then leaped into the abyss of a wilderness where turning back or screaming for help was not an option.

Action packed and fast moving. This great book is a real gripper.


As I grow older I am beginning to notice that most challenges are head games. If you can put yourself in the right frame of mind, you will find that life becomes easier. The ninety per cent mental, ten per cent physical approach is true in most undertakings of this kind.

Believe it is in me, genetically, more than most, I know, to roam the outdoors and experience its wealth. It is a desire I cannot fight or resist. There is so much to love. More than most can really imagine. Life out there is challenging and exciting and keeps you on your toes. Curiosity is around every corner. Freedom reigns.

I’m not afraid to share my mistakes, because reflecting on failures is the only way we learn as a human race. We can receive feedback the easy way or the hard way—it doesn’t matter. It’s not what you messed up that counts; it’s what you get from the experiences. You can’t focus on the negatives. See opportunities and solutions, not problems and headaches.

With the echo of cars whizzing up the highway, it was sad to think our days of living alone in the wild were all but over. No more untouched fishing holes, no more land all to myself, no more silence. In fact, it was strange to think we had experienced it all—it was like a dream gone by! Tomorrow would be the beginning of our railway travel until we crossed over the road at Placentia Junction some fifty-odd kilometers away, a distance I anticipated would take me three good days to cover.

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Saturday, October 28, 2023

The Reindeer Hunters: A Novel by Lars Mytting - Five Star Review

Book Review - Five Stars

The Reindeer Hunters: A Novel by Lars Mytting

A great book, a tremendous history lesson, and an intriguing read.

Lars Mytting shows excellence in delivering a very memorable look into how little Norway went from the poorest nation in all of Europe to becoming the richest in less then half a century.


I bought a ticket to just the next stop, but stayed on all the way to Lillehammer, and walked into Helleberg’s sporting and hunting shop, where he saw a Krag-Jørgensen. The Krag had been patented in 1894 by Colonel Krag and Gunsmith Jørgensen, and was manufactured by Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk just as the chamber charger had been, though a sea of craftsmanship and technical advancements separated the two. The Krag had attracted attention around the globe as the world’s most advanced and precise rifle, and it was Norwegian.

The projectiles were amazingly long and just 6.5 millimetres in diameter, with an muzzle velocity of an unbelievable 770 metres per second, so there was nothing on this Earth that moved faster than the bullets shot from a Krag, and it was said to be able to kill from a distance of 600 metres. All the bother of preparing the chamber charger to fire was eliminated with a little waterproof cartridge, and not just that: the Krag could take up to six cartridges at once! He had studied the mechanism closely.

On the train home he had sat in the gangway next to an old lady from Hundorp, the Krag clamped between his knees, and at each station more folk came over to take a look, all wanting to see if the magazine really flipped open as they had heard, and if the mechanism was really as smooth as everyone said, and the old woman said if they could make something that fine here in Norway, there were no limits to what the country could do when they got rid of the Swedes.

In Fritzner’s Old Norse dictionary and discovered that frjá did not necessarily mean “friend”. In an even older sense it meant “to love”.

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The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen - Book Review Five Stars



The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen 

This is a witty, cynical, thought-provoking novel delivered with fast moving dialogue. I found he book misanthropic and unrelentingly fast moving.


He allowed himself to be querulous about how the Americans had promised us salvation from communism if we only did as we were told. They started this war, and now that they’re tired of it, they’ve sold us out, he said, pouring me another drink. But who is there to blame but ourselves? We were foolish enough to think they would keep their word. Now there’s nowhere to go but America. There are worse places, I said. Perhaps, he said. At least we’ll live to fight again. But for now, we are well and truly fucked. What kind of toast is right for that?

The words so stark and black on a bare white page—“consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Nothing Emerson wrote was ever truer of America, but that was not the only reason I underlined his words once, twice, thrice. What had smitten me then, and strikes me now, was that the same thing could be said of our motherland, where we are nothing if not inconsistent. On our last morning, I drove the General to his office at the National Police compound.

Now a guarantee of happiness—that’s a great deal. But a guarantee to be allowed to pursue the jackpot of happiness? Merely an opportunity to buy a lottery ticket. Someone would surely win millions, but millions would surely pay for it.

The mall was bordered by an example of America’s most unique architectural contribution to the world, a parking lot. Some bemoan the brutalism of socialist architecture, but was the blandness of capitalist architecture any better? One could drive for miles along a boulevard and see nothing but parking lots and the kudzu of strip malls catering to every need, from pet shops to water dispensaries to ethnic restaurants and every other imaginable category of mom-and-pop small business, each one an advertisement for the pursuit of happiness.

These were thoughts, not deeds. We would all be in Hell if convicted of our thoughts.

He was more interested in threatening the shoplifters with severe bodily harm until they fell to their knees, surrendered the items hidden in their jackets, and kowtowed for forgiveness. Bon was merely teaching them the way we had been taught. Our teachers were firm believers in the corporal punishment that Americans had given up, which was probably one reason they could no longer win wars.

Christian ideas being so important to the American people that they had granted them a place on the most precious document of all, the dollar bill. IN GOD WE TRUST must even now be printed on the money in their wallets.

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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Up from Slavery, an autobiography - Five Star Book Review

 Up from Slavery, an autobiography by Booker T. Washington

An autobiography of one of the most outstanding personalities that left his political and philosophical imprint on America after the Civil War. An exemplary citizen.


The slave system on our place, in a large measure, took the spirit of self-reliance and self-help out of the white people. My old master had many boys and girls, but not one, so far as I know, ever mastered a single trade or special line of productive industry. The girls were not taught to cook, sew, or to take care of the house. All of this was left to the slaves. The slaves, of course, had little personal interest in the life of the plantation, and their ignorance prevented them from learning how to do things in the most improved and thorough manner. As a result of the system, fences were out of repair, gates were hanging half off the hinges, doors creaked, window-panes were out, plastering had fallen but was not replaced, weeds grew in the yard.

As a rule, there was food for whites and blacks, but inside the house, and on the dining-room table, there was wanting that delicacy and refinement of touch and finish which can make a home the most convenient, comfortable, and attractive place in the world.

Withal there was a waste of food and other materials which was sad. When freedom came, the slaves were almost as well fitted to begin life anew as the master, except in the matter of book-learning and ownership of property.

I would say that I think I have learned, in some degree at least, to disregard the old maxim which says, “Do not get others to do that which you can do yourself.” My motto, on the other hand, is, “Do not do that which others can do as well.”

I make it a rule to clear my desk every day, before leaving my office, of all correspondence and memorandum, so that on the morrow I can begin a new day of work. I make it a rule never to let my work drive me, but to so master it, and keep it in such complete control, and to keep so far ahead of it, that I will be the master instead of the servant.

There is a physical and mental and spiritual enjoyment that comes from a consciousness of being the absolute master of one’s work, in all its details, that is very satisfactory and inspiring. My experience teaches me that, if one learns to follow this plan, he gets a freshness of body and vigor of mind out of work that goes a long way toward keeping him strong and healthy.

I believe that when one can grow to the point where he loves his work, this gives him a kind of strength that is most valuable.

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It Would Be Night in Caracas - Book Review - Five Stars


It Would Be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo

Fascism seems simple to sell to the populous. Witness its explosive expansion as it swept the world before WWII. Central and South America fell into that same drainpipe and the US teeters on the brink at this moment.

This timely novel is an eye opener.

It could happen anywhere.


When the money to fund the fleet dried up, the state decided to compensate members with a little bonus. While they would receive a full revolutionary salary no longer, they would have a license to sack and raze with abandon. Nobody could touch them. Nobody could control them. Anyone with a death wish and an urge to kill could join their ranks, though in truth many acted in their name without any connection to the original organization.

They ended up forming small cooperatives, collecting tolls in different parts of the city. They erected tents and spent the day nearby, lounging on their bikes, from that vantage spying their prey before kicking the bikes into life and hunting them down at gunpoint.

I went down the seven floors on foot. A woman started weeping loudly upon arriving in the ER. Her father was the man with the gunshot wound that two nurses had pushed past me earlier. He had died before reaching the operating room. They cut us down like trees. They killed us like dogs.

Mountains of boxes, sticks, mattresses, and almost twenty government-logo-stamped boxes of food. The people who were given those packets had certain obligations: to show up without question at any event or demonstration in support of the Revolution; and to deliver simple services that went from denouncing neighbors to forming commands or groups in support of the Revolution.

What began as a privilege for civil servants spread as a form of propaganda and then of surveillance. Everyone who collaborated was guaranteed a box of food. It wasn’t much: a liter of palm oil, a packet of pasta, another packet of coffee. Sometimes, if you were lucky, they gave out sardines or Spam. But it was food, and hunger had a tight hold on us.

The sewage had risen far above our heads. It had buried us. Him, me, the rest. This was no longer a country. It was a septic tank.

I glanced around the room one last time. My mother and I were the last inhabitants of the world that fit inside these walls. Now both were dead: my mother, my home. My country, too.

If she wants to live, Adelaida must leave Venezuela, and her old self, behind

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Sunday, September 10, 2023

Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks - BOOK REVIEW FIVE STARS



Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks

Cloudsplitter is a novel of the American Civil War from the beginning seeds that took root and divided the nation, murdered thousands of dedicated and determined zealots, and smolders on to his very day.

This revelation reveals the closed-mindedness and mass mob mentality that can be sold anything, even a war.


The motives of the pro-slavers for coming out to Kansas were no less mixed than those of us Free-Soilers: like us, they had come for land, for pecuniary advancement, and to wage war over slavery, usually in that order. And, to be truthful, their wild, violent, racialist, and pro-slavery rhetoric was no more incendiary than ours. The difference between the two sides was that, whereas their rhetoric was Satan’s, ours was the Lord’s. They shrieked at us from Satan’s camp, and we trumpeted back from the Lord’s. That is how Father saw it. We were not superior to the pro-slavers by virtue of our intrinsic morality or our intelligence or our farming and animal husbandry skills or our weapons or even our courage, he daily preached to us. No, we were made superior solely by virtue of Him whom we had chosen to follow. The stinking darkness of institutionalized slavery had made the Southerners into a foul and corrupt people. It had stolen their souls and had made them followers of Satan. For centuries, they had resided in a permanently darkened pit, and thus, to them, the world was a dimmed, low, pestilential place. We, however, when we gazed onto the world, we stood as if on a peak bathed in the bright light of freedom, which enabled us to see the true nature of man, and therefore, simply by following our own true nature, we were able to follow the Lord God Almighty.

Liberate all the white and black children of the Lord from the obscene stink and corruption of slavery. Simply, if we would defeat Satan, we must first defeat his most heinous invention, which was American Negro slavery.

Belief in that higher law required us to dedicate our lives to the overthrow of chattel slavery and racialism.

Father stamped his feet and grew nearly apoplectic with rage against the regulars, as he did against the President of the United States, the Democrats, and even the Republicans, against the abolitionists back East who were now and then reluctant to send him money and arms, against the timidity of the Free-Soil authorities in Lawrence and Topeka, and, always, against the pro-slavers, the Missourians, the Border Ruffians, the drunken Southern Negro-hating squatters down along the Pottawatomie River who were threatening in their newspapers and meetings to wipe the Yankees, and especially us Browns, off the face of the earth.

They were a staggering, loutish bunch of poor, ignorant, landless Southerners, men who bragged that they had come over to Kansas to help themselves first, by seizing abolitionists’ land-claims, and the South second, by killing as many Yankee nigger-lovers as they could find.

They have no more chance of becoming rich than do the very slaves they despise and trample on. They’d see how close they are to being slaves themselves. Thus, to protect and nurture their dream of becoming someday, somehow, rich, they don’t need actually to own slaves, so much as they need to keep the Negro from ever being free.”

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